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One quarter of Australian businesses generates solar power, survey says

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An increase in interest and uptake of solar by Australia’s commercial sector has been supported by the results of a new survey, with nearly one-quarter of businesses claiming to have already tapped  rooftop solar as a measure to cut electricity costs and be more environmentally responsible.

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Commercial solar, while much slower to take off in Australia than the residential market, has been making up some ground over the past year, but is yet to take hold.To boost the market, schemes like the Clean Energy Finance Corp-backed Westpac Bank loan facility have been launched to encourage Australian businesses to invest in solar, battery storage, energy efficient technologies and electric vehicles.

But progress is being made. According to the survey, published on Monday by energy management company Energy Action, 23 per cent of businesses generate some portion of their electricity supply using solar PV, up from just 14 per cent just two years ago. Another 37 per cent said they had “implemented solar PV measures in their business,” up from 23 per cent in 2014.

Meanwhile, the proportion of businesses who said they were seriously considering investing in technologies like solar PV and even battery storage and smart energy management systems was 84 per cent. Another 43 per cent reported they now had a formal energy management strategy in place.

“The results of this year’s survey indicate that energy management and procurement are increasingly becoming a core part of corporate strategy, and show ongoing growth in the number of businesses outsourcing these services,” said Energy Action CEO Scott Wooldridge in a statement on Monday.

“Our first Energy Insights Survey was conducted in 2012, so we now have a unique understanding about prevailing trends in the energy sector, and of how businesses manage their energy needs and interact with the Australian Energy Market.”

Businesses have also maintained a strong commitment to energy efficiency and sustainability initiatives, the survey found, with 72 per cent claiming to have made investments in energy efficiency and sustainability programs that resulted in savings of over $10,000 a year.

“While the findings of previous studies suggested that a critical shift was underway, the 2016 results reinforce a prevailing view that energy management has evolved from pursuing cost-cutting initiatives to making a strategic commitment to an integrated energy management approach,” Wooldridge said.

“It is also encouraging that the report indicates an ongoing awareness of energy efficiency and sustainability, along with improved knowledge and understanding of energy markets. The increasing implementation of solar PV across a range of industry sectors is also notable.”  

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  • Ren Stimpy

    Commercial solar is something the government really should be ploughing money into via some new programs. The multitude of benefits is enormous.
    To name just a few
    > Commercial enterprises mainly operate during the daytime.
    > Commercial buildings usually have spacious flat roofs.
    > Grid electricity input cost to commercial business could be slashed with solar.
    > “Jobs and growth” from the solar suppliers and installers.
    > It’s fairly technical so it would actually be “jobs and skills and growth”
    > The broadened supply chain would further reduce the cost of solar for others
    > It would increase the value of commercial buildings.
    > Everybody loves renewables, combined with all the above advantages this is an A1 political way of achieving the emission reductions that you agreed to in Paris.

    • Kenshō

      The payback for commercial solar is likely to be under 10 years if done skilfully because:
      > Larger scale solar is cheaper per kW,
      > Commercial enterprises face demand charges and peak demand can be evened out by batteries and the inverter/charger,
      > As you’ve said, a significant amount of power is consumed around the solar day and hence many businesses need only purchase a modest sized battery,
      > Large commercial enterprises have multiple rooftops, and solar systems can be staged one roof at a time,
      > Buildings can be linked by AC coupling PV/PV inverters from different buildings into a group of centrally located inverter/charger/s,
      > Buildings can be AC coupled by linking non-centrally located inverter/chargers into an onsite microgrid,
      > Any building with an inverter/charger or any building having power centrally supplied by an inverter/charger will happily stand alone in daytime grid outages with the provision of a small battery, creating reliability of production targets and happy comfortable workers,
      > Inverter/chargers can be purchased which can manage 2x external AC inputs and hence any building could manage:
      a) grid + diesel generator,
      b) grid + wind turbine,
      c) diesel generator + wind turbine.

    • Pedro

      Payback period for small commercial sized systems is in the order of 2-3 years. I do not think the government should give any more incentives. Better to see government remove barriers for utility scale RE projects.

  • Kenshō

    Businesses could begin with a modest sized battery bank in a medium sized building and after the 10 year warrantee and payback period of the battery has been obtained, relocate the battery to the next smallest building. Even though the manufacturers specified kWh rating will have fallen, there could be many more years of good service in smaller buildings placing smaller demands on the battery. In this way, businesses could recycle and add additional profit to their investment long after the battery has paid for itself, even though the battery will be operating at a lower kWh rating.