This year Future Business Council proudly welcomed Origin Energy into our community of members – companies that we believe will define Australia’s future economy. This may come as a surprise to some. After all, Origin is one of the so-called ‘dirty three’ big energy retailers (AGL, EnergyAustralia and Origin) that supply 75% of Australian households with electricity.
Yet Origin’s story has, of late, been a promising one. Origin is forthright in their commitment to reducing emissions, and is taking steps to ensure that their business will continue to have a social license to operate in our future economy. The company was recently ranked 6th out of 31 energy retailers in the Green Electricity Guide (an improvement from last year), and was commended for their support of local energy P2P training, their feed-in-tariffs and their solar products.
We sat down with an Origin Energy spokesperson to chat about the future of Origin and the future of energy.
Q: What is Origin doing to support measures to progressively reduce global emissions?
A: Origin was the first energy company in the world to sign up to seven of the We Mean Business coalition commitments on climate change and last year was the first company in Australia to announce a science-based emissions reduction target. We have made a formal commitment to halve our direct carbon emissions by 2032, including closing our only coal-fired power plant, Eraring, and increasing the proportion of renewables in our generation portfolio. We have a target for renewables to account for 25 per cent of our generation mix by 2020 – up from around 13 per cent today. In 2018, we installed our one millionth solar panel.
Q: How is Origin Energy protecting vulnerable customers from high energy prices and bill shock? Can Australians have access to clean, cheap energy in the foreseeable future?
A: We need to get energy prices down to a more sustainable level and we’re aligned with government and consumer groups on many of the ways to achieve this. Through a period of high prices Origin has prioritised support for vulnerable customers. We froze tariffs for our Power On hardship customers and they have not received a price increase since 2016. We’ve introduced special low rates for concession holders in Vic and SA in partnership with those governments. We also led the industry in delivering modest price relief for all customers, as the first to announce flat or falling tariffs for NSW, South Australia and Queensland from July 1. Importantly, we have turned the corner on prices since the peak in 2017 and with significantly more renewable supply coming into the market we expect further downward pressure on wholesale prices, and we will pass on those savings to customers. Renewables are the lowest cost form of new power generation today and are therefore a critical piece of the puzzle to lower prices for Australians in the future.
Q: Should customers be optimistic or pessimistic about the future of our energy sector? Why?
A: Customers should definitely be optimistic about the future of energy – there are many new exciting technologies being developed that will allow a more decentralised, lower emissions energy fleet powered by big data so we can deliver it to our customers in an optimised way. In our future energy division, we are constantly scanning the innovation ecosystem for new ways to make energy easier and smarter for our customers, such as our new Home HQ automation system or our virtual power plant in Victoria that can help make solar and battery more efficient and with quicker payback. Our Usage Buster gives customers with smart meters a break-down of what different appliances in their homes are costing them to run [Usage Buster]
Q: Can you elaborate on the kinds of partnerships/collaborations that Origin is leveraging to improve sustainability outcomes? How important is this collaboration to transforming our energy sector?
A: We engage in a wide range of partnerships to enhance our access to new technologies, business models and ideas so that we can constantly adapt to our customer’s needs. We were a founding member of Free Electrons, a global energy start up accelerator program which attracts some of the world’s most innovative energy thinkers. In Australia, our sponsorship of EnergyLabs is also helping to support local start-ups.
Q: What motivated Origin to become a member of Future Business Council?
A: We joined the Future Business Council to further enhance our connections with the innovation ecosystem and join the conversations on the future of energy and related services.