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Melbourne Water has announced that – through its investment in renewable energy generation – it is on track to halve its emissions by 2025 and achieve net zero by 2030.  

Melbourne Water Managing Director, Dr Nerina Di Lorenzo, said that electricity generation is Australia’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions and contributes to a large proportion of Melbourne Water’s own operational emissions.  

“Taking action now to transition to a clean energy future will support the delivery of our commitment to a carbon neutral water sector by 2030,” Dr Di Lorenzo said.  

“Melbourne Water has installed 75MW of renewable energy generation since 2005 to help reduce emissions and mitigate climate change. We are committed to further reducing our emissions across all areas of our business as we work towards achieving net zero.” 

Melbourne Water said that it takes a large amount of electricity – over 345,000MWh per year – to deliver clean and safe water, remove and treat sewage, and manage drainage and waterways across Melbourne.  

Melbourne Water’s renewable energy portfolio includes biogas, hydropower and solar generation throughout its water supply and sewage network to reduce carbon emissions and reduce operating costs. 

Melbourne Water’s Eastern Treatment Plant (ETP) hosts some of its newest renewable energy infrastructure. 

An 18MW solar farm, made up of 39,000 solar panels and fully operational since December 2023, is one of Australia’s largest ‘behind-the-meter’ solar installations. This means that just like solar panels and batteries on a house keep the lights on or charge electric vehicles, energy generated at the solar farm is used on-site at ETP. 

The solar farm produces 30GWh of electricity per year. It reduces 28,800t of carbon dioxide per year, equal to the amount generated by 6,000 households. 

Melbourne Water said that it also captures biogas, primarily methane and carbon dioxide, as part of the sewage treatment process. Recently upgraded, the biogas handling allows Melbourne Water to maximise the conversion of waste to energy, which in turn provides about 30 per cent of ETP’s electricity needs and significantly reduces its carbon footprint. 

A newly installed solar farm can now fully power the Winneke Water Treatment Plant at certain times of the day. The farm utilises terrain tracking sensors, a first-of-its-kind in Australia. It consists of 19,000 solar panels situated on the natural slope around the Sugarloaf Reservoir. This setup generates 12.4GWh a year, equivalent to the annual electricity demand of about 2,500 households. 

Melbourne Water said it also harnesses hydroelectric power for its operations at St Albans Reservoir, using a new 400kW hydroelectricity plant, the 16th infrastructure asset of its kind. The plant joins the recently completed 315 kW Upper Yarra, Yarra Valley Conduit hydroelectricity plant, while a 990kW hydropower plant at O’Shannassy Reservoir is about to begin construction and is expected to be completed in 2025. 

“We are in the decade that matters. Our actions now will define our future,” Dr Di Lorenzo said.  

“We must also adapt our operations to prepare for a changing climate. 

“There are tremendous opportunities that come with the transition to clean energy. By leveraging both old and new technologies, we can meet the global challenge of reducing the impact of greenhouse gas emissions on our local environment.” 

Image: GRAFstock/shutterstock.com 

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