Retail giant Woolworths has committed to power all of its operations – more than two terrawatt-hours worth of demand – with 100 per cent renewable electricity within just five years, as it becomes the largest single Australian energy user to join the global RE100 initiative.
RE100 announced the major new member on Wednesday, to coincide with the unveiling of the Woolworths Group’s 2025 Sustainability Plan, which commits the retail bohemoth to 100% green electricity by 2025, and net positive carbon emissions by 2050.
“Our electricity use is the biggest contributor to our greenhouse gas emissions,” the Woolworths Plan says. “Climate change impacts are already apparent in shifting weather patterns and extreme weather events. Global science tells us that we need to limit global warming to 1.5°C to avoid the worst of these effects, and we have aligned our goal to decarbonise our business to this aim.
“But we want to go further than that and by 2050, and earlier if possible, we want to become a net positive business, supporting future generations by giving back more than we use.”
The Plan does not go into the detail of how Woolworths will meet its renewable electricity goal, but it is highly likely that power purchase agreements with Australian solar and wind farms will be involved.
In terms of on-site generation, Woolworths flagged plans for a 320MW rooftop solar rollout back in 2010, but had installed little more than 1.2MW on 27 of its retail sites by 2015.
The renewables pledge brings Woolworths group up to speed – or almost – with key rival Aldi, which in August of this year pledged to go 100% renewable by next year via rooftop solar installations and two wind energy offtake deals.
But even if it’s light on the detail, a commitment to RE100 by Woolworths – which is consumes roughly 1 per cent of Australia’s electricity supply, or around 2.5TWh – is next level and ups the ante for all business in Australia.
“With Woolworths joining RE100, we expect that this will trigger a domino effect across Australia, with many more businesses stepping up to transition to 100% renewable electricity,” said RE100 Australian coordinator, Jon Dee, in a statement on Wednesday.
“As Australia’s largest retailer, Woolworths is demonstrating that renewable energy not only makes environmental sense, it makes business sense too,” Dee said.
“To date, 14 Australian companies with a combined market capitalisation of over $470 billion have joined RE100. Most will have switched to 100% renewable electricity for their operations before 2025.”
Woolworths Group CEO Brad Banducci said moving to 100 per cent renewable electricity was the right thing for the retail giant to do, and
something a growing number of customers, team members and shareholders expected it to lead on.
“We use around one per cent of Australia’s national electricity, so we have a unique opportunity to use our scale for good and make a real impact,” Banducci said.
“Over the coming years, we’ll invest tens of millions of dollars into renewable energy partnerships and prioritise new green energy projects to spur growth in the industry and new jobs in the sector.
“We believe this will not only be a positive for our business, but also contribute to a better tomorrow by making green energy accessible to more Australians.”