The City of Greater Bendigo in Victoria and Stirling in Western Australia are tackling climate change by investing in solar power. 

Greater Bendigo has entered into a 20-year power purchase agreement with Mondo Power for the provision of renewable energy via solar panels across more than 70 of its buildings. 

As part of the agreement, Mondo has partnered with RACV Solar (which recently acquired local company Cola Solar) to deliver the installation and maintenance of the solar power systems.

City Mayor, Councillor Andrea Metcalf, said through the agreement, Mondo and RACV Solar would install and maintain solar power systems on up to 78 City-owned facilities, with ownership of the solar panels reverting to the City after 20 years. 

“The renewable electricity generated by the solar system will be billed back to the City and community tenants of the buildings at a competitive fixed cost for the life of the contract,” Ms Metcalf said. 

“This will result in power cost savings to the City and the City’s tenants of approximately $2.4 million over the full 20 years, and is possibly one of the largest solar deployment programs for a Victorian council.

“The first four City-owned facilities to have solar panels installed as part of the agreement will be Bendigo Library, Bendigo Livestock Exchange, and the City’s Depot and Heathcote Service Centre, which will equate to 147kW of solar PV.

“The agreement is a key action of the Greater Bendigo Climate Change and Environment Strategy 2021-2026, which set a target to install solar arrays on 90 per cent of City-owned buildings by 2026.

“The City would not have been able to achieve this target without a substantial financial investment. By entering into this agreement, we can achieve the target without funding it through rates or borrowings, and this will enable the City to undertake other important environmental initiatives and projects.

“In addition to achieving power savings for both the City and the tenants of City-owned buildings, it will also increase the supply of renewable energy throughout Greater Bendigo for the benefit of the community.

“We’re excited to be demonstrating our leadership and commitment to renewable energy, and look forward to the first installation in the near future. As we continue to implement our Climate Change and Environment Strategy, the City will look for other opportunities to lower emissions in our community.”

Solar in Stirling draft budget

The City of Stirling has endorsed a $600,000 investment in solar photovoltaic (PV) panel installations in the 2022/23 draft budget (almost twice the amount in 2021/22) to ensure the solar program is complete by 2030 and that emissions reductions are the most cost-effective in the long-term.

In 2021 the City endorsed its Sustainable Energy Action Plan 2020 – 2030 (SEAP) to reach net zero emissions by 2050, with ambitious targets to reach 100 per cent of the City’s electricity needs from renewable sources and a 70 per cent reduction on emissions by 2030.

In addition, the SEAP includes a documented review point, with key performance indicators set at achieving 50 per cent renewable electricity and 35 per cent emissions reductions by 2025.

With the cost of the full program of 24 solar PV systems estimated at $6 million, Council agreed the status quo spending would delay completion of the program to 2040 instead of 2030 – which would not be in line with the Council’s desire to be a leader in sustainability and remain aligned to the advice of the UN Climate Change Conference UK 2021 (COP26) in Glasgow.

Mayor, Mark Irwin, said the recent Federal Election was a national reflection of what the City of Stirling has long-known is widespread support for faster action on climate change, and that the City would continue to invest to reduce emissions and bring down energy costs over the long-term.

“When designing the corporate commitments in our SEAP 2020 – 2030, community consultation showed 92 per cent support for a 100 per cent renewables target by 2030, and 81 per cent support for our 70 per cent emissions reduction target by 2030,” Mr Irwin said. 

“It became clear that there is national support for stronger climate action, and new Prime Minister of Australia, The Hon Anthony Albanese MP, confirmed that the Australian Government’s new official ambitions for 2030 will be increased, so the City is glad to see our priorities are on track with national interests.

“In their most recent state budget, the Western Australian Government provided a $500 million boost to their Climate Action Fund, and almost $60 million to accelerate the purchase of electric and hydrogen vehicles by Western Australians.

The City of Stirling projects that the Solar Escalation Program adopted this week will lead to a $3.3 million saving in energy costs to the City and ratepayers by 2040, compared to business as usual.

The 50 per cent renewable interim target by 2025 is now on track, with 21 per cent of that target coming from self-generation via solar panels, and 29 per cent of it coming from the Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) the City announced in December 2021. This involved the signing of a landmark three-year, renewable electricity PPA with more than 40 Western Australian local governments and the Western Australian Local Government Association (WALGA).

Mr Irwin, also said the City would welcome opportunities to partner with other levels of government on sustainable and innovative projects.

“The City will continue to advocate for funding of the proposed clean and green Trackless Tram technology from Scarborough Beach to Glendalough Train Station,” Mr Irwin said.

“We are particularly buoyed by the knowledge that one of the first election commitments made during the campaign of our new government was to provide $6 million to plan a Trackless Tram route in Melbourne.”

“An investigation into the feasibility of our transition to electric vehicles (EVs) is in progress, with three already endorsed for purchase in the 2022/23 fleet replacement program for our Parking Services, and a four-week trial currently underway with an EV waste truck.”

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