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SA Water will invest more than $300 million to install more than 500,000 solar panels in regional areas across South Australia as part of its goal to achieve a zero-cost energy future.

SA Water will install 242GWh solar photovoltaic panels and 34MWh of energy storage devices across 35 sites in South Australia in 2020, including the Adelaide Hills, South East, Eyre Peninsula, Fleurieu Peninsula, Far North and Riverland.

SA Water Senior Manager Zero Cost Energy Future, Nicola Murphy, said the panels will help neutralise electricity costs, which reached nearly $83 million in 2018/19.

“We’re delivering initiatives to keep our operations as efficient as possible to help keep customers’ water prices as low and stable as possible,” Ms Murphy said.

“Large operational circuit breakers like this are essential to achieving savings and future price reductions.

“Our water and wastewater treatment and pumping operations provide up to 1.7 million people across SA with safe, clean drinking water, every day, but are very energy intensive and make us one of the biggest electricity users in the state.”

The investment will also deliver significant positive environmental outcomes, reducing CO² emissions by more than 89,000 tonnes a year – equivalent to planting seven million trees or removing more than 32,000 cars from the road per year, every year of operation.

“We’ve set ourselves an ambitious goal, but this kind of innovative thinking can shake up traditional models and deliver sustainable savings – and we’re backing ourselves and our key partners to deliver it,” Ms Murphy said.

“Through a range of energy initiatives like biogas and hydroelectric generation, and trading as a market participant, we’ve already cut more than $3 million a year from our electricity bills since 2013, so we know it’s within reach.”

SA Water will generate and store energy on site to reduce its reliance on grid electricity and create a revenue stream from carefully timed sales back to the market to offset the cost of electricity that will need to be purchased at times of peak demand or low solar productivity.

“Locating generation behind-the-meter will improve our resilience to grid interruptions, significantly reduce our network charges and isolate our business from electricity market price volatility, in both the short and long term,” Ms Murphy said.

“We’ll always need to use and buy some electricity, but we can be smart in our approach to managing it as we work towards a zero-cost energy future.”

The Australian water industry is energy intensive, requiring approximately 3,000GWh of electricity annually, and SA Water consumes almost one fifth of the national total.

“Importantly, our progressive leap forward will help demonstrate the way renewable generation can be integrated at large utility scale, and help the global transition to a low-carbon future,” Ms Murphy said.

Charlotte Pordage is Editor of Utility magazine, a position she has held since November 2018. She joined the team as an Associate Editor in October 2017, after sharpening her writing and editing skills across a range of print and digital publications. Charlotte graduated from Royal Holloway, University of London, in 2011 with joint honours in English and Latin. When she's not putting together Australia's only dedicated utility magazine, she can usually be found riding her horse or curled up with a good book.

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