RACV buys into clean energy

Living Well | RACV | Posted on 13 December 2019

Solar-power deal invests in a more sustainable future.

RACV has over the last 18 months quietly been investing in businesses and technology to help deliver a clean, sustainable future for all Victorians. The acquisition of one of Australia’s largest solar system installers, Gippsland Solar, is the latest plank in an ambitious and integrated strategy to champion renewable energy and establishes RACV as a significant player in the sector. 

The landmark deal comes on the back of RACV’s multi million investment in energy saving initiatives across all its properties, including the progressive installation of solar panels at RACV resorts as well as switching to energy efficient LED lighting and upgrading air-conditioning systems. RACV has also installed solar at its Noble Park Office, which houses over 700 staff. These investments are expected to cut the company’s carbon emissions by more than 9000 tonnes a year – the equivalent of taking more than 3000 cars off the road.

Rows of solar panels in field under blue sky

It also complements RACV’s long standing work in advocating for electric vehicles as well as its major investment in the Chargefox ultra-rapid electric vehicle charging network which is building a network of 22 fast charging EV stations around Australia, including seven stations in Victoria – the most recent of which was installed at RACV’s Torquay Resort in August. The ultra-rapid chargers can deliver power for up to 400 kilometres’ range in 15 minutes, making day and weekend trips across Victoria easy.

RACV Managing Director and Chief Executive Neil Taylor says the combined initiatives are a key part of RACV’s strategic vision. 

“We are passionate about clean energy and recognise that our members also want to make a contribution to lowering their carbon emissions. We want to make it easier for people to achieve that,” Neil says.

He says the acquisition of Gippsland Solar represents a step-change in RACV’s commitment to renewable energy. The deal involves RACV acquiring 100 per cent of the 10-year-old, Latrobe Valley-based business, with plans to expand its operations. The company’s founding owners, Andy and Kelly McCarthy, and 75 existing staff will remain. Gippsland Solar currently installs around 1600 residential and commercial solar systems a year, including such ambitious projects as Australia’s largest school solar installation at Camberwell Grammar.

RACV will merge its own 18 month old Solar Business into the newly combined entity and continue its existing solar services, including the 24/7 monitoring of systems it installs and solar ‘health-checks’ to ensure the efficiency and safety of existing systems.

While Neil says the Gippsland Solar deal brings enormous scope for RACV to become a leader in solar installation across the state, he is also excited about the development of other new clean energy technologies such as bi-directional charging. 

Although this technology is still in its infancy in Australia and has yet to receive the regulatory green light, the recently released Nissan LEAF electric car features bi-directional charging functionality that could be used to feed power back into the state’s electricity grid. 

“It has the potential to form a clean-energy circle,” explains Neil. “Solar energy generated from a house rooftop powers an electric car which stores the energy and becomes a battery source for the house or for the grid in times of need.”

RACV has joined a consortium of interested parties, including Nissan Australia and electricity distributor Jemena, to test the practical application of the technology in Victoria. Initial results are expected early in 2020. 

“We’re investing in research to refine and improve these technologies, so they become more efficient, more cost-effective solutions in the future,” says Neil. 

He adds that as clean energy increases in popularity, economies of scale and further technological advances will help drive prices down.  

He notes this is already happening with electric vehicles, where the recent arrival of several more affordable models on the local market will over time help shift perceptions of EVs from a niche luxury to a future mainstream option for many Victorians. 

“As the momentum builds, the costs will go down and the ability to charge them at work, home or charging stations will make them much more practical,” says Neil.

RACV’s Car Share business will soon see some fleet move to EVs and the Emergency Roadside Assist Business has EV charging available for members who may run out of electricity on the road, in and around Melbourne. As EVs become more widespread over time the Roadside Business will make further investments in this space. 

And finally, RACV has just inked a contract with Red Energy, the distributor of power from Snowy Hydro, which combined with its own investments in Solar will see all of RACV’s electrical power in Victoria supplied by renewable sources from the start of 2020. With operations in other states such as the Queensland and Tasmanian resorts, RACV has more to do to become 100 per cent renewable across all its businesses and investments, but the momentum is strong, and the vast majority of the heavy lifting has been done. 

As Neil says, “RACV is firmly committed to this path and through our investments in our own footprint, the purchase of Gippsland Solar, investment in Chargefox and our EV work we believe we have demonstrated a very strong commitment to a clean energy future. We now want to use these investments to help the many Victorians who share our vision, so please contact us particularly if you are looking to invest in Solar for your home or business, own or are considering an electric car or have opportunities for clean energy that you may want to talk to us about.” 

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