The University of Melbourne has secured $9.1 million in financing from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation for energy efficiency and renewable upgrades, which is expected to cut grid electricity use by eight per cent and cut carbon emissions by 9000 tonnes a year.

The move is part of the CEFC’s updated investment mandate requiring a focus on innovative technologies and energy efficiency in the built environment. Upgrades the finance will fast-track include voltage optimisation, freezer upgrades, solar photovoltaics, solar thermal and micro-turbines.

Voltage optimisation technology is predicted to lead to the over half of energy savings, with consumption set to decrease by four gigawatt-hours a year. The technology corrects incoming power voltage to increase building energy efficiency.

There will be 1500kW of solar PV installed across 18 roof spaces, cutting grid use by 2.2GWh; three micro turbines will see additional generation of around 0.18GWh a year; and a concentrated solar thermal power system for space heating and swimming pool heating will see expected savings of 0.75GWh a year.

Medical and science research facilities will see the upgrade of outdates freezer technology replaced with models that use half the energy, leading to a saving of 0.6GWh a year.

The eight per cent cut in grid energy use is impressive when taking into account that the university has the same energy requirements as a city the size of Warrnambool (population over 30,000). The move is part of the university’s goal to become carbon neutral by 2030.

“As a public-spirited university, Melbourne is committed to promoting sustainability through our operations, as well as in our research and education programs, particularly as the university has an obligation to show leadership in critical global issues such as those relating to climate change and sustainability,” the university’s vice-principal, administration & finance, and chief financial officer, Allan Tait, said.

“We are taking significant steps to reduce our environmental impact with the aim to move to zero emissions electricity and ultimately achieve carbon neutrality by 2030.”

The CEFC’s executive director – corporate and project finance, Paul McCartney, said the the CEFC was looking to work on similar projects with other Australian universities.

“Australia’s 39 universities make a major contribution to the national economy and to the Australian community,” Mr McCartney said. “Yet they face the ongoing challenges of public budget restraint, intensifying global competition and the need to use cutting edge technologies to meet increasing student expectations.

“The CEFC’s finance can be structured over a longer term than traditionally offered by banks, tailored to match the cost savings delivered through the reduction in grid energy usage.”

He said heating, ventilation and airconditioning accounted for 50 per cent of energy costs, with equipment comprising about one-third, and lighting 20 per cent.

“These are all areas where the introduction of renewable energy and energy efficient equipment can really drive down energy usage and therefore significantly reduce energy emissions and costs,” he said.

“We see enormous potential for this important economic sector to increase its productivity and economic impact while reducing emissions through the introduction of clean energy technology.”

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