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    Murra Warra Windfarm north of Horsham.

Councils seek renewable energy contracts

By DYLAN DE JONG 

More Wimmera councils plan to join a major renewable energy purchasing agreement to tackle climate change and cut costs.

Yarriambiack and Northern Grampians Shire councils indicated they would be prepared to join a Victorian Energy Collaboration, VECO, when their current energy contracts ended.

Ararat and Horsham rural cities have joined 46 other municipal councils in the agreement, which regional leaders believe will help shape Victoria’s future with renewable energy.



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VECO, which involves participating councils tapping into electricity generated by Murra Warra II wind farm and Dundonnell wind farm near Mortlake, is the largest emissions-reduction local government project in Australian history.

The arrangement, through retailer Red Energy, involves councils pooling their energy contracts into a renewable-energy deal for the equivalent power needed to power 45 percent of all Victorian council electricity needs.

Yarriambiack chief executive Jessie Holmes said she hoped the council could join the partnership when its energy contract ended early next year.

“Darebin Shire Council, one of the leading councils in this project, and Murra Wurra Wind Farm, were both very keen for us to be involved, given Murra Warra is in our shire footprint,” she said.

“However, it is a timing issue. We have to wait until the end of our existing contract before we can enter a new contract.”

Ms Holmes said the agreement would help the council reach its obligations under State Government policy framework to reduce its carbon footprint.

“It is no longer a question of whether or not climate change is real,” she said.  

“We’ve got a responsibility from a community perspective to show leadership around how we can reduce emissions.”

Ararat and Horsham municipal leaders expect the power agreement would help the councils save ‘significantly’ on annual electricity bills.

Horsham chief executive Sunil Bhalla said he expected VECO would save the council up to $100,000 each year.

The deal is for 240 GWh of electricity over a period of nine and a half years, starting on July 1, 2021. 

From the starting date, councils will power council-owned infrastructure from renewable energy, including streetlights and sport and community facilities.

Ms Holmes said higher costs traditionally associated with renewable energy were a deterrent for the council to change its energy arrangements in the past.

“A lot of the resilience in the past was because it was more expensive to go green – those financial barriers aren’t there anymore,” she said.

“It makes it easier for us to make the decision to join this agreement, because it’s not a financial burden.”

Ms Holmes said the energy agreement was just one of many emission reduction success stories emerging out of western Victoria.

She was referring to a State Government Renewable Energy Zones plan  that identified multi-million-dollar projects set to change the Wimmera into a renewable-energy hub.

“The councils moving to renewable energy will be a tiny part of the jigsaw puzzle,” she said.

“The bigger story will be if the western region can capitalise on those potential renewable-energy zone key projects with upgrading the transmission lines, the installation of synchronous condensers at Murra Warra and Horsham and industrial-sized batteries.”

“That’s where the big investment will be for us to become the energy provider for the state.”

The State Government expects to announce a list of priority projects set to receive money this month.

Northern Grampians mayor Murray Emerson said the council was also keenly looking to join the renewable power-purchase agreement.

“At the moment, Northern Grampians Shire is not part of the renewable agreement – but we will certainly be having a look at it,” he said.

“Renewables are the direction of the future. Any council would be negligent in their representation in the community if they weren’t considering all the benefits that could come from alternative energy.”

Hindmarsh Shire Council opted out of an initial planning phase of the proposed renewable-energy power-
purchase agreement in 2019 due to contractual issues.

It is reviewing potential power providers through a Procurement Australia tender process.

The entire June 9, 2021 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!