Climate Summit for Local Government

Sept 6-8, 2023 | Melbourne
Energy-hungry office towers, university buildings, shopping centres and even chocolate factories will switch to wind power this week in a deal brokered by Melbourne City Council.

Under the 10-year agreement, wind will power landmark city buildings such as the Strand Arcade, the GPO and the Capitol Theatre.

The deal will cover dozens of sites, including new offices at 271 Spring Street, Victoria University Tower and the National Australia Bank headquarters at 500 Bourke Street.

The buying group, led by RMIT University, includes Deakin University, Cbus Property, major commercial property group ISPT and Mondelez International, which owns Cadbury. Also part of the deal are construction company Fulton Hogan and Citywide Asphalt.

Yaloak South wind farm near Ballan, west of Melbourne, will provide most of the electricity to the group via retailer Tango Energy starting from Wednesday. The deal secures 110 gigawatt hours of electricity, the equivalent of powering more than 22,000 homes a year. It is the second Melbourne Renewable Energy Project deal brokered by the council, following a tender process.

Deputy lord mayor Arron Wood visited the Mondelez International chocolate factory in Ringwood, which makes Cadbury and Natural Confectionary Company products, before Monday’s announcement.

“You can now eat your Easter egg and think, ‘Good, it was produced with 100 per cent renewable energy,’ ” Cr Wood said. “I’m not sure that means chocolate is without guilt, but it makes it a lot better.”

Mondelez International director of integrated supply chain Mohamed Shalaby said switching to renewables at its Ringwood and Scoresby factories would cut the company’s emissions in Australia by 80 per cent. That will reduce its carbon footprint by about 40,000 tonnes a year.

RMIT and Cbus have both committed to being carbon neutral by 2030, while Deakin University is aiming for 2025. Fulton Hogan Infrastructure Services said powering its asphalt plants with renewables would reduce its carbon emissions by 7000 tonnes.

The deputy lord mayor said the partners had shown “enormous leadership” by transitioning together.

“The purchase of renewable energy certainly has a positive environmental impact, but it also makes economic sense,” he said. We know the energy market can fluctuate a lot … [The] project allows the buying group to lock in price certainty. So it’s not only good for our planet, but great for the hip pocket,” Cr Wood said.

Under the first Melbourne Renewable Energy Project, 14 buyers helped construct a wind farm at Crowlands near Ararat and committed to purchasing 88 gigawatt hours of electricity a year.

Combined, the two projects will reduce the equivalent of 5 per cent of City of Melbourne emissions each year.

City of Melbourne is already carbon neutral, and has committed to reducing emissions within all of the municipality to net zero by 2040.

Cr Wood said the state and federal governments needed to invest more in the national grid to assist major renewable projects. He also wants the federal government to set a tougher renewable energy target, and look to the industry as part of the economic recovery from the pandemic.

“I think the change is well and truly on as far as the renewable sector goes, but we really do need that certainty from the federal government,” Cr Wood said.

“We’d love to see the federal government really use the current COVID pandemic to create stimulus jobs from a really ambitious renewable energy build, because there’s certainly a lot of jobs to be had, many of those in the regions.”