As part of the City of Sydney’s plan to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2035, an Australia-first plan to include energy targets in development applications has been introduced. The plan will support Sydney’s transition to net-zero emissions by ensuring new buildings are more energy-efficient and incorporate a greater reliance on renewables.
According to Lord Mayor Clover Moore, emissions from offices, hotels and apartment buildings contribute to over 60 per cent of the City of Sydney’s total emissions. As such, the plan will require development applications for new office buildings, hotels, shopping centres and major refurbishments to comply with minimum energy ratings from January 2023.
In addition, the plan requires buildings to meet minimum energy targets by improving energy efficiencies and using either on-site or off-site renewable energy. It is predicted that the plan will save investors, businesses and occupants over $1.3 billion on energy bills from 2023 to 2050.
The inclusion of an option to use off-site renewable energy reflects a growing trend in Australia for corporates to enter into power purchase agreements (PPAs) for renewable energy. As of December last year, a record number of PPAs had been entered into, with businesses and governments purchasing over 1GW of renewable energy in 2020 alone. The proposed planning regime changes would also promote the development of embedded energy networks involving on-site renewable energy generation and are consistent with the increasing emphasis by both government and the private sector on environmental and social outcomes.
The City of Sydney’s plan will provide a clear avenue for developers to improve the energy efficiency of their buildings, supporting their transition to net-zero developments. According to the City of Sydney, the plans were created with support from developers and industry bodies, with many developers having already introduced their own net-zero targets.
The plans are consistent with the NSW Electricity Strategy and the Greater Sydney Region’s planning objective of a “low carbon city” and are ahead of emissions targets set more broadly for NSW and by the Commonwealth Government. Other local councils will likely adopt similar plans, informed by the City of Sydney’s performance standards and evidence base, to achieve their emissions and sustainability targets.
On 17 May 2021, Council unanimously supported the planning proposal being submitted to the Minister for Planning and Public Spaces, with a public consultation to follow the grant of Gateway Determination.
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