The path towards a renewable future

Solar panels and wind turbines (unisuper renewables)
Image: Shutterstock

Australia’s energy sector’s transition to renewables is well underway, presenting retailers with clear opportunities to take the lead to clean up energy to make it better for everyone, writes Nectr managing director Andrew Butler.

The energy sector as we know it is undergoing a major transformation. The recent announcement of the early closure of the nation’s largest coal-fired power plant in Lake Macquarie in NSW signals a widespread acceptance that renewable energy is the way of the future. 

The positive shift towards solar, wind and hydro sources for power generation places our country in good stead to become a global powerhouse in cleaner energy generation.

Customers have made their position on the climate change debate quite clear with Australia’s take-up of rooftop solar being the highest in the world. Today, more than 30 per cent of households across the nation have rooftop solar.  

Related article: Report shows record-breaking run for renewables

Interestingly, despite the people of Australia joining the charge to reduce their energy consumption and impact on the planet through solar PV, around half are unhappy with their current energy provider  and many don’t know what energy tariff they are on or their usage rates.  

Mounting customer frustration with energy providers presents big opportunities for market disruptors who bring a new way of thinking to solve old problems.

Disrupting the market for the better

Over the past 30 years, Australia’s energy industry has undergone significant change. Beginning as government-run institutions, then moving into the privatisation of the energy sector in the 1980s, and now the competitive industry that we know today.

While the energy industry remains dominated by a select few retail giants, smaller players are coming in to disrupt the industry’s long-time reliance on outdated and expensive coal-fired assets to look ahead to put Australia at the forefront of cleaner energy solutions.

The rise of start-up energy retailers in today’s competitive energy market is an indication that the sector is at the precipice of another great change. Growing customer sentiment favouring cleaner, greener energy options that are affordable and less complicated, could be the catalyst for a ‘great energy switch’ movement in Australia.

With more than half (57 per cent) of consumers willing to change their purchasing habits  to reduce their impact on the environment, the appeal of energy plans that help consumers reduce their carbon emissions is already driving a shift towards smaller retailers.

Opportunities for industry players

What are some of the opportunities for the energy industry as we move towards renewables? 

With the closure of coal-fired assets, greener forms of energy generation and storage are key. Investment in utility-scale solar and utility-scale batteries present immense opportunities for a gentailer approach to energy. 

At Nectr, we’re investing in a wide range of renewable energy projects, with two solar farms in NSW (totalling 163MW AC capacity) expected to generate enough electricity for more than 60,000 households. We are actively developing residential solar, battery and clean energy bundles for customers with a view to building a virtual power plant (VPP) in the coming years.

Australians have led by example in their take-up of rooftop solar, and now it is time for the sector to catch up and update the energy network to harness the vast amount of solar power being fed back into the grid.

High penetration of solar PV will translate to a need for behind-the-meter batteries. For a successful transition into a renewable energy economy, solar and battery must be at both ends of the value chain.

Related article: Budget a ‘missed opportunity’ to electrify and decarbonise

Next-gen Australian energy

Digitisation will transform how the industry operates with renewables integrated into the energy system. Digitisation will provide more flexibility in managing consumption demand, as well as increasing efficiencies and sustainability.

Utility-scale solar, utility-scale battery, retail and trading operations, including behind-the-meter solar and battery, can all be brought to customers via an app. Customers want more control over how and when they use their energy and providing this functionality through digital platforms is already taking shape among new retail offerings.

Coal-fired assets are coming out of the market quicker than we thought. There is a clear need for technology to advance the energy sector to connect retailers and customers to cleaner, greener energy solutions.

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