Renewable energy ramped up

By Katie Johnson

Several prominent Melbourne universities, businesses and factories will now be powered by wind energy after securing a renewable energy deal through the City of Melbourne’s second major bulk-buy project.

Facilities such as RMIT’s city campus, Midtown Plaza, The Strand Arcade and office buildings throughout the city will benefit from the Melbourne Renewable Energy Project (MREP) deal, which kicked off on July 1.

Deputy Lord Mayor Arron Wood said that the 10-year deal was an exciting step towards a greener city.

“Combined, the two projects represent the equivalent of a five per cent reduction in the city’s emissions, and a tangible shift towards renewable energy in the national grid,” the Deputy Lord Mayor said.

“It’s equivalent to providing enough renewable power for more than 22,000 households a year. When you add MREP1 that jumps to enough power for 40,000 households a year.”

Through MREP 2, the multi-million dollar purchasing agreement was made last month between seven major energy users, including RMIT University, Deakin University, Cbus Property, ISPT, Fulton Hogan, Citywide Asphalt, and Mondelez International.

Together they secured 110 GWh of renewable electricity per year to 14 shopping centres, nine office buildings, seven educational campuses, and four manufacturing facilities.

“Most of the wind power will be produced at the Yaloak South Wind Farm near Ballan, with the remaining energy coming from other wind farm projects in regional Victoria,” Cr Wood said.

The majority of the partners were shifted to wind after their contracts began on July 1, with many of their facilities now 100 per cent powered by wind.

One of those major partners was RMIT, which now has a significant portion of its city campus generated through renewables, including lecture theatres, laboratories, libraries, study spaces, and The Capitol theatre.

RMIT executive director of property services and procurement Chris Hewison said RMIT was excited to be part of the buying group as it aligned with the university’s goals.

“RMIT’s ongoing involvement in the project is an opportunity to demonstrate sustainability leadership in our community while driving significant progress toward our goal to be carbon neutral by 2030,” Mr Hewison said.

This project follows the success of the first MREP deal, which saw council lead a consortium to purchase 88 GWh of renewable energy, and led to the construction of an 80 MW wind farm at Crowlands, near Ararat.

Environment portfolio chair Cr Cathy Oke said that the deal was part of a larger plan by the council to fast-track a range of initiatives to further reduce its carbon emissions, including reaching council’s zero emissions target 10-years earlier by 2040.

“The second Melbourne Renewable Energy Project will reduce greenhouse gas pollution by 123,000 tonnes a year, that’s the equivalent of taking more than 28,000 cars off the road every year,” Cr Oke said.

“We have already reduced emissions from the City of Melbourne’s operations by more than 50 per cent in six years and we’re accredited as being carbon neutral – but we must do more, and we can’t do it alone.”

Aside from the environmental benefits, the Deputy Lord Mayor said that by having these ambitious renewable targets, the council is able to employ people during the critical period of COVID-19.

“This deal is so important in the time of coronavirus because the transition to renewable energy isn’t just good for the environment, it’s also really good for the economic certainty of businesses,” Cr Wood said.

“You get long-term price certainty and it creates a lot of jobs during COVID, particularly in regional Victoria.”

Overall, Cr Wood couldn’t be happier about the positive effects MREP 2 will have for all Victorians.

“This is my little passion project and doing this is my favourite part about being on council,” Cr Wood said.

“Whenever I talk about it I can’t help but get a smile on my face.” •

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