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7 key learnings when engaging the community online

Running virtual community engagement sessions

Before Covid-19, we mostly ran community climate action engagement sessions face-to-face in town halls, community halls and the like. This approach ended abruptly in March this year, but the community’s desire to see action on climate has not.

To respond to this situation, our business, our local government clients, as well as their communities, have rapidly upskilled in the use of virtual conferencing tools like Zoom, Skype or Microsoft Teams. In addition, polling and other interactive software can be used to increase engagement, collaborate and capture communities’ needs and ideas for a clean energy future. We even started to use Zoom to deliver energy audits via online delivery, without us needing to be at the site physically.

Many of the benefits of delivering interactive community engagement online are obvious for us and our local government clients. No posters have to be created and printed. There are no venue hire or use costs, and staff do not have to work after hours multiple times. Travel time and costs are reduced, and there are no catering costs. All of this leads to a lower carbon footprint to deliver services, and workshops can be repeated many more times in a shorter timeframe.

However, to make virtual community climate action engagement workshops truly valuable as an alternative to the face-to-face town hall approach (or, in future, a complementary approach), the quality of the engagement needs to be as good online as it is face-to-face.

We have worked closely with our clients to make this happen. The purpose of this blog post is to share our seven key learnings of running virtual community engagement sessions.

Seven key learnings when engaging the community in online workshops

  1. Keep it short
  2. Define objectives and messaging
  3. Preparation is key
  4. Keep it interesting and engaging
  5. Do test runs
  6. Measure your success
  7. Capture learnings

 

1 Keep it short

With many people working full-time online and often from home, concentrating on one thing for more than 45 minutes to an hour is difficult. We have found it is best to keep community engagement sessions as short as possible.

For recent business and community engagement sessions for the City of Newcastle, we kept both sessions to one hour each. People were able to stay fully engaged, participate during their working day, and schedule the session among their other commitments.

2 Clearly define objectives and messaging

As with any workshop planning, you need to start with these two questions

  • Who are you communicating to?
  • What do you want to achieve from the engagement session?

If your Council is planning to use online engagement for climate action planning, the number of participants, language and structure will be different when communicating to businesses, as opposed to the general public. Ensuring your communication plan notes your target audiences and your overall objectives, and tailors how and what you will communicate is key to setting up for a successful online session.

3 Preparation is key

The following questions might help you plan your engagement session:

  • How will you market the event?
  • Will you survey the community ahead of the engagement session, and what will you ask them?
  • How will you handle registrations?
  • What content do you need to organise before the event?
  • How will you measure success?
  • Will you record the session, and do you need permission for this?
  • How will you follow up with participants?
  • Will you ask for feedback via your ‘Have your Say’ page, thank you emails, etc.?
  • Do you need to line up other people to help with the event management?
  • What will be the run sheet?
  • What notes will you and your speakers need to have during the session?

4 Keep it interesting and engaging throughout

‘Death by PowerPoint’ is definitely to be avoided. It is important to mix things up, to have different speakers, to use multimedia and most importantly, to give the audience a voice.

To give everyone a voice, if you have more than five people, use polling software to solicit input as well as discussion. Ask questions regularly during the session, displayed to participants, and have the community respond using their phones or their web browsers. Asking questions at specific junctions helps to ensure that energy levels are kept high.

If you have large groups, it can help to use ‘break-out room’ functions to get small groups to discuss topics and bring their insights, ideas or feedback to the wider group or to interactive polling or pinboards.

It also makes sense for the facilitator to monitor the chat so that issues and questions can be addressed in real time. An assistant can also perform this role, and raise key questions or themes to the facilitator for a response.

For sessions where only a select number of participants are present, such as with business engagement sessions, it works well to get participants to share their stories.

5 Do test runs

Practice makes perfect. You should run through the whole session as a small team to test whether it all aligns, how the energy flows during the session components, that all links and audio works, that links to videos, interactive polling and pinboards works, that break-out room functionality works, what the holding slide looks like, whether the timing works, handing over between speakers, testing the technical functionality – make sure everyone is familiar with it.

