Case study: why the Commonwealth Bank is making solar a priority

Australia’s largest bank is working towards a low carbon future – and its small-scale rooftop solar project is contributing huge benefits.

From 2009 to 2015, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by an impressive 38 per cent by implementing office-consolidation and energy efficiency projects. But the bank was keen to do more.

“We are committed to reducing our environmental footprint and our transition towards renewable energy is part of this,” explained Paul Auglys, General Manager, Property Operations.

CBA identified small-scale rooftop solar as an initiative with great potential. “With our partners we looked at best-practice across various industries and scoped, tendered, evaluated and awarded the first installations,” Auglys said.

“With the success of the initial process, we then began to expand the program.”

Photo: Commonwealth Bank of Australia

Big savings

In the years since, CBA has steadily been adding rooftop solar systems at select retail branches throughout the country. “To date, we have installed solar systems at 65 sites with a total capacity of 1105 kilowatts – and we plan to add a minimum of 250kW capacity a year going forward.”

At present, rooftop solar accounts for a modest 2 per cent of CBA’s total retail portfolio energy usage. But it’s having an outsized impact: branches with solar are saving an average of 32 per cent on their electricity bills while reducing their greenhouse gas emissions by 36 per cent. “The installation at our Margaret River branch in Western Australia delivered the best benefits, with cost and emissions savings of around 79 per cent,” Auglys said.

Thanks in large part to rooftop solar, CBA has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 56.5 per cent relative to the 2009 baseline. And their renewable energy efforts are not slowing down.

Heading for 100 per cent

“Last year, we became the first Australian corporate to join the global RE100 campaign – setting a goal to achieve 100 per cent renewable energy by 2030,” said Auglys.

“And this year, we commenced our first power purchase agreement to source 65 per cent of our energy requirements from renewable sources.

“Sustainability is embedded in our operations and processes and positioned as a priority for our people,” he said.

The Commonwealth Bank has been a CitySwitch signatory since 2005. The program, which is free to join, is helping office-based business tenants work towards a carbon-positive future.

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