Renewable-energy marketplace helps households drive demand for green power

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Renewable-energy retailers are proliferating in Australia, bringing all kinds of green-electricity packages to residential energy consumers, depending on whether they want to participate in microgrids of the future  or know that the equivalent of their energy use is being met somewhere in the grid by purchases from certified renewable generators. To bring clarity to the available offerings, EnergyIQ has launched a renewable-retailer marketplace, providing comparative pricing and — soon — an instant, impartial, indicative quote on the benefits of installing a solar system.

Ross Sharman, Founder and CEO of Accurassi, the technology company that powers the Energy Switch website allowing New South Wales energy consumers to change between traditional energy providers based on cost, has set up the EnergyIQ platform to advance the renewable-energy transition.

“We had the idea of doing this back before Christmas when the bushfires were raging and we thought, “We have to do something!” he told pv magazine.

Currently, around one in four Australian households has rooftop solar, but many residents have not crossed over to the sunny side for any number of reasons — perhaps they don’t own their home, the process of installing solar seems too complicated, or they can’t perceive a clear benefit to going solar.

EnergyIQ is starting from the position that any energy consumer will save money by at least switching to an energy provider that sources its energy from renewables; and it invites consumers to upload their most recent electricity bill to receive information on how its portfolio of providers can improve on their current bottom line.

“Most people haven’t switched providers in the past year, and the retailers we have are very competitive — 95% of customers in our first week saved money by coming to the platform,” says Sharman.

Back to base for Australia

He believes that with Covid-19 striking close on the heels of Australia’s devastating bushfire season, households are seeing their homes in a different light: “They feel they’re going to spend more time in their homes and they want to make them more sustainable.”

The EnergyIQ marketplace had its soft launch this month, with Powershop, Amber, DC Power Co, Nectr and OVO Energy the first retailers to jump onto the platform.

Its initial offering shows consumers the benefits of switching to renewable-based plans, with the intention of increasing demand for large-scale renewable generation.

How green is my retailer?

EnergyIQ is now further developing the capability to rate energy retailers according to their green cred.

Sharman says it can be difficult to compare retailers: “Some use offsets, some encourage energy efficiencies, and some, like DC Power are promoting small battery systems … These are all beneficial to the consumer, but we want to create an index that makes it easier for the consumer to choose between them,” he says.

As a result of this benchmarking, customers who upload their energy bill to the EnergyIQ platform will soon receive a reckoning, based on their energy usage and their current provider, of their emissions intensity (how many tonnes of carbon they’ve generated in the past quarter), and they’ll be able to see what switching to a retailer with a much lower intensity will mean for the planet.

First fruits from Nectr

Last week Nectr itself released findings on what it has learned about Australian energy consumers during its first 100 days of operation. It says Australians have clearly indicated:

  • They’re looking for ease of use when comparing retailers
  • They’re not afraid to switch
  • They want to be heard when it comes to their energy needs
  • They understand the need to advance a sustainable energy future

Nectr purchases renewable energy certificates to offset its customers’ electricity drawn from the NEM, and also directly invests in Australian solar, hydro and wind power through its parent company, Hanwha Energy Australia.

Nectr and EnergyIQ share the ambition to also drive uptake of rooftop solar among householders who will benefit from investing in a solar system. 

Taking to the rooftops

In July, says Sharman, EnergyIQ will pilot a service to provide those who upload their latest energy bill with an indicative solar quote: “We’ll take the average price of an inverter and solar panels, take an augmented image of your house, and superimpose solar panels to suit your electricity usage.”

If a consumer has the roof space and orientation to install and properly utilise rooftop solar, thereby reducing their cost of energy, the system will generate a technology-agnostic quote for the right-sized system.

“The solar sales cycle for homes can be quite long and confusing; we want to take that first bit of discovery and make it easy, and make it impartial for the consumer.”

Sharman is also in discussion with banks because he says some are considering the asset-improvement benefit in providing a green-energy extension to their clients’ home loans.

“Because rooftop solar reduces the cost of energy for the homeowner,” says Sharman, banks are also calculating that installing solar will make it easier for clients to afford their home loans. “It gives them more cash flow — it’s a win-win.”

Ultimately, the technology leader believes EnergyIQ’s customer-centric system is about best communicating options to consumers “in a way that doesn’t seem overbearing”. He hopes that impartial, comparable numbers  will create greater demand — a clear signal amid the lack of a national energy policy, to drive increased supply of renewables.