Install a renewable energy system
Peak power prices, during hot summer days, can be several times the average electricity price charged at “non-peak” times. However, most businesses operate during the typical peak power periods (i.e. middle of hot summer’s day), and this makes renewable energy generation viable and potentially profitable.
How to do it now!
There is a growing array of energy generation options available to SMEs. The key is to understand your energy needs and explore a renewable energy generation mix that complements your energy, heating and cooling needs while also being cheaper and cleaner than your current energy arrangements.
With good advice and an astute understanding of your needs there are often many advantages in generating your own power.
Use the financial support that the Government provides to SMEs
The Federal Government’s Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme (SRES) is available to SMEs to help fund the cost of installing renewable energy assets.
“The Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme creates a financial incentive for owners to install eligible small-scale installations such as solar water heaters, heat pumps, solar panel systems, small-scale wind systems, or small-scale hydro systems. It does this by legislating demand for Small-scale Technology Certificates (STCs). STCs are created for these installations according to the amount of electricity they produce or displace. RET Liable entities have a legal requirement to buy STCs and surrender them on an quarterly basis.”
See the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme page for more information about this program and your eligibility to use it to part fund your renewable energy investment.
The essential information is that this program provides financial support to businesses for the installation of the following renewable energy generation technologies:
- solar panel systems,
- small-scale wind systems,
- small-scale hydro systems.
And the following heat generation technologies:
- solar water heaters,
- heat pumps.
Install a renewable energy system
Install solar photo voltaic (PV) panels, small-scale wind or hydro systems at your workplace.
For SMEs that own their own building, the simplest way to generate your own electricity is to have an electrician install Solar PV panels on your roof, an inverter on your wall, and wire your system into the grid. For businesses with more specialist sites, (i.e. a farm) small-scale wind and even hydro could be the best power source.
There are four elements involved in installing a grid-connected renewable energy system in Australia. These are:
- Finding the right renewable energy system installer.
- Selecting the right renewable energy system for your business.
- Applying for (and receiving) Australian Government rebates.
- Establishing an electricity trading agreement with your electricity retailer.
Often the renewable energy system installer will facilitate all of these elements.
Finding the right renewable energy system installer.
The Clean Energy Council (CEC) has a complete list of Accredited Solar Photovoltaic system installers on their website.
Use the following list of questions to guide you when you are speaking to a prospective installer for your renewable energy system:
- Is the installer a CEC accredited installer? When did they get their accreditation? To be eligible for existing rebates, your system must be designed and installed by a CEC accredited installer.
- Will the installer facilitate the complete process (renewable energy system selection, install, rebates, RECs)? Their level of experience (and hence the advice that they can offer) can be the decisive factor in choosing a renewable energy system installer.
What experience does the company have in installing renewable energy systems similar to yours? For example for a solar PV installation have they checked the following system elements have been appropriately scoped out in the proposed system design:
- the configuration and number of solar modules.
- an appropriate inverter.
- PV modules that will fit on the roof or structure.
- constraints caused by shading and orientation.
- Can they provide some referees for recent installations that they have completed?
- What warranty on the installation of the system does the installer provide? Ensure the installer will guarantee the quality of their installation as well as the various product warranties.
- Does the quoted price include safety features (fusing, warning signs etc)?
- Will the installer be working with a registered electrical contractor or licensed electrician?
- Will they provide a Certificate of Electrical Safety?
- Will they be providing an instruction manual that includes a diagram of the system, emergency shutdown procedures and basic maintenance requirements?
- Ensure competing bids are in the same format. By ensuring that all of the bids you receive are made on the same basis, you'll be able to compare the bids easily.
Request an itemised quote. This will allow you to evaluate the costs of labour, materials and so on. The standard PV system installation quote should provide specifications, quantity, size, capacity and output for the major components, including:
- Generation equipment (i.e. solar PV modules, wind turbine, etc…)
- mounting frames or structure
- any additional metering or data-logging
- travel and transport requirements
- other equipment needed
- any trench digging
- a system-user manual
Have a signed contract before proceeding. In addition to the quote it is important to have a contract with your installer that includes:
- an estimate of the average daily electricity output - in kilowatt hours (kWh)
- the estimated annual production.
- the estimated production in the best and worst months
- the responsibilities of each party.
- warranties and guarantees, including installer workmanship.
- a schedule of deposit and progress payments.
Selecting the right renewable energy system for your business.
Ensure the renewable energy system is the right size for your business - The size of your renewable energy system will depend on:
- the physical unshaded space available for the installation of your PV modules or access to wind or water if installing micro-turbines.
- how much you are prepared to spend
- what portion of your electrical demand you wish to generate.
If your goal is to provide enough energy to run all your electrical appliances all year round, then you need to know your business electricity use for the year. This is measured in KWh and is documented on your quarterly electricity bill. From this figure you can calculate your average daily electricity consumption: that is, the amount your PV system needs to produce (on average) to cover your electricity needs.
Receiving financial support from the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme.
The Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme is a Federal Government initiative to support businesses to install renewable energy systems. The scheme can provide financial support of up to $6,200. Many retailers selling and installing solar panels will include or manage the application and receipt of this financial support, as part of their service.
Learn more about the scheme at the Australian Government's Office of Renewable Energy Regulator website. See the Rebates and assistance page for more details.
Establishing an electricity trading agreement with your electricity retailer.
Once you have priced the purchase and installation of your renewable energy system, and know what the likely electricity generation will be, it's time to select and sign up with an energy retailer who will buy your electricity. Note that not all retailers provide this service, so check carefully!
Things to check on and compare when agreeing to sell your clean electricity to an electricity retailer are:
- The cost of the electricity you purchase from them (in cents per kWh).
- The price they will pay you for your electricity (in cents per kWh).
- Whether your metering registers the total production from your solar panels or just the excess (beyond what is consumed in your business).
- Penalty clauses (termination costs).
- Billing/payment periods.
Check with your installer which electricity retailer offers the best deals, understand the mandatory feed-in tariffs that might apply in your state and get advice on dealing with electricity retailers.
Feed-in tariffs are payments/credits from power companies to businesses for the renewable electricity they generate (e.g. solar photovoltaic system or wind turbine). For more details on each state's feed-in tariff scheme visit the following websites:
- Victoria - Feed-in Tariffs
- Queensland - Queensland Solar Bonus Scheme
- South Australia - Renewable South Australia
- Western Australia - Public Utilities Office
- Northern Territory - Power and Water Corporation Feed-in Tariff Scheme
- Clean Energy Council
- Consumer guide to solar PV (Clean Energy Council)
- Small scale renewable energy (Sustainability Victoria)
- Solar PV accreditation (Clean Energy Council)
Why is this action important?
In a business context of rising energy costs, investing in your own energy generation capability provides you with more control and certainly about your energy costs. This action can ensure the electricity you are consuming in your business comes from a clean, non-polluting source via a cost-effective investment in sound technology with long-term returns (financial, environmental and intergenerational).