Coal Capital Newcastle switches to 100% renewables

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The City of Newcastle’s move to 100% renewables was agreed upon by councillors on Tuesday as the City’s current electricity contracts are due to expire on December 31. Previously the City had a 2020 target of only 30% renewable energy. This is a strongly symbolic move considering Newcastle has been a coal hub since the 1830s. Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said it was the right time for the City to implement more sustainable, cost-efficient and eco-friendly forms of electricity generation from 2020 and beyond.

A study, commissioned by the city, recommended that a full switch to renewables would save ratepayers between $3.8 million and $4.8 million. Unsurprisingly such a significant saving to ratepayers has widespread community support, as a survey of 1,000 Novocastrians demonstrated.

“Around 70% of the respondents to our Winter Community Survey supported the city moving towards 100% renewable energy target, which sends us a strong message,” the Nelmes said, “the survey also identified increasing the use of renewable energy as one of the community’s highest ranked measures to reduce impacts on the environment.”

Part of the appeal of the switch to renewables for the city is the sheer reduction in risk. Traditionally short-term electricity contracts, between one and three years, is no longer a sustainable approach to powering the city’s large sites, small sites and street lighting.

“It’s City of Newcastle’s aim to be a leader in renewable energy as part of our strategy to be a global smart city,” Nelmes said.

Ten of Newcastle’s sites are already being powered by solar power.  Combine this with 5 MW soon to be installed at the Summerhill Waste Management Centre solar farm and the city is already more than half of the way to its 2020 goal.

The $8.2 million 5 MW solar farm at the Summerhill Waste Management Centre is set to be the biggest in the region with an array of 14,500 solar PV panels. The project is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

If the City of Newcastle follows through and adopts the motion to 100% renewables it will join a growing list of Australian organisations, including the University of Newcastle, University of NSW, CBA, Westpac, Monash University, Melbourne University and the City of Sydney.