UNSW Sydney signs world first solar energy agreement

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The UNSW Sydney has signed a 15-year offsite solar PV corporate power purchase agreement (Solar PPA) with two energy companies.

The Solar PPA was signed with Maoneng Australia and Origin Energy.

The agreement with Maoneng is the first of its kind in Australia – bringing together a retailer, developer and corporate – and will allow UNSW to achieve its goal of carbon neutrality on energy use by 2020.

UNSW Sydney believe that it is the first University worldwide to go fully energy carbon neutral with 100 per cent of its needs supplied from solar PV.

UNSW President and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Ian Jacobs, said, “This landmark initiative is an exciting step towards realising UNSW’s goal of carbon neutrality on energy use by 2020 and reflects our commitment to making a positive global impact.

“The Solar PPA arrangement will allow UNSW to secure carbon emission free electricity supplies at a cost which is economically and environmentally attractive when compared to fossil fuel sourced supplies.

“Over the past six months, UNSW has collaborated with our contract partners Maoneng and Origin, to develop a Solar PPA model that leads the way in renewable energy procurement and reflects our commitment to global impact outlined in our 2025 Strategy.

“It is also highly significant and a testament to the world-class research carried out here at UNSW, that a technology which we played a leading role in developing is now being used to provide the university with a renewable source of emissions free energy.

“UNSW researchers, in particular Professor Martin Green, and the late Professor Stuart Wenham and their teams, have been instrumental in ensuring that solar energy is affordable and accessible to all – today’s announcement is a testament to their work.”

The agreement, which was signed on 14 December 2017, will see UNSW purchase up to 124,000 MWh of renewable energy per annum from Maoneng’s Sunraysia Solar Farm located near Balranald in south western NSW, meeting UNSW’s annual energy requirement starting in 2019.

A three-year retail firming contract was also signed with Origin, as the electricity retailer, to manage the intermittency of solar production.

NSW Minister for Energy, Don Harwin, said the agreement is evidence of UNSW’s leadership in renewables.

“Already a world leader in solar PV technologies, this agreement is yet another demonstration of UNSW’s commitment to a clean energy future,” Mr Harwin said.

The tripartite arrangement for UNSW was supported by Norton Rose Fulbright as legal advisors who specialise in PPAs, along with energy management consulting firm Energy Action who provided energy market analysis and advice.

Senior Consultant at Norton Rose Fulbright Kelly Davies said the university was a leader of innovation.

“The PPA market has been extremely dynamic in the last 12 months and deals like UNSW’s have been critical in driving real change in the way universities and other users procure energy,” Ms Davies said.

Energy Action’s Chief Executive Officer, Ivan Slavich, said, “This ground-breaking agreement provides UNSW with a direct line of sight over the source of renewables supply, reduced emissions, and greater certainty around prices over the next 15 years.

“We are seeing a strong trend amongst corporate energy users turning to PPAs as a way to hedge against future pricing movements and to meet their green energy objectives.”

The Sunraysia Solar Farm development will include a Visitor’s Centre and Weather Monitoring System, with UNSW staff and students having site visit access for data sharing, research and case study purposes.

Construction of the Sunraysia Solar Farm is due to begin in 2018, with completion and the start of solar energy generation expected in the second quarter of 2019. 

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