Yet another local government group has taken Australia’s renewable energy task into its own hands, with the mid-north coast NSW Coffs Harbour City Council committing to a renewable energy target of 100 per cent by 2030.
The move puts Coffs Harbour City on the same page as fellow NSW local governments, like Lismore, which last May committed to a 100 per cent by 2023 renewable energy target; and Uralla, which was last year revealed as a candidate for Australia’s first zero net energy town.
More recently, the Byron Shire – part of the northern rivers region of New South Wales – revealed plans to become Australia’s first “net zero emissions” region, with a goal to reduce emissions from energy, transport, buildings, waste and land use to zero within 10 years.
The push by Byron mayor Simon Richardson means that Byron Bay will be the first town or council in Australia to adopt the master-plan created several years ago by the think tank Beyond Zero Emissions.
In Victoria, the towns of Newstead and Yackandandah are in an unofficial race to be the first 100 per cent renewable energy towns in that state, while towns like Ravensthorpe in WA are looking likely to leave the grid because the grid operator thinks it’s the cheapest and safest thing to do.
Elsewhere, councils like Fremantle and Sunshine Coast are planning their own large-scale solar arrays – of between 10MW and 15MW – while groups of towns in western NSW are looking to pool their solar resources.
New housing estates, meanwhile, may not be connected to the grid at all because of the possibilities offered by battery storage and other enabling technologies.
And, of course, there is the ACT government, which has a 90 per cent renewable energy target for Canberra and its surrounds by 2020.
The Coffs Harbour Council’s 100 per cent renewables target, the plans for which were revealed over the weekend, ensures the Council’s energy use consists of 25 per cent renewables by 2020 and 50 per cent renewables by 2025.
The Council has also committed to reducing annual corporate CO2 emissions by 25% on (2010 levels) by 2020 and by 50% by 2025.
“These are ambitious targets, but we are confident that as technology continues to improve and we carry on working hard to cut costs and greenhouse gas emissions, we will reach them,” Coffs Harbour Mayor, Cr Denise Knight said.
Most recently, the council has installed solar panels at the local Botanic Gardens. But more than 10 years ago, in 2004, Coffs Harbour became the first council in Australia to introduce energy-efficient street lighting across its entire local government area.
And in 2009, a landfill gas capture facility – the first of its kind on the Mid North Coast – was installed at the Coffs Coast Resource Recovery Park that has seen a significant drop in greenhouse gas emissions.
In 2010, Council installed the largest public rooftop solar power array in NSW on the top of Rigby House which saves $30,000 per annum in electricity costs.
It has also recently adopted an energy fund for investment into efficiency works and renewables, that will be financed through 10 per cent of the difference in costs between the black and green energy purchased by Council, or $100,000 a year, whichever is the greater.
The council says action will be identified through the soon to be developed Coffs Harbour Emissions Reduction Plan (CHERP) and will be effective from January 2016, after the preparation of a detailed Emissions Reduction Plan.