Jackie McKeon, who has just taken on a new role as director, energy services at Renewable Energy Hub, knows a thing or two about renewable power purchase agreements (PPAs) and says now is the perfect time to make the switch – even if it may not look like it.

In her last role as co-founder and program director of Business Renewables Centre Australia, a joint venture between Climate-KIC Australia, WWF Australia and the Institute for Sustainable Futures, UTS, McKeon educated corporations, governments and other organisations about large scale offsite renewable agreements, mostly PPAs.

She spent two years helping grow the BRC-A. It’s now got around 360 members, with more joining all the time as companies sign up to net zero pledges or targets, such as the RE100 commitment.

McKeon told The Fifth Estate that she has a fantastic time at the not-for-profit but she wanted to get closer to the action and “actually do PPAs”.

She made the jump to Renewable Energy Hub (RE Hub) in March, where she works with corporates to procure renewable energy through PPAs.

RE Hub is part of TFS Australia, a broker of wholesale energy and environmental market products, including one of the largest traders of large scale generation certificates.

The hub, which started around two and a half years ago, has been backed by ARENA to provide its “world-first” energy contract and data marketplace that will allow clean energy projects, large energy users and wholesale energy market participant access to innovative technology-specific contracts.

When asked about her background, McKeon says she is a “complicated animal”. Her varied background in public, private and not-for-profit sectors includes a stint in infrastructure and property, such as working for Stockland in urban growth. She’s also got an MBA focused on renewables and sustainability.

An interesting time for renewable energy

McKeon says it’s an interesting time to be working in the PPA space. On the surface, the future energy market isn’t that attractive with energy prices dropping due to the pandemic, falling gas prices and the uptake of rooftop solar. However, she says “there’s also this perfect storm of other reasons to get into future energy procurement.”

Although a lot of organisations will be wondering why they should procure renewable energy now when buying normal black energy is so cheap, commitments to net zero or 100 per cent renewables made before the pandemic “aren’t going away”.

“They still want to meet them.”

On top of that, PPAs help address volatility issues as electricity is purchased at pre-agreed prices for pre-agreed periods. It’s hard to say what the traditional energy market will do in these uncertain global conditions but a global price rebound is expected.

“So essentially organisations are still looking at renewables to hedge against that volatility and meet net zero.”

McKeon also says that the factors driving down traditional energy prices are also driving down prices of firming offered by retailers, which are required as a part of a PPAs to ensure an organisation’s energy demand is matched with supply.

As firming needs to go into every PPA, organisations can secure a good deal on the firming component as it’s so cheap.

PPAs are a maturing process

McKeon says that the PPA landscape is maturing. More retailers are entering the market, creating competition and driving down prices. The process is reducing in complexity and becoming quicker.

For example, she’s just been involved in a PPA process for the Hawkesbury Shire Council that took just six weeks. In the past, PPAs could take as long as three years to get across the line.

There’s also been growth in large group buying (aggregation) PPA processes, she adds.

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