ARENA backs 5GW wind and solar push for business and local government

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ARENA back establishment of centre for information, training and advice on procuring clean energy off-take deals, as Australia’s corporate PPA market starts to take off.

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A plan to help Australian businesses and local governments source up to 1GW of installed renewable energy by 2022 – and 5GW by 2030 – has won the backing of the federal and state governments.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency said it would provide $500,000 in funding towards the establishment of Australia’s first Business Renewables Centre – for information, training and advice on procuring clean energy offtake deals.

The project, which will be coordinated by the Climate-KIC Australia, WWF-Australia and UTS Institute for Sustainable Futures, has also won backing from the NSW and Victorian governments, of $150,000 each.

ARENA said the project would set up a resource centre and “online marketplace platform” designed to accelerate the purchase of renewables energy by Australian business.

But the main task of the $1.74 million project – which will also coordinate ‘face-to-face’ events – is to make it easier for Australian businesses, councils and NGOs to buy cheap and clean solar and wind through Power Purchase Agreements, or PPAs.

“The goal is to help Australian businesses and local governments procure 1GW of installed renewable energy by 2022 and 5GW by 2030,” the statement says.

This is something that businesses have been doing more and more of, both in Australia and globally, with some major deals in Australia paving the way.

Notable recent examples include Telstra’s 2017 long-term contract to buy the output of a solar farm near Emerald, in Queensland; ASX listed packaging giant Orora’s deal to buy the output of the 228MW Lal Lal wind farm; and Mars Australia signing up to source all of its energy needs from a 200MW solar farm in Victoria.

But these major deals aside, Australia’s corporate renewable PPA market is only just beginning – and remains difficult to navigate for many smaller or medium businesses.

“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,” said ISF director Professor Stuart White.

“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.”

ARENA chief Darren Miller said the Business Renewables Centre Australia would have a wealth of knowledge to draw upon, to help businesses of all types and sizes source renewable energy – while also helping smaller solar and wind projects get off the ground.

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

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

WWF Australia CEO Dermot O’Gorman said that the Centre would build on the success of WWF’s Renewable Energy Buyers Forum – with over 230 member organisations – as well as the growth in corporate renewable PPAs in the last 12 months.

“The future of renewables in Australia looks positive because it makes sound business sense. Contracting for long-term renewable energy will save customers money and will support growth in renewable energy infrastructure across Australia,” he said.

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