Following the recent Australasian Campuses Towards Sustainability (ACTS) conference, it is clear that sustainability is on the tip of everyone’s tongues – particularly affordable and clean energy. With the main theme for the conference the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) the hot topic in both the public and private sector was Affordable and Clean Energy with institutions keen to prove their worth highlighting the ambitious initiatives and research they have planned for the next couple of years.

With renewables currently in the public eye, it comes as no surprise that there is a push from student bodies and groups for tertiary institutions to lead the way for the country and implement renewables, with universities agreeing they have an obligation to play a critical role in sustainability and the SDGs. As such, when announcing their commitment to the SDGs in 2016, Monash’s Professor John Thwaites, Chair of the SDSN Australia/Pacific said “Importantly, by supporting the goals through their own operations, governance and community leadership, universities can set an example to other sectors.”

And Monash is definitely setting an inspiring example with their plan to become Australia’s first 100% renewable energy powered university with over 2MW of solar energy to be installed on their rooftops by the end of 2020. Likewise, other institutions are joining the pack with RMIT’s Sustainable Urban Precincts Program (SUPP) which consists of a $128 million plan to cut energy and water use and greenhouse gas emissions – the biggest program of its kind in the southern hemisphere. Additionally, UNSW’s Environmental Management Plan has a target to be the lowest university for energy use per EFTSL (Equivalent Full Time Student Load) and energy use per M2 GFA (Gross Floor Area), as compared to the Go8, a coalition of the country’s 8 leading research universities.

With the price of energy reaching an all-time high in the country and with recent government announcements surrounding its volatile energy policies it is no surprise that these plans are getting the attention of the commercial sector with renewable energy not only great for sustainability, but also making good business sense.

In a recent study of corporate Australia called The Director Sentiment Index, the nation’s company directors were surveyed on their thoughts and priorities within the Australian market. When asked what the major challenges facing business are for the next 6 months, the two most popular choices were high energy prices and Energy policy ahead of concerns such as low productivity growth, excessive regulation and the tax system.

When asked what the top policy priorities for government should be, Energy policy was ranked number one, with climate change coming in seventh. With director concerned with power prices, their opinion on how best to combat this was also revealed with 26% surveyed stating renewable energy sources as the number one priority for infrastructure investment and 52% stating it as in the top three. With solar the preferred renewable technology with its quicker financial break-even, ease of installation and long equipment life cycle, it comes as no surprise that companies are prioritising solar as part of their planning to increase their uptake of renewables.

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