6 Measure your success

Define your measures of success upfront in your communication plan. Good measures of success are:

Before the engagement session:

  • Number of registrations

During the engagement session:

  • Number of people who participated
  • How many people stayed throughout the duration of the workshop as opposed to drop-outs.
  • Level of engagement

After the engagement session:

  • Social media chatter
  • Email feedback

7 Capture learnings

Every community engagement session yields new insights which can be used to make the next community engagement better than the previous. There is always room for improvement and for achieving excellence. What is important is that there is a debrief, in which learnings are shared amongst your team. Example of questions you can ask yourself are:

  • What worked, what didn’t?
  • Did the timing work?
  • Have the objectives of the engagement session been met?
  • Has the engagement delivered the desired results?
  • What information is being shared on social media post the event?
  • Have participants sent through any feedback emails?
  • What could we do better next time?

Case study – Community engagement for the new Climate Action Plan of the City of Newcastle

The City of Newcastle is currently updating its strategic approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and their city-wide move to a low carbon economy. This involves the revision and renewal of the existing 2020 Carbon and Water Management Action Plan, which has completed its term. The revised document will be published as the ‘2025 Climate Action Plan’.

The new Action Plan will account for Council’s achievements over the last decade, set new targets and outline innovative and sustainable programs. It will outline specific goals and priorities for the next five years and will provide a roadmap to achieve positive impacts such as:

  • Clean energy
  • Resource efficiency
  • Reducing emissions in the supply chain
  • Sustainable transport
  • Emissions targets
  • Vision for a low carbon city

As part of engaging the community in the development of this plan, 100% Renewables was hired to design and run two community engagement sessions, one for businesses, the other for the wider population. The purpose of the workshops was to gain the community’s opinions and ideas during the strategy development before the draft Plan goes to Public Exhibition later this year.

Business roundtable

Given that many of the City’s emissions come from industry, a business roundtable was organised with about 20 participants. The session started with Barbara, our Co-CEO, providing context around the development of the plan and by showing examples of best practice of global cities.

Then, Jonathan Wood from the NSW Government talked about the NSW’s Net Zero Plan, after which, Adam Clarke, Program Coordinator in the City Innovation and Sustainability, talked about council’s actions and what they have achieved thus far. Newcastle is the first council in NSW to achieve the status of being 100% renewable. Adam also showed an example of how the community can track towards net zero based on a model that we developed.

We also invited Hunter Water, MolyCop and the Uni of Newcastle to share their sustainability journey, which was received very well. After the formal presentations, we hosted a roundtable discussion to identify opportunities for how council and businesses can collaborate to achieve a net-zero emissions outcome.

Throughout the session, participants engaged by using the chat function, and by answering our polling questions.

Community information session

Ahead of the community information session, we asked the community to submit their top three topics and questions that they would like to see covered in the information session. More than 50 contributions were received which helped to shape the workshop.

On the day, around 80 people participated in the information session. Just like with the business roundtable, we had Jonathan talk about the NSW Net Zero Plan and Adam shared what council has achieved thus far. Regularly throughout the sessions, we polled the community to provide feedback and to get input on how council and the community can share the burden to achieve a net-zero emissions outcome.

At the end of the workshop, participants provided feedback via the chat function. Here are a couple of examples that was received:

  • “Thank you Barbara, Jonathan and Adam, really appreciate your time and City of Newcastle – excellent info session, looking forward to the next step in addressing the climate emergency – local govt plays a critical role in this, so it’s heartening to see CN taking a leadership role. “
  • “Thanks all, great presentation!”
  • “Thank you, a very interesting & new way of having a meeting!”

 

100% Renewables are experts in helping local governments develop their operational as well as their community climate change strategies and action plans. If you need help with community engagement, modelling emission reduction scenarios or establishing the carbon footprint of your community,  please contact  Barbara or Patrick.

Feel free to use an excerpt of this blog on your own site, newsletter, blog, etc. Just send us a copy or link and include the following text at the end of the excerpt: “This content is reprinted from 100% Renewables Pty Ltd’s blog.

Case Study – Nambucca Valley Council REAP

100% Renewables has helped many organisations to set ambitious renewable energy and carbon reduction goals and developed the strategies and action plans that will help them get there. While this is one key metric for our business, a greater measure of success is when we see clients implement projects that will take them towards their targets. In this blog post, we provide an update on how Nambucca Valley Council is progressing with implementing its Renewable Energy Action Plan (REAP).

