University of Newcastle inks deal to source 100% "firmed" renewables


New South Wales’ University of Newcastle will meet its target of sourcing 100 per cent renewable electricity by 2020, after signing a seven-year supply contract for a mix of solar, wind and hydro power with Snowy Hydro subsidiary, Red Energy.
The Energy Supply Agreement is a direct off-take for ‘firmed’ renewable electricity, and will power the University’s Newcastle and Central Coast campuses with solar and wind energy, underpinned – or “firmed” – by hydro.
Red Energy says the $48 million, 40GWh a year deal marks the first university in Australia to sign up to its new 100 per cent renewable product.
As we reported here, Snowy Hydro went to market earlier this year seeking contracts for 800MW of wind and solar capacity, as part of its plan to offer contracts for “firm renewables.”
The federal government-owned utility then revealed plans in October to expand the scope of the tender to 900MW from nine wind and solar projects, after confirming that “firm renewables” could deliver prices “significantly” below current “base-load”, or wholesale, prices.
At the time, CEO Paul Broad told a Senate Estimates Committee hearing that 17,000MW of wind and solar capacity had been bid into the tender, and nine new projects stretching from Queensland to Victoria had been chosen to add some 2 terawatt hours of “base-load renewables firmed by existing Snowy Hydro assets.”
The contract with the University of Newcastle commences January 01, 2019, with 100 per cent renewable electricity provided from January 01, 2020, once Red Energy has finished building its solar, wind and hydro capacity.
“As a Novocastrian and a University alumni, I’m delighted the University of Newcastle is leading the way,” said Snowy Hydro CEO Paul Broad in comments on Sunday.
“On-demand hydro from the mighty Snowy Scheme will underpin our contracted wind and solar generation, meaning Red Energy can supply the University of Newcastle with reliable renewable energy.”
According to the University, the decision to go 100 per cent renewable largely driven by feedback from students, staff and stakeholders keen to tackle climate change through increased investment in renewable energy.
“Social and environmental responsibility is at the very core of our operations,” said Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Alex Zelinsky.
“Our students, staff and community told us they want us to demonstrate our commitment to environmental sustainability in a tangible way, so we are extremely pleased to partner with Red Energy to use 100% renewable electricity.
“In addition to making a positive environmental impact, the new contract delivers costs savings that will enable us to continue investing in strategic initiatives. This is about us using our buying power for good,” the Professor said.
The renewables supply contract complements the University’s on-site solar installations: a 75kW system on its library building at its Ourimbah campus that is currently being expanded; 80kW installed at Port Macquarie, Tamworth and Taree; and 2MW of PV installed across its Callaghan Campus.
And while this deal may mark a first for Red Energy, it is not exactly a first for the tertiary sector in Australia. In July this year, Monash University underpinned its own battery storage-backed plans for 100 per cent renewables and net zero emissions with a contract to buy power from the Murra Warra Wind Farm in Victoria.
And the University of New South Wales, though an unusual “tripartite” agreement, is contracted to buy up to 124,000MWh of renewable energy a year, for 15 years, from Maoneng’s 200MW Sunraysia Solar Farm located near Balranald in the state’s south west, starting in 2019.

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