City Conversations: Renewable Cities

Tonight we're starting a conversation about 100 per cent Renewable Energy for Sydney.

It's a conversation that should have been started a long time ago. With a warming of two degrees, we risk catastrophic climate change - and projections show we are headed for a four to six degree change.

As our planet slides closer to climatic tipping-points that science tells us could trigger catastrophic events across the world, we need decisive and concerted action from all levels of government.

We need action to avoid the worst effects of climate change, and to future-proof our cities and our country from the climate change that is unfortunately no longer avoidable due to the lack of political leadership. Governments are gambling with the future of our children and grand-children.

For our part, we're committed to advocacy and to action.

Our Sustainable Sydney 2030 strategy commits the City to greening our own operations and to working with residents and businesses across the LGA to make Sydney a genuinely sustainable city.

It sets ambitious but achievable targets on greenhouse gases, water, waste, transport and urban canopy, and we rigorously monitor our progress on a quarterly basis.

We've cut greenhouse emissions from our operations by more than 20 per cent since 2006.

5,500 solar panels are being installed on 30 buildings including our heritage-listed Town Halls, sports grandstands, a bus station, libraries, council depots and child-care and community centres.

In an Australian first, our roll-out of City owned LED streetlights has given us a 27 per cent reduction in carbon emissions and, once complete, will deliver us emission savings of 51 per cent and almost $800,000 a year in electricity costs.

We've completed 95 per cent of a $6.9 million energy and water efficiency retrofit of 45 city properties, which will reduce greenhouse gas emissions from our properties by 23 per cent, potable water consumption by 53,000 kilolitres, and utility bills by more than $1 million.

We're working on plans for a tri-generation precincts which will supply electricity, heating and cooling to Town Hall and the Queen Victoria Building, and we worked with Frasers Property to facilitate tri-generation to the 4,000 future residents of its Central Park development on Broadway.

We've completed over half of our 200km cycling network and despite the nay-sayers, cycling numbers continue to grow strongly increasing 113% over last year.

$220 million has been committed for the George Street leg of the NSW Government light rail project, which we believe will transform George Street into Sydney's major boulevard by replacing buses and private vehicles with light rail and pedestrianised areas.

I'm proud to say that the City sent zero household waste directly to landfill during the year, and that we've recorded a zero increase in annual water consumption for City operations and for residents and businesses since 2006.

We have a Decentralised Water Master Plan, and are implementing projects such as Stage 2 of a water re-use scheme at Sydney Park which, from the middle of next year, will collect, treat and re-use over 800 million litres of stormwater at the park - on top of the 535 million litres from Stage 1.

We are working towards our target of 50 per cent increase in urban canopy by 2030, with 8900 trees planted since 2005.

The results show that we're moving towards a sustainable Sydney, but the science on climate change demands we do more.

If Sydney is to play its part in addressing climate change and reach our target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 70% by 2030, we must shed our reliance on coal-fired power and make the switch to renewable energy.

The Renewable Energy Master Plan, which Allan will tell you more about, is a detailed technical and economic assessment of how Sydney can become a 100 per cent Renewable Energy City.

Not long ago, talk of 100 per cent renewable energy would have been seen as fanciful, crazy.

But earlier this year, the Australian Energy Market Operator released a draft study which found the National Electricity Market could be powered 100 per cent by renewable energy.

Just recently, King Island, Tasmania, has achieved 100 per renewable energy for extended periods for their off-grid system.

The model in the Renewable Energy Master Plan is broader, encompassing renewable gas as well as renewable electricity.

It is based on world best practice and the technologies are in use elsewhere - in particular, the inspiring example of Germany which has a roadmap for 90 per cent renewable energy by 2050.

The only way to tackle the climate crisis is to test new ideas, and then take the most effective steps available.

We are releasing the Renewable Energy Master Plan to get the debate going.

Unfortunately, there has not been bipartisan political leadership in Australia in recent years and frighteningly the political landscape has dramatic pledges to do less, not more.

As we found during our Sustainable Sydney 2030 consultations, an overwhelming majority of Sydney residents, workers, businesses and visitors want us to take action.

We also want to provide opportunities for the community to take action itself. You'll hear tonight about a project for the community to own solar panels being installed on a Lend Lease building in Darling Harbour.

There are many community-owned renewable energy projects throughout the world - wind, solar, bio-energy projects in the United States, Scotland, Denmark, Germany and others - but they are rare in Australia.

In Denmark, over 50% of all energy demand is supplied from generation owned by the customers themselves. In Germany, 50% of renewable energy generation is owned by customers.

In the UK, with the removal of the regulatory barriers to decentralised energy, the amount of self-generation owned by customers has increased from 6% to 15% in just two years from 2011 to 2013.

We would like to see more of these projects in Sydney.

We want to hear from you, and we want to engage the Federal and State Governments to get the policy and regulatory changes that are required to make it to happen because we can't do it alone.

We can't waste any more precious time or resources. I hope you'll help us make clean energy for Sydney a reality.