Nambucca Valley Council

Located on the mid-north coast of NSW, Nambucca Valley Council is an excellent example of how resource-constrained councils can achieve ambitious renewable energy and emission reduction goals. The Nambucca Valley region has been demonstrating its commitment to sustainability, with more than 30% of residents and businesses having implemented solar PV and solar hot water on their buildings. In total there is around 10 MW of solar PV capacity installed across Nambucca Valley as of May 2020, according to the Australian Photovoltaic Institute (APVI).

Council had previously invested in several energy efficiency improvements, such as compact fluorescents for streetlights, smart controls for water & sewer system motors, and building lighting retrofits. For several years Council has been part of the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment’s (DPIE) Sustainability Advantage (SA) Program.

Council’s pathway to develop a renewable energy plan

In 2017, Council’s 2027 Community Strategic Plan (CSP) was developed and adopted, which recommended that Council “provide community leadership in sustainable energy use”. In response to achieving the objectives of the CSP, Council established a Clean Energy Committee in August 2017. The committee recommended that Council formulate a Renewable Energy Action Plan, including a renewable energy target and an emissions reduction target, a recommendation which Council adopted in August 2018.

Alongside this, Council also joined the Cities Power Partnership (CPP) – a national program that brings together Australian towns and cities making the switch to clean energy. The key commitment highlighted here is that Council will take on a leadership position to help the community move towards a zero net carbon emissions future within the 2030 to 2050 timeframe.

In 2018, Nambucca Valley Council engaged 100% Renewables to prepare a Renewable Energy Action Plan (REAP) to set out how Council can transition to renewable stationary energy. The REAP was presented to Council and was adopted on the 24th of April 2019.

What did the REAP recommend?

The REAP drew on extensive analysis of Council’s emissions profile, stakeholder engagement and assessment and prioritisation of savings opportunities across Council’s facilities. Short, medium and long term action plans were developed. Based on energy efficiency and renewable energy opportunities that were identified the following goals were recommended:

  • Reduce Council’s annual corporate emissions from 2017/18 levels by 60% by 2025
  • Reach 60% renewable energy by 2030

These goals are underpinned by a range of energy efficiency and renewable energy opportunities including:

  • A total of 263 kW of solar PV opportunities across buildings, water and sewer sites
  • Street lighting LED upgrades of local and main roads which are expected to generate energy savings of 560 MWh (or 19% of Council’s electricity use)
  • Building LED lighting upgrades which are expected to generate energy savings of 48 MWh
  • Where equipment is being replaced, or new equipment is being installed, Council should ensure that sustainable purchasing processes are used, aligned to local government guidelines
  • Renewable energy power purchase agreement of 25% in the medium term, increasing in the long term

In addition, the REAP set out eleven financing options available to Council to fund energy efficiency and solar projects.

Exploration of funding sources for REAP

Alongside adoption of the REAP, Council engaged with  DPIE’s Sustainable Councils and Communities program (SCC) to ascertain the best way of financing the recommended actions of the Renewable Energy Action Plan.

We carried out an analysis of the eleven funding options against a range of Council’s criteria, and a Revolving Energy Fund (REF) was chosen to enable the REAP’s work program (outside water & sewer sites) to be implemented.

We developed a REF model showing how all projects could be implemented, with initial seed funding, to achieve a net positive cashflow every year. As part of another project funded via the SCC Program, we visited nearly 30 community facilities across the Nambucca Valley and developed business cases for solar PV and battery energy storage. These opportunities were also integrated into the REF.

How is Council progressing with the implementation of the REAP?

Council has already implemented some major initiatives since adopting the REAP. One of these opportunities is the upgrade of its local road streetlights to LED technology. This will help reduce Council’s electricity consumption by 12% per year.

With further support from the SCC Program, we were able to develop technical specifications and evaluate quotations for the implementation of a 50 kW rooftop solar PV system on its Macksville Administration Office, and Council will shortly implement solar PV at four additional sites. All sites are drawn from the short-term action plan in the REAP. It is anticipated that savings from these will help to continue to fund the REAP in coming years.

