Bill shock powers a renewables rush
Willow Aliento | 15 May 2018
Almost half of Australian businesses are investing in renewable energy to beat rising power costs and reduce their carbon emissions, according to a new report from the Climate Council.
The report showed that the number of local businesses installing solar PV technology increased by 60 per cent over 2016 and 2017, and total commercial capacity has doubled since 2016 with a total of more than 40,000 systems now installed.
The report also showcased the diversity of ways businesses are finding to obtain renewable energy. They include outright capital expenditure for solar PV on site, leveraging local government programs such as Environmental Upgrade Agreements, and entering into power purchase agreements with an off-site wind or solar project.
Private investment is another mechanism. Bakers Maison in Sydney installed an additional 225-kilowatt of solar on its rooftop in 2017, with 20 private investors funding the $400,000 system. The company pays the investors for the energy produced and used within its factory over a 10-year period. At the end of that period, the panels will be owned outright by the company and the energy produced can be used for free.
Bill shock a major driver
Bill shock has been a huge motivator for going renewable.
Climate councillor and energy expert Greg Bourne said electricity prices for small business owners had skyrocketed by almost 90 per cent in less than 10 years, while gas prices had tripled in half that time.
“This report shows that the rising cost of energy is the number one concern for Australian businesses over the next decade, so it’s no surprise that a variety of businesses from bakeries to breweries, and tech agencies to chilli and chicken farms, are all turning to affordable renewable energy and storage solutions,” he said.
Mr Bourne said it was part of a worldwide transition away from polluting fossil fuels.
Businesses around the globe are taking advantage of the investment opportunities associated with renewable energy, he said.
A recent survey highlighted in the report found that 131 of the world’s largest companies have the goal of being powered by 100 per cent renewables in the long term.
About two-thirds of Fortune 100 and almost half of the Fortune 500 companies have also set ambitious renewable or sustainability targets, and 40 per cent of non-energy businesses surveyed are considering acquiring or investing in renewable energy or investing in renewable energy or storage in the next 18 months.
Thirty-two per cent of businesses are considering using renewables as their main source of energy within the next 18 months.
To date, 2018 has seen 5000 megawatts of large-scale renewable energy projects under construction in Australia.
The demand for the energy is a sure bet, with 46 per cent of Australian companies stating they are actively producing renewable energy. However, 32 per cent of businesses surveyed for the report said they had no plans to engage with smart energy such as renewables, energy efficiency technology or storage in the next 18 months.
Consumers also helping to drive demand
Consumers are also a driving force, with a 2017 ARENA report showing that 80 per cent of Australians believe big businesses should be using renewable energy and three out of four consumers reporting they would choose a product or service made with renewable energy over a comparable product that isn’t.
Climate Council energy and climate solutions analyst Petra Stock said Australian businesses were “naturally transitioning” to renewable and storage.
Wind and solar are now far and away the cheapest forms of new build energy generation, she said.
“This transition is good for the pockets of business owners and good for our climate; it really is a win-win,” Ms Stock said.
“It simply makes good economic sense for businesses to make the switch to clean, affordable and reliable renewable energy and battery storage. Renewables are taking care of Aussie businesses facing high electricity prices.”
Ms Stock said that despite the “rush” to renewable on the part of Australian businesses, the federal government wasstill “lagging behind”.
“The proposed National Energy Guarantee, in its current form, is woefully inadequate when it comes to tackling climate change, and also places Australia’s business and renewables boom at risk of grinding to a halt.”