John Huggart, Energy Action

SOLAR PROCUREMENT: Energy Action has launched an auction-based commercial solar procurement platform to meet growing demand from businesses including clients who feel they need to do more to meet their obligations on climate.

A recent client survey by the company showed that 80 per cent agree they need to take action on climate change, but only 24 per cent had adopted net zero as part of their corporate strategy.

Clients will now be able to run their solar system procurement process end-to-end through an online portal, and select their preferred contract as an outright purchase, power purchase agreement (PPA), finance or lease.

The Energy Action Solar Auction is enabled by an exclusive white-label agreement with technology platform Beam Solar, which will independently model clients’ optimal on-site solar system and requirements, and automate bidding from a panel of more than 15 qualified suppliers for client contracts.

Energy Action chief executive officer, John Huggart said the move was timely.

“In an increasingly competitive and mature marketplace for commercial solar energy, the solar auction capability will help us meet the growing demand among clients to save costs and reduce emissions as many chart a course towards net zero,” he said.

The solar auction capability expands the company’s footprint in energy procurement, after it launched its electricity reverse auction platform, the Australian Energy Exchange (AEX), around 20 years ago.

According to chief technology officer Clint Irving offering smart and scalable digital solutions to clients is central to the company’s technology roadmap.

“We will continue to pursue both proprietary technology development and specialised partnerships that optimise our investment outlay,” he said.

“The reverse auctions for solar platform will enable clients to model hundreds of rooftop solar arrangements in seconds, solicit and evaluate offers from system suppliers, and negotiate and agree contracts – all seamlessly from within the online portal.”

The company has also published its own net-zero plan, which includes its current displacement of energy use at its premises throughout the country with 100 per cent renewables.

The company also intends to include battery storage in its offerings when, according to Huggart, “the technology reaches a clear value proposition”.

He also acknowledges that PPAs have emerged as one of the most compelling commercial structures to enable the capture of value from standalone rooftop solar.

Over the years, commercial solar has become the fastest growing sector for solar installation nationwide, with falling technology prices and high electricity costs helping the sector reach new records in 2019.

In its latest report, The Australian Photovoltaics Institute said that 2019 saw installation records broken across each of the residential, commercial and large-scale solar market segments.

APVI assessment found total installed solar in the country reached 16.3GW by the end of 2019, more than doubling the amount of installed solar over the last two years from less 8GW.

According to the institute, 2019 capped off a period which saw Australian solar capacity grow by almost 100-fold in just 10 years.

“We have seen a significant increase in the proportion of Energy Action clients with commercial solar – there were only a handful several years ago, while there are between 5 per cent and 10 per cent today,” John Huggart added.

“We can already see that changing and it’s likely to underpin the need for renewables solutions in the future.”

Australia now boasts 272 large-scale solar power plants, and APVI estimates that the total value of solar businesses in the country has reached $7.6 billion.