Energy Locals : Powering a New Paradigm

Jordan LeveyJack Salter
Jordan Levey - Project Manager Jack Salter - Head of Editorial

Energy Locals is done with the traditional energy model. Founded by CEO, Adrian Merrick, we discover how the company is making energy cheaper, cleaner and fairer for Australians.

POWERING A NEW PARADIGM

In Australia, almost two in every three people living in the national energy market get their energy from one of the traditional incumbent energy providers. 

For decades, that has meant that most Australians have been price takers who have no other option than to pay whatever traditional energy companies charge. 

Fairness and simplicity for customers should be a given, but they have been routinely let down on both fronts over the years. Faithful customers are often unknowingly charged a loyalty tax and are with organisations who don’t take their responsibility to protect the planet seriously. 

That has changed, however, with alternate energy providers such as Energy Locals entering the scene and rapidly increasing the availability of alternative forms of energy generation and storage.  

Indeed, as grid-scale renewables such as solar and wind farms continue to appear, around one in three Australian households have now added solar photovoltaic (PV) panels to their own rooftops, fundamentally shifting the market. 

“Energy prices now peak at the start and the end of the day, because although industrial customers use more power during the daytime, it coincides with heavy solar PV production,” explains Adrian Merrick, Founder and CEO of Energy Locals

Not your average energy company, Energy Locals believes in the science of climate change, a phenomenon it has recognised it can – and must – do something about. 

With around 100 employees based in Melbourne and Sydney, the goal of Energy Locals is to make locally-generated carbon-free energy accessible and affordable for residential, business and commercial customers. 

“We run an energy retailer that any residential and small business customer in the national energy market (with the exception of Western Australia, regional Queensland and the Northern Territory) can join,” Merrick outlines. 

“We also service commercial and community organisations that want to provide their customers, members or communities with a retail energy offer but don’t want to run a full end-to-end energy company themselves,” he adds, citing clients such as Tesla, Sonnen, Cooperative Power, Indigo Power, and iO Energy. 

Energy Locals’ retail business doesn’t earn money when customers use power; rather, the company makes retail costs transparent in the form of a small, fixed membership charge. 

Indeed, whereas other retailers bury these in the various tariff components, such as the daily charge, energy usage rates and the solar feed-in tariff, Energy Locals passes them through at cost price, i.e., without mark up. 

The company’s retail business has also been fully carbon offset from day one and doesn’t require customers to opt in or pay extra to receive carbon offset electricity. 

“We do this for every customer, and for our own business as a matter of course,” Merrick tells us.

MULTI-RESIDENTIAL SOLUTIONS 

Energy Locals’ community energy network business, which provides unique solutions to developers that construct and run apartments or mixed-use buildings, was originally founded as Energy Trade by Julian Duggan and Darren Read. 

With a common shareholder – Quinbrook Infrastructure Partners, a specialist investment manager focused exclusively on lower carbon and renewable energy infrastructure – the two businesses were merged in late 2020 under the Energy Locals name.  

Traditionally, the millions of Australians that live in apartment buildings have been unable to access the benefits of clean energy – until now. 

“We’re enabling access to renewable energy by funding, installing and maintaining clean technologies, including smart meters, efficient centralised hot water systems, solar PV, battery storage and electric vehicle (EV) chargers,” informs Merrick. 

By funding the equipment and managing the installations, it means that developers don’t have to worry about capital outlay, making it a no-brainer to add the technologies to their buildings. 

“Developers come to us and ask for energy solutions in their building. The earlier we get involved, the more we can help to ensure buildings will cater for emerging technologies such as battery storage, which normally requires a dedicated space with specific requirements.” 

To date, Energy Locals has installed over 2,000 kilowatts (kW) of solar PV, 555 kW of battery storage, and operates over 275 buildings with a further 200+ in the pipeline. 

In March 2023 alone, enough solar power was generated by these panels to produce over 1,664,753 loads of washing, 10,177,976 hours of laptop time, or 124,720 days of fridge use. 

The two largest residential Tesla Powerwall installations in Australia, hosting a combined 54 Tesla Powerwalls, will also continue to be operated by Energy Locals and have been for a number of years. 

