Newcastle Council switching to 100pc renewables

(Smart Energy Council)

The City of Newcastle has become the first local government in NSW to make the switch to 100 per cent renewable electricity after it awarded a 10-year power purchase agreement (PPA) to energy retailer Flow Power.

The city will meet all its operational needs from the CWP Renewables’ Sapphire Wind Farm west of Glen Innes in NSW. The Wind Farm is part of a 1,300MW wind, solar and battery portfolio the Newcastle-based firm is building across Australia.

Ironically the city is famous for being the largest coal exporting harbour in the world. In 2017 it exported 159.9 million tonnes of coal.

The Port of Newcastle was also the point of delivery for all the wind turbines for the wind farm, said CWP Renewables chief executive Jason Willoughby, “So it’s great to see that the green electricity now produced by the project is powering the City of Newcastle.”

Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes calculates the power-purchase agreement  will save local rate payers around $1.8 million over 10 years, and reiterated that from 1 January, the City will purchase enough renewable electricity to meet 100 per cent of its operational electricity requirements, powering sports grounds, libraries, parks and more.

“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 Mayor said.

The council already uses half a megawatt of solar energy generated on the roofs of 10 of its facilities, and will soon be generating 5MW from the local solar farm.

“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.”

Flow Power chief executive Matthew van der Linden, who has just signed a significant renewable energy deal with the City of Sydney, said organisations like the City of Newcastle were leading the transition to a new energy future.

“We’re thrilled to see the uptake of renewable deals like these grow in the Hunter Region,” he said. ”We see this as a long-term partnership, which will not only support City of Newcastle but also have significant broader impacts for the local region.”

The Hunter Valley has been described as a hotbed of renewable energy development, with a range of projects either in planning or underway, including a $117 million, 62MW solar farm approved at Lake Macquarie’s Vales Point Power Station late last year.

Newcastle is Australia’s seventh largest city and one of 115 local governments representing over 13 million Australians that have signed onto the local climate action program, the Cities Power Partnership.

The move by the city has been applauded by Climate Council Cities Power Partnership Director David Craven who said “Newcastle’s willingness to invest in big, effective projects and innovative solutions, such as its newly signed power purchase agreement, has seen it streak ahead in Australia’s local government renewables race.”

Recently 11 more councils joined up to the Partnership that was launched just two years ago to celebrate and accelerate local climate action.

“Thousands of Climate Council supporters contacted their local Mayor, and as a result, we now have hundreds working together to tackle climate change,” Climate Council chief executive Amanda McKenzie said.

The CPP has grown into the largest local government climate alliance in Australia, driving tangible climate solutions from renewable energy, to energy efficiency, to waste programs and transport solutions.

“This work is often under the radar, but town by town, city by city, this locally led initiative is shaping Australia … it’s a great result. We can’t rely on the Federal government to drive climate action, which means action from local and state governments is crucial.”

Amanda McKenzie singled out Newcastle for ambitious climate action initiatives and construction of the biggest solar farm in the region.

Other councils have launched or are already implementing, such as Hepburn Shire in Victoria which has committed its entire community to achieving net-zero emissions by 2030.

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