The International Council for Local Environment Initiatives (ICELI) carbon neutral framework defines carbon neutral as, a state where no net greenhouse emissions are produced by a particular entity or activity during a particular time period.
The City of Fremantle is proud to be Western Australia's first carbon neutral local government organisation.
"It is examples like the one the City of Fremantle has set that would bring about a global movement in all the urban areas of the world, by which the challenge of climate change can be met effectively. I would like to convey my congratulations and best wishes to the leadership of Fremantle, and I hope that they would not only be able to maintain carbon neutrality over the years, but also inspire several local governments to do likewise."
R K Pachauri, Chair of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
The City of Fremantle continues to find ways to improve our environmental performance and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions through a range of initiatives. Being carbon neutral is part of an overall approach to reducing our impact on our environment which involves four key steps:
- measure – rigorously and robustly measure emissions using standard carbon accounting rules.
- reduce – identify and implement projects and behaviours that prevent greenhouse gas emissions.
- switch – replace greenhouse gas intensive energy sources with cleaner, greener energy sources.
- offset – where emissions can’t be prevented through our own actions, pay others to reduce their emissions in order to negate all our remaining greenhouse gas emissions.
Step 1: Measure
Knowing how many emissions we create allows us to identify key areas to reduce emissions, which is necessary to quantify any emission reductions. We have been using standard carbon accounting practices, based on the federal governments National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Scheme rules.
The City includes emissions from electricity, gas, fuel and paper consumption, as well as emissions from waste to landfill and business travel for the carbon neutral program. The graph below shown the City’s emissions for each year, since measurement commenced in 2007/08.
The City is also investing in live energy monitoring through our facilities. To date, we’ve got electricity meters installed at the leisure centre and the civic administration and library building. These meters are displayed in a series of Greensense View dashboards. They allow our facilities staff to quickly identify if anything unexpected is causing an increase or decrease in energy use, ensure that we’re doing the simple things like turning the lights off at night, allow us to publish live energy consumption data so that we’re as transparent as possible about our resource consumption and also allow to scope and evaluate major capital upgrades.
In future we’re planning on including gas and water meters as well as rolling the system out to the arts centre and Hilton community centre. This will give a more complete picture of where and when we’re consuming previous resources.
The sites that we have up and running already are:
Step 2: Reduce
The City has implemented a number of initiatives across the organisation to reduce its emissions including:
- completing the Cities for Climate Protection (CCP) program (a framework for local governments to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions) in 2004,
- participating in the Wipe out Waste (WOW) initiative to improve our environmental performance,
- installing pool blankets over the main pools in the Fremantle Leisure Centre - saving 49 tonnes of greenhouse gas each year,
- upgrading the City's computers with desktop LCD screens and small energy packs - saving 69 tonnes of CO2e each year,
- having bikes available for staff to use to attend local meetings,
- making Transperth travel cards available to staff to encourage the use public transport,
- reducing the City's vehicle fleet by 10 cars 2006-09,
- Installing a device to reduce the voltage in our civic administration and library building (This is saving an estimated 15% of the building’s total energy use), and
- more than doubling the recycling rates from our administration office, saving 60 tonnes of greenhouse gases each year.
Further actions are spelt out in the City’s Low Carbon City Plan. This plan goes beyond the commitment of City to remain carbon neutral, by sets medium and long term targets to reducing emissions. By 2020, the City has set a target to reduce emissions by 40% below 2007/08 levels. By 2050, this target is 80%. The City believes that these are ambitious, but achievable targets. The plan also more than 60 specific actions to reduce the City’s organisational emissions and also assist the community to reduce theirs.
Some of the key reduction projects listed in the Low Carbon City Plan include:
- Diverting all the City’s organisational waste from landfill to SMRC’s recycling and composting plants.
- Conducting an energy audit of a major facility each year, to ensure that all major facilities are reviewed in a systematic way.
- Upgrading streetlights to the most efficient streetlights available from Western Power.
This plan will be reviewed each year to ensure that the City is progressing towards its goals and that the actions remain appropriate.
Step 3: Switch
Once energy efficiency opportunities have been implemented, the next stage in becoming carbon neutral is to switch to energy sources that create fewer greenhouse gases.
if the City used traditional energy sources approximately 65% of its greenhouse emissions would come from electricity (buildings and streetlights); 11% from gas; and 8% from landfill. The City now uses the following clean energy sources which reduces the City's carbon footprint by approximately 65%:
- converted 18 vehicles to LPG in 2006
- installed the state's largest solar farm at the Fremantle Leisure Centre
- 100% Natural Power for all buildings and streetlights, utilising surplus parking revenue between July 2009 and 2011.
The City has so far installed 3 solar arrays: 30kW at the leisure centre, 2kW at the meeting place and 10kW at the Hilton community centre. 30kW is also currently being installed at the City’s administration building, with more arrays being planned for the arts centre, Moore’s building and additional panels for the Hilton community centre.
The City has set up a Greensense View dashboard to show the combined renewable energy generation from these sites.
Click here to see more detailed information (page will popup in a new screen).
The City also has a 1kW wind turbine installed on top of the administration building, in partnership with Windpods. This has been a worthwhile learning exercise, but it does not generate a lot of power. When the City asked Windpods why the turbine don’t generate a lot of electricity, they explained that the turbine was installed in slightly the wrong direction and the wind speed is less than they expected.
Hopefully this is one lesson that others can learn from – wind energy is very unreliable in built up environments. It’s a clean and efficient way to produce energy at utility scale, but wind patterns around buildings are too unpredictable for the City to recommend that anyone installs domestic scale turbines.
Step 4: offset
The final step in becoming carbon neutral is to offset remaining emissions.
To ensure that all offsets that the City purchases are valid, council resolved to only use Greenhouse Friendly offsets which are audited by the Commonwealth Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency.
For the bulk of the City's emissions, the City has decided to use offsets from the Southern Metropolitan Regional Council (SMRC). The SMRCs facility takes organic waste and composts it, ensuring no methane gas is emitted.
What can you do?
To become carbon neutral follow the 4 steps:
- Measure - start by paying close attention to your electricity and gas bill (hint: check out this handy guide from the Department of Transport if you’re having trouble making sense of your bill). There are also lots of online calculators that you can use to estimate the emissions from other parts of your life. Carbon NeutralTM have a good one, but there are lots of others.
- Reduce – Do whatever you can to reduce your energy use. Lots of people start by replacing their light globes with energy efficient versions and using a clothes line instead of a dryer. You can also start planning major investments such as a solar passive home renovation. Living Smart is a great program that will help you think of more ways to do this and also give you the motivation to actually get started. The City runs at least 3 Living Smart courses each year and they are also run by other organisations.
- Switch – If you have enough money and a suitable rooftop, then installing solar is a great way to reduce your carbon emissions and electricity bill. If you don’t, then you can pay a small amount each bill to make Synergy provide you with Green Power.
- Offset - there are literally dozens of companies that you can buy offsets from in Australia. The carbon offset guide provides details for lots of them.