Setting the scene
East Gippsland Water has long been committed to environmental sustainability.
In our 2008 Sustainability Strategy we made a commitment to substantially reduce our greenhouse gas emissions – subsequently entering into an energy performance contract as part of the Efficient Government Buildings program. This saw more than $1.2 million invested in energy efficiency measures at 15 East Gippsland Water sites over two years.
We now have a target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 44 percent, by 1 July 2025, which would take annual emissions down to a maximum of 4,650 tonnes of CO2-e equivalent. We have also committed to the TAKE2 pledge, delivered by Sustainability Victoria. This is the state’s collective climate change program to achieve zero net emissions by 2050.
In addition we have entered into an energy partnership with 12 other Victorian water corporations, to collectively purchase solar power from the new Kiamal Solar Farm in north-west Victoria, under an umbrella organisation called Zero Emissions Water (ZEW). This project is a key part of our forward plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while also maintaining affordable water bills for customers.
Other ongoing initiatives underway to reduce greenhouse gas emissions include:
• a food waste to energy co-digestion project at Bairnsdale Wastewater Treatment Plant
• operational efficiency improvements, to cut overall electricity consumption, and
• significant investment in solar power for our operations.
An internal task group has also been established to add further weight to a concerted business-wide approach to emissions reduction.
Reporting back to you
Our business plan for 2018-23 (our Price Submission) takes into account feedback from 2,200 customers across the region and there was clear support to focus on environmental sustainability.
Based on this feedback, East Gippsland Water’s Customer Committee has a commitment to provide six-monthly updates to you on our progress to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
Annual report for 2019/20
During 2019/20 we continued to participate in an energy partnership with 12 other Victorian water corporations – established to collectively purchase solar power from the new Kiamal Solar Farm in north-west Victoria, under an umbrella organisation called Zero Emissions Water (ZEW).
This project is a key part of a forward plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while also maintaining affordable water bills for customers.
While the project experienced several delays during 2019/20, it is now due for completion during 2020/21. Once commissioned it will allow East Gippsland Water to purchase 1.24 GWh of renewable energy – equivalent to a reduction of 22 per cent in our annual energy
Other initiatives implemented, or furthered, during 2019/20 included:
- commissioning three new solar systems totalling approximately 30kW at various East Gippsland Water facilities – including Buchan, Bemm River and Swifts Creek water treatment plants. It means we have now commissioned 224kW of solar systems across various sites in recent years
- active engagement and collaboration with other water corporations, industry bodies, community networks and external agencies to pursue best practice in energy management and greenhouse gas reduction
- ongoing investigations into a food waste to energy plant at the Bairnsdale Wastewater Treatment Plant
- an ongoing program to reduce infiltration into our sewer network, with many smaller issues identified and rectified in Paynesville and Bairnsdale. A larger project to reline approximately 400m of sewer in Paynesville is expected to significantly reduce infiltration in this area.
Net greenhouse gas emissions were 8,335 t CO2-e for 2019/20 – exceeding the target of 8,315 t CO2-e for the reporting period by 0.2 per cent, but notably lower than the 8,872 t CO2-e recorded for 2018/19.
The improvement over the previous year was partly due to East Gippsland Water reaping the ongoing benefits of renewable energy sources installed. There were also notably fewer tourists across the region, particularly over the summer and other holiday periods, due to the bushfires and the coronavirus, which reduced water consumption and sewer flows in systems serving Mallacoota and Lakes Entrance for example. This resulted in less electricity usage for pumping and therefore less emissions created.
There was also a reduction in water consumption due to the introduction of water restrictions across the Mitchell River supply system and for customers in Buchan. In addition, there was no need to source groundwater in relation to the corporation’s Aquifer Storage and Recovery initiative.
These gains were partially offset by increased energy usage during and after the bushfires. The fires led to a surge in electricity use as water treatment plants tried to meet the extreme water consumption demands of customers and the emergency services trying to defend properties and key infrastructure. Back-up diesel generators were also brought into operation to maintain water and wastewater operations during electricity outages.
In addition there was an increase in electricity consumption in relation to the treatment of wastewater. This was due to the increased aeration required to manage odour at some sites and the reduced efficiency of the biogas generator at Bairnsdale Wastewater Treatment Plant. This unit is scheduled for replacement in 2020/21.
East Gippsland Water is continuing to progress a more concerted business-wide approach to emissions reduction going forward, looking at data analytics and monitoring the performance of systems.
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