Renewables – Where do you start?

Renewables – Where do you start?

In a three part series, Robert Saunders, Calibre’s Renewables Sector Lead, shares his thoughts on the future of renewables and the ‘checklist’ for any business considering renewables as an energy resource. 

Australia is a sun-soaked country surrounded by seas, carved by rivers and lakes, and cooled by tropical and coastal winds. The nation’s renewables boom makes sense and is just in time, if not overdue. 

But where do you start? 

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) drivers are nice, but many companies believe it’s only the top end of town or large government bodies who have the resources and budgets to divert limited funds into ‘expensive’ renewables. 

Not anymore, according to Robert Saunders, Head of Renewables at Calibre. 

“Done right, renewables can lower costs, save capital and tick the CSR box,” he said. “It sounds too good to be true, but the technology has improved significantly in recent years, and the costs have come down. Moreover, government incentives are the icing on the cake. This means that renewables are now well within reach of everyday business owners, not-for-profits, councils, schools – almost anyone who owns or manages a facility,” 

According to Robert, depending on your specific circumstances, a move to renewables has the potential to be cash positive.  

But there are risks. 

Robert believes there is risk in choosing the wrong partner. “I’ve seen some negative outcomes, mostly because the wrong technology was used, or the contractor installing the systems wasn’t experienced in the sector, or cheap Chinese imports where used. 

“Planning and understanding a business’ energy requirements are complex – there are lots of options and variables. Get it right, and you could save an awful lot of money. After looking at a cost-benefit analysis, most businesses wonder why they didn’t transition to renewables sooner.” 

Selecting an Advisor

If you want to lower business costs, think renewables. Then think about who you work with. 

“You need to make the right choice for both the short and long term,” said Robert. 

Work with a team with a proven track record. 

Robert’s key selection criteria are: 

  1. Find an expert, unless you are already experienced in this sector. Your engineer must be able to independently evaluate your current energy demand patterns, as well as a site’s potential to generate energy in line with current and future needs of your business. This exercise might cost a bob or two – but it’s money well spent. An upfront investment in professional advice could pay you back 5, 10 or 20 fold.
  2. Ensure your energy review provides a thorough assessment of cost versus savings, including physical capability of any existing structures or services, and any necessary upgrades (with cost estimates). 
  3. Demand a professional and detailed report, not a quote for installation. An engineering report should outline options, savings and potential capital investment sufficient for management or Board consideration
  4. Find someone who is willing to work with your existing partners. If you have strong relationships with builders, architects or planners – ensure your renewables advisor can build rapport with your existing team. Equally, if you don’t have preferred consultant in place, your renewables advisor should have a go-to list of trusted suppliers in the regions where your facility is located. Your lead engineer can provide surety by acting as project manager for the construction and installation of services/equipment to meet agreed goals and ensure compliance with all standards

And finally, 

5. Think beyond installation. As part of any future-proof plan, have an operational renewable energy solution with a pre-agreed maintenance schedule, either at low cost or even as a cash positive investment, for the life of the installation.

In Robert's next installment, he will share his thoughts on financing renewables and the myriad of options available. 

About Robert Saunders:

Robert is a Building Services and Energy Engineer with experience in all fields of heating, ventilation and air-conditioning for commercial and industrial applications. Robert’s passion is renewables. He combines technical expertise with proven skills in project management, problem-solving and system design solutions to ensure the best possible outcome for his clients. Robert holds a Bachelor of Engineering (Hons), Energy Engineering from London South Bank University, a BTEC National Certificate, Building Services Engineering; a BTEC National Diploma, Business and Finance. Robert is also a member of the Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) – UK, a Member of the Australian Institute of Refrigeration, Air Conditioning and Heating (AIRAH); an RPEQ in Queensland; a Registered Engineer Practitioner in the Northern Territory and a Member of Engineers Australia. 

Robert is married with two beautiful girls aged 13 and 10. In his spare time, he collects signatures of the famous and infamous. His most prized signature is that of Edmond Becquerel (1820 – 1891), the pioneer of the photovoltaic effect. or +61 (0)416 029 160

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