Sad loss of alternative energy plan may have upsides

Many supporters of low-carbon energy were disappointed when it was announced recently that the City would be shelving the Green Square trigeneration program.  Lord Mayor Clover Moore declared last week that the plan to power the precinct with a network of small, high-efficiency gas-fired plants would not proceed because of “economic and regulatory factors”.

turbines-crop

The City now has to make a choice about its energy supply. Will it choose this?

Regulatory factors such as restrictions imposed by the NSW Government on organisations like the City selling electricity meant that the project would have been prohibitively expensive and missing some of the high-efficiency that made it appealing in the first place.  While it’s disappointing that the laws in this state seem designed to stifle the roll-out of energy sources other than coal-fired power plants there are, in this case at least, some positive results that may come from the program being shut down.

stacks

…or this?

While trigeneration has the potential to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions through greater efficiency (it utilises the heat produced in the production of electricity which conventional power plants simply waste, improving energy output per unit of fuel consumed by up to a factor of three) the City’s systems would have still been required to burn fossil gas in the initial stages of the program.  This had resulted in some members of the community becoming concerned that the City’s gas usage would increase demand for environmentally destructive Coal Seem Gas (CSG).  While I’d received expert advice that the City’s requirements were too small to stimulate additional CSG drilling it will certainly be a weight off the minds of many to know that extra gas will now no longer be required.

The City has a long-held target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions produced from our local government area by 70% by 2030.  It’s the most ambitious target of any Australian government but one necessary to prevent destructive climate change from wreaking havoc with our natural environments and our lifestyles.  When first announcing that trigeneration plans would be scaled back the Lord Mayor confirmed that the City still intended to meet that target, but was less certain on the issue when pressured about it by climate change denying Liberal Councillors.

Reducing the City’s emissions by such a large amount was always going to be hard, and taking precinct scale trigeneration out of the mix will make it that little bit harder.  However innovation occurs when people and organisations push on towards an important goal despite difficulties – the City prides itself on being innovative and I’ll be doing all I can to make sure they don’t back down from this important challenge.

I can see this setback prompting a range of exciting new developments in the coming months and years if the City holds its nerve, so watch this space!

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