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Sydney leads Australia in combating climate change

As Australia enters a dangerous new era of extreme weather with potentially crippling financial consequences, the City of Sydney is leading the nation in the battle against climate change by slashing its carbon emissions.

Sydney is already starting to feel the effects of average global temperatures rising after the city recorded its hottest day ever on 18 January peaking at 46.4°C – while across the country, January 2013 was the hottest month on record with an average temperature of 40.3°C.

Leading scientists predict south-eastern Australia, including many of our largest population centres, is at increased risk from severe extreme weather events – heatwaves, bushfires, heavy rainfall, severe storms and sea-level rise.

Leading insurance company Insurance Australia Group has warned that without stronger action to reduce emissions and adapt to a changing climate the cost of insurance is very likely to rise.

Some locations could become too expensive to insure, which could have crippling financial consequences for home owners. 

The City of Sydney aims to reduce carbon emissions by 70% by 2030 – one of the most ambitious targets set by any government in Australia. To reach this target the City is undertaking a range of initiatives including:

  • installing energy efficient street and park lights
  • rolling out Australia’s largest building-mounted solar panel project
  • energy efficiency retrofits of major buildings 
  • enabling finance for a $26 million low-carbon system at Frasers Central Park development on Broadway
  • helping businesses to reduce carbon emissions and energy bills through energy efficiency programs.  

Australia’s largest building mounted solar panel project

A rollout of 5,500 solar panels across 30 sites is part of the City’s plan to produce 30% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030. The sites across the city include:

  • Redfern Oval grandstand
  • Sydney Park Pavilion
  • Central bus interchange
  • Paddington and Glebe Town Halls
  • libraries
  • pools
  • community centres. 

The solar panels will produce a total peak electrical capacity of 1.25 megawatts and cover a combined area the size of 2 football fields. They will reduce the City’s annual carbon footprint by as much as 2,250 tonnes each year – the equivalent of taking 740 cars off the road.

Sydney’s LED lighting revolution

Sydney joins Berlin, Barcelona and Los Angeles in the light-emitting diode (LED) revolution to provide brighter lighting in parks and streets while slashing electricity costs and carbon emissions.

Sydney is the first city in Australia to install the new LED lights in streets and parks across the city centre.

Bicentennial Park in Glebe was the first park to have the new LED lights installed as part of the City’s $7 million 3-year roll out of the green technology.

The LED lights, which use 40% less energy than traditional lights have already been installed in main streets of the City including:

  • George Street
  • Castlereagh Street
  • Elizabeth Street
  • King Street
  • Market Street
  • Oxford Street
  • Glebe Point Road
  • Darlinghurst Road.

The replacement of 6,450 conventional lights is expected to save the City nearly $800,000 a year in electricity bills and maintenance costs.

In a public survey conducted by the City during the trial more than 90% of people reported finding the new lighting more appealing while three-quarters said it actually improved visibility.

City helps business cut emissions and energy bills

Major construction, banking and property companies are joining forces with the City to make buildings more energy efficient, lower greenhouse gas emissions and reduce energy bills.

CitySwitch, founded by the City, is Australia’s flagship office energy-efficiency program, with member businesses accounting for nearly 2 million square metres of commercial office space. The program began in Sydney in 2005 and went national in 2008.
It has grown by 20% in NSW during the past year, with 157 tenancies now signed-up covering a total of 969,600 square metres of office space.

Smart Green Business

Nearly 300 Sydney businesses have saved $1.3 million on utility and waste bills as well as cutting their environmental footprints through the City’s Smart Green Business program.

After 3 years, participating businesses have shown significant environmental and financial benefits of making their operations more energy-efficient and sustainable.

Each business has saved around $4,686 in bills thanks to energy, water and waste audits, and after receiving advice on how to make their operations more sustainable.

Energy Efficiency Retrofit of City Buildings

A $6.9 million retrofit of 45 City properties has been completed that will reduce energy and water use by 20% while saving more than $1 million a year on bills.

The buildings will be fitted with energy efficient lighting, air-conditioning and heating, centralised power management systems for computers, aerated tap and shower heads, cistern modifiers in toilets and waterless urinals.

City enables finance for low carbon energy at Central Park development

Some 4,000 future residents of the Central Park development being built by Frasers Property on the former Carlton & United Breweries (CUB) site will be supplied with low-carbon energy under an innovative finance agreement enabled by the City.

Eureka Funds Management will provide Frasers Property with $26.5 million while the City collects the loan repayments as a charge on the land, in what is called an Environmental Upgrade Agreement (EUA).

Frasers will use the EUA funding to install two-megawatts (MW) of trigeneration capacity, running on natural gas and producing low-carbon electricity, heating and cooling for apartments and businesses

The trigeneration plant could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 190,000 tonnes over the 25 year design life of the plant, equal to removing 2,500 cars from our roads every year.

The Better Building Partnership

To transform Sydney into a low-carbon city, the City of Sydney has forged new alliances with business to ensure carbon reduction strategies are implemented across the city centre.

