Newcastle looks to sustainable future

Wednesday, 28 November, 2018

Newcastle looks to sustainable future

The City of Newcastle has begun exploring concepts for a sustainable future.

Concepts such as a city that relies on renewable energy resources to trade power between homes and businesses, and that generates enough clean energy to operate a virtual power plant, have been presented to elected councillors.

This comes as the council begins the process of setting new climate action targets for the future post-2020.

"As we develop into a smart, livable and sustainable global city, we are undertaking research into a variety of existing and emerging sustainable energy models," Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said.

"These include solar gardens, solar and battery bulk buys, demand response initiatives and virtual power plants which are already being trialled nationally and overseas.

"With the city's 2020 Carbon and Water Management Action Plan due for review, the wheels are now in motion to prepare for the next phase in emission reduction actions that could encourage more solar, battery storage and electric vehicles in the city."

One innovative concept being explored by the city is a virtual microgrid across the region.

Microgrids are small networks of electricity users who rely on local electricity generation, delivering energy security, sustainability and cost savings for those involved.

Victoria's La Trobe Valley is currently hosting a microgrid trial with funding from The Australian Renewable Energy Agency.

The $15 million project will see the rollout of 75 behind-the-meter microgrids, made up of solar installations and batteries, to reduce energy costs for business and cut emissions.

Such trials could pave the way to a similar development in Newcastle.

"While there's plenty of research and information available that will inform our future energy use, we are already making significant headway with our own innovative ideas," Nelmes said.

"With construction currently underway on the Summerhill Solar Farm, and the upgrade of more than 5300 streetlights to LEDs beginning next month, we are on track to exceed both our energy efficiency reduction targets and renewable energy targets by 2020."

The city will begin community engagement next year to seek ideas and feedback for targets to follow the 2020 Carbon and Water Management Action Plan.

"We are well on our way to planning the next phase of the city's sustainable future," Nelmes said.

"We are installing electric vehicle charging stations, replacing our ageing fleet with electric vehicles and working with experts like the CSIRO Energy Centre and a burgeoning clean-tech industry on cutting-edge smart building research and demonstration projects."

The city was recently awarded the National Cities Power Partnership award for Energy Efficiency, was a finalist in the NSW Green Globes Innovation Category and was awarded best Smart City Strategy in the Country.

Image courtesy of City of Newcastle.

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