Our drive to cut greenhouse gas emissions
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. Six years later we entered into an energy performance contract as part of the Efficient Government Buildings program, which saw more than $1.2 million invested in energy efficiency measures at 15 East Gippsland Water sites over the following 24 months.
Our total greenhouse gas emissions are around 8,600 tonnes of CO2-e equivalent and in 2017 we committed to reduce our greenhouse emissions by at least 24 per cent by 2025. We are already working on a program of works to take our greenhouse emission reductions further to 40-50 per cent by 2025.
In 2018 we also took the TAKE2 pledge. Delivered by Sustainability Victoria, this is the state’s collective climate change program to achieve zero net emissions by 2050.
Initiatives underway to reduce greenhouse gas emissions include:
- a food waste to energy co-digestion project at Bairnsdale
- operational efficiency improvements, to cut overall electricity consumption
- significant investment in solar power for our operations, and
- purchasing renewable energy in partnership with other water businesses.
Reporting back to you – Our 2018/19 mid-year report
Our business plan for 2018-23 takes into account feedback from 2,200 customers from 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 target to provide six-monthly updates to you on progress to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
Already this financial year we have installed 185 solar panels at facilities in Eagle Point, Wy Yung, Merrangbaur, Marlo, Newmerella, Bairnsdale and Orbost. Together these are capable of generating 56.5kW of electricity to help power these sites. This is electricity that would otherwise have to be purchased from the grid, so there is a cost saving, as well as an expected reduction in greenhouse gases of around 100 tonnes of C02-e equivalent a year.
We are also installing a solar and battery storage system at Cann River Water Treatment Plant. The driver is to maintain an unbroken power supply at this remote site during emergency situations such as bushfires and storms. Seventy-six solar panels are being installed, along with 75kWh of battery storage. Once up and running this will bring an estimated greenhouse gas reduction of 35.5 tonnes of CO2-e equivalent a year.
These projects bring East Gippsland Water’s overall number of solar panels installed since 2014 to 575, with 180 located at our Woodglen Water Treatment Plant alone. This represents a total of 155.5kW of electricity and reduction in yearly greenhouse gases or 330 tonnes of CO2 equivalent. Furthermore we have started preliminary work on other solar projects at our Mallacoota, Omeo and Orbost water treatment plants.
We have continued with a major ongoing program to reduce stormwater infiltration into our sewer network. Caused by leaks and illegal stormwater pipe connections, this places unnecessary pressure on the operation of sewer pump stations and treatment plants, increasing electricity consumption and therefore greenhouse gas emissions.
So far this financial year we have inspected some 22.6 km of sewer, with a number of repairs carried out to improve efficiency, and a further 3.5 km of sewer is earmarked for inspection before the end of June.
We have installed variable speed drive motors at two of our larger pump stations since July as part of an ongoing initiative to optimise pumping efficiency and reduce energy consumption. These are designed to operate and adjust to the minimum speed necessary at any given time and not operate continuously at full speed.
Sharing the load
We have joined with 12 other Victorian water corporations in a new energy partnership that will help to minimise greenhouse gas emissions and maintain affordable water bills for customers. To find out more click here.
Food waste to energy
We continue to work in partnership with Food and Fibre Gippsland and East Gippsland Shire Council on an innovative project to reduce the amount of food waste sent to landfill and convert this into energy.
A three month pilot plant was operated in late 2018 to test the technology and an $840,000 upgrade to the Bairnsdale Wastewater Treatment plant is underway to process eight tonnes of food waste a week – with an emissions reduction of approximately 700 tonne of C02-e equivalent a year.
The initiative received a $210,000 grant from Sustainability Victoria to facilitate the upgrade and East Gippsland Water is providing the remainder of the funding.