The South Australian Virtual Power Plant (SA VPP), meanwhile, was set up in 2018 by Tesla and the state government, supported by Energy Locals. 

SA VPP continues to grow and remains the country’s largest VPP, providing solar PV and Tesla Powerwalls to people living in Housing SA properties without them having to pay anything up front. 

“Instead, they receive a discounted energy rate for any power they use, regardless of where it comes from, and the solar and battery storage can be used to provide support to the local grid,” Merrick says. 

As Housing SA customers live in government housing and often require additional support, this is helping to deliver lower power prices at an important time, and Energy Locals has become an expert at helping these customers with their queries and bills.

ACCELERATED ROLL-OUT 

Once a solution is agreed, Energy Locals’ project delivery team manages it every step of the way, which involves going on site to get things done. 

“For example, we’ll put pins in for solar PV racking before the waterproofing has been added to the building roof, then go back later to fit the panels and inverters,” Merrick elaborates. 

In addition, Energy Locals has accelerated the roll-out of solar PV and battery storage that it installs for both building developers and owners’ corporations. 

There is a growing demand for these products from residents, and the company is seen as a safe pair of hands in this area to install the right type and size of product for the energy needs of the building. 

Outside of the mixed-use areas of apartment buildings, solar PV and battery storage installation is also offered to business customers. 

By funding the capital expense, the company can make it much easier for businesses to access these products. 

Energy Locals can also further reduce the energy price that companies pay by integrating products with the energy market, while simultaneously providing the grid with much-needed support. 

“There are plenty of people doing great things with solar and wind farms, but the issue is that the transmission network isn’t yet able to cope with the amount of new grid-scale renewables that we need,” notes Merrick. 

“That’s why our strategy is to install large quantities of individually small-scale renewables right there at the location where power is used by our customers.” 

Energy Locals is dedicated to rapidly increasing the amount of renewable projects it invests in and manages. 

In doing so, the company can give more customers access to renewables without the capital expense and provide much needed support to the grid. 

“The projects we’ve done so far are all working very well, so it’s an approach we’re keen to replicate.”

DOING THE RIGHT THING 

As well as keeping energy prices low, fair, and getting more renewables into the market, providing great customer service is another key pillar of the company. 

Customer obsession is the number one value of Energy Locals, whose partners – building developers and commercial/community organisations – have also been just as key to the company’s growth. 

And it’s proving to be working, with Energy Locals the highest-rated electricity company on Product Review, one of Australia’s most popular customer review platforms. 

“We’ve provided a service that was required by those organisations, and solving those problems has helped us to grow,” Merrick states. 

“Many partners started working with us when they had only an idea or a concept, and we had to work closely with them to co-design the customer offer, launch it, and then grow it with them, which is really satisfying.” 

One such partner that Energy Locals has worked with to bring a concept to life is Haystacks Solar Garden, to provide energy services for the 1.5-megawatt (MW) community solar garden at the Grong Grong in the Riverina. 

This is Australia’s first large-scale solar garden, and the initiative allows hundreds of people locked out from rooftop solar power to access the benefits of solar PV. 

Energy Locals wants to maintain its growth trajectory by “doing the right thing”, and that applies to both its retail customers and community energy network business. 

“Our solutions are in demand, so we’ll keep providing them to the right mix of partners and customers.” 

Just as several partners have grown together with the company, some members of staff have also been with Energy Locals for a number of years, earning promotions and taking on vastly more responsibilities along the way. 

“We couldn’t do it without our people,” emphasises Merrick, who has been at Energy Locals from the very beginning having designed, founded, funded and launched the enterprise in 2016. 

“Both Energy Locals and Energy Trade grew from a few people and a couple of dogs to over 100 employees, all of whom are based locally in Australia.” 

As Energy Locals continues to grow, more and more Australians will benefit from low-cost clean energy without being “screwed over” by traditional energy companies.

ENERGY LOCALS PARTNER

TAGGED:
Share This Article
By Jordan Levey Project Manager
Follow:
Jordan Levey is a Project Manager specialising in showcasing innovation and corporate success across the ANZ region. Jordan works with c-suite executives, industry titans and sector disruptors to bring you exclusive features.