Clean Energy Address

(9.15am 26 July 2012, Sydney Convention Centre)

Thank you, and good morning, everyone. I would like firstly to acknowledge the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, the traditional custodians of our land, and to pay my respects to their Elders. I also acknowledge the people of 200 nationalities who live in our City.

I'd also like to acknowledge the Hon Ian Macfarlane, Shadow Minister for Energy and Resources.

In 2008, after almost two years of planning and consultation, the City of Sydney adopted our Sustainable Sydney 2030 strategy - an overarching strategy to make sure that we have a city that is liveable, beautiful, workable and sustainable, well into the future.

Obviously there are many components to this - many of them inter-related. But at the core is sustainability. In cities, which are our biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, we have a tremendous opportunity to make a real impact, and in order to do that, we are challenged to find new ways of doing things.

I don't need to tell this audience that much of what we plan - trigeneration included - is not new technology, so the challenges are not entirely technical. The real challenge has been to deal with the regulatory barriers, and with the fossilised mind-sets, that would have us persist with the old systems in the face of evidence, logic and even common-sense.

Fortunately, such mind-sets are not universal, and we have been heartened by our collaborations with those in the private sector who get the sustainability imperative - and who appreciate the economic benefits as well!

Our first tasks under the Sustainable Sydney 2030 scheme were to review our present position and set targets, both for ourselves as an organisation and for our Local Government Area.

From a base level of 2006, the targets we set were:

  • to reduce greenhouse emissions by 70 per cent by 2030
  • to supply 30 per cent of our electricity from renewable sources by 2030
  • to reduce potable water usage by 10 per cent by 2030 and
  • to achieve 66 per cent waste recovery by 2016

Our Local Government Area - a mere 26 sq km - represents one per cent of Australia's emissions at about 5.5 million tonnes. Our own organisational output is just one per cent of that total, or about 46,000 tonnes.

Business as usual would, by 2030, mean emissions across our LGA of 6.5 million tonnes when our target is 1.6 million.

Clearly, we needed a multi-pronged approach to reach that target.

Simple efficiencies are one of the most cost-effective and highest priority solutions, both for our own organisation and the LGA.

Within our own Council operations we have started recording all our energy and water use across our properties at the time of use, giving us two years of data capture as our base line.

We have since awarded a $6.9 million tender to Origin Energy to retrofit 45 of the major buildings with energy and water saving measures, reducing greenhouse emissions by 23 per cent a year, and water consumption by over 53,000 kL. Like all our targets, these are independently verified.

We are now implementing this project with the two of the 45 sites now completed and the rest due for completion by the end of this year.

With energy and maintenance savings of close to $900,000 a year, the payback period is about eight-and-a-half years. Our careful monitoring of the scheme we hope will also help provide a business case for others to follow, and once our own operations are as efficient as possible, we will be able to calculate exactly what we need in the way of trigeneration and solar panels.

I mentioned the willingness of many in the private sector to embrace the opportunities of sustainability. One of our most fruitful partnerships to date is with the 14 institutional owners who together control 60 per cent of all commercial buildings in our CBD.

They are collaborating with us on efficiency and green infrastructure and trigeneration.

Trigeneration will be our real game-changer. Across Australia, commercial buildings account for 10 per cent of all emissions, but in our LGA, they account for 77 per cent.

Our modelling showed that tri-generation hubs serving all the buildings in a precinct would be more effective than a building-by-building roll-out. However, what we needed to establish was how many hubs we will need, how big they will need to be, and where they will need to be.

We then mapped the city into low-carbon zones, showing where the plants would go and the scale required in each zone.

We awarded a tender to develop the tri-generation masterplan to Kinesis with Origin Energy and Cogent. This masterplan is now on exhibition until 6 August.

Next week the Council will consider a Development Agreement with Cogent to begin installing low-carbon precincts as proposed by the master plan. We have started design work on our first hub, which will be part of the Green Square urban renewal precinct - probably the biggest urban renewal project currently under way in Australia, and at Prince Alfred Park Pool. Roll out of trigeneration at our offices at Town Hall will follow.

Acknowledging the reliability and low-carbon benefits of decentralised energy, the Federal Government awarded us a $3.75 million grant towards the Green Square hub and $5 million for the Prince Alfred Park and Town Hall projects.

The City will be providing the land and plant rooms for the first two precincts, and we will also own all of the pipes that transport the hot water to buildings. Buildings will be able to convert that hot water to cooling, using absorption chillers. The hot water thermal network can also be used to distribute renewable hot water sources from underground heating. The temperature under Sydney is not hot enough to create steam to generate electricity, but it is hot enough to supply the heating and cooling needs of buildings.

No-one who joins us is compelled to purchase their electricity from Origin - it is a competitive market. But for the emissions benefits to be fully realised, we do need to persuade developers and owners to build or retrofit their buildings to take the thermal energy.

We've set aside $92 million towards this project over the next decade.

Next week Council will also decide on tenders for solar panels for our properties. We expect more than 1 megawatt installed across about 30 of our buildings, making it one of the biggest cumulative projects in Australia. Last year, we installed a large array on the roof of our heritage listed Town Hall, and as the take-up of solar panels becomes more widespread, costs are reducing markedly, until they are now close to the socket price for conventional supplies. We also installed one of Sydney's first small-scale wind turbines in Glebe to provide power to an art installation there.

Finally, I'd like to speak briefly about our other renewable plans - for waste to energy. An Advanced Waste Treatment Master Plan and a Renewable Energy Master Plan are being developed to identify all suitable waste streams and sources that, after maximising recycling, would convert waste otherwise destined to landfill into a usable and mostly renewable gas resource.

It will determine expected diversion levels of waste from landfill, the amount of gas that can be generated from it, and the means to provide that gas to the City for use in trigeneration.

The initial aim is to find a technology suitable for processing the residential waste stream of about 43,000 tonnes per year, though other sources are being investigated, including - possibly - some of the City's commercial waste.

We have been calling on the NSW Government to provide its Energy from Waste Policy, which was originally due for delivery last December. The policy is critical for our plans because it establishes the emissions compliance levels, the acceptable technologies, and the restrictions on what waste can be recycled.

We are proud of our work so far, and the results we have achieved. But as you all know, re-tooling a city and an economy for sustainability can only be achieved when all levels of government, together with the private sector, collaborate to make it possible.

I hope this conference will take us some way forward on that path. Thank you.