Renewables help landlords dodge energy storm
Shopping centre landlords are reducing power by installing solar on rooftops.

Renewables help landlords dodge energy storm

A focus on improving building efficiency and rolling out renewables is shielding Australia’s largest landlords from soaring energy prices.

As wholesale electricity and gas prices hit record highs and cause lasting pain to households and businesses, long-term investments in energy savings are paying off for the real estate trust sector.

GPT Group’s head of sustainability and energy, Steve Ford, said the $7.7 billion ASX-listed fund manager has cut energy use in half across its massive portfolio over the last 15 years.

The landlord, whose assets include Australia Square in Sydney’s George Street and Highpoint shopping centre in Melbourne, is heavily invested in demand-side flexibility, on-site generation and storage to protect against cost volatility and grid instability.

GPT spends about $30 million a year on electricity but spreads its purchases over time on contracts negotiated well in advance of current prices.

Its energy saving efforts also mean the amount of power it buys is much lower, Ford said.

“However, we are also aware that many of our tenants would be directly exposed to the energy crisis through their own energy bills and also the flow on effects of their customers struggling with increased costs of living from higher energy bills,” he said.

Goodman Group’s Australian head of sustainability, Emma McMahon, said its industrial customer’s energy use makes up 90 per cent of the group’s carbon footprint.

“We’re acutely aware of the impact the current energy crisis will have on our customer’s energy bills,” she said.

Goodman has a target to install 100 megawatts of rooftop solar across its Australian portfolio by 2025.

“To date, we’ve committed or installed approximately 50 megawatts.”

The renewable energy generated on the roof goes directly into the customer’s distribution, reducing grid requirements by up to 50 per cent, McMahon said.

Businesses entering new retail energy contracts over the next few months are facing up to 100 per cent price increases on current tariffs.

Earlier this week, a coalition of peak bodies for consumer advocates, the community sector, environmental advocates, farmers, investors, the property sector and professionals said an immediate response was needed to calm the current chaos and roll out longer-term measures to moderate energy prices and cut emissions.

“Businesses unable to pass on their costs fear mounting cost pressures will threaten their viability, and some with immediate exposure have already been forced to temporarily shut down operations as prices spike,” the Ai Group, ACCOS and other peak bodies said.

Property giant Dexus’ high-quality portfolio is less exposed to rising energy costs than others, it maintains.

“We have moved to longer-term renewable supply agreements which provide a partial price hedge and reduces exposure to price volatility,” a Dexus spokeswoman said.

Meanwhile, shopping mall landlord Scentre Group said it was managing rising price through its procurement approach.

Scentre has cut energy use in its Westfield malls by a third since 2014 and has a 2030 net-zero target for wholly owned assets.

“This has been driven primarily by energy efficiency initiatives such as LED lighting and building management system projects, and real-time analytics,” the company said.

“We continue to invest in renewable energy generation including onsite solar and renewable procurement,” it said.

Its New Zealand-based Westfield centres are running wholly on renewable energy as of January this year.

“As part of our investment in Westfield Knox and Westfield Fountain Gate we have commenced new onsite solar projects which together will generate an additional 6200 megawatt hours. This will increase our total portfolio solar generation capacity by over 75 per cent,” the company said.