50 kW solar installation at Macksville Administration Office
Figure 1: 50 kW solar installation at Macksville Administration Office

Council was also successful in securing a grant that will enable it to install energy-efficient heat pumps and thermal blankets at the Macksville Memorial Aquatic Centre, and as part of this work, Council is assessing the scope for solar panels to be installed that would offset the additional energy that will be consumed by the heat pumps.

Council’s progression to regional leader

As a regional Council in NSW, resources are often constrained, especially for energy efficiency, renewable energy, and carbon reduction projects. However, Council is well on its way to achieve the recommendations of its adopted REAP, and to assist the community to become more energy and carbon efficient through the

  • leadership shown by Council itself,
  • underpinned by the community’s voice calling for more sustainable energy,
  • assisted by DPIE’s Sustainability Advantage and Sustainable Councils and Communities programs, and
  • supported by regional counterparts and the Cities Power Partnership community.

Nambucca Valley Council is one among many leading councils showing that achieving ambitious renewable energy and carbon reduction goals is both feasible and cost-effective. 100% Renewables is proud to have played a role in helping this leader through the development of their Renewable Energy Action Plan, Revolving Energy Fund and project implementation. We look forward to Nambucca Valley Council’s continued success in reaching its carbon and renewable energy targets in coming years.

pdf-iconCase study “Nambucca Valley Council Renewable Energy Action Plan
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100% Renewables are experts in helping organisations develop their climate change strategies and action plans, and supporting the implementation and achievement of ambitious targets. If you need help to develop your Climate Change Strategy, please contact  Barbara or Patrick.

Feel free to use an excerpt of this blog on your own site, newsletter, blog, etc. Just send us a copy or link and include the following text at the end of the excerpt: “This content is reprinted from 100% Renewables Pty Ltd’s blog.

How Randwick Council achieved >40% energy savings at Lionel Bowen Library

100% Renewables has helped many organisations to set ambitious renewable energy and carbon reduction goals and developed the strategies and action plans that will help them get there. While this is one key metric for our business, a greater measure of success is when we see clients implement projects that will take them towards their targets. In this blog post, we showcase measures implemented by Randwick City Council to significantly reduce the energy demand and carbon footprint of the Lionel Bowen Library in Maroubra, Sydney.

Randwick City Council’s climate change targets and plan

Randwick City Council has set a number of ambitious environmental sustainability targets for its operations, including targets for reduced greenhouse gas emissions. In March 2018, Council adopted the following targets:

  • Greenhouse gas emissions from Council’s operations – net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, including but not limited to the following measures:
    • Council’s total energy consumption – 100% replacement by renewable sources (generated on site or off-site for Council’s purposes) by 2030.
    • Council’s vehicle fleet – net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

Energy eficiency is a key strategy for achieving these goals, as set out in the 100% Renewable Energy Roadmap completed in early 2020.

Lionel Bowen Library energy use and solar

The Lionel Bowen Library is one of Council’s largest energy-using facilties, consuming 7.8% of Council’s total electricity demand in 2017/18. This was after the implementation of a 30 kW solar panel array on the roof of the library in 2013, as well as efficiency measures including VSD control of the cooling tower fan and voltage optimisation of the main incoming supply. The solar array generates 40,000 kWh of renewable energy each year, which is fully consumed within the library.

Lionel Bowen Library solar installation, Randwick City Council (photo by Patrick Denvir)
Lionel Bowen Library solar installation, Randwick City Council (photo by Patrick Denvir)

New energy efficiency projects at Lionel Bowen Library

Concurrent with the development of Council’s 100% Renewable Energy Roadmap, Randwick initiated a project to roll out LED lighting at selected sites, including the library. A multi-faceted process included the

  • development of the business case to secure internal support and approval,
  • selection of a preferred supplier,
  • implementation of a trial ‘LED space’ and measurement of light and energy savings as well as visitor perceptions of the upgraded space,
  • influencing key internal stakeholders to support the whole-facility rollout,
  • implementation including claiming the Energy Saving Certificates (ESCs) for the project, and
  • measurement of the energy savings.

