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Coles signs a sunny deal in a bid to slash power costs

Thursday, 22nd August 2019 at 8:22 am
Maggie Coggan
Environment groups have lauded supermarket giant Coles’ signing of a 10-year solar-energy deal to slash its power bills and greenhouse gas emissions, and are now calling on Woolworths to follow suit. 

Thursday, 22nd August 2019
at 8:22 am
Maggie Coggan



Coles signs a sunny deal in a bid to slash power costs
Thursday, 22nd August 2019 at 8:22 am

Environment groups have lauded supermarket giant Coles’ signing of a 10-year solar-energy deal to slash its power bills and greenhouse gas emissions, and are now calling on Woolworths to follow suit. 

On Tuesday Coles announced it would buy 70 per cent of the power generated by three solar farms in rural New South Wales to meet 10 per cent of its power needs as of July next year. 

The solar farms, to be built and run by global renewables company Metka EGN, will generate enough clean energy to power 39,000 homes. 

Lindsay Soutar, Greenpeace Australia Pacific senior campaigner, said a company as large as Coles signing this deal was a great first step and highlighted how big corporates saw the value of renewables. 

“The growing worldwide movement of large businesses leading the way on renewable energy shows that renewables make good business sense,” Soutar said. 

She said it was time for Woolworths to also step up to the challenge. 

“Major supermarket chains such as Coles and Woolworths are some of Australia’s biggest polluters, so it’s important to see them starting to clean up their act and lead the transition to 100 per cent renewable energy,” she said.

Jackie McKeon, the World Wildlife Fund’s renewable energy manager, told Pro Bono News as more and more companies across all sectors looked to renewables to keep their power costs down and to reduce their eco-footprint, it made sense for Woolworths to do the same.  

“I think that Coles’ competitors are smart and we know that it is an attractive thing to do,” McKeon said.

She said Coles had demonstrated immense leadership through the deal and she hoped it encouraged more groups across all sectors to look into how they could also buy into renewable energy.  

Coles Group CEO Steven Cain said the increased use of renewables was part of the company’s commitment to becoming the most sustainable supermarket chain in Australia. 

“We are thrilled that with this agreement, Coles can make a significant contribution to the growth of renewable energy supply in Australia, as well as to the communities we serve,” Cain said. 

“Ensuring the sustainability of our business is essential to success in our second century [of operation].”

Over the past two years the supermarket group has spent over $40 million on energy efficiency measures such as updating all store lighting to LED by the end of 2019, and installing solar panels across 30 stores. 

Coles chief property and export officer Thinus Keeve said another 38 stores would have solar panels installed by the end of this financial year. 

The deal comes as a group of 41 retailers and businesses including Bunnings, Harvey Norman, Ikea, JB Hi-Fi and Spotlight are planning an unprecedented joint electricity purchase to reduce power costs. 

The Guardian reported that the group applied to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to ask for tenders to supply their power needs, which adds up to 0.5 per cent of the total electricity drawn from the national grid.

While the application does not say the electricity would be renewable, it cites two large-scale clean energy bulk buys, by the South Australian Chamber of Mines and Energy and the City of Melbourne, as evidence of why the application should be approved.

And on Monday, manufacturer for mining and rail companies, Molycop, announced it had signed an 11-year-deal to buy power from a solar and wind farm in regional NSW in a bid to cut rising power prices.  

Molycop said the purchase will cover more than half of its electricity consumption in NSW and will make the company one of the largest buyers of renewable energy in the country.  

Commonwealth Bank, Bluescope Steel, Telstra, Sydney Airport and the University of NSW have also signed renewable energy contracts in the last three years.   

McKeon said this was only the beginning and we should expect to see many more corporate, government and community groups making the switch to renewables by the end of the year.   

“Lots of organisations are either developing or have already committed to net-zero emissions and renewable energy deals, so we can expect to see a lot more of these announcements as the year progresses,” she said. 

Maggie Coggan  |  Journalist  |  @MaggieCoggan

Maggie Coggan is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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