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USyd to be powered by 100 per cent renewable energy by July

In a new partnership with Snowy Hydro and Red Energy, the university will supply solar-powered electricity to its campuses and colleges by mid-2022.

The University of Sydney has signed a five-year contract with Snowy Hydro-backed company Red Energy to source 100 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources by 1 July 2022.

According to a press release yesterday, the contract will cover the Camperdown and satellite campuses, as well as the University-run student accommodation sites of Sancta Sophia College, St Andrew’s College, St Paul’s College, the Women’s College and Wesley College, and Moore College — the theological seminary for the Anglican Church of Australia. 

The move brings the University a step closer to reaching its target of net-zero emissions by 2030. “We are making the move to 100 percent renewable electricity three years before our target of 2025,” said Vice-Chancellor Mark Scott. 

“We know reducing emissions to combat climate change is a priority for our staff and students and we are committed to embedding sustainability in every aspect of University life.”

The university’s renewable energy supply will work by matching power consumed by the listed sites with a NSW solar farm, or another renewable facility in the state. The associated Large-scale Generation Certificates (LGCs) will be surrendered by Red Energy to evidence that a corresponding quantity of renewable generation has been exported into the National Electricity Market.

Paul Broad, Managing Director and CEO of Snowy Hydro, praised the partnership as an important step in decarbonising Australia’s economy.  

“At Snowy Hydro, we have lived, breathed and delivered renewable energy to Australians through the mighty Snowy Scheme for generations. We are committed to continuing this legacy and leading the charge to a renewable energy future by working with large institutions like the University of Sydney,” he said. 

Snowy Hydro is a government-owned electricity generation and retailing company. It owns three gas-fired power stations and three diesel power stations in Australia, and is responsible for the government’s controversial Hunter Power Plant project that was approved for construction late last year. The Kurri Kurri project will pour $600 million of tax-payer money into a system that may operate as little as 2 per cent of the time, and leak harmful carbon dioxide and methane gas into the atmosphere. 

Notably, USyd Senate Fellow Karen Moses also sits on the Board of Snowy Hydro  as a Non-Executive Director. Moses currently chairs the University Finance Committee.

Ishbel Dunsmore, one of USyd’s Enviro Officers and Enviro Collective Convenors, called the move “a shady and disingenuous tactic to rid the uni of committing to actual climate action.” She condemned the university’s use of “greenwashing” through its partnership with Snow Hydro, “a company built off the decimation of Indigenous land.”

“At surface level, this is a positive move by the uni towards lowering their overall emissions; but, on closer inspection, it is just another way for the uni to spend money and feel good about themselves,” Dunsmore said.

“Nothing short of public ownership of renewable energy can deliver true climate justice – and that’s not what this is.”

Fossil fuel companies also represented millions of dollars in the University of Sydney’s 2020 investment portfolio, including BHP, Santos and Rio Tinto.

Other Australian universities already operating on 100 per cent renewable energy include the University of Queensland, Swinburne, Charles Sturt, and Macquarie University, which announced its partnership with Snowy Hydro in early 2020.