Funding the largest CBD solar installation in Australia has been quite a journey for Sydney Renewable Power Company. Below is how it all happened.

During the tender phase for redevelopment of the International Convention Centre (Sydney) we approached Lend Lease with a vision for the site. Andy Cavanagh-Downs, who ran Embark, identified that this new iconic site, would be an amazing place to put a big renewable power project. And that it would be a wonderful opportunity if local individuals, could be part of that renewable power project by being able to invest in it. It could be the biggest renewable power project in an Australian CBD, and act as a beacon of what is possible.

The cornerstone of our vision is that local community should have the ability to help create and invest in the project.

Lend Lease embraced the idea as part of their community and sustainability initiatives for the site, and included it in the tender. Luckily for all of us, Lend Lease was successful in winning the tender so the job was now to make that vision a reality.

At that phase, the company, Sydney Renewable Power Company, was formed and a volunteer board established. We put together a board of diverse skills - general business, banking, community energy, legal, accountancy, engineering and marketing and communications.

The business model for Sydney Renewable Power Company was then contracted with Darling Harbour Live. The business model is basically the following:

  • Investment - SRPC would fund the 520kW solar installation that is currently being installed
  • Revenues - In return, SRPC would get 2 revenue sources - SRPC would be paid for all the energy generated by the solar for the next 25 years. All of this energy is going to be consumed by the convention centre, so is “behind the meter’ and a pricing schedule has been agreed and contracted.
  • The second revenue source is the Large-scale Generator Certificates (LGCs) that will be generated from the project are for SRPC to sell as we see fit.
  • In terms of costs, SRPC would also be responsible for expenses in relation to running the company, insuring the solar installation, maintenance and equipment replacement not covered under warranty. 

After contracting, Canadian Solar was then appointed to design and install the solar project. We worked with Lend Lease and Canadian Solar to ensure the array would meet our needs.

The project has also relied on the support of many individuals and organisations to get here. Volunteers, both on and off the board, have been an essential part of the progress we have made. We have also had a great deal of support from organisations such as City of Sydney, NAB, Office of Environment and Heritage and Baker and McKenzie.  

We have learnt a lot in getting to the phase we are in. Some of those key lessons have been:

  • Have the right partners. The deal that was agreed was a very complex one as it was a Public Private Partnership site. Its progress is a testament to the goodwill and persistence of all the partners - NSW Government, Lend Lease HOSTPLUS, Capella Capital, AEG Ogden and Spotless
  • Get the right skills around the table for the board
  • Think carefully about what organisation structure will work best for your project. Every option has pros and cons
  • Be patient – creating the project and seeing it happen will take longer than you anticipate
  • Learn from others – Talk to as many other projects as possible to learn from their experiences. A coffee is (almost) free and can save you a huge amount of time

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