Sydney’s Macquarie University (Mac Uni) will soon be powered by 100% renewables after signing a seven-year contract with Red Energy to source the power for its North Ryde campus from Snowy Hydro.
The move comes as one of the most significant steps in the University’s Campus Development Plan, a ten-year project to revitalise the campus and ensure that vitality is sustainable. The Plan will see the completion of the Central Courtyard precinct to a 5.0 Star Green rating through funding from a $250 million Sustainability Bond.
Interestingly, little of this funding is being spent on renewable energies to power these facilities, begging the question of whether sustainability is an effort to save money on electricity bills and pass those savings on to students or merely a brag.
After all, we all know it’s not the crushing debt or the systematic filtering out of original and inspirational teaching that hinders university education, it’s the facilities. We all know it’s impossible to find one’s passions in books and learning unless surrounded by buildings deemed modern and sustainable because they look like the doodles of a distracted abstract expressionist.
Nevertheless, Macquarie University Vice-Chancellor Professor S Bruce Downton says: “These measures demonstrate our leadership and innovation in sustainability and protect one of our greatest assets – our green, parkland campus.”
In reality, what Mac Uni is demonstrating is that there is not one clear path to sustainability. Unlike other universities, such as the University of the Sunshine Coast, the University of Adelaide, Flinders University, Deakin University, and Charles Sturt University, Mac Uni is instead opting to outsource its renewable energy rather than outlay its own generation. The deal is similar to that of the University of Queensland’s (UQ) deal with 64 MW Warwick Solar Farm, except that UQ owns Warwick Solar Farm.
As far as Mac Uni’s own “Energy and Emissions” information page is concerned, the university boasts only a single 21.12 kW solar PV array in addition to some solar lighting and solar hot water systems. But with the signing of a contract with Red Energy, Mac Uni’s total greenhouse gas emissions will be cut by 92% from 1 July 2020.
Under the agreement, Mac Uni will purchase approximately 54,422 MWh of renewable energy each year, the equivalent energy required to power 8500 homes.
“With this new agreement with Red Energy,” notes Dowton, “I am extremely pleased to report that we have far surpassed our original aim of reducing emissions by 40% by 2030. This partnership will also create new collaboration opportunities in sustainable energy research, which benefits the wider community.”
In the end, all roads lead to the right place if you’re walking on the sunny side of the street. “On-demand hydro from the mighty Snowy Scheme will underpin our contracted wind and solar generation,” said Paul Broad, Managing Director of Snowy Hydro, owner of Red Energy, “meaning Red Energy will be proudly supplying Macquarie University with reliable renewable energy.”
The partnership will also see Mac Uni students allowed to work with the Red Energy trading team in a research capacity, helping with forecasting projects and giving students valuable experience in the world of energy we’re transitioning in the coming decades.