Using renewable energy in dentistry

21 January 2022

* This article by Dr Jasper Lee and Dr Corinne Ang was originally published by ADA (South Australia) and has been reproduced with their permission.

Australians are the world’s largest adopter of rooftop solar and for good reason: not only is it a practical and substantial way you can help with climate change, but you also help reduce the energy bills of your dental practice in the process.

 Financial Rewards

For dental practice owners, it is worth knowing Australian solar system installation prices are among the lowest in the world with commercial installations rapidly expanding as business owners look to reduce opex costs. It is not uncommon for payback on commercial solar systems to be achieved within 4-5 years, and this is largely because the peak energy usage periods for most dental practices fall to hours of the day where the sun is shining

There are also various financial incentives for installing solar, such as the Small-Scale Renewable Energy Scheme (SRES) from the federal government and the City of Adelaide’s Sustainability Incentive Scheme. Systems should typically cost around $1000 per 1kW of panels and the website is a good place to start.  

Other Renewable Options

If installing rooftop solar at your practice is not possible, switching to a renewable energy provider may be an option. Providers like Powershop or Diamond Energy are retailers that only own renewable generators (wind, solar or biomass), although other retailers also offer 100% Greenpower options, which contractually require your provider to invest in renewable generation, and ensure your total consumption is fossil fuel free.

Lastly, there are new energy tariffs that have been created to incentivise users to consume during non peak tariffs. These “time of use tariffs” offer ultra low rates during 10am-3pm, peak times for dental practices.

Climate Imperative

The UN’s latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report sounded a “code red” alarm in August, stating that we are at imminent risk of reaching 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels of global warming in the near term. The electricity sector is by far the largest contributor towards climate change so moving away from fossil fuels to renewables is one way we can all help to limit some of the projected warming scenarios that would increase health risks, damage ecosystems, farmland and increase the risk of bushfires and coastal flooding.

Shifting to renewable energy can prove to be win-win situation both for practice costs and for the environment. It is also a compelling story to share with patients that we as health professionals, walk the walk when it comes to minimising our impact on the environment and lower our emissions with the hope of a stable climate for our kids and grandkids.

What we’ve done

Dr Jasper Lee works at Shepherds Hill Dental Centre which has a SolarEdge solar system that has reduced energy bills by over half. He also has a 9kW solar system at home that produces more power than he consumes.

Dr Corinne Ang works at Gentle Dentistry and has solar and a Tesla Powerwall at home.

For information on the ADA's sustainability policy, go to Policy Statement 6.21; a series of articles on sustainabilty were published in the News Bulletin (June-November 2020, February and June 2021)