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Online renewable marketplace aims to help business cut power bills

By Cole Latimer / The Sydney Morning Herald / 16 October 2018

Main image: The centre is designed to ease the process for businesses looking to access renewable energy power purchase agreements.CREDIT: WINDLAB

Australia will look to replicate US success by creating an online marketplace for businesses to buy renewable energy, helping to them to reduce high power bills.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) will help build the nation’s first Business Renewables Centre, designed to encourage corporations and councils to buy more sustainable energy.

ARENA will provide $500,000 in funding, supported by an additional $300,000 in funds from the NSW and Victorian state governments, for Climate-KIC Australia, the World Wildlife Fund Australia (WWF) and the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) Institute for Sustainable Future to lead the project.

They aim to sell one gigawatt of renewable power by 2022 and five gigawatts by 2030.

The centre is based on the work of the Rocky Mountain Institute in the US and will act as an online marketplace to help businesses arrange or procure renewable energy through power purchase agreements (PPA), which is the forward purchasing of renewable generation through contracts.

These PPAs are often used to underwrite new renewable generation projects like wind or solar farms and helped drive the recent renewable generation boom in Australia. Corporations have also been investing in PPAs to gain relief from volatile, high power prices.

Newly appointed ARENA chief executive Darren Miller said more businesses and local councils were looking towards sustainable sources of energy.

“The future for energy is a large number of smaller renewable generating facilities often developed by non-generating entities,” Mr Miller said.

“The Business Renewables Centre will help in that transition by using its expertise in running programs, entrepreneurship, innovation, education and other sustainability objectives to make it easier for companies and councils to enter the renewables market.”

UTS Institute of Sustainable Futures director Professor Stuart White said there while there was an appetite for PPAs they are still difficult to arrange.

“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,” Professor White said.

“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.”

It comes only days after the federal government slammed businesses for investigating setting an industry-led emissions reduction target backed by renewable energy after numerous government failures to implement national energy and emissions reduction policies.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance found that in 2017, corporations purchased around 5.4 gigawatts of renewable energy to power their up operations.

Businesses have been turning to solar as a way to reduce their high electricity bills.

“In Australia, where corporations signed power purchase agreements for over 400 megawatts in 2017, expensive wholesale power and the availability of renewable energy certificates have increased the economic incentive for locking into relatively cheap renewable electricity prices long-term,” BNEF said.

Telstra and Coca-Cola Amatil joined forces late last year to buy renewable power generated by RES and Macquarie Capital’s Murra Murra wind farm in Victoria, while the University of New South Wales is going 100 per cent renewable after its partnership with Chinese firm Maoneng and its Sunraysia solar farm in NSW.

Major manufacturer Orora also signed a 10-year PPA with the Lai Lai wind farm in Victoria.

In August, 20 NSW local councils signed a renewable power purchase agreement with Origin for energy from the 56-megawatt Moree solar farm until the end of 2030.

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