C4EM chair Dean Oberin, 1Circle's Dr Iain Jennings, C4EM CEO Chris Janson and John Mawson from Mawsons Concrete and Quarries.
Renewable energy – for some it’s just another issue they have to face. For others, they can’t wait to jump on board. Or they already have.
Wherever you sit, like it or not, renewable energy is here to stay. Fossil fuels like coal and gas are being phased out and renewable energy is taking its place.
Committee for Echuca Moama (C4EM) hosted a Renewables Breakfast at Radcliffe’s on Wednesday which looked at energy prices, an overview of the Victorian and NSW electricity market and initiatives to help achieve cheaper, more efficient and renewable outcomes.
The morning was run by Dr Iain Jennings from 1circle, a specialist energy management firm who helped Mawsons Concrete and Quarries become the first concrete and quarry business in Australia to switch to 100 per cent renewable energy.
Mawsons’ managing director John Mawson said switching to renewable energy on all their Mawson-owned sites in September 2020 had been the right choice.
‘Anything that helps to reduce global warming and lower the chances of drought and bushfires in the future is well worthwhile,’ he said. ‘We also believe in helping local industries to grow and the renewable power sector is a major investor and employer in regional Australia.’
1Circle negotiated Power Purchase Agreements on Mawsons’ behalf with electricity retailers, Simply Energy and ERM. As a large energy user, Mawsons were able to buy Large Scale Generation Certificates which equate to a megawatt hour.
‘We also have a system in place that during the year for a set number of days, if the temperature climbs above 37 degrees, we shut down all our plants from 3pm,’ John said. ‘Because electricity prices and demand peak from 3pm, we are now in a position to make better use of our renewable energy and put less pressure on the grid, as well as saving us tens of thousands of dollars.’
While businesses like Mawsons are termed ‘Large’ energy users, ‘Small’ and ‘Medium’ users typically don’t have the ability to shop around for different prices and options, although ‘Group Buying’ is an option. This involves a group of businesses or individuals, such as a shopping centre or retirement village, bulk buying electricity like a large consumer which is then sold onto the individuals.
C4EM chief executive officer Chris Janson said the idea of group buying was worth pursuing.
‘Anything which can help local businesses combat the rising cost of energy can only be a good thing,’ he said.
While coal still represents where most of our current energy comes from (57%), gas only makes up 4%, but renewables like wind (13%), hydro 7% and rooftop solar 10% will only increase in years to come.
At the moment, renewable energy is about 4c/kilowatt hour more expensive than fossil fuels, but lock-in contracts of three years can still provide good value for money, according to Iain, and it is particularly attractive for businesses who have budgeted on using renewable energy and the upside is their green status is more attractive to customers and banks.
While we all know electricity prices have increased, the bad news is that the years of cheaper energy prices are gone. The 20-year average for energy in Victoria and NSW was about 5.5c per kilowatt hours. Last year that figure was 15.4c for Victoria and 20c for NSW. In the next three years, the forecast average price will be 9-11c (Victoria) and 12-15c (NSW).
According to Iain, the next 3-5 years may be volatile in the energy space, but there are things businesses can do.
So, what can you do to combat rising energy prices?
· Install LED lighting – it uses 70% less energy than standard bulbs.
· Solar panels – installing panels is almost standard on new buildings and the return on investment has decreased from nine years to four. But remember to buy the right size unit, forecast the benefits of installing, maintain, clean and inspect regularly, and track your energy usage.
· Plant modernisation – Plan and procure lighting, Heating, Ventilation and Air-Conditioning (HVAC) to meet efficiency and budgetary goals.
· Electric Vehicle fleet & charging – Establish the opportunity, impact and approach to integrate electric vehicle charging into properties.
· Embedded networks – establish embedded network feasibility, procurement and ongoing performance management to enhance revenue and lower cost.
· Meter consolidation – establish central metering providers to streamline data and service provision and reduce cost.
· Cost control – establish relevant key performance metrics, benchmarks, validate billing and deliver scheduled reporting to drive performance.
· Net zero planning – establish market relevant and strategic targets for efficiency, emissions and cost, consolidate initiatives into a single plan.
Dr Iain Jennings is a local and internationally experienced leader of change in the electricity and property industry.
1circle is a forerunner of the future that applies technology, data and commercial leadership to sustainably optimise energy operation in property assets. Example leading work includes the largest school solar PV system in Australia (888kW), the first zero net carbon electricity supply solution, the first ecological planning framework for a large portfolio of schools, the world’s most sustainable shopping centre, and Australia’s first 100% renewable secondary school.
Previously Iain established and re-engineered retail businesses in the UK (London Electricity, British Gas) and UK's largest maintainer of the generation fleet (and significant new build in China), Doosan Power. In Australia, Iain lead the business transformation of Citipower and Powercor to enable Advanced Metering Infrastructure and has run 1Circle since its establishment in 2012.
Iain is a trained construction and project manager, quantity surveyor, and holds a PhD – specialising in project management and learning organisations. Iain is also a frequent advisor and member of expert advisory panels for Government, corporate and consumer groups on future directions for the energy and property sectors. He is also a member of the Australian Institute of Energy and Australian Institute of Company Directors.