New centre helps businesses cash in on renewables

Would you be more likely to buy a product or service if you knew it was created with renewable energy?

Three quarters of Australian consumers would be, according to research ARENA undertook last year.

Building on the finding, ARENA has announced $500,000 in funding to help create Australia’s first Business Renewables Centre (BRC-A).

Partnering with Climate-KIC Australia, the World Wildlife Fund Australia and the Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology Sydney, the new initiative will help businesses and councils to make the transition to renewable energy.

The Business Renewables Centre will provide online resources, inexpensive training and advice, face-to-face events, and build a network of renewable energy buyers and sellers from across industry via an online marketplace.

Drawing on the successful Rocky Mountain Institute model, the centre is setting out to procure 1 GW of energy from renewables by 2022, growing to 5 GW by 2030.

Supporting Australian businesses and councils to make the shift through corporate Power Purchase Agreements, the new centre has also received $150,000 each from the Victorian and New South Wales governments.

With 260 member companies, the Rocky Mountain Institute’s BRC has completed more than 11,000 MW in renewable energy deals since its launch in 2015. Ninety-six per cent of total US non-utility renewable energy deals involved a BRC company.

Plenty of work to do

Last year, ARENA released the Business of Renewables report, finding Australia’s biggest businesses were falling behind their global peers in transitioning to renewable energy.

The report also uncovered a vast amount of untapped goodwill for businesses willing to make the switch.

With three quarters of consumers saying they would choose a product or service powered by renewable energy, the next question was how to support businesses to transition.

ARENA CEO Darren Miller said the Business Renewables Centre will help energy buyers meet the growing expectation that we deal with the challenge of climate change.

“The Rocky Mountain Institute has proven how effective this model can be. Once up and running, Australia’s Business Renewables Centre will make it easier for companies and councils to enter the renewables market.

“The future for energy looks very different today. There are likely to be a lot of smaller renewable generating facilities developed, often by non-generating entities.

“Clearly there is demand for the energy, and soon there will be somewhere for businesses and councils to go to help them make the transition,” he said.

WWF Australia CEO Dermot O’Gorman said that the Business Renewables Centre will build on the success of WWF’s Renewable Energy Buyers Forum.

“The future of renewables in Australia looks positive because it makes sound business sense,” Dermot O’Gorman said.

With more than 230 member organisations, the WWF Renewable Energy Buyers Forum has brought generators, retailers and energy users together since 2015.

Discussing everything from the opportunities and impediments to making the switch to renewables, to technological and price barriers, the Forum has uncovered a market for the services offered by the Rocky Mountain Institute.

“Contracting for long-term renewable energy will save customers money and will support growth in renewable energy infrastructure across Australia,” Mr O’Gorman said.

The new BRC-A will build on the Forum’s success, supporting renewable energy developers, service providers and corporate buyers to improve access to renewable energy and lower the cost of transactions.

Climate-KIC Australia CEO Christopher Lee said that the Business Renewables Centre will go beyond the existing offerings to build capacity amongst renewable energy developers and buyers.

“The online platform provides a marketplace where developers and corporate buyers can get a feel for what might be out there, as well providing a suite of technical materials, from case studies, primers and guides and pitch decks,” Mr Lee said.

“In addition we will rollout deeper training than has been offered previously – basically we’re going to run two day ‘boot camp’ events for buyers and developers to take them through the details. Do a deeper dive on the how to’s, managing risks and avoiding usual pitfalls, and work through some real life scenarios. That’s where the real strength of the offering lies.

“We know from lots of experiences that online sites often don’t get far at all, and putting a load of information on the web doesn’t translate into action on the ground,” he said.

“It’s that training piece that’s really important. What we are seeking to do is extend the work that WWF has done in their buyers forums, the show and tell activity, that has people thinking – yes, we can do that.

“We hear about the successful ones, but we know there are a lot of corporate PPAs that have not seen the light of day because they’ve been very complex or they’ve got to the CFO and they’ve said they don’t understand it,” Mr Lee said.