Pushed in part by rising energy prices, almost half of all Australian businesses are moving towards renewable energy generation, according to a new report by the Climate Council which details the increased speed of our business-led transition to renewables.
This statistic includes those who are opting to go off the grid by building their own generators and battery storage, as power bills threaten their bottom line. The average household and small-business energy bill is more than 80% higher than a decade ago, and gas prices have increased threefold in five years.
Many businesses, including 46% of large operations, have responded by seeking green alternatives. The Climate Council report says the capacity of Australian businesses to generate their own solar power had doubled in less than two years. Business owners report making their investment back through cost savings in less than five years.
The General Manager of AustChilli at Bundaberg, Ian Gaffel, said the decision to invest in solar panels was a “no-brainer”.
AustChilli employs more than 100 people in the agriculture and food manufacturing process. The business initially built a 100kW solar system and about 18 months ago added an additional 200kW.
Solar now accounts for about a quarter of the business’s power usage.
“We looked for many years at the idea before jumping in a few years ago,” Gaffel said. “We’re a growing business so as we’ve grown the energy we’re using goes up.”
“It takes away that unknown of ‘what’s the power bill going to do next’. For us to be able to get some stability … and generate energy that won’t be subject to those fluctuations. Anybody who has the ability to spend on capital investment, it’s a no-brainer.”
The story is being repeated across the country, particularly in the manufacturing industry, where increased power bills have squeezed profits.
The Melbourne-based Carlton & United Breweries is moving towards 100% renewable energy. The company is adding a rooftop solar installation and has signed an agreement with a solar farm near Mildura to provide most of the brewery’s power needs for the next 12 years.
Sun Metals, which runs an power-intensive zinc refinery near Townsville, is one of Queensland’s biggest energy consumers. To help justify a planned $300 million expansion, the business is building a massive solar farm that will produce one third of its energy needs. The refinery will be the largest single-site consumer of renewables in the country.
Greg Bourne, who is a member of the Climate Council and an energy expert, said businesses who transitioned to renewable energy to cut costs and take control of their power bills were also “playing a crucial role in transitioning the nation away from ageing, polluting and unreliable fossil fuels”.