'Craig Kelly can shove it up his clacker': The solar industry is cheering on Woolies' 100% renewable energy commitment, as business takes the lead on clean power

The Woolworths supermarket in Orange, NSW, is already up and running with solar.
  • Woolworths Group has committed to being entirely powered by renewable energy by 2025, joining the other 13 Australian companies to sign the RE100 Initiative.
  • With Woolies consuming around 1% of all energy in Australia, it marks a major transition by business away from fossil fuels.
  • The solar industry said it was “hugely exciting” to see more companies join, promising the commitment would create more jobs as Australia undergoes an energy transition.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

Australia’s largest supermarket, and one of its largest energy users, has pledged to go green within just five years.

Woolworths has revealed it has signed on to the RE100, a global initiative committing big business to use 100% renewable energy by 2025.

“We use around one per cent of Australia’s national electricity, so we have a unique opportunity to use our scale for good and make a real impact,” Woolworths Group CEO Brad Banducci said.

“We believe this will not only be a positive for our business but also contribute to a better tomorrow by making green energy accessible to more Australians.”

It makes the supermarket giant just the 14th Australian company to take the pledge, joining a string of banks including Suncorp, Bank Australia, Westpac, Macquarie, NAB, ANZ, and the Commonwealth Bank.

Australian tech giant Atlassian is also a member of the club, as well as insurer QBE, and property groups Dexus and Mirvac. With the addition of Woolworths, the 14 represent a collective market cap of $470 billion.

“With Woolworths joining RE100, we expect that this will trigger a domino effect across Australia, with many more businesses stepping up to transition to 100% renewable electricity,” RE100 Australian coordinator Jon Dee said.

While Aldi has committed to do so by 2021, it makes Woolworths the first Australian supermarket to do so. By comparison, Coles’ largest pledge to date is a 90% renewable target for its Queensland stores over the next five years.

Lindsay Soutar, energy campaign director at Greenpeace Australia, said put simply, “what Woolies does matters”.

“There are over 1000 Woolworths supermarkets and metro stores, and 3000 stores across the group including Big W and Dan Murphy’s, which employ more than 215,000 people. Woolworths Group going 100% renewable puts solar and wind power at the heart of Australian communities across the country,” she said.

Woolworths commitment to create jobs and pressure politicians

The company’s addition will be seen as adding more pressure on the business community to review their own energy plans. Perhaps more significant however will be the shot in the arm it will give the renewable sector.

“Over the coming years, we’ll invest tens of millions of dollars into renewable energy partnerships and prioritise new green energy projects to spur growth in the industry and new jobs in the sector,” Banducci said.

Nigel Morris, head of business at Software company Solar Analytics, applauded the move as ‘hugely exciting’ and said it would help to create a great deal of momentum for the renewable industry.

“Businesses don’t do anything flippantly. When they commit to something like this, consumers see it and it inspires a huge amount of confidence in the whole sector,” Morris told Business Insider Australia.

“With Australian companies like Woolworths and Bunnings joining the likes of Walmart and Ikea globally, it tells you that solar has absolutely come of age and it sends a really powerful message that the renewable transition makes enormous business sense.”

As employers worked from home during the pandemic, Morris said residential solar work had boomed while other parts of the sector hadn’t fared nearly as well.

“Over the last six to twelve months, commercial and large scale installers have really suffered so this will give them a real boost of confidence to invest and hire,” Morris said.

“This will mean more jobs, especially in regional and rural areas where solar businesses are really overrepresented. It’ll help get them up and running again.”

It’s perhaps lucky that business is doing the legwork, given both sides of the political aisle have dragged their feet on climate and energy policy for the last decade.

Just this week Labor minister Joel Fitzgibbon stood down from the frontbench over a disagreement on climate change, while Liberal MP Craig Kelly this year went through old data from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology in an effort to try and disprove climate change – coincidentally, here’s the rebuttal to that tenuous argument.

“Our politicians should take notice of this and get behind renewable energy because it’s not a rort. The simple fact is the coal industry is in decline but we can create jobs during the transition period through clean energy,” Morris said, noting that Australian politics was “playing catch up to the real world.”

“Craig Kelly can shove it up his clacker.”

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