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Central Victoria to host a Solar Cities project

19 July 2007 |Media centre

Central Victoria can now look forward to becoming a ‘Solar Cities’ project thanks to the Australian Government and the Central Victorian Solar Cities Consortium.

The consortium – which includes Bendigo Bank, Origin Energy, Powercor Australia, the Central Victorian Greenhouse Alliance and Sustainability Victoria – said today it was delighted that Central Victoria had been selected to become the next Solar Cities project.

The consortium, which is also supported by the Victorian Government, the University of Ballarat and 13 local councils, has been working on its bid for a local Solar Cities decision since the program was announced by the Australian Government in 2004.

And the group’s goals were realised in Bendigo today when Federal Treasurer Peter Costello announced a contribution of $15 million towards the $41 million project.

Speaking on behalf of the consortium, Project Director Michael McCartney said the Australian Government announcement was the culmination of a very successful community-based partnership that encompassed all levels of government, the private sector and service providers in our community.

“The program will deliver significant benefits to Central Victoria over the next seven years, including targeting 2500 households in the region to undertake trials in energy efficiency, demand management products involving smart meters and new tariff options, solar hot water and solar photovoltaic products.

“One hundred businesses in towns and rural areas - such as hospitals or dairy farms - will also be encouraged to take up energy efficiency and demand control opportunities to assist their bottom line,” Mr McCartney said.

Other initiatives will include trialling two 300 kilowatt solar photovoltaic ‘parks’ in Bendigo and Ballarat.

It is estimated that when fully implemented, the consortium’s initiatives will save 9 gigawatt hours (9GWh) per annum of electricity – worth around $1.1 million per year – which will equate to about 25,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas savings each year. An additional benefit will be that peak electricity demand will be reduced by around 2.5 megawatts.

Bendigo Bank’s Strategic Solutions Senior Manager Leigh Watkins said this Solar Cities project was truly focused on involving central Victorian communities.

“The project has been designed to maximise the engagement of local businesses, governments and residents, including young people. And the model we are using means local communities will have the chance to share in the ownership of the two solar photovoltaic parks to be built in Bendigo and Ballarat,” Mr Watkins said.

Origin Energy’s Tony Wood said now that the consortium had been awarded the funding, the group would move quickly to implement the project.

“We are planning on being able to offer Solar Cities product initiatives to Central Victoria in 2008. Together, our consortium is well placed to bring together a great range of new products and initiatives that will lower peak electricity demand usage and reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” Mr Wood said.

Powercor CEO Shane Breheny said the project would contribute a significant amount of knowledge and experience to Australia’s efforts to manage the environment responsibly.

“Through the Central Victorian Solar Cities project, individual homes and businesses will explore how best to harness the possibilities of a range of leading edge technologies and services. At the same time, service providers will get valuable insights into what consumers want and how best to deliver it,” Mr Breheny said.

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