Solar 2011 AuSES conference

(9am 30 November 2011, Australian Technology Park, Eveleigh)

Thank you, MC. 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.

On behalf of the City, I would like to welcome you all to Sydney - especially Mr Wu Dacheng, Secretary-General of the China Renewable Energy Society, and Simon Corbell, MLA, from the ACT. I also acknowledge Allan Jones, MBE, the City of Sydney's chief development officer for Energy and Climate Change.

Allan will be speaking in a few minutes, outlining for you our strategies to reduce emissions and move the city towards our goal of 100 per cent local energy by 2030.

But to set the scene, I'd like to tell you first about Sustainable Sydney 2030.

In 2004, when my team of Independents took office at Town Hall, we committed to developing a long term vision and plan for a sustainable city.

We used it as a springboard for a thorough investigation of the status quo in Sydney, to look at our strengths and weaknesses, to set goals and find ways of achieving them.

We involved all our city communities in a year-long series of conversations - residents, big business and the smaller operations, our universities, institutions and other levels of government and their agencies.

It was exhaustive - and sometimes exhausting! But an extraordinary degree of consensus emerged, with the over-riding theme being the need to tackle global warming while positioning Sydney as a vibrant, inclusive, 21st century city for the Asia-Pacific.

The resulting strategy, Sustainable Sydney 2030, sets out clear goals and our task since then has to put together the teams who will help us achieve them.

Allan Jones has obviously been a key appointment, and with his guidance, we are developing a Green Infrastructure Plan comprising a series of Master Plans for sustainable energy, waste and water systems.

Our plan for Renewable Energy is a crucial element if we are to meet our - admittedly ambitious - targets.

These include a 70 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 2006 levels by 2030; to supply 70 per cent of the local government area's electricity needs from trigeneration and 30 per cent from renewable energy by 2030.

However, as you will see from Allan Jones' presentation, there is a twist to this challenging target.

The targets for the City as an organisation are the same. And in both cases, the majority of emissions come from the same three sources: from buildings, street lighting and waste.

So our approach has been to work on ways to implement the infrastructure for ourselves, thereby showing that it can be done, showing how it can be done and shouldering the risk that comes with going first.

In 2008, the City of Sydney became Australia's first carbon-neutral local government area through a combination of energy efficiency, GreenPower and carbon offsets.

We have spent close to $5 million on GreenPower to remain carbon neutral. Now, however, by purchasing lower-cost offsets we have freed up funds to invest in renewable energy for the City's own properties and operations, while providing a return on our investment through the reductions in our grid energy consumption. We now have a Renewable Energy Fund of up to $2 million a year for our own projects.

We have so far completed four solar electricity projects, and 13 solar water-heating projects on properties ranging from our Redfern Community Centre and Surry Hills Library and Community Centre and at Alexandria Child Care Centre and Ultimo Community Centre.

One of our proudest achievements was the installation of one of Sydney's largest photovoltaic array on the roof of our heritage-listed Town Hall - proving that heritage and sustainability can go hand in hand.

Together, the projects completed thus far will reduce electricity consumption by 173,000kWh, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 180 tonnes, and save the City $30,000 each year on our energy bills.

We have estimated that the $2 million a year spent on these upgrades will enable us to achieve our target of generating quarter of our own electricity consumption from renewable sources by 2020 - putting us well ahead of the national targets.

Avoiding emissions altogether, and reducing them where complete avoidance isn't possible, are our top priorities.

To that end we have a suite of programs and activities under way.
These include:

• our $18.2 million investment in efficiency upgrades to our Council properties
• installation of renewable energy for City-owned sites
• our trigeneration project for multiple City sites
• energy reporting and management systems
• an LED program to which improves street lighting reducing emissions by 50% and importantly reducing costs
• energy efficient design for new and upgraded buildings and - our surry Hills Library is beautifully designed by Richard Francis Jones and has won national and international recognition
• fleet emission reductions.

We see our task as not only the immediate practical task of reducing our own greenhouse gas emissions, but of providing leadership - to our community and to government, to "show by doing", as we say.

A constant theme is that by retrofitting our city as a sustainable 21st century city, we are not only saving greenhouse emissions. We are helping to kick-start a new green economy, investing in the kind of infrastructure that will enable us to keep pace with our neighbours in the Asia-Pacific, many of whom are investing heavily in sustainability.

The United Nations report on the development of alternative energy has estimated that more than 20 million green-energy jobs could be created world-wide by 2030 through the implementation of renewables, and other alternative energy sources.

The University of NSW, right on our City borders, became the first university in the world to offer training in photovoltaics and solar energy through its School of Photovoltaic and Renewable Engineering.

As this conference would be aware, Australia has long enjoyed high-level expertise in this area. What has been lacking has been the political will, and investment, to put that expertise into building the infrastructure for a sustainable future.

We're hoping to change that, and Allan will tell you how.