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25 Sydney councils ink massive renewables supply deal with three NSW solar farms

Three solar farms in New South Wales will supply clean energy to 25 Sydney local governments in a landmark renewable energy supply deal that will see 19 of the participating councils reach 100 per cent renewables.

The deal, worth roughly $180 million and 214 gigawatt-hours a year of electricity, was brokered by Southern Sydney Regional Organization of Councils (SSROC), with retailer Zen Energy.

It is the second power purchase agreement led by the SSROC; the first, 2018, saw a group of 18 councils ink a deal with Origin Energy to take the output from the 56MW Moree solar farm and cut their electricity bills by up to 35 per cent.

Moree – one of the first large-scale solar farms built in Australia, and the first to feature single axis tracking technology – also features in this week’s SSROC deal, alongside the 132MW Nevertire solar farm in the NSW north west, and the 120MW Hillston solar farm in the Riverina region.

The supply from the three solar projects kicks off this calendar year and runs to 2026, with an option to extend to 2030. And while 19 of the participating councils have opted for 100% renewable energy under the deal, overall it will supply 83% of the councils’ total electricity needs.

In a statement to RenewEconomy, SSROC specified that the deal was not a traditional PPA, but “a renewable energy supply agreement.

“The councils are not investing in the solar farms or taking any delivery risk from them but simply have an electricity supply agreement for only four or up to five years that has an underlying set of renewable generators,” a spokesperson said.

“We hope that this deal is a game changer in a move away from PPAs, that most smaller organizations cannot enter into, where they need to commit to a 10 year agreement and take on delivery and other risks that they have little knowledge or control of .”

SSROC on Thursday praised Zen Energy for meeting the consortium’s need for an “innovative, lower risk, deal” that lasts for an initial 4.5 years, only, with the option to be extended for up to 4 more years.

“SSROC has been leading the market in advocating for shorter term, lower risk renewable energy supply agreements for councils that can be negotiated at competitive supply rates,” said SSROC CEO Helen Sloan.

“The approach taken proves that councils can secure competitive pricing and meet their renewable energy targets without having to enter into a long-term agreement.”

Cr John Faker, Burwood Mayor and SSROC President said that by buying as a group, the councils had secured a renewable energy supply for the same cost or lower than their existing contracts for grid power.

“This is a major win for the environment at a time when the world’s focus is on taking solid steps to address climate change,” Faker said.

“It is a huge demonstration of the commitment of councils to serving their communities, minimizing their carbon emissions and growing the economy of NSW.”

The participating councils include Bayside, Burwood, Campbelltown, Canada Bay, Canterbury-Bankstown, Fairfield, Georges River, Hornsby, Hunters Hill, Inner West, Ku-ring-gai, Lane Cove, Liverpool, Mosman, North Sydney, Parramatta, Port Stephens , Randwick, Ryde, Singleton, Sutherland, Tamworth, Waverley, Willoughby and Woollahra.

Similar deals have been brokered in Victoria, including in May of last year when 46 local government councils banded together to contract 240GWh of wind power from two major Victorian wind farms through a deal with Snowy Hydro-owned retailer Red Energy.

Led by Darebin City Council in Melbourne’s north, the Victorian Energy Collaboration, or VECO, signed up to buy enough renewable energy to power 45 per cent of the state’s local government electricity demand with renewables, over a period of 9.5 years.

An earlier effort, led by the Melbourne City Council in 2017, saw a consortium of 14 leading local universities, cultural institutions, corporations and councils known as the Melbourne Renewable Energy Project, or MREP, sign a deal to buy 88GWh of power from Pacific Hydro’s 80MW Crowlands wind farm, near Ararat.

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