Energy efficiency and reliability are critical to building our network of the future. As a result, Telstra has underpinned a new 70MW solar farm in regional Queensland.

Given the rising costs of energy, one of our greatest inputs, we are implementing a strategy to be a more active participant in the energy market.

Today we have taken an important step forward in this strategy by signing a long-term power purchase agreement with RES Australia – part of the world’s largest independent renewable energy companies – which would see the development of a new 70 megawatt (MW) solar farm near Emerald in northern Queensland.

Similar to arrangements in the USA with the likes of Microsoft and Google, the electricity from this plant won’t directly flow into Telstra facilities. But it is an important investment that helps protect us from movement in the costs of supplying energy to our facilities.

This renewable energy purchase arrangement will help create local jobs, provide investment in regional Australia and generate energy equivalent to the consumption of 35,000 homes.

The deal is a win-win for all involved.

RES gets a confirmed long-term customer and the confidence to invest around $100m in the solar energy plant, which will be one of the largest renewable energy sources in northern Australia, while we get to reduce Australia’s greenhouse emissions and help stabilise our energy consumption costs.

Construction of the Emerald solar project will begin later this year and electricity generation is expected to commence in 2018. The project will also collaborate with local businesses and indigenous communities to create the opportunity for local supply arrangements to support the construction and operation of the plant.

The project is an important step in our strategy to more actively manage our energy consumption and costs, while also contributing to reducing Australia’s emissions.

We already have initiatives underway to install solar power systems at our Exchanges (including at Deer Park, Lyndhurst, Petrie, and Mount Gravatt), which saw our emissions intensity per unit of data fall by 56 per cent over three years.

On top of this, over the coming years we will work to enhance our ability to dynamically manage our energy generation capability throughout our network around Australia.

We are looking at opportunities to utilise the back-up electricity generation and battery storage capacity we have in our network to proactively generate energy in times of peak demand to help reduce black out risks and offset high wholesale prices.

This will help improve our ability to manage our energy costs, continue to drive down our own emissions and improve the reliability of our own back-up supplies.