With solar panels already installed on dozens of its buildings, the city of Sydney has upped the ante by vowing to source 100% of its electricity needs from solar PV and wind. The commitment was endorsed by city council last week, with a new 100% renewable electricity contract to be negotiated in the coming months.
While the Australian state of New South Wales has not yet taken determined steps toward the energy transition — such as introducing a renewable energy target or establishing plans to replace aging, unreliable coal-fired power stations — Sydney has set a particularly ambitious goal. The city aims to further slash its greenhouse gas emissions by using 100% renewables to meet its electricity needs.
After raising its 2030 renewables target from 50% to 100%, the city of Sydney said it plans to purchase renewable energy generated by wind or solar PV to power its larger buildings and public facilities, including pools and libraries, while offsetting carbon emissions.
“Acting on climate change is the city’s top priority. We were among the first to set science-based targets in 2008 and since then we’ve reduced our emissions by 20% on 2005 levels,” said Lord Mayor Clover Moore. “This decision by council will allow us to achieve our commitment to reduce emissions by 70%, 10 years ahead of our own 2030 deadline, well on the way to net-zero by 2050.”
Since 2016, the city has reduced electricity usage by 26%, mainly by investing in energy-efficiency initiatives, such as installing rooftop solar and LED lights. This has resulted in significant savings for ratepayers.
One of the city’s most notable projects to date is the Alexandra Canal Depot, which is powered by 1,600 solar panels and features the state’s first grid-scale Tesla battery, which can store up to 500 kWh of electricity. The city of Sydney and Transgrid were the partners behind the project, which is part of a behind-the-meter energy storage trial.
The city has also installed solar panels on more than 30 of its office buildings, pools, libraries and community centers. By mid-2021, it plans to have more than 7,800 solar panels generating power for its buildings.
“For too long, our state and federal governments have failed to take action to address accelerating climate change. That’s why cities must lead the way,” Moore said.
While the city of Sydney was the first municipal government in Australia to be certified as carbon neutral in 2011, Melbourne was the first Australian state capital to be powered by 100% renewable energy. The city’s achievement came after 14 members of its leading universities, cultural institutions and corporations combined their purchasing power to support the construction of an 80 MW wind farm near Ararat, Victoria, backed by a long-term PPA with Pacific Hydro. As electricity from the wind farm began flowing into the grid in January, the city of Melbourne announced that it had made the switch to 100% renewables.