The Melbourne-based Echo Group of solar and LED lighting companies has grown on the need of residential consumers and commercial and industrial (C&I) businesses to reduce their power bills. Energy Australia’s acquisition last week of a 49% shareholding in Echo, is intended to differentiate its C&I offering from those of traditional gentailers, with tailored and future focused energy solutions.
“Households around Australia have been taking advantage of rooftop solar and LED lighting,” to regain control of their electricity spend, said Mark Collette, EnergyAustralia’s Executive responsible for Customer. “Our partnership with Echo is about making those technologies available to businesses, too.”
Echo Group Chief Operating Officer, Ben Wright, told pv magazine part of the excitement at the deal coming to fruition after a year of talks and negotiations is “that the market is acknowledging the importance of renewable energy and energy efficiency”.
EnergyAustralia has considerably broadened its generation sources over recent years, with investments in wind and solar totalling more than $3 billion and 1000MW of capacity. Its portfolio includes power purchase agreements with Coleambally, Ross River, Manildra and Gannawarra solar farms.
Brands under the Echo Group umbrella include Cherry Energy Solutions (focused on integrated C&I solutions); Littil LED (energy-efficient lighting) and Eko Energy (serving the residential market for rooftop solar and energy efficiency).
It’s C&I-scale clients to date include Vulcan Steel, Spotlight Retail Group, Conga Foods, Qube transport and logistics, Hussy & Co salad growers, Dex Audio and a number of Victorian city councils from Hobsons Bay to Maribyrnong, Moonee Valley and Wyndam.
Wright says that Echo’s solar proposals for businesses generally see a 30% to 40% reduction in energy drawn from the grid, while its lighting proposals for day-night operations such as Qube can reduce energy consumed by illumination needs by as much as 80%.
Echo has grown from a four-person start-up in 2012 to more than 60 employees meeting the individual requirements of some 900 commercial and residential customers in 2018. Its customer base is substantially Victorian, but the company has opened offices in Queensland and New South Wales and provides services to customers nationally.
“Echo Group is a great, local Australian business with a reputation for service and great technical advice,” said Collette in statement. He continued, “Our businesses are a great fit and together we plan on reaching more commercial and industrial customers more often.”
Wright says that Echo’s agility in a fast-moving market will be key to the success of the new power couple.
Its expertise in integrated approaches to reducing grid-energy consumption already incorporates “battery readiness” wherever possible, as storage costs continue to drop.
Over the coming five years Wright expects the C&I market to continue its rapid expansion. “We’ll start to see storage become increasingly relevant, particularly if demand response does grow legs and customers are more prepared for change in the way they use and share energy.”
The EnergyAustralia announcement of its acquisition said the parties would work to “put before business customers new and emerging technologies”, that will set them on the path “to long-term independence and control”.
Wright told pv magazine, “It’s very difficult to manage your operational expenditure when you’re not sure what’s going to happen with your energy prices. By implementing energy efficiency and in particular solar PV, businesses are more able to take control of those moving goalposts and firmly budget what their energy spend will be.”