News, information, ideas and perspectives about the Green Economy, business and the transition to clean energy
The solar industry in Australia has undergone a substantial change in the past 10 years. The explosive boom that has occurred over the last decade has seen an unprecedented amount of growth and change in the industry. In the wake of the boom, competition is high and consumer’s expectations are demanding. As governmental incentives are disappearing from the market, consumer motivation and drivers for uptake of solar related products are changing. For those enterprises continuing to do business in this landscape, fundamentally understanding the customer becomes an essential requirement to successfully respond to a dynamic market. Accurate market segmentation facilitates effective messaging and communications to customers to utilise the solar businesses’ already stretched resources most efficiently.
Smart Meters in Australia, and specifically the smart meter in NSW, has been featured highly in the media recently. There are a lot of questions about how their introduction will affect consumers and how the smart meter and solar panels will work together. Rolled out already in Victoria, the smart meter is now coming to New South Wales with promises to “revolutionise electricity” and “change the way we think about energy.” Sifting through the hype can be a challenging task to understand exactly what the smart meter does and how we as consumers can best take advantage of its features. Undoubtedly, smart meters are a major improvement over the old analogue metering system. In these modern times, the idea of collecting energy use data once a quarter by physically visiting the home is a practice that seems to be more suited to an era of cords on a telephone and cassettes in a Walkman. The ability to accurately monitor and measure energy use digitally and remotely is an obvious requirement for the power company, and once that data is collected, there are other applications for its use that go well beyond just sending the customer the bill.
Like a meteorite falling to earth, the price of solar energy continues to drop dramatically. In the last few months the renewable energy industry has been buzzing with news from all around the world of solar power being on par or even cheaper than fossil fuel based energy generation. Is global Grid Parity closer than we think? When basic economics takes hold and the need for subsidies disintegrates, the disruptive potential of renewable alternatives to the existing energy industry will be realised. Opportunities are emerging all along the value stream for innovative models that capitalise on the significant volume growth of the sector that is already beginning. Get your business plans ready…..
As we continue to wean off fossil fuel sources of power generation in favour of renewables, solar energy has massive potential for meeting the national and global targets and goals. With the growth of the renewable energy industry, the diversity of models for solar energy delivery is also expanding such that there are an increasing number of choices and opportunities to participate in the solar revolution. Policy makers, investors, entrepreneurs and even consumers should assess the differences in costs and benefits between the different models for solar deployment. Understanding these dynamics will help to get the overall “mix” of energy sources optimised to get the most effective use of public budgets and private resources, as well as allow both businesses and consumers to benefit from innovative solutions.
2015 was a big year for renewable energy with plummeting technology costs and booming global uptake of renewables, culminating with historic outcomes and commitments for moving forward from the COP21 in Paris. I previously wrote why I was optimistic about renewable energy last year and now looking ahead in 2016, there are powerful trends that signal the continued massive transformation in the world’s energy infrastructure. In particular, three elements, rapidly emerging and working in unison, outline how the changing nature of the energy economy will look in the near future. These are decentralised microgrids, highly sophisticated IT controls, and cloud-like storage solutions. The picture being painted is not only innovative, but also remarkable and exciting, and for entrepreneurs, investors and consumers, opportunities abound to engage in this revolution.
I recently completed a research paper as part of my MBA program where I examined the role of the Entrepreneur in the current transition to a renewable energy economy. I gained many insights in the course of my research and the following is a distillation of a few sections from the final draft that may be of interest those doing business in the green economy. Sustainable Entrepreneurship There is a new breed of entrepreneur – the sustainable entrepreneur – that is emerging in parallel to the development of the green industry. In this new green economy, these entrepreneurs will find themselves with a competitive advantage as the challenges of transitioning to green will become opportunities. New sustainable businesses can benefit from better access to certain markets, differentiated products, green revenue, better risk management, better stakeholder relations, and lower costs of resources and energy. 
My professional background is in construction and the building industry, and so I tend to pay close attention to information about green building initiatives and sustainability developments in the built environment. Thus, it was with interest that I learned this year marked the first time ever at a UN climate conference that a day was devoted specifically to the building sector. Paris Conference “Buildings Day” The COP21 “Buildings Day” gave special focus to the building industry and the contribution it can make to help with achieving the overall targets of the conference. Despite granting limited attention in the past, it seems the international community is now acknowledging the importance the role buildings play in climate change, and is recognizing that without significant action by the building sector, the targets will not be met.
After attending the Digital Technology for Sustainable Buildings symposium, sponsored by the Fifth Estate, and reading the State of Green Business in 2015 produced by Greenbiz.com, I learned about some of the current and emerging trends in the world of sustainable and green business. I found several of the concepts to be relevant to any business wishing to prosper in this modern world, and chose a few to share that are being well implemented already in the Green industry. Natural Capital Accounting The tragedy of the commons is upon us. Many existing business models are predicated on the assumption that vital, non-financial resources are in virtually limitless supply. In many cases however, business and market activities place an added burden on shared environments – such as pollution, depletion of resources or ill health effects – but are not reflected in the actual market price of the particular product. While this is not necessarily a new phenomenon, our growing global economy is approaching some limits that our ‘common’ environments cannot support. Natural Capital refers to the stock of resources and ecosystem services on which all companies depend for their success. It is often inaccurately valued and thus natural capital is often used […]
I was interested to learn of Stanford professor Mark Jacobson and his work creating realistic plans for powering the United States on 100% renewable energy. His detailed models show how renewables can be scaled up to work for various regions around the country, with specific proposals to get California, Washington and New York states there by 2050. User friendly, interactive maps that show the basic structures for each state can be found here. Jacobson is a leading climate scientist and is known for his rather optimistic outlook, which I personally find refreshing. And so I was motivated to take a look at the current transition towards a greener energy supply, and to highlight some reasons to be encouraged by the direction that things seem to be going. I don’t want to sound naïve and simply ignore the immense challenges in achieving the visions such as Jacobson’s, but rather to take a moment to recognise that those visions may actually be within reach, and perhaps consider those challenges more as opportunities.