In Australia, local councils and communities have long been leaders in eco-friendly action, implementing initiatives to minimise their carbon emissions in their own buildings, as well as the houses and buildings in their precincts.
Many of the councils in this list are inspiring communities by leading through example, through measures such as solar PV, energy management systems, and encouraging energy efficiency programs in households such as environmentally friendly transport and switching appliances off to avoid standby power.
Councils are also employing long term goals that aim for zero emissions by running off 100% renewable energy. This means our Australian cities are becoming more and more sustainable, with environmental agendas being rolled out in both rural and urban areas. For example, the City of Brisbane is aiming for it’s council operations to be completely carbon neutral by the end of 2017.
Sydney, Brisbane and Darwin councils join 55 Australian local governments who have signed up to the Climate Council’s Cities Power Partnership, a network of councils driving uptake of clean energy around the country.
Cities Power Partnership councils now represents over seven million Australians in all states and territories – almost 30% of the population!
Alix Pearce, Cities Power Partnership Director, said:
“We have local governments ranging from our very largest metropolitan councils, such as City of Sydney and Brisbane, through to tiny rural shires joining the Cities Power Partnership. The local government race to renewables is well and truly on.”
These are just some of the councils doing inspiring things in the sustainability space right now:
(Information sourced from Cities Power Partnership – ‘Local leadership: tracking local government progress on climate change’)
The City of Adelaide aims to be completely carbon neutral by rapidly reducing carbon emissions. By working towards 100% renewable energy and investing in energy efficient buildings and transport, Adelaide is encouraging the entire community to get behind it’s initiative.
Adelaide City Council’s Sustainability Incentives Scheme offers grants for installing solar PV and battery storage systems, electric vehicle or bicycle charging, energy efficiency and water saving upgrades (Adelaide City Council 2017). From 2001 – 2016, the energy efficiency of South Australian Government buildings improved by 20%. Since 2010, the City of Adelaide reduced its operational energy use by 15% and it’s emissions by 23%, despite growing it’s office space by 16%.
The City of Darebin is focused on renewable energy, and has set a target to double solar in Darebin over the next year. Through their ‘Solar Program’ Darebin offers homeowners and businesses significant incentives to install solar panels and thus reduce their energy bills.
Through the program, households are offered a no-obligation quote, and the council will actually pay for the upfront cost for the system, which is then paid off through a small additional charge on quarterly rates payments, over up to ten years. For eligible citizens, the repayments are interest free! Systems are available from 2kW to 10kW. For most households, the bigger the system, the better the payback.
Cockburn is inspiring it’s community through it’s utilisation of renewable energy production. The city has been employing renewable energy since 2009, and hopes to have 20% of it’s electricity come from renewable energy sources by 2020.
Over the past eight years, Cockburn has installed over 1,000 solar panels across 13 community buildings. Plus, the council buildings themselves have over 4,500 solar panels!
Cockburn’s Aquatic Recreation Centre uses geothermal energy to heat both it’s swimming pools and general water play areas. This council guided installation will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 500 tonnes of CO2 per annum, a 72% reduction compared to traditional boilers for heating.
The City of Newcastle has been actively involved in carbon reduction initiatives for 15 years. Newcastle is currently planning a 5MW solar farm, having already recently commissioned eight other solar installations for public buildings such as the art gallery, museum, works depot and libraries. This is part of it’s 2020 Carbon and Water Management Action Plan which also involved a range of energy efficiency upgrades at council and community facilities and buildings.
Upgrades at major Council sites targeted improvements to heating and cooling controls, power factor correction, automated fault detection, double glazing windows and replacing over 2500 light fittings with LED. Since the creation of the Action Plan, the City of Newcastle has experienced annual savings of 1500 tonnes of carbon pollution and $240,000 in electricity costs.
The City of Melbourne is passionate about sustainability, and are channelling their efforts into the Melbourne Renewable Energy Project (MREP). Via MREP, The City of Melbourne has partnered with other large organisations to purchase large-scale renewable energy for a collective tendering process.
By supporting the construction of a new local wind farm, the city and a myriad of local governments, schools, commercial businesses and cultural sites have all committed to purchase a significant amount of electricity per year from a renewable source. The building of the wind farm will create more than 140 jobs, and the City of Melbourne is aiming for 25% renewable electricity by 2018 and net zero emissions by 2020.
Canberra is powering ahead with renewable energy. The ACT Government recently announced an increase in its renewable energy target from 90% to 100% by the year 2020. This means that all electricity will be delivered using renewable energy by 2020, by employing clean power from wind and solar sources.
Their ambitious targets will create jobs and economic benefits stemming from $400 million in local investment to bring jobs and economic benefits. The program also involves some new processes, such as the reverse auction feed-in tariff mechanism that id being used to facilitate new investment in large-scale renewable generation facilities. Plus, one of the largest roll outs of household batteries in the world has begun in Canberra, through it’s 'Next Generation Energy Storage Program'. The program will incentivize battery uptake in over 5000 homes and businesses by 2020.
The Council of Alice Springs has soared to great heights where solar power is concerned. Alice Solar City, part of the Australian Government’s Solar Cities program is a $42 million project. It explored how solar power, energy efficient technologies and new approaches to electricity supply and pricing encouraged the residents of Alice Springs to become energy efficient and assist in developing a sustainable energy future.
The project saw an incredible turn out from the community and it’s residents, with the council playing a major role in inciting enthusiasm while utilising the sunny weather of the region to great effect.
With funding from the Federal Government, the City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder designed and constructed a geothermal heating system and solar thermal system for their local recreational facility – the Goldfields Oasis Leisure Centre.
Through strong local leadership and commitment to sustainability, the Centre has offset 8309 gigajoules of natural gas and 206,000kWh of electricity per year that would otherwise be used to warm the pools and heat and cool the centre. The savings in natural gas consumption translates to savings of nearly $260,000 a year.
The Ipswich City Council is focused on energy efficient lighting, through the LED Street Lighting Retrofit project. Nationally, the annual cost of public lighting in Australia exceeds $250 million and the greenhouse gas emissions account for between 30-60% of local government’s greenhouse gas emissions.
These statistics drove Ipswich to begin completely transitioning their existing street lighting service to a far more eco-friendly alternative. Once finished, this project will result in reducing current street lighting energy consumption by 540,000 kWh of energy per year across the project area, resulting in approximately 561 tonnes less carbon emissions being released into the atmosphere.