Cities moving to 100% renewable energy

By Dylan Bushell-Embling
Thursday, 31 October, 2019

Cities moving to 100% renewable energy

Sydney and Newcastle plan to switch to 100% renewable energy for their council operations from next year.

New South Wales’ two largest cities have both committed to moving to 100% renewable energy to power their council-run infrastructure.

The City of Sydney has announced a major new agreement with energy company Flow Power to ensure the city’s operations are fully powered by renewable energy from 1 July next year.

According to the company’s recently published commitment, 100% renewable energy will power larger city-owned sites like pools and libraries and offset the carbon emissions from the city’s small sites.

The council’s power needs will be sourced from a combination of 75% wind generation and 25% solar.

The wind power needs will be provided by the Sapphire Wind Farm in northern NSW and the Bomen Solar Farm in the state’s south-west. The solar needs will be purchased from a not-for-profit, community-owned solar scheme on the south-east NSW coast.

According to the council, the new agreement will cut emissions by around 20,000 tons per year — equivalent to the power consumption of 8000 households — and achieve savings of up to $500,000 per year over the next 10 years.

But NSW’s second-largest city, Newcastle, will beat Sydney to the punch. The city council has arranged to become the first in the state to switch to 100% renewable energy for its power needs.

As with Sydney, the council has signed a 10-year power purchase agreement with Flow Power to source electricity from the Sapphire Wind Farm.

From 1 January, the city will purchase enough renewable energy to meet 100% of its operational energy requirements. The agreement will also save local ratepayers a combined $1.8 million over the 10-year term, according to Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes.

“Our power-purchase agreement means enough clean energy will be put into the grid to power every sportsground floodlight, local library, park BBQ and any other facility council operates,” she said.

“Drawing all our energy needs from renewables is a significant achievement for the City and our mission to make our operations more sustainable and cost-effective.”

The council currently generates around half a megawatt from solar energy from panels on the roofs of 10 of its facilities, and will soon be generating five megawatts from a solar farm at its landfill site west of the city, the Lord Mayor said.

“Any excess electricity that we sell back into the grid during the day will fetch a better price than the power we will be purchasing late at night for street lighting, so that’s why the Sapphire Wind Farm is a good fit for us.”

The Sapphire Wind Farm was developed by Newcastle-based CWP Renewables, and generates enough energy to power around 115,000 homes per year. CWP Renewables is building a portfolio of wind and solar plants across Australia capable of generating 1300 megawatts of power.

Australia’s Climate Council has welcomed the council’s announcement, with the council’s Power Partnership Director David Craven stating that Newcastle had emerged as a leader in Australia’s renewable energy transformation.

“I’d like to congratulate Newcastle for leading the charge on renewables, becoming the first local government in the state to make the switch to 100% renewable energy,” he said.

“Newcastle’s willingness to invest in big, effective projects and innovative solutions, such as its newly signed power-purchase agreement, have seen it streak ahead in Australia’s local government renewables race.”

City-wide renewable energy

The ACT Government has, meanwhile, gone a step further, and made the final arrangements required to switch to 100% renewable electricity for the entire city of Canberra from next year.

The territory government has entered into a contract with the Hornsdale Wind Farm for its stage 3 farm in South Australia.

The 109-megawatt wind farm will generate enough renewable electricity to power the equivalent of around 58,000 homes in the ACT every year over the next 20 years.

It is the last of 10 of the ACT Government’s agreements with large-scale renewable energy generators spread across Australia required for the company to meet its target of maintaining 100% renewable electricity from 2020.

The agreements have been made under the territory’s Electricity Feed-in (Large-scale Renewable Energy Generation) Act 2011, which allows the territory to purchase renewable energy to be fed into the national grid to account for the state’s electricity consumption.

The ACT selected its providers using a renewable energy reverse action.

“This is a huge achievement in consolidating the ACT’s reputation as Australia’s renewable energy capital and is a significant milestone in achieving our ultimate goal of zero net emissions by 2045,” ACT Minister for Climate Change and Sustainability Shane Rattenbury said.

“Reaching this feat has proven that climate change action is both achievable and affordable. Our four renewable electricity auctions have also helped bring in more than $500 million worth of investment into the ACT region and help make us a centre for high-skilled renewable sector jobs.”

The state government last month released its Climate Change Strategy and Canberra’s Living Infrastructure Plan, which outline the government’s strategy for adapting to rising temperatures and increasing Canberra’s sustainability.

But despite its status as an early leader in Australia’s adoption of renewable energy, the South Australian Government has not set any concrete renewable energy targets as part of its recent request for proposals (RFP) for the supply of 100% of the state’s electricity needs.

The RFP does stipulate that any proposals be able to contribute to “the SA Government’s commitments of making electricity cleaner, more affordable, reliable and secure for all South Australians”, but does not have any percentage targets.

“The Marshall government’s priority is a contract that delivers lower cost electricity whilst improving competition in the South Australian energy market and reducing pollution,” Minister for Energy and Mining Dan van Holst Pellekaan said.

“The state government’s electricity contract represents an opportunity to deliver more affordable, reliable and cleaner electricity in South Australia whilst securing the successful bidder’s long-term future in this state.”

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