Australian corporate renewable energy portal has 7 GW up for grabs

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From pv magazine Australia.

Think of it as Tinder for renewable energy generators and corporates – the Business Renewables Centre of Australia’s (BRC-A) platform for connecting energy consuming businesses with planned renewables projects opened for business this week with 7 GW of clean energy on offer and solar and wind fairly evenly represented.

Since the launch of the Australian version of America’s Business Renewables Center Marketplace in December with 60 founding members, the team has been “working diligently to provide our members with an online portal, the marketplace and the materials they need to manage their power-purchase processes,” said Monica Richter, program developer with the organisation, which is jointly funded by the Australian Renewable Energy Association and the Victoria and New South Wales (NSW) governments.

The electricity pool of 67 large-scale renewable projects poured in from all over the continent and the BRC-A admits members, free of charge, from across Australia.

Technical director of the center Chris Briggs said: “The 2020 Renewable Energy Target has been met, so corporate PPAs are currently the main way for new large-scale solar and wind farms to get finance.”

The BRC-A aims to accelerate and simplify corporate purchase of renewable energy and storage. Most company sustainability managers, said Richter at December’s Smart Energy Council summit where she previewed the service, “have traditionally purchased electricity on a one or three-year basis; they’re not used to negotiating long-term contracts for renewable energy”.

BRC-A acknowledges the complexity of the energy market and works to mitigate the fact that there’s no such thing as a standard PPA.

The center’s approach includes providing standardized forms and mentoring for organisations ready to save on energy bills and take responsibility for their electricity use and emissions.

The BRC-A scheme has around 100 members including developers, corporations and retailers, with Arup, Flow Power, Monash University, Aldi, ANZ, RES, Suncorp, Unilever, Woolworths and WePower among those having signed up. Some will mentor members who are new to renewables. 

A report by Norton Rose Fulbright and the World Wide Fund for Nature at the end of 2018 calculated “a well negotiated PPA can potentially provide savings [of] between 15 [and] 47% on the energy component of a typical electricity bill expected in 2020”.

Stakeholder pressure

Negotiation is the key, and BRC-A provides a selection of guides for energy buyers, including a deal structure primer, risk allocation primer and a guide to forming a company dream team with the skillsets required to complete transactions. Buyer boot camps are scheduled to begin in May.

And the business case for plugging into clean energy is more than financial. Over the next 12 to 18 months Richter says she expects to see, “a lot more ambition from companies because they’re being pressured by investors, they’re being pressured by their stakeholders; they’re also being pressured by their staff to be doing their fair share of reducing their greenhouse footprint”.

On the BRC-A platform, developers operate in a covered environment: confidential enough to protect sensitive information but open for buyers to understand the characteristics of each project and initiate discussions.

Impressive figures

Before the portal launched this week, Richter says, her team had already been connecting members desperate for advice with others who have successfully settled into green energy PPA benefits.

The BRC-A’s opening goal was to facilitate 5 GW of renewable energy being sold into PPAs by 2030. “That’s about 20% of NSW load, and about 25% of Victorian load,” says long-time campaigner for improved corporate citizenship Richter.

With 7 GW of large-scale projects already on its books – which technical director Briggs notes is more than 10 times the size of the large-scale renewable energy projects built last year and almost three times the capacity of projects currently under construction – that figure is looking conservative.

By Natalie Filatoff.