Lawrence Lau is a pharmacist who leases space in a medium-sized shopping centre. He also drives a Model X and is very aware of the cost savings from the use of renewable energy. But, his business space is in a shopping centre with a shared roof. On Saturday at the Flying nun cafe, he told me the story of how many hoops he had to jump through in order to join the energy revolution. There may be other small businesses that might benefit from his example.
The Wellington Point Discount Drug Store is open 7 days a week and operates in 170 sq m of space. In 2012, he was paying $3000 per quarter for electricity. He had solar at home on his roof, as had many other businessmen in the centre, but they didn’t have solar at work. Lawrence first had to engage a solicitor to draw up an agreement between him and the owners of the property. He had to commit to being responsible for a section of the roof. This section had to be mapped out by a surveyor. He had to pay for his solicitor and the solicitor for the centre. Then the solar system had to be added to his insurance policy.
Sounds like a lot of legwork and expense, but he tells me it was worth it. He took out a chattel mortgage on the solar to cover the cost (about $20,000 all up) and it has repaid itself in 5 years. His electricity is now free. Not only that, but as a business he can claim back the GST (a 10% tax) up front. As the system was discounted with STC discount, he actually got back 11%.
Not only does Lawrence get free electricity, but with the savings on his power bill, he has bought two batteries. The area usually experiences at least one blackout a year due to storms, falling branches, and being near the sea coast. Now, he has security of power to run his vaccine fridges, which usually contain about $10,000 worth of vaccines. A week after the batteries went in, the area had a blackout. Lawrence estimates he saved enough on that one blackout to pay for one of his batteries. And now he has put up more panels.
Even when the whole shopping centre is down, Wellington Point Discount Drug Store can still operate. Insurance may cover lost stock, but it doesn’t cover lost business. Lawrence recommends that business people wishing to follow his example contact the managing agent of their premises and draw up an agreement. If you are in a community shopping centre, the earlier you do this, the better — you get a larger share of the roof. Lawrence could have installed a 50 kW system if he wished.
In 2022, the shop is now getting a $500 per quarter rebate from the feed-in tariff. That’s $2,000 a year income, plus the $12,000 a year savings on electricity bills — $14,000 in total. If Lawrence decides to sell his business, this benefit alone will add another $98,000 to the value. (Value of business is calculated as 7 times yearly profit.)
It is worth the effort to join the renewable energy revolution. You can save the planet, feel secure, and feed your wallet.