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Spanish giant to power Orange with renewables after long-term contract signed

August 10, 2022

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By Peter Holmes

A Spanish corporation will be responsible for Orange’s power supply after a group of councils cut a deal with the foreign power giant Iberdrola.

The long-term contract, starting January 1, 2023, is to supply 100 percent renewable energy to all of council’s “large sites and streetlights”.

Some of the power will be generated by the Flyers Creek Wind Farm near Errowanbang, which is under construction for about another year.

The wind farm is owned by Iberdrola and the company says that once operational its 38 wind turbines will generate enough power for 80,000 homes. It says the project will create 230 jobs during construction, and an estimated six to eight permanent jobs throughout its operational life.

In order to secure more attractive terms, 16 councils from Central NSW and the Riverina including Orange, Bathurst and Cabonne banded together and took their total energy requirements to the market, seeking a deal with one supplier.

Their combined annual electricity usage is about 36 gigawatt hours. A watt is a unit of energy, and there are one billion watts in a gigawatt. A 60-watt globe, for example, uses 60 watts of energy if it is on for one hour.

Orange City Council CEO David Waddell was tasked with representing the city in the negotiations.

“I am pleased to say that at a reasonably palatable price Orange has signed up to 100 percent renewable electricity supply within the contract,” Waddell told The Orange News Examiner. “The contract is for all of our large sites and streetlights which represent 93% of our electricity load."

Business as usual would have seen current electricity prices for council rise by 100-200 percent.

“We have obtained a long-term contract with a stable price per kW, which is ideal for Orange given the unstable ‘transition to renewables’ market years ahead of us – staff can now focus on other things,” Waddell said.

Council has a separate contract for its “small sites”, and Waddell is hopeful of securing a new deal shortly, which would allow the council to claim it is purchasing 100 percent renewable energy. Examples of small sites are the lighting within some council buildings.

However the renewable energy component of the power supply at council’s large and small sites doesn’t represent all of its carbon footprint.

Lights in McNamara Lane. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.a

“The electricity component of our operation represents perhaps 40 percent of our current carbon emissions load,” Waddell said.

In regional councils the other 60-70 percent of emissions typically come from waste, gas and diesel, Waddell said.

For example, the council's Ophir Road Resource Recovery Centre is responsible for a large methane emission load, as are the council’s vehicle fleet and the gas required to heat the indoor pool at Orange Aquatic Centre.

Iberdrola is worth about $100 billion. Its Australian managing director and CEO, Ross Rolfe, said under the contract Orange would receive “reliable and affordable clean energy”.

In ballpark terms the electricity deal will mean council can claim that overall, it is running an operation that is utilising 30-40 percent renewables, approaching the recent Federal legislated target of 43 percent.

Council staff will now focus on how to lift that to 50 percent by 2030, in line with NSW government targets.

In the last financial year, the council's total energy bill was over $3.5 million.

Orange mayor Jason Hamling said a focus on renewable energy was a strong theme during community consultation to develop the latest Community Strategic Plan (CSP), and was in line with the council’s Climate Change Policy and Plan, adopted in 2021.

Council’s Environmental Sustainability Policy Committee chair, councillor David Mallard, said it was an important step for the council, the community and the environment.

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