Sydney unveils $60 million renewables commitment

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The City of Sydney has unveiled the biggest standalone renewables deal for an Australian council, valued at over $60 million, which will see the city meet its electricity needs using only wind and solar.

Renewable electricity will power all City-owned properties from 1 July 2020, including pools, libraries, playing fields, depots and council buildings – including the historic Sydney Town Hall.

The 100 per cent renewable electricity commitment is projected to save the City up to half a million dollars a year over the next ten years.

The City is committing to buy electricity from the 270MW Sapphire Wind Farm near Glenn Innes in northern NSW, the 120MW Bomen Solar Farm near Wagga Wagga in the south-west of the State, and a not-for profit community-owned solar scheme near Nowra on the south-east NSW coast.

Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, said the new agreement with innovative energy company, Flow Power, would generate jobs, support the state’s drought-stricken regional areas, and further cut harmful emissions.

“Today’s announcement is the biggest standalone renewables commitment for an Australian council,” Ms Moore said.

“By 2020 all our pools, libraries, playing fields, depots and council buildings, including the historic Sydney Town Hall, will be powered using only wind and solar.

“Our agreement will generate jobs in regional NSW, supporting the state’s drought-stricken regional areas, while cutting harmful emissions.

“The science is clear, without urgent, co-ordinated and global action to reduce emissions in the next decade, we face a very high risk of triggering runaway climate change.

“This new commitment will see the City’s operations cut emissions by around 20,000 tonnes a year – equivalent to the power consumption of 8000 local households.

“The City has been certified carbon neutral since 2011 and will now achieve its commitment to reduce emissions by 70 per cent, six years ahead of our 2030 deadline.

“Successive Australian Governments have shamefully presided over a climate disaster, and now we are at a critical juncture. We can act here in Sydney, but we desperately need the Australian Government to reintroduce a price on carbon to meet our Paris emissions reduction targets, and to establish a Just Transition Authority to ensure Australians employed in fossil fuel industries find appropriate alternate employment.”

The agreement with Flow Power will see three-quarters of the City’s power sourced from wind generation and one-quarter from solar.

Flow Power CEO, Matthew van der Linden, said the City’s commitment to buy its electricity from renewable plants was an important step in Australia’s transition to a low-carbon future.

“It’s exciting to see the City of Sydney take on renewables as the cornerstone of a holistic energy strategy,” Mr van der Linden said.

“This deal will empower the city to tap into the wholesale energy market and support the system. This is the forward-thinking approach to energy that will drive us toward the new energy future.

“We need organisations to lead by example when it comes to their energy strategy. If just 20 per cent of the market followed the city’s lead, it would drive investment in 11GW of new renewable generation – that’s double the current pipeline of renewable projects.”

The community solar farm project is being developed with Repower Shoalhaven and is expected to be completed in 2020.

With a construction cost of close to $5 million, the coastal solar farm will deliver additional investment to the region and provide local employment opportunities during construction and operation. The project will generate enough energy to power close to 1,000 NSW homes.

Repower Shoalhaven spokesperson, Robert Hayward, said the green power purchase plan will directly support the regional community.

“We are proud to be a part of this significant commitment from the City to advance a sustainable decarbonised future,” Mr Hayward said.

“This will enable a regional community to participate through the purchase of power from our not for profit scheme and support local jobs. Thank you, City of Sydney.”

The City of Sydney has already reduced electricity usage by 26 per cent since 2006 by investing in energy efficiency initiatives, resulting in significant savings for ratepayers. Projects include:

  • Replacement of 6500 City-owned street lights with LEDs, saving $800,000 a year in electricity costs and reducing carbon emissions by 2400 tonnes a year
  • Alexandra Canal Depot in Alexandria is powered by 1600 solar panels and has the state’s first utility-installed Tesla batteries. The battery can store up to 500kWh of electricity, enough to meet the daily needs of around 50 City homes and equivalent to the storage capacity of 50,000 mobile phone batteries
  • The City has partnered with Ausgrid to fast-track the upgrade of 9500 Ausgrid-owned street lights to LED. The switch will save 3500 tonnes of carbon each year, equivalent to the electricity used to power 3000 households, and around $1 million in annual maintenance and energy costs
  • The City has installed solar panels on more than 30 of its office buildings, pools, libraries and community centres. It plans to have more than 7800 solar panels generating power for its buildings by mid-2021
  • The City has also upgraded 40 buildings within the City’s property portfolio with new energy efficiency equipment, reducing 6500 tonnes of carbon emissions/year and $2.3 million of energy savings.

Other investments include energy efficient technology at several swimming pools, including the Ian Thorpe Aquatic Centre in Ultimo and the Cook + Phillip Park Aquatic Centre near Hyde Park, saving nearly 1000 tonnes of emissions each year.

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