Renewables: taking care of business | OPINION

More Australian businesses are making the switch to clean, affordable and reliable renewable energy than ever before. Businesses big and small are embracing renewables in record numbers, with commercial solar installations jumping 60 per cent over 2016 and 2017, according to SunWiz. The reason behind this solar surge? Skyrocketing electricity and energy costs. Many business decisions to invest in renewable energy have been driven by a need to escape the nation’s historically high power prices and to protect against future energy price hikes.

Australia is home to exceptionally high electricity prices, driven up by massive over-investment in the poles and wires of the electricity network. High gas prices, a lack of competition and federal energy policy uncertainty have also played a role.

But the availability of low-cost renewable energy, like solar and wind generation is turning the tide for business. After all, we live in one of the sunniest and windiest nations in the world. Australia is enjoying a renewable energy and battery storage boom, with more than 5000 megawatts of projects such as wind and solar farms under construction this year. These projects will create 15,000 jobs, while also playing a role in driving down electricity prices.

Renewable energy has the power to reduce bills by providing businesses with electricity at a cheaper price than power from fossil fuels or the grid. Unlike expensive diesel and gas, the cost of renewable energy is still dropping, with the technology now so affordable that by building new wind and solar power plants businesses can significantly reduce their reliance on grid electricity. Renewable energy can protect businesses from volatile electricity prices.

Businesses are well aware of the benefits of renewable energy and they are leading by example. More than 130 major companies around the world have committed to going renewable, while 40 per cent of non-energy businesses globally are considering investing in renewable energy and storage technology over the next 18 months. Aussie businesses are already investing significantly in renewable energy, especially solar. More than 46,000 businesses have invested in solar, from food producers to warehouses, shopping centres to agricultural organisations, manufacturers to wineries. This has led to a doubling in the total capacity of solar installations on business since the start of 2016. Small business has been leading the way. Austchilli, Australia’s largest chilli farm in the Bundaberg region of Queensland and SCS Plastics in the regional city of Shepparton, Victoria have installed a 300-kilowatt solar systems. A survey commissioned by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency found nearly one in every two major companies are now using renewable energy.

Big business is also catching up. Far from being wiped off the map, the owners of South Australia’s Whyalla Steelworks is investing in more than 500 megawatts of renewable energy and storage to provide a secure and affordable energy supply.

But that isn’t all. Australian consumers prefer businesses, products or services which are powered by renewable energy. Australians would rather buy products from companies that use renewable energy, and three quarters think big business should be using renewable energy. Australia’s renewables boom is in full flight and smart businesses can sense the opportunity. Businesses at home and overseas are investing in renewable energy like never before because it simply makes good business sense.

Louis Brailsford is a Climate Council energy advisor.