During the development of the 100% Renewable Energy Roadmap it was observed that after-hours control of several of the library’s air conditioning systems was not working effectively. In addition, a storeroom fan system in the basement of the building was observed to be running continuously.

Consultation with facilities management staff indicated that faulty BMS controllers meant that time schedules as well as after-hours controls were not correct, and quotes would be sought for new timers to rectify this. Quotes for a new timer for the storeroom fan system were also sought.

In late 2019, the new time control measures were implemented, with significant immediate energy savings identified in load data for the library. The combined impact of the LED lighting and air conditioning system control changes has been to reduce the library’s electricity consumption by nearly 40% when comparing similar periods of 2017/18 with energy consumption in early 2020. This saving is illustrated below in two charts.

  • The first chart shows monthly electricity consumption from June 2018 through to February 2020, with the steep downward trend in monthly electricity use evident.
Monthly electricity consumption - June 2018 to February 2020, Bowen Library
Monthly electricity consumption – June 2018 to February 2020, Lionel Bowen Library
  • The second chart shows daily load profile data and clearly illustrates the impact of the air conditioning timer upgrade on night energy demand between November and December 2019.
Load profile - Nov vs Dec 2019, Bowen Library
Load profile – Nov vs Dec 2019, Lionel Bowen Library

Future savings initiatives at Lionel Bowen Library

There are plans to implement additional measures at the library that will see even more energy savings achieved and more renewable energy. These new measures are set out in Council’s 100% Renewable Energy roadmap and include:

  • Installation of a further 30-45 kW of solar PV on the roof of the library which will be absorbed on site.
  • Progressively upgrade the main and split air conditioning systems in the library (which have reached the end of their economic life) with energy efficient systems. This will have the added benefit of removing R22 refrigerant from the library and seeing a switch to a lower-GWP refrigerant. Opportunities to implement VSD control of fans and pumps, and to optimise supply to unused or infrequently used spaces will also be assessed.
  • Implement new BMS controls for new air conditioning plant as this is upgraded.

The combined impact of these changes over time could be a reduction in grid electricity supply to Lionel Bowen Library of 60% compared with 2017/18 electricity consumption.

Progressing towards its emissions reduction target

The energy saving measures implemented at Lionel Bowen Library are just a few among nearly a hundred actions that, when implemented over the next several years will see Randwick City Council realise its goal to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

pdf-iconCase study “How Randwick Council achieved >40% energy savings at Lionel Bowen Library”
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Randwick City Council is one among many leading councils showing that achieving ambitious renewable energy and carbon reduction goals is both feasible and cost effective. 100% Renewables is proud to have played a role in helping this leader through the development of their 100% Renewable Energy Roadmap. We look forward to council’s continued success in reaching their renewable energy targets in coming years.

 

100% Renewables are experts in helping organisations develop their climate change strategies and action plans, and supporting the implementation and achievement of ambitious targets. If you need help to develop your Climate Change Strategy, please contact  Barbara or Patrick.

Feel free to use an excerpt of this blog on your own site, newsletter, blog, etc. Just send us a copy or link and include the following text at the end of the excerpt: “This content is reprinted from 100% Renewables Pty Ltd’s blog.

Tweed Shire Council’s REAP ramps up

100% Renewables has helped many organisations to set ambitious renewable energy and carbon reduction goals and developed the strategies and action plans that will help them get there. While this is one key metric for our business, a greater measure of success is when we see clients implement projects that will take them towards their targets. In this blog post, we provide an update on the multi-site solar PV projects being rolled out by Tweed Shire Council.

pdf-iconCase study “Tweed Shire Council’s REAP ramps up
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Tweed Shire Council’s climate change targets and plan

Tweed Shire Council set itself a target to self-generate 25% of the Council’s energy from renewable resources by 2022, and 50% by 2025. Council’s Renewable Energy Action Plan (REAP) sets out the actions that Council will implement to meet these targets.

Tweed Shire Council’s solar journey

With around 230 kW of rooftop solar installed before the REAP was adopted, Council installed a further ~200 kW at the Tweed Regional Museum and Tweed Regional Aquatic Centre (TRAC), both in Murwillumbah in 2018/19.

