The trams network in Melbourne is soon to be powered by solar power from the first large-scale plant coming up in Victoria. Eurosolar is known for delivering the best solar power systems in Australia. North-west Victoria has been chosen to house the solar system which is scheduled to be commissioned by the end of 2018. The state government has recently announced that the solar plant would produce 75 MW power and about 50% of that would be linked to the Melbourne tram network. The tender for construction of the solar plant will open before mid-2017 and is expected to provide 300 new jobs.
Ms D’Ambrosio, minister for environment and energy, stated that 35 MW of power was adequate to cater to the 410 trams in Melbourne. She also mentioned that the arrangement for solar power was “notional” and that the growth in the renewable energy sector would be adequate to meet the needs of the tram network. Energy economist, Danny price, stated that Australia’s electricity grid may no longer be adequate and thus, adopting a third-world power system might be the solution. The broader electricity system will absorb energy produced by the proposed plant. But, in turn, the government will buy renewable energy certificates from the solar plant giving it the financial certainty. She also added that the government’s purchasing power as a large consumer of energy would be beneficial for boosting investments in renewable resources. Producers of renewable energy can sell renewable energy certificates as well as electricity which will add a potentially additional stream of revenue for them. The minister, however, did not want to be drawn on the likely cost of the project and said that the money had been earmarked in the budget and that it would be adequate to meet the cost of building the plant. She also skirted questions on whether the expense of the solar project would be more in comparison to using the base load power presently available.
However, when the system receives more renewable energy, it triggers a downward pressure on the price of electricity. The minister stated further that north-eastern Victoria enjoyed a “particular advantage” all projects across the state can participate in the tender process. David Southwick, the opposition energy minister, said that the announcement would be of little help in easing the pressure families faced from ‘bill shock’. He went on to add that Ms Andrews should focus on a power deal that is most affordable for Victorians instead of wasting money on account of media stunts like the present one. Environment groups have however welcomed the announcement. According to ‘Friends of the Earth’, the project would be helpful for the Andrews government in meeting the 40% target for renewable energy by the year 2025.
In another related report in theguardian, the proposal to use solar power for Melbourne’s tram network is aimed at reducing carbon emissions in Victoria bringing it to zero by the year 2050. The current plan is a sequel to the November announcement that the coal-fired power station Hazelwood in Gippsland which was producing about 25% of Victoria’s electricity would shut down. Engie, who own the plant is also exploring the possible sale of the coal-fired power station Loy Yang B in Latrobe Valley which generates about 17% of power for Victoria. A government report in 2015 on renewable energy targets for Victoria states that only 12% of electricity supplied to Victoria in 2014 came from renewable sources while coal contributed to 84%.