Australia is the Next Big Market for Corporate-Backed Renewable Energy

In Australia, renewable energy represents just over 17% of total electricity generated, with large-scale solar capacity reaching just under 500 MW and large-scale wind capacity reaching 4,800 MW. The industry is small but growing and large-scale wind and solar project activity in 2017 pushed investment in Australia up 150 percent to a record $9 billion USD, according to Australia’s peak renewable energy industry body, the Clean Energy Council.

To accelerate the role of corporate buyers in this growing market, WWF-Australia will hold its quarterly Renewable Energy Buyers Forum event in Brisbane, Australia this July. The Forum draws around 120 participants from Australian companies, institutions, state and local governments, developers, retailers and service providers – with the aim of sharing insights and experiences into renewable energy purchasing.

WWF-Australia’s Forum was set-up in 2015 to accelerate renewable energy uptake by corporate organizations in Australia. Now with over 200 member-organizations, including many top 50 Australian Stock Exchange-listed companies, the Forum helps members to explore large-scale renewable energy purchasing options through industry events, information provision, one-on-one buyer-developer relationship facilitation, and outreach.

Federal government policy supporting renewable energy in Australia is underpinned by a renewable energy target, which, since its introduction in 2010, has provided industry investment by creating a guaranteed market for additional renewable energy deployment through the creation of tradable certificates. The current legislated target for large-scale renewable generation of 33,000 MW by 2020 remains at that level until 2030.

At the international level, this target is unambitious and as we approach 2020, policy uncertainty surrounding a successor to the target is expected to dramatically decrease the price of certificates post-2020, delivering substantially greater challenges for developers seeking project finance.  As a result, more developers are approaching buyer companies directly to seek off-take agreements to achieve project bankability.

Until recently, the renewables industry has struggled to execute corporate PPAs, despite high levels of interest from both sides. This is due to a lack of experience, coordination, and a fundamental disconnect between developers and corporate purchasers regarding expectations and PPA terms and conditions.

Similar to the situation in the United States in recent years, motivated by the opportunity corporate PPAs present to reduce electricity bills and improve green credentials, companies in Australia are becoming increasingly engaged in discussions on the benefits of renewable energy for meeting climate and carbon goals.  Furthermore, increasing number of companies, especially multinational organizations, are setting targets under initiatives like the RE100 and Science-Based Targets which requires them to find a way to decarbonize their operations and supply chains.

The upcoming Forum event, to be held on July 26th, 2018 at 12pm AEST in Brisbane, will feature presentations from prominent Australian (and especially Queensland-based) organizations who have succeeded in executing purchasing renewable energy power purchase agreements. These will include global confectionary giant Mars Inc., as part of its recent announcement to go 100% renewable; regional Queensland local government authority Sunshine Coast Council’s Valdora solar farm PPA, forecast to save $22 million AUD (around $16 million USD) over its 30-year life; Brisbane-based national data centre company Next DC on participating in the Melbourne Renewable Energy Project aggregation; developer Windlab on hybrid solutions (solar plus wind) for optimizing the renewable energy service in Queensland; and the Queensland Government. The event will also feature presentations from Intelligent Water Networks, a major utility collaboration currently tendering an aggregated power purchase across 18 utilities located in the Australian state of Victoria; WePower will present on an innovative digital energy purchasing model, and an industry update from the event host, DLA Piper.

In addition to these events, the Forum has supported buyer aggregation or ‘bulk buy’ projects, such as the Melbourne Renewable Energy Project (MREP) led by the City of Melbourne, involving a unique group purchasing model contracting 14 consortium members (including financial institutions, entertainment facilities, local government authorities and others), to buy a total of 88 GW, or one-third of the assumed output of an 80 MW wind farm in Victoria, Australia.

The Forum also works with industry to produce tools for its participants, such as “Helping Business Pathways to Purchase Renewable Energy,”Green Hedging: Guide to Structuring Corporate Renewable PPAs,” and “Navigating Corporate PPA Pricing” (in production), to address barriers to procurement—available at the Forum website. WWF-Australia’s team also supports businesses making the transition through corporate partnerships.

WWF or the World Wildlife Fund, partners with the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), the World Resources Institute (WRI) and Businesses for Social Responsibility (BSR) under the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance (REBA), an international not-for-profit alliance working to help corporates, cities and public institutions to buy renewable energy, and to help make the transition to a low-carbon economy easier, connecting large buyer demand to renewable energy supply. The Forum is also working on new initiatives together with RMI, Climate-KIC and Australia’s Institute for Sustainable Futures, so watch this space for more on Australia’s growing industry.

To join the event via video conferencing from your device, please register at Eventbrite, and if you would like to know more about what’s happening in Australia’s growing renewable energy market, please join us and/or contact Jackie McKeon, Renewable Technologies Manager at WWF-Australia at jmckeon[at]wwf.org.au.