The City has formed a new alliance of major property owners, the Better Buildings Partnership (BBP), which collectively own nearly 60% of central Sydney’s office space.

The BBP aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions and improve the sustainability performance of their buildings.

Residential and commercial buildings account for nearly a quarter of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions, so they have a large role to play in addressing climate change.

The foundation members of the Better Buildings Partnership (BBP) are:

  • AMP Capital Investors
  • Brookfield Office Properties Australia
  • Charter Hall
  • Colonial First State Property Global Asset Management
  • GPT Group
  • Investa Property Group
  • Lead Lease
  • Mirvac
  • Stockland
  • Frasers Property
  • University of Sydney
  • University of Technology, Sydney
  • City of Sydney.

Find out more about Sydney 2030.

The heat is on to secure Sydney’s future water supply

The City is moving to 'drought-proof' central Sydney’s future water supply with a bold program of local recycled water production and water efficiency measures.

The program also details how the City will diversify its sources of water by replacing 30% of its drinking water by 2030 with locally produced recycled water.

And the initiative is very timely. Sydney recorded its hottest ever day of 46.4°C on 18 January, while across Australia January 2013 was the hottest month on record, with an average temperature of 40.3°C.

The best levels of international and national scientific research are predicting such heat waves will become more frequent as a result of temperature rises caused by global warming.

For the City of Sydney, when the impacts of climate pressures are coupled with population growth and greater demand for council services, water demand is projected to rise by 30% to 44 billion litres over the next 17 years.

To deal with these challenges, the City has developed a comprehensive water strategy – known as the Decentralised Water Master Plan – aimed at reducing water demand by 10% by 2030.

This reduction in water use will largely be achieved through water efficiency programs targeting Council-owned locations and office buildings, apartments, houses, hotels and restaurants across the city.

Diversifying sources of water

At present, the City of Sydney area gets the bulk of its annual 33.7 billion litres of drinking water from Warragamba Dam, 70 kms west of the city, and from the desalination plant in Kurnell, 40 kms south of the city.

During the last drought, water levels at Warragamba Dam fell to all-time low levels, including to just 32.5% in February 2007. Water transfers from the Shoalhaven River prevented levels sinking to just 13%.

Importantly, only half of the City’s 'drinking-standard water' supply is used for drinking, bathing and cooking. The remainder is used for non-drinking purposes – flushing toilets, irrigating parks and running large-scale air-conditioning – all of which could be serviced by recycled water.

The sources of recycled water include stormwater, ground water, laundry water and waste water.

The City’s Decentralised Water Master Plan concentrates on a range of other initiatives to source local water supplies, including:

  • building major stormwater recycling projects at Sydney Park and Green Square to save up to 1 billion litres of water per year and reduce pollution of the Cooks River
  • building rain gardens within streetscapes to filter stormwater and reduce pollution discharged into waterways
  • investigating feasibility of major stormwater recycling projects within wetlands at Wentworth Park, Moore Park, Bicentennial Park in Glebe and Victoria Park at Broadway
  • investigating feasibility of waste water recycling projects at major development precincts such Green Square, Barangaroo and Darling Harbour.

Reducing pollution of waterways

Each year some 3,500 tonnes of sediment, nutrients and pollutants flow into Sydney Harbour and Botany Bay as a result of 26 billion litres of stormwater running-off streets and gutters.

The City’s Master Plan aims to halve this pollution by 2030 via projects to broaden the capture and cleansing of stormwater, while at the same time expanding the pool of recycled water.

Currently the City is actively reducing pollution through waste management, street cleaning, trapped gully pits and natural treatments such as rain gardens and wetlands to reduce the impacts on waterways and the health of marine habitats.

And later in the year, work will start on the City’s largest recycled water project at Sydney Park, where up to 850 million litres of stormwater – the equivalent of 340 Olympic pools – will be recycled.

A second major project is planned for the Green Square urban development precinct, which will produce over 300 million litres of water per year.

Both these projects are being undertaken in partnership with the federal Government, with the recycled water supplying City-owned properties as well as surrounding homes and businesses.

Local water projects

The City has already increased local water use by installing rainwater tanks at nearly 20 child care, kindergartens and community centres, including the Alexandria Child Care Centre, the Jane Evans Day Care Centre in Newtown and the Ultimo Community Centre.

There are also 20 stormwater harvesting and reuse projects completed or in planning to irrigate the City’s parks and sporting fields.

Completed projects include: Sydney Park at St Peters, Surry Hills Library, Pirrama Park in Pyrmont, Lillian Fowler Reserve in Newtown, Alexandria Oval and Prince Alfred Park in Surry Hills.

The completed and planned projects together are currently producing a total of up to 5 million litres of recycled water each year.

A number of parks, such as Victoria Park in Zetland, are using local bore water, which overall provides 27 million litres of water per year or 15 per cent of total water use of City parks.

The upshot of this commitment to diversifying the City’s water supply is increased resilience in the face of the challenges of climate change and a growing population, as well as cementing a more sustainable environment.

Last updated: Tuesday, 18 June 2013