Australia could triple the amount rooftop solar by unlocking the potential of commercial buildings, but only if the property and energy industries work together, finds a new report.
The report, Distributed energy in the property sector: Unlocking the potential, was commissioned by the Property Council and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) to identify barriers to distributed energy in property, and to propose solutions to address them.
The report follows commitments made by both organisations to champion policy that drives decarbonisation while reducing costs for consumers and building customers.
The report’s author, Seed Advisory director Patricia Boyce, says the property industry can “play a significant role in modernising Australia’s traditional, centralised electricity system”.
Solar PV capacity could increase to nearly three times its current level, Boyce says, based on a “conservative” estimate that would double residential solar PV installations and accelerate installations on industrial buildings and major retail shopping centres.
Scaling rooftop solar PV systems, if better aligned with network infrastructure planning, would increase the input and supply of clean energy into the grid. It would alleviate electricity networks’ much-publicised costs and congestion problems.
And because retail and industrial buildings, for example, are generally located in areas of high electricity demand, distributed energy can improve network efficiency, reduce losses, minimise network capital expenditure and more.
“The property industry’s participation in the energy market could also bring much needed competition in energy services. Property owners, for example, could offer more affordable power to their tenants,” Boyce adds.
The report’s launch comes just days after the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) announced Australia’s first database of distributed energy resources would be released by the end of the year. AEMO chief Audrey Zibelman says the register lays the foundation to build the world’s most dynamic two-way energy system.
While several significant roadblocks stand in the industry’s way, Distributed energy in the property sector: Unlocking the potential underscores the need for energy market authorities, electricity networks and the property industry to improve information sharing, align planning processes and work on collaborative solutions.
Ian Learmonth, CEFC’s chief executive officer, says there is a “huge opportunity” for Australia’s property industry to evolve from a “passive participant in the energy market to an active electricity producer”.
“The property industry currently contributes as much as 25 per cent of Australia’s emissions. However, it can offset much of this by greatly increasing its production of renewable energy and facilitating the integration of more renewable energy into the electricity mix,” Learmonth says.
Australia’s property industry has proven sustainability credentials and a track record of collaborating successfully to influence policy, says Property Council chief executive Ken Morrison.
“As an industry, we have delivered major improvements to the energy efficiency of buildings.
“Many Property Council members have set ambitious decarbonisation targets, committing to net zero emissions by 2030 or even earlier. But energy efficient buildings alone won’t be enough to get us to net zero.
“The boundary between the property industry’s traditional domain and that of the energy sector is blurring and will remake itself entirely in coming years. The property industry is entering new territory, and we have a clear opportunity to work with energy sector proponents to deliver incremental and meaningful reforms,” Morrison says.
“This report is a roadmap for reform that unpacks the barriers, and puts forward a considered, comprehensive series of steps that will take time to deliver, but will unlock our industry’s potential as an energy producer,” Morrison concludes.