Tweed Regional Aquatic Centre (TRAC) - Murwillumbah
Figure 1: Tweed Regional Aquatic Centre (TRAC) – Murwillumbah, Tweed Shire Council

In May 2019, Council also voted to approve the development of a 604 kW ground-mounted solar array at its Banora Point Wastewater Treatment (WWTP) plant, Council’s most energy-intensive facility.

With planning for this major project well underway, Council has also implemented several new roof and ground-mounted systems in recent months, including two systems at its Bray Park Water Treatment Plant and water pumping station, and systems at Kingscliff WWTP and Mooball WWTP.

Bray Park Water Treatment Plant, Tweed Shire Council
Figure 2: Bray Park Water Treatment Plant, Tweed Shire Council

Council is also working to deliver new rooftop solar projects at sites across Tweed Heads and Kingscliff in the coming months. With the completion of these projects Council’s total installed solar PV capacity will be close to 1,500 kW, which is equivalent to the annual energy consumption of 300 homes, or the same as taking 540 cars off the road.

Challenges of rolling out the solar program

Implementation of Council’s solar rollout program has not been without its challenges. Most projects have to overcome barriers during planning, implementation and post-installation phases and Tweed Shire Council’s program is no exception.

Roof structural assessment outcomes, electrical connections, system performance and yield, retrofitting monitoring systems and linking into Council’s own IT systems have created challenges for Council’s staff and contractors to assess and overcome and provide ongoing lessons in the issues and solutions that will inform future solar projects.

The success of the solar program

Perhaps the biggest factor underpinning the success and speed of Council’s solar rollout in the last year has been the investment Council has made in bringing skilled staff together to implement the program. With overall coordination of the REAP, experienced senior engineering staff planning and coordinating the solar implementation works, and experienced energy management and measurement and verification staff tracking and optimising the performance of installed systems, Tweed Shire Council is supporting its REAP program with the resources needed to ensure success.

Progressing towards its renewable energy target

In parallel with the solar rollout, Council is also progressing a number of other projects that will see it get closer to its targets, including building lighting, renewable energy power purchasing, and selected air conditioning upgrades. Planned roof upgrades will also support future solar PV systems.

Tweed Shire Council is one among many leading councils showing that achieving ambitious renewable energy and carbon reduction goals is both feasible and cost-effective.

100% Renewables is proud to have played a role in helping this leader through the development of their Renewable Energy Strategy. We look forward to Tweed Shire Council’s continued success in reaching its renewable energy targets in coming years.

100% Renewables are experts in helping organisations develop their climate change strategies and action plans, and supporting the implementation and achievement of ambitious targets. If you need help to develop your Climate Change Strategy, please contact  Barbara or Patrick.

Feel free to use an excerpt of this blog on your own site, newsletter, blog, etc. Just send us a copy or link and include the following text at the end of the excerpt: “This content is reprinted from 100% Renewables Pty Ltd’s blog.

Coffs Harbour City Council – ‘Powering Ahead’

100% Renewables has helped many organisations to set ambitious renewable energy and carbon reduction goals and developed the strategies and action plans that will help them get there.

While this is one key metric for our business, a greater measure of success is when we see clients implement projects that will take them towards their targets. In this blog post, we provide an update on the multi-site solar PV projects being rolled out by Coffs Harbour City Council.

pdf-iconCase study “Coffs Harbour Council powering ahead
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Coffs Harbour City Council’s climate change targets and plan

In 2016, Coffs Harbour City Council adopted its Renewable Energy and Emissions Reduction Plan (REERP), which was developed by 100% Renewables. The REERP sets ambitious carbon reduction and renewable energy goals:

  • Reduce Council’s annual corporate emissions from 2010 levels by 50% by 2025
  • Reach 100% renewable energy by 2030

The REERP drew on extensive analysis of Council’s emissions profile, stakeholder engagement and assessment and prioritisation of savings opportunities.

Coffs Harbour City Council’s success in reducing carbon emissions

Council has implemented some major initiatives over several years. It led a transition away from mercury vapour streetlights to compact fluorescents in the early 2000s’ and has now gone further and upgraded many of its streetlights to LED technology as recommended in the REERP. It also installed one of the first rooftop solar PV systems greater than 100 kW, with the 137 kW system on Council’s Rigby House.

