The solar array installation gets underway at Domain Central (L-R: Yurika's Dean Conden, Domain Central manager Sandy Corbett and Mitchell Grimes from installation partner Waltec)
Path to net-zero emissions lit by solar
Sustainability
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Aug 20, 2020
Last month saw QIC GRE begin the installation of more than 35,000 solar panels on the roofs of five major shopping centres, marking a big step forward on its newly outlined pathway to achieving net-zero carbon emissions across its core Australian portfolio within the next eight years.

The bold target puts QIC GRE at the forefront of sustainable business transformation in the real estate sector as the first Australian signatory to the World Green Building Council’s Net Zero Emissions Commitment for a retail portfolio.

 

In partnering with renewable energy services provider Yurika on a phased national rollout of Smart Connected Solar technology, QIC GRE adds this country’s largest on-site solar power purchase agreement to its robust program of carbon-reducing initiatives. The first phase of the project, spanning four shopping centres in the sunshine state and one in Victoria, will deliver 15 megawatts of solar power capacity by early 2021 and reduce CO2 emissions by more than 18,000 metric tonnes per year. In addition, a solar battery storage system being piloted at Domain Central will put Queensland’s largest bulky goods centre on track to achieve net-zero emissions within three years – the first Australian shopping centre to do so.

 

Pictured top (L-R): Installation begins at Domain Central overseen by Yurika's Dean Conden, centre manager Sandy Corbett and Mitchell Grimes from delivery partner Waltec.


With shopping centres accounting for around 36 per cent of commercial building energy consumption in Australia a decade out from its Paris Agreement deadline of 2030, and QIC GRE responsible for almost 1 million square metres of that property, there has never been a more critical moment for QIC GRE to demonstrate its commitment to a safe and prosperous future with action. The solar project will initially leverage almost 80km worth of roof space across QIC GRE’s shopping centre assets to reduce grid electricity consumption by almost a third, thereby freeing up capacity for the communities surrounding these assets to expand and flourish.

 

Michael O’Brien, QIC GRE Managing Director, says: “Our proactive and data-driven approach to achieving net-zero carbon emissions will ensure our assets remain valuable and relevant. By investing in renewable energy as a service, we can provide reliable energy for our retail partners, significantly lower the carbon footprint of our places, and reduce grid electricity consumption by up to 30 per cent.

 

“While protecting our status as a retail partner of choice, our ability to unburden the electricity grid around our places in some of Australia’s fastest growing catchments will also allow more sustainable regional development.”
Solar energy capture is forecast to reduce Robina Town Centre’s carbon emissions by 6325 tonnes per year.
Moving behind the meter

QIC GRE’s large-scale implementation of solar photovoltaics is largely facilitated by its synergistic partnership with the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC), which last year contributed the cornerstone investment for the Climate Bonds Initiative-certified green bond issued by the QIC Shopping Centre Fund. O’Brien comments: “From our earliest conversations with the CEFC we discussed the vast untapped potential of our roof space because, with Australia being a world leader in solar PV deployment, the sustainability gains are easily supported by the economics.”

Transitioning to a more sustainable footprint through clean energy generation allows QIC GRE to safeguard its portfolio against volatility in electricity supply and pricing. With Yurika’s round-the-clock monitoring technology optimising management of the new energy supply, the solar project is best described as a whole-of-system renewable energy solution. Together with other investments in building automation – such as the CIM analytics platform introduced in 2018 to streamline shopping centre heating, ventilation and air-conditioning – this technology will see QIC GRE significantly improve its environmental performance without relying on the purchase of carbon offsets.

 

After Domain Central in Townsville, where Yurika is headquartered and already working to decongest the grid, the next properties to benefit from behind-the-meter energy generation will be Grand Central in Toowoomba, Watergardens in outer-west Melbourne, Hyperdome in Logan and Robina Town Centre on the Gold Coast. If laid end-to-end, more than 28 kilometres of solar panels are to be installed atop Robina Town Centre alone, the eight separate stations spanning the site predicted to deliver electricity sufficient to power over 1200 homes each year while offsetting the CO2 emitted by 1350 cars. Once complete, this will be the largest rooftop array in the southern hemisphere.

 

Project lead Damien Stacy, QIC GRE Portfolio Facilities Manager, explains: “A national rollout like this represents a huge step towards the low-carbon goals of our industry and illuminates the role of businesses like QIC GRE in the future smart grid. 

 

“While we naturally expect energy generation to be highest at our Queensland centres, we’re particularly interested to see the efficiencies we can achieve in the Melbourne and Sydney growth corridors where the grid is strained.” 

 

Stacy says QIC GRE’s active pursuit of net-zero emissions is made possible by a cross-divisional focus on environmental performance and a long-term investment approach that factors in the quality of life of those living near its properties. 

The solar power generated at Grand Central each year will be equivalent to 13.6 petrol tankers.
Powering up

Michael Di Russo, CEFC Investment Director, has commended QIC GRE for putting its ambitious clean energy plans into action this year. “QIC GRE is setting a bold example for the Australian retail sector with its long-term focus on ESG investment,” he says. “Focusing on the optimisation of on-site solutions is the most cost-effective way of tackling [shopping centre] emissions and ultimately driving benefits to tenants and investors alike,” he continues. “We look forward to seeing the benefits of solar technology across the QIC GRE portfolio, as well as the positive impact of its many other sustainability initiatives.”

Michael O’Brien comments: “Having a highly engaged partner in Yurika streamlines our pursuit of net-zero emissions and together we can assist with the promotion of climate resilience in Australian retail real estate more broadly.”


Having begun investing in clean energy, smart infrastructure and automation in earnest, QIC GRE is now considering the evolution of its embedded networks and investigating emerging technologies that could improve both business operations and visitor experience. One year into an LED lighting installation project, and 5000 metric tonnes lighter in carbon emissions, it is clear that meaningful sustainability gains are within reach.

O’Brien says: “Having clearly mapped our pathway to net-zero, we are proud to be getting this ground-breaking solar energy initiative underway and delivering more tangible sustainability improvements in alignment with our investor-endorsed ESG strategy.” 

The CO2 saved each year at Domain Central will be equivalent to taking 760 cars off the road.

To read more about QIC GRE’s net-zero pathway, listen to episode 43 of QIC's official podcast featuring an interview with Michael O'Brien. 

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