Alan Jones

27 October 2010 – A packed house at Sydney Town Hall on Monday 25 October heard Alan Jones, chief development officer, Energy and Climate Change for the City of Sydney, declare his aim to transform Sydney into a carbon free city reliant on 100 per cent renewable energy, in a plan that has been lauded as potentially one of the world’s “great revolutions”.

The purpose of the event, part of the City Talk series, was  to update the community on progress of Sydney City Council’s 2030 Sustainable Sydney plan.

The plan has set a target of reducing carbon emissions by 70 per cent by 2030, but Jones went further, suggesting that with the addition of bio-gas to power the City’s proposed trigeneration plants, the magic 100 per cent could potentially be achieved.

In his introduction to the event, leading climate scientist Tim Flannery called the City’s master plan “one of the great revolutions that we are seeing around the world.”

In a video recorded interview Flannery told the audience: “You won’t know Sydney in 10  years time. The sources of energy will be utterly transformed and this is being done by the City of Sydney because there is no other organisation that can do it. The City has access to the land and the services.”

In a statement, Jones highlighted the need for changes to regulations that stand in the way of the City’s ambitious plan.

“To achieve Australia and the City’s greenhouse reduction targets we must change the current state and government regulations which encourage energy companies to sell more coal fired electricity rather than reduce consumption through demand management measures, such as the City’s trigeneration network,” Jones said.

In NSW, the regulation of electricity is governed by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (iPART). The City is seeking regulatory changes to the Electricity Supply Act NSW to enable the distribution of trigeneration energy between buildings and to have the pricing regime reflect the cost efficiency gains provided by the technology.

In a panel discussion following Jones’ presentation, Energy Australia‘s Neil Gordon endorsed the City’s vision. Gordon said that local trigeneration energy of the type under development by the City provided challenges and incentives that Energy Australia was keen to take up. Energy Australia is a key stakeholder in the City’s 2030 master plan because it controls the local network, without access to which the efficient distribution of trigeneration power is not technically feasible.

Jones pointedly remarked that in addition to the $43 billion expenditure mooted by the federal government to build the National Broadband Network, upgrades to the electricity grid to be undertaken over the next five years will also cost about $40 billion dollars. Grid upgrades are expected to result in increases in power bills of up to 42 per cent over the next three years and yet both major political parties remained silent on this issue during the recent federal election, he said.

Now that a carbon price is back on the table, Prime Minister Gillard has raised the matter of the relationship between grid upgrades and spiralling electricity costs. Transmission costs currently account for 50 per cent of electricity charges to consumers, Jones told the audience.

“I just wonder,” asked Jones, “in a business as usual scenario where does it stop? Seventy, 80, 90 per cent [increases in bills]? I can’t think of any other case where so much is spent on getting a commodity from A to B.”

In a proposal new for Australia, Jones outlined plans to build an underground waste management network along the lines of the system currently operating in Barcelona.

This automated, pneumatic system would deliver waste products to a bio-gas plant for processing before being returned to the City’s integrated energy infrastructure for use in powering trigeneration power plants that would heat, cool and power buildings.

It is through the integration of waste management, bio-gas production and green electricity generation that Jones sees the potential for achieving the world’s first zero emissions, 100 per cent renewable energy driven metropolis.

The tender process for the provision of trigeneration technology is currently underway and expected to be finalised by January 2011. Expressions of interest are also being sought by the City for the establishment of a private-public partnership energy service company (ESCO) which would coordinate the delivery of the City’s green energy supply .

The ESCO would play a key role in the establishment and management of designated low carbon zones throughout the city, Jones said. In North America, early adopters of the ESCO model included major corporations such as Chevron, Honeywell and Carrier.

On other elements of the city plan, Jones reported that  the trials of LED street lighting and electric car infrastructure were continuing, as well as stormwater recycling projects