Dani Alexander

With the rise of renewable Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) as more organisations look to achieve net zero emissions, a new report has highlighted the important part demand plays in the equation. 

Titled, More for less: how businesses can flex their energy to get more from a Renewable PPA, the report from UTS’s Institute for Sustainable Futures showed how load flexibility can have a range of immediate environmental and financial benefits.

The team behind the report, which was funded by Flow Power, conducted case studies of three organisations engaged in PPAs: fruit product manufacturer AGRANA Australia, wine and spirits producer Pernod Ricard and the City of Sydney. 

Lead author, Dani Alexander told The Fifth Estate many companies had made progress in matching their loads with renewable energy generation, but were also missing further opportunities. 

“I think that there are lots of different opportunities and what we tried to show with the three case studies were different ways people could flex their load,” Alexander said.  

There are a number of steps organisations can take to match their energy usage and generation, which starts with choosing the right PPA for them. 

City of Sydney for instance has higher energy usage at night when it requires power for street lights and office buildings. Consequently the council’s PPA consists of a large amount of wind energy. 

It was also shown that The City of Sydney switching street lights on creates a spike in load from 4pm, creating a significant opportunity to achieve savings if this can be smoothed.

Image from More for less: how businesses can flex their energy to get more from a Renewable PPA

On the other hand companies that operate primarily during the day for manufacturing purposes for example, could be better suited to be purchasing more solar. 

“You can get the same degree of load match generally for all businesses but what that looks like between the mix of wind and solar will differ depending on the type of business that you are,” Alexander said. 

AGRANA’s PPA, which matches over 75 per cent of its demand with a mix of solar and wind generation, saved the company 10 per cent off its power bill in 2019, which according to the report is a widely achievable level of savings for a comparable load matching ratio.  

Avoiding high price events is also important in keeping costs down and with automation or moderation companies can avoid drawing power during these surge events which generally last only a few hours or less. 

Beyond matching usage to energy supply, companies can take advantage of a range of storage options they may not have realised are already available to them, Alexander says.

“We talk a lot about battery storage but for example there’s also thermal storage as well,” Alexander said. 

“For example if you ramp down the power on your fridge and you don’t open it, its load can be shifted for a certain amount of time, maybe a couple of hours.” 

Pernod Ricard have expanded their thermal storage option with the use of a Glaciem thermal energy storage system, also known as an “ice battery”, a key benefit of which is that it can be charged and discharged many more times than a Li-ion battery.

Companies may also have opportunities for onsite generation they are yet to tap into, says Alexander, for instance Anaerobic digesters in the water sector.

“They provide flexibility in generation but they’re not necessarily used because businesses aren’t thinking of them in that way,” Alexander said. 

While currently companies load matching their electricity usage to PPAs is an effective way to save money and demonstrate they are cutting down on emissions, as more renewable energy is connected to the grid, Alexander says it will become increasingly imperative in order to avoid green energy being curtailed. 

“At the moment I’d still frame it as an opportunity for businesses, but as we increase the amount of renewables on the grid we definitely want people to be using energy at that time so we can soak up all of that good clean, cheap energy from wind and solar farms,” she said. 

“If we’re able to show we can do that it will actually reduce the costs for everyone because we won’t need to invest in a lot of extra infrastructure storage systems such as batteries or pumped hydro if we shift our usage.”

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