Cutting the Water-Energy Nexus Down Under

Cutting the Water-Energy Nexus Down Under

To reduce water-energy nexus pressures, the City of Melbourne, along with a range of partners, has launched the Melbourne Renewable Energy Project (MREP), Australia’s first collective renewable energy purchasing initiative.

By Robert C. Brears*

The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that global freshwater withdrawals for energy production in 2010 were 583 billion cubic meters, some 15% of the world’s total water withdrawals. By 2035 it is projected that freshwater withdrawals for energy production will increase to 20%. Following a business-as-usual approach, the IEA projects water demand for energy in 2040 could be 35% higher than 2010.

In Victoria, Australia, electricity consumption is projected to increase by 4.2% over a 20-year period, from 41,243 GWh in 2016–2017 to 42,977 GWh in 2036–2037. At the same time, the state is expected to experience a reduction in average surface water by 2030. In Melbourne, the average long-term stream flow into water supply catchments could be reduced by up to 11% by 2020 and 35% by 2050.

To reduce water-energy nexus pressures, the City of Melbourne, along with partners from cultural institutions, universities, and corporations have launched the Melbourne Renewable Energy Project (MREP) to collectively purchase renewable energy from a newly-built facility.

MREP supports the construction of a new wind farm at Crowlands, a small agricultural community around 2.5 hours drive from Melbourne. The 39-turbine 80 MW capacity wind farm will be owned and operated by Melbourne-based clean energy company Pacific Hydro and the power will be supplied by its retail arm, Tango Energy.

Under this project, the members have committed to purchasing 88 GWh of electricity per annum from the Crowlands Wind Farm under a long-term power purchase agreement. This agreement enables Pacific Hydro to progress financing and constructing the project, and because it will generate more than the group’s needs — the agreement covers a third of Crowlands Wind Farm’s total capacity — it will bring additional renewable energy to the market.

The project will create more than 140 jobs during construction and eight ongoing maintenance jobs. Overall, the 88 GWh of energy is enough to power 17,600 average households per year and save 96,800 tons of greenhouse gas pollution every year.

The take-out

Collective agreements facilitate the development of new renewable energy sources.

*Robert C. Brears is the author of  Urban Water Security  (Wiley) |  The Green Economy and the Water-Energy-Food Nexus (Palgrave Macmillan) |  Natural Resource Management and the Circular Economy   (Palgrave Macmillan) |  Blue and Green Cities: The Role of Blue-Green Infrastructure in Managing Urban Water Resources   (Palgrave Macmillan) |  Climate Resilient Water Resources Management  (Palgrave Macmillan). He is Founder of Our Future WaterMitidaption, and Mark and Focus.

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