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Switched On: Heuson Bak

Solar power is on the rise across Australia. As one of the market’s most established players, Solar Naturally is well positioned to stay at the forefront of this dynamic energy sector, says Director Heuson Bak.

Hefty hikes in electricity prices have driven Australians to begin exploring their options, with many choosing to make the switch to renewable energy. With the country’s ample sunshine combined with a national goal of zero emissions by 2050, it is a time of great opportunity for solar power.

Solar Naturally Director Heuson Bak is "bullish" about the outlook.

Since The CEO Magazine last spoke with Bak in 2021, the energy sector has been hit with major disruptions. Increases of up to 30 percent have been driven by a variety of factors including the war in Ukraine and outages at traditional coal and gas plants.

"This is a huge motivating factor for our customers to make the switch to renewable energy," he says.

It’s a huge growth industry and the statistics back it up. Australia is installing record-breaking numbers of solar systems each year.

Figures show that Australia is leading the world in terms of solar uptake. According to a recent report by industry group SunWiz, small-scale solar capacity on the roofs of households and businesses across the country now exceeds 20,000 megawatts, with more than 3.4 million Australians now equipped with a rooftop solar system and the rate of new installations sitting at about 300,000 annually.

In line with this trend, Solar Naturally has notched up more than US$210 million in sales since its inception in 2008.

"It’s a huge growth industry and the statistics back it up. Australia is installing record-breaking numbers of solar systems each year," Bak says. "Australia has pledged to achieving net zero emissions by 2050, which means renewable energy and battery solutions will play a huge role in getting us there."

Electric vehicles create opportunity

There’s no denying Australia’s reliance on electricity. It’s wired into its homes, and now its mobility increasingly depends upon it. In 2022, the number of electric vehicles (EVs) in Australia doubled.

"This creates a need to charge the EVs, and in turn uses more electricity in households and opens us up to providing solutions for increased electricity demand and storage," Bak explains.

Demand among Solar Naturally’s customers for batteries to store their unused electricity for night use has skyrocketed, Bak says. The company has been experimenting with a number of different battery manufacturers, and Bak is confident it has hit the nail on the head.

"We have found a product that is easy to integrate into every solar system with an amazing lifespan and the ability to provide back-up power," he says. "Inquiry levels are through the roof. In the past year our battery sales have increased by 1,000 percent compared to the prior year."

Worker shortages

Although the outlook is incredibly promising, there are still a number of factors that threaten to slow growth for Solar Naturally. First and foremost is the shortage of skilled workers, with Bak highlighting recruitment as key to the company’s growth. He believes a shortage of electricians is holding back the growth potential of Australia’s solar power sector as a whole.

Never complacent, Solar Naturally is already taking bold steps to remedy the situation, taking on over a dozen new apprentices in recent years as part of a four-year program to become qualified electricians.

We want to provide jobs for young new talent and support the economic growth of Australia.

"This is a long-term strategy for our recruitment pipeline," Bak says. "We want to provide jobs for young new talent and support the economic growth of Australia."

Other obstacles to growth include solar loads, which are increasing at an "exponential" rate, according to Bak.

"We have seen some networks restrict export of solar in some scenarios, which reduces the size of solar systems to comply with the network capability," he explains. "I do think this will reduce over time as networks get upgraded."

Plenty of competition

It is with this same positivity that he addresses rising competition in the marketplace.

"It doesn’t really bother us. Competition breeds innovation," he smiles. "One thing a lot of our customers say is they don’t know who to trust. Smaller operators are there today and they aren’t tomorrow. We’ve been here and stood the test of time, which is the reason why we are entrusted with government projects such as schools and large-scale development sites."

The pace is always set from the top down, and that is what shapes the company.

Solar Naturally recently completed a number of 500 kilowatt government school projects and also installed solar for household names such as McDonalds and KFC, he says.

There is a palpable sense of momentum which Bak says is thanks, in large part, to Solar Naturally’s high growth culture.

"The pace is always set from the top down, and that is what shapes the company," he says. "Everyone plays a different role but is an integral part in our winning formula. We strive together and we are all equals in making this work. We wouldn’t be able to scale our business to this level without everyone on our team."

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