06/06/2013 - 14:53

Solar in business power mix

06/06/2013 - 14:53

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GROWTH: Dominic Da Cruz says focus on renewable energy has taken off in WA’s business sector the past year. Photo: Bohdan Warchomij

The state’s business sector is making major efforts to reduce overall power consumption while moving towards greater use of renewable energy generation.

South Australian-based Zen Energy has been doing business in the Western Australian residential market for some time, but chief executive Richard Turner told Business News there had been a significant recent shift in attitude in the business sector.

Zen Energy’s first commercial contract in WA was with Alkoomi Wines in Frankland, for which it installed a 30-kilowatt, 120-panel photovoltaic system; a second commercial-scale deal will be announced soon.

Mr Turner said interest from the business community was starting to gain traction, with emphasis not only on renewable and more cost-effective generation, but also on security of supply.

“For a mining campsite, for instance, it gives them sustainability because quite often the cost of getting diesel to these places is more than what the diesel itself costs, and also you’ve got the risks of floods and bushfires, so if they can be as self-sufficient as possible that’s a tremendous outcome,” Mr Turner said.

“So WA provides a unique market opportunity in terms of the mining camps and the remote townships.”

Zen Energy also has a commercial arrangement with a company in the US that provides technology that enables clients to store energy generated through the solar power systems, which it’s looking to launch into the commercial market in the coming months.

Zen Energy has grown to a $77 million per annum operation since it was founded almost 10 years ago.

Mr Turner said that growth was largely driven by demand in the residential sector, with the ratio of residential to commercial work at 90:10 five years ago.

He said that had now evened out to a 50:50 split.

Energy cost rises in WA have hit the residential market the hardest; since 2009 government increases to electricity have amounted to 51 per cent.

The increase on electricity for small businesses has been 21 per cent.

Willetton-based Enigin has also reported significant uptake of its energy efficiency and renewable energy systems – initially from the government sector.

The company secured the licence to distribute the UK-based Enigin-branded energy analysing systems five years ago, but has branched into consulting and providing renewable energy systems such as solar panels.

It also has a licence to utilise waste-to-energy technology operating in South Korea.

Enigin managing director Dominic Da Cruz said the energy analysis products now accounted for a minority of the company’s overall turnover as demand for audit and advisory services increased.

The company has secured a preferred supplier status with the WA Local Government Association and the Public Transport Authority, and this year also won more than $10 million worth of contracts for local governments and not-for-profit organisations through Community Energy Efficiency Program grants.

“Local governments tend to be an early adopter and have been in this space for quite a number of years and demonstrated value from it,” Mr Da Cruz said.

It seems the private sector is now catching up to that early lead.

Enigin has installed a 30kW solar photovoltaic system on the top of 190 St Georges Terrace, owned by Terrace Properties and Investments.

“That system is one of the first in the whole Perth CBD where the building is producing its own energy from a [solar] system and obviously reducing its demand on the grid,” Mr Da Cruz said.

“While the pain [of power price increases] has probably been growing …we’ve really only noticed a significant increase probably in the last year; we’re really at the point where the viability makes the business case a no-brainer.” 

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