Where does your workplace get its electricity?
16 May 2019 at 8:41 am
We have to massively accelerate the speed of our transition to clean energy to help save civilization. It is in the interests of your organisation to commit, writes Greenpeace Australia Pacific CEO David Ritter, as part of a series on Fighting Global Warming in your Workplace.
A monumental global story is unfolding. And if we humans get our act together and do our best, using solutions that already exist, then the narrative can still become one of our future flourishing.
Right now, the crisis is on. We are in a state of climate emergency and facing catastrophic species extinctions. But we still have a narrow window of time to steer away from irreversible planetary disaster, towards wise stewardship of our magnificent planet.
There’s a huge amount of work to do – as the authoritative United Nations IPCC said in October last year, we have to make rapid and far-reaching changes across virtually every aspect of society to make that beautiful future possible – but with the right effort we can get there.
Global warming will impact everyone and everything. We are all in this together as a community of fate and making a contribution is the right thing to do. But it is also in the interests of your company or organisation to commit, because whatever happens to be your guiding mission or purpose; it will be thwarted if we don’t act on climate change. So what can your workplace do?
I want to start with the most practical question. Where does your workplace get its electricity?
Electricity is the largest source of emissions in Australia. Almost a third of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions are produced by burning fossil fuels to produce electricity and the biggest offender is Australia’s 21 coal-fired power stations.
Coal is Australia’s number one driver of climate change so this dirty old fuel source has to be phased out as soon as possible. (Even if there was no climate change, coal is nasty stuff more generally, responsible for deadly black lung in miners, air and water pollution, and causing 279 premature deaths every year in NSW alone). We urgently have to make coal history. Every workplace can make a significant practical contribution to beating global warming; by turning away from coal and other fossil fuels.
For small scale organisations and businesses, the easiest way to start purchasing clean energy is to choose the supplier with the best credentials through the Green Electricity Guide (which, to be transparent, is an initiative of Greenpeace and the Total Environment Centre). The Green Electricity Guide is the only independent ranking of the environmental performance of all retailers selling electricity to Australian households.
Apart from the retail option, another great way to buy clean power is through what is known as a Power Purchasing Agreement (PPA). In preparing this article, I reached out to Chris Briggs who is the research principal at the Institute for Sustainable Futures and technical director at the Business Renewables Centre to find out more. Chris explained that a renewable energy PPA is a long-term agreement (usually 10-years plus) to buy clean power at a fixed rate.
The great thing for the clean energy industry is that having a PPA in place gives a solar or wind farm revenue certainty, which can help them with getting the necessary finance to enable construction. And as Chris points out, the advantage for the buyers, in addition to making a contribution to responding to the climate emergency, is power bill savings and reduced exposure electricity price volatility.
I asked Chris whether even smaller organisations could negotiate their own PPAs. He told me that while it is true that most of the PPAs to date have been negotiated by larger organisations – options are emerging for smaller and mid-sized entities and gave the example of the PPA between Flow Power and Ascham school. Other options mentioned by Chris included a group of smaller buyers banding together to negotiate a PPA, with the benefits of increased buying power from scale, sharing resources and shared learnings. Bigger buyers can cooperate too, with the Melbourne Renewable Energy Group a notable example of 17 organisations (councils, university, cultural organisations and corporations) banding together to negotiate a PPA with a wind farm.
So, how does your organisation get its electricity? Who is responsible for the clean energy revolution in your workplace? And once you have taken the step of committing to 100 per cent renewable energy, then shout about it – because buzz is great to help drive demand.
Overall, the trend is going in the right direction in Australia – but we have to massively accelerate the speed of our transition to clean energy to help save civilization. So, let’s get on with it!
Next time around, I will be tackling the other half of the work-place clean power equation: including taking energy efficiency measures and installing your own solar.
The Business Renewables Centre has been established by WWF, Climate-Kic and the Institute for Sustainable Futures (ISF), University of Technology to help organisations work out if a renewables PPA is the right option for them and has a step-by-step “buyers roadmap” to work out how to do a renewables PPA. It’s a not-for-profit initiative and is free for buyers to join. Find more information here.
Thanks to Nicky Ison, Chris Briggs and Emma Franklin for information to enable the preparation of this article.