Sydney is the capitol of New South Wales and is the most populated city in Australia, with more than 4.5 million inhabitants. Australia has experienced the early impacts of man-made climate change severely. Residents of Sydney and its surroundings have endured extreme drought and flooding cycles alongside deadly heatwaves and bushfires.
Sydney officials like Allan have responded with determination, putting a process in place to transform their city an innovative low carbon hub to help limit the impacts of climate change and boost the city’s energy security. They are pushing ahead with a large-scale low carbon transition, despite the regressive position held by some key figures in the national government.
Electricity is a key focus for Allan as it accounts for around 80% of Sydney’s greenhouse gas footprint. This is primarily due to electricity being sourced from coal-fired power stations in the Hunter Valley. This coal power is inefficient as well as highly polluting – two-thirds of the energy from the Hunter Valley is wasted in the form of heat at the point of production and in transmission through line loss.
Allan has helped the city set a clear and comprehensive goal to ditch inefficient, polluting coal power and go 100% renewable by 2030. The initiative will provide Sydney with power, but also heating and cooling – using only clean, sustainable energy sources like wind, solar and waste.
Wind and solar will be used to generate around 30% of the city’s electricity, with the other 70% coming from trigeneration or combined heat, power and cooling, that uses locally sourced biomass.
Trigeneration is hugely advantageous in high-density environments like cities because excess waste and heat from electricity generation can be transferred to buildings or businesses that are in a close proximity. It is far more efficient than the present system that relies on coal power and other thermal plants.
The plan is to only use local renewable energy sources in order to boost the efficiency and efficacy of the systems – by avoiding transmission losses and to avoid the storm damage risk that accompanies overhead electricity transmission lines.
As such, Sydney’s solar photovoltaics project is the largest building-mounted solar PV program in Australia. When complete, the solar panels combined will cover more than 12,000m2 and will have a total solar electricity generation capacity of 1,250kWp.
City officials, like Allan, are not stopping with their goal of 100% renewables. They recognize the benefits of further reducing their carbon footprint and future-proofing their city. Other initiatives that are underway include building energy and water efficiency retrofits alongside LED street and public domain lighting upgrades.