The City of Sydney is really trying to go green with a number of initiatives put in place to achieve the city’s target of reducing 2006 greenhouse gas emissions by 70 per cent. The city is also looking to eliminate reliance on coal-fired electricity, improving energy efficiency, increasing use of renewable energy, creating walking and cycling tracks and boosting the recycling of waste and water.
While the Property Council of Australia (PCA) has commended the city for its leadership and vision and the unprecedented level of public engagement in trying to create a greener city, the organisation has also raised significant concerns around tri-generation.
Sydney’s plan suggests that tri-generation – the simultaneous production of electricity, heating and cooling using natural (or renewable) gas in an engine – could produce up to 477 megawatts of local power, which would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by between 24 and 32 per cent.
The PCA is concerned, however, that the city has given tri-generation too high a priority in its efforts to address climate change. Tri-gen, they say, is a good complementary measure, but the real solution is to focus on energy efficiency and renewable energy solutions.
There are already tri-generation plants operating in buildings in Sydney, such as Westfield and Stockland. However, the new plans take the technology to the next level, with tri-generation working as a precinct network to which buildings can connect for their energy, heating and cooling needs.
The city has developed a Master Plan that determines exactly how many tri-generation hubs are required, how big they must be, and where they must be placed.
The Tri-generation Master Plan has established that tri-generation could be implemented in four Low Carbon Infrastructure Zones – CBD North, CBD South, Pyrmont/Broadway and Green Square.
Four additional precinct-scale tri-generation ‘hotspots’ could be implemented at the University of Sydney, Australia Technology Park and Carriageworks, the Entertainment Quarter near Centennial Park, and the industrial precinct in the southern end of the local government area. There is also potential for small-scale fuel cells in other areas of the local government area.
The PCA argues, however, that this master plan should be the final piece of the jigsaw and that the city should reorder its priorities and develop energy efficiency and renewable energy master plans first. By following this sequence, the city would avoid building unneeded capacity in the wrong locations and would maintain the reliability of existing infrastructure.
The PCA has also raised specific concerns with the master plan as it relates to proposals to modify the City’s DCP to reflect low carbon zones, introduce rate variation for owners connected to the decentralised network and create easements over land to install the distributed energy network. The PCA says these would have unintended perverse outcomes that would undermine the city’s objectives.
Public consultation over the Tri-Generation Master Plan ended on September 10 and it remains to be seen what concerns are taken on board by the City as they continue on with their strategy.