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City of Sydney releases ambitious building upgrade plan

Close to $400 million could be spent on programs to improve energy efficiency – including widespread building retrofits, tune-ups and increased minimum performance standards for new builds – in a City of Sydney plan to double energy productivity and save more than $600 million in energy bills by 2030.

The Energy Efficiency Master Plan, which was approved for public exhibition by council last night (Monday), includes the most detailed analysis of all buildings in the City of Sydney area, modelled by pitt&sherry based on audits by Exergy (now Energy Action), finding energy use could be cut by 31 per cent in the city’s building sector by 2030.

The analysis found five building sectors accounted for over 75 per cent of the city’s energy use – accommodation, non-premium office buildings, apartments, A-grade office buildings, and car parks with lighting and mechanical ventilation.

The City has 11 priority actions needed to be instigated for the plan to be realised, which are to:

  • improve compliance of building standards and codes
  • increase minimum performance of new buildings
  • develop a building tune-up program
  • develop a building retrofit program
  • develop new energy efficiency ratings and disclosures
  • provide education and training for planners, property owners, tenants, building managers and assessors
  • safeguard energy and emissions savings by maintaining existing core programs
  • make it easier to access finance and incentives for improved energy efficiency
  • introduce sector benchmarking, targets and monitoring
  • show by doing, through best practice for City-owned buildings
  • improve equity by advocating on behalf of low-income households

Collaboration required

A City of Sydney environment committee report said many measures were beyond the city’s direct control, and would require collaboration with the state and federal governments.

The report said the biggest opportunity would be for the Australian and NSW governments to increase the stringency of the building code for non-residential buildings and set higher BASIX targets for residential (cutting 2.4 million tonnes by 2030), and the second biggest opportunity was setting new minimum performance standards for new commercial buildings (cutting 814,000t).

The state government doesn’t seem to be a big barrier, with the plan integrating the state’s Government Resource Efficiency Policy and receiving glowing praise from environment minister Rob Stokes.

“We congratulate the City of Sydney for its new master plan to increase environmental performance and economic productivity in Sydney,” Mr Stokes said.

“It’s great to see the City of Sydney adopting the NSW Government Resource Efficiency Policy.

“It is also great to see the City of Sydney recognising how other innovative NSW Government programs, such as the Energy Savings Scheme and Environmental Upgrade Agreements, can help ratepayers save money and reduce waste.

“Our partnership for higher efficiency standards will make a real difference to NSW and Sydney’s environment while also improving the economic performance of our capital city and state.”

Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the action would result in a 33 per cent reduction in carbon emissions based on 2006 levels across the local government area, almost half of the reduction needed for the city’s 70 per cent reduction goal.

“By improving energy efficiency through the actions and technologies outlined in the plan our residential and business communities can also reduce costs,” Ms Moore said. “The research in the plan shows building owners and their tenants just how much can be saved on power bills by reducing energy use. This would save millions of dollars and improve economic growth while significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

Ms Moore said current programs like Smart Green Business, CitySwitch and the Better Buildings Partnership had already helped reduce energy use by five per cent since 2006, despite growth in jobs, the economy and new developments.

The City of Sydney will now send the plan to all Australian capital cities to help them develop their own plans.

The draft plan will be open for comment between 2 March to 4 May at sydneyyoursay.com.au.

See the draft plan here and here.

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