Coles and global energy company Metka EGN have signed a 10-year agreement that will see three solar power plants built in regional New South Wales that will supply more than 220 GW hours of electricity into the national electricity grid.

In the first deal of its kind to be made by a major Australian retailer, Coles will purchase more than 70% of the electricity generated by the photovoltaic plants — equating to 10% of Coles’ national electricity usage. Located outside the regional centres of Wagga Wagga, Corowa and Junee, the solar plants will save more than 180,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions every year or the equivalent of the annual emissions from 83,000 cars.

Coles Group CEO Steven Cain said the increased use of renewable energy was a major part of the company’s commitment to be the most sustainable supermarket in Australia. “Coles has been a cornerstone of Australian retail for more than 100 years, and ensuring the sustainability of our business is essential to success in our second century,” he said.

“We are thrilled that with this agreement, Coles can make a significant contribution to the growth of renewable energy supply in Australia, as well as to the communities we serve.

“We have already made changes throughout our business to use energy more efficiently, which has enabled us to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 4% over the past financial year and more than 30% since 2009, despite growing our store network.

“Over the past two financial years alone we have invested more than $40 million in energy efficiency measures including upgrading all store lighting to LED[s] by the end of 2019 and the installation of solar panels on 30 stores.”

Coles Chief Property and Export Officer Thinus Keeve said Coles was the first major Australian retailer to commit to buying renewable energy through a power purchase agreement.

“Agreements like this are crucial to growing renewable generation capacity in Australia because they give the developers the certainty they need to invest,” Keeve said.

As well as supporting large-scale generation projects, Coles is working with property partners to increase on-site generation of renewable power at stores and distribution centres.

“We plan to install solar panels on another 38 stores this financial year and we will be working with our landlords and property developers to identify further locations suitable for on-site solar power generation,” Keeve said.

Plant construction is scheduled to begin in September 2019, with energy-generation operations anticipated to commence in July 2020.

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