The Australian Renewable Energy Agency announced this week that it will invest in the country’s first Business Renewables Centre which will aim to help businesses and local governments procure 1 gigawatt (GW) of renewable energy by 2022 and 5 GW by 2030.
The Australian Business Renewables Centre is a AU$1.74 million initiative being developed by a consortium made up of Climate-KIC Australia, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Australia, and the Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology Sydney. It will act as an independent, dedicated, non-profit information hub and online marketplace designed to provide the necessary information and navigation for businesses and governments.
The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) will invest $500,000 into the project, while the governments of New South Wales and Victoria will both provide $150,000. The Centre is based on the model developed by the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) in the US and intends to support businesses and local councils across Australia in procuring wind and solar energy through renewable Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs).
“The future for energy is a large number of smaller renewable generating facilities often developed by non-generating entities,” explained ARENA CEO Darren Miller. “The Business Renewables Centre will help in that transition in using its vast expertise in running programs, entrepreneurship, innovation, education and other sustainability objectives to make it easier for companies and councils to enter into the renewables market.”
“The future of renewables in Australia looks positive because it makes sound business sense,” added WWF-Australia’s CEO, Dermot O’Gorman. “Contracting for long-term renewable energy will save customers money and will support growth in renewable energy infrastructure across Australia.”
Australia’s own Business Renewables Centre will draw upon the experience and methodology of the United States’ Rocky Mountain Institute’s Business Renewables Centre which provides members with information, a network of energy buyers and project developers, inexpensive training, and advice on the requirements that surrounding Power Purchase Agreements.
“There’s a lot of interest in renewable energy PPAs, but they’re new to Australia and the key decision-makers often lack the information they need,” explained Professor Stuart White, Director of the UTS Institute for Sustainable Futures. “We will be applying a model that’s been successful in the US to give companies the tools and resources they need to make the shift to renewable energy.”
“RMI is excited to support the extension of the Business Renewables Center from the United States to Australia,” added Jon Creyts, Managing Director at Rocky Mountain Institute and leader of RMI’s US Business Renewables Center (BRC). “The BRC Australia platform is the perfect place for any market actor seeking to understand non-utility procurement of renewable energy,’ continued Creyts, ‘and we look forward to supporting its progress in speeding the growth of renewable energy in Australia.’
Somewhat ironically, the move comes at the same time that the Australian Government — currently under the auspices of the Liberal Party (which isn’t liberal at all) — are on the media war-path to ensure that everyone knows that their energy priority is coal and that renewable energy is welcome, but will never be their first choice. This is ironic, considering that the Australian Renewable Energy Agency is an independent agency of the Australian Government, and the $500,000 it intends to invest into the Business Renewables Centre is, essentially, invested on behalf of the Australian Government.
“Australian corporates and other large energy users stand to gain from signing up to well negotiated long-term renewable energy PPAs through reduced cost in the order of 27-54% on the energy component of the bill,” explained Monica Richter, Senior Manager, Low Carbon Futures Program, WWF-Australia, who responded to my query via email. “Given the urgency of the decarbonisation task ahead of us, and the fact that there are a number of old coal-fired power stations set to retire in the next decade, Australian corporates are voting with their feet and marching towards corporate renewable energy PPAs because it makes business sense.
“At the same time, our federal politicians seem to have their head in the sand about climate change and power prices,” Richter added. “Let’s be under no illusion. The evidence of climate change is before our eyes. We have a limited time in which to act. Renewable energy such as solar and wind will be cheaper than existing coal. We need to make that step change to renewables today.”