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Many of our supermarket anchored convenience retail centres are now powered by renewable energy thanks to a solar power and battery storage rollout program that began with our Tamworth Square centre in August 2019.
We’ve made rapid progress since then with another 10 centres now converted. Our goal is to have solar installed on 85 percent of our retail centres nationwide by 2021, generating enough electricity to power approximately 4,600 homes.
Our ability to deliver the solar program is largely possible because we partnered with experts, says Nick Symons, our Head of Retail Portfolio Management.
“We're a property funds management business and we understand property,’’ says Nick. “But when we started looking into renewables, we realised we didn't have the same understanding of electricity generation.
“We can’t deliver large scale solar installations at the same speed, price point and design quality as the specialists can.’’
The retail management team opted to partner with solar experts CleanPeak Energy and Solgen Energy Group in conjunction with Macquarie Bank. In terms of our long-term power purchasing agreements with them, they provide us with renewable energy and take responsibility for everything from solar system finance, design and installation through to ongoing maintenance.
It’s a model that benefits everyone, says Philip Graham, CEO of CleanPeak Energy.
“At CleanPeak we specialise in deploying renewable assets and energy storage systems, and we also have a retail licence,’’ says Philip. “This means we can supply and integrate grid power seamlessly with our solar systems.
“The team at Charter Hall have invested a huge amount of effort into understanding our technology and what it can deliver, but they have trusted us with the implementation.
“We’ve really enjoyed working with them. We’re both specialists in our respective fields and we’re both keen to promote renewable energy through the integration of solar and battery technology.’’
Michael Halfhide, our Commercial Finance Manager, says the partnership model has already proven itself financially.
“Developing an internal capability to deliver our renewable aspirations would have been costly and time consuming, by partnering with third-party experts we've been able to fast track our renewable program’’ says Michael.
“As a result, we’re not only seeing big environmental benefits but we now have certainty around our energy prices, which is great for us and for our tenant customers because energy has always been a volatile cost component of shopping centre operations.
“Under our power purchasing agreements, which have initial terms of 10 years, we have locked in a stable, predictable cost of power at below the current market price.’’
With agreements now in place for solar systems at 28 convenience plus retail centres, the program is expected to generate 30 thousand megawatt-hours of energy. This will take our Charter Hall Retail REIT (ASX: CQR) a long way towards its sustainability objective of zero scope 1 and scope 2 emissions without any major capital expenditure by the fund.
At Charter Hall our focus on sustainability means we are already leaders in the sustainability space in commercial real estate, with Australia’s largest cross-sector Green Star-rated property portfolio. Nonetheless we are constantly learning more about how we can do more for the environment, says Nick.