UNSW signs world-first solar energy agreement

UNSW
In the first deal of its kind in the world university sector, UNSW has reached an agreement with Maoneng Australia and Origin Energy to have 100% of its energy supplied by photovoltaic solar energy.

UNSW Sydney has announced a tripartite arrangement with contract partners Maoneng Australia (Maoneng) and Origin Energy (Origin) for an offsite Solar PV Corporate Power Purchase Agreement (Solar PPA).

The 15-year solar supply agreement with Maoneng is the first of its kind in Australia – bringing together a retailer, developer and corporate – and will allow UNSW to achieve its goal of carbon neutrality on energy use by 2020. UNSW believes it is the first university worldwide to go fully energy carbon neutral with 100% of its needs supplied by solar photovoltaics (PV).

“This landmark initiative is an exciting step towards realising UNSW’s goal of carbon neutrality on energy use by 2020 and reflects our commitment to making a positive global impact,” said UNSW President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Jacobs.

“The Solar PPA arrangement will allow UNSW to secure carbon emission-free electricity supplies at a cost which is economically and environmentally attractive when compared to fossil fuel-sourced supplies.

“Over the past six months, UNSW has collaborated with our contract partners Maoneng and Origin to develop a Solar PPA model that leads the way in renewable energy procurement and reflects our commitment to global impact outlined in our 2025 Strategy.

“It is also highly significant and a testament to the world-class research carried out here at UNSW, that a technology which we played a leading role in developing is now being used to provide the university with a renewable source of emissions-free energy.

“UNSW researchers, in particular Professor Martin Green and the late Professor Stuart Wenham and their teams, have been instrumental in ensuring that solar energy is affordable and accessible to all –- today’s announcement is a testament to their work,” said Professor Jacobs.  

he agreement, which was signed on 14 December 2017, will see UNSW purchase up to 124,000 MWh of renewable energy per annum from Maoneng’s Sunraysia Solar Farm near Balranald in south-western NSW, meeting UNSW’s annual energy requirement starting in 2019.

A three-year retail firming contract was also signed with Origin, as the electricity retailer, to manage the intermittency of solar production.

NSW Minister for Energy Don Harwin said the agreement was evidence of UNSW’s leadership in renewables.

“Already a world leader in solar PV technologies, this agreement is yet another demonstration of UNSW’s commitment to a clean energy future,” said Mr Harwin.

“I congratulate UNSW for entering into this agreement, it’s not only great for the environment but it will deliver jobs and investment in regional NSW."

In December 2017, UNSW’s School of Photovoltaic and Renewable Energy Engineering was awarded 12 projects with a total cash grant value of more than $16 million from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA). Five of those projects are focusing on the further development of UNSW’s Advanced Hydrogenation technology to improve world record commercial solar cells.

The tripartite arrangement for UNSW was supported by Norton Rose Fulbright as legal advisors who specialise in PPAs, along with energy management consulting firm Energy Action, who provided energy market analysis and advice.

This ground-breaking agreement provides UNSW with a direct line of sight over the source of renewables supply, reduced emissions, and greater certainty around prices over the next 15 years.

Kelly Davies, Senior Consultant at Norton Rose Fulbright, said: “UNSW is a true leader of innovation. The PPA market has been extremely dynamic in the last 12 months and deals like UNSW’s have been critical in driving real change in the way universities and other users procure energy.”

Energy Action’s Chief Executive Officer, Ivan Slavich, said: “This ground-breaking agreement provides UNSW with a direct line of sight over the source of renewables supply, reduced emissions, and greater certainty around prices over the next 15 years. We are seeing a strong trend amongst corporate energy users turning to PPAs as a way to hedge against future pricing movements and to meet their green energy objectives.”

Maoneng’s Project Finance Director, Kevin Chen, said: “By collaborating with Origin and UNSW and maintaining an open dialogue, we have created a corporate PPA template that we believe not only works for UNSW, but can be replicated and tailored to fulfil the specific needs of each customer.”

Origin’s General Manager, Business Energy, Ryan Willemsen-Bell, said: “Origin is proud to be a contract partner in this agreement with UNSW and we are committed to creating innovative solutions to help our customers meet their carbon neutrality aspirations.

“At Origin we are accelerating our transition towards renewables. And our customers want to be part of that, given our target to have more than 25% of Origin’s generation mix coming from renewables by 2020.

”The Sunraysia Solar Farm development will include a visitor’s centre and weather monitoring system, with UNSW staff and students having site visit access for data sharing, research and case study purposes.

An annual financial scholarship worth $10,000 is included in the Solar PPA for students studying at Balranald Central School to attend UNSW, along with a series of presentations from UNSW to the school both onsite and via webinar on renewables technology and industry.  Employment of local staff and subcontractors to develop the project is also encouraging for the local economy.

Construction of the Sunraysia Solar Farm is due to begin later this year, with completion and the start of solar energy generation expected in the second quarter of 2019. Origin will be providing electricity to UNSW during the solar farm construction.

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