Coffs Harbour City Council’s solar rollout

‘Powering Ahead’ is the next stage in Coffs Harbour City Council’s REERP implementation, and involves the roll out of rooftop and ground mounted solar PV to 16 sites across Council’s operations.

While the REERP identified around 1,300 kW of solar PV opportunities, further assessment of the opportunity for solar, particularly at Council’s largest energy-using facilities, led to an increase in the opportunity to 2,100 kW.

A capacity of 2,100 kW means that the renewable energy that council will produce equals the annual energy consumption of 420 houses and 750 cars taken off the road.

Sawtell Holiday Park1, Coffs Harbour Council
Figure 1: Sawtell Holiday Park1, Coffs Harbour Council

In October 2019, Council announced the successful tenderer for the Powering Ahead project. Work has commenced with projects completed or well advanced at ten sites.

These include a 150 kW solar PV system at the Coffs Harbour Regional Airport, and an innovative 20 kW and 25 kWh solar and battery project at the Cavanbah Centre, which has intermittent daytime use and high night energy use which can be part met with stored solar energy. In total, these installations have almost 370 kW of solar PV.

Coffs Airport, Coffs Harbour Council
Figure 2: Coffs Airport, Coffs Harbour Council

The remaining sites are planned to be completed by the end of June 2020 and will include a large 870 kW ground-mounted solar array at the Coffs Harbour Water Reclamation Plant, as well as a 492 kW system at the Karangi Water Treatment Plant.

Council has a ‘Powering Ahead’ web page and this is regularly updated, keeping the community informed of Council’s progress.

Coffs Harbour City Council is one among many leading councils showing that achieving ambitious renewable energy and carbon reduction goals is both feasible and cost-effective.

100% Renewables is proud to have played a role in helping this leader through the development of their Renewable Energy Strategy. We look forward to Coffs Harbour Council’s continued success in reaching its carbon and renewable energy targets in coming years.

100% Renewables are experts in helping organisations develop their climate change strategies and action plans, and supporting the implementation and achievement of ambitious targets. If you need help to develop your Climate Change Strategy, please contact  Barbara or Patrick.

Feel free to use an excerpt of this blog on your own site, newsletter, blog, etc. Just send us a copy or link and include the following text at the end of the excerpt: “This content is reprinted from 100% Renewables Pty Ltd’s blog.

 

How to fill gaps in your sustainability data

A standard part of our work is the calculation of energy and carbon footprints. For an energy or carbon footprint, you need to collect sustainability activity data like electricity, natural gas, fuel consumption or waste.

In a perfect world, all required historical and current data would be available in easily accessible form and would always be accurate. Unfortunately, as you may have experienced yourself, this is not always the case. In this blog post, we will show you 3 common ways how you can fill missing sustainability data gaps.

Problems with collecting sustainability data

Common problems with collecting sustainability data include the following:

  1. Incomplete time series: Data may only be available for a few months of the year, it may be available for one year but not another, or the most recent data is not yet available.
  2. Out-dated data: You may require a data set annually, but the data may only be available less frequently. An example for this is waste data based on audits, which are performed infrequently.
  3. Partial data: You may be able to get one data set easily, but not another, or you may only have data for part of your organisation, but not another.
  4. Unreliable data: Data may available, but with obvious inconsistencies.

Three common techniques to overcome sustainability data gaps

In this blog post, we will show you three ways to overcome sustainability data gaps:

  1. Interpolation
  2. Extrapolation
  3. Scaling

You need to carefully evaluate your specific circumstances and determine the best option for your particular case. You may also be able to use more than one method for a specific problem and then make a final decision as to what method gives you the best result.

Interpolation of sustainability data

You can estimate missing data in a timeseries by interpolating between those periods. The method for interpolation can be linear or more sophisticated. Linear interpolation means that you are drawing a straight between the edges of your data gap. More sophisticated methods will allow you to account for more subtle features in your trend.

Figure 1: Using interpolation for data gaps

Please note that if your data fluctuates significantly, using interpolation will not give you the best result. It is good practice to compare interpolated estimates with surrogate/proxy data (see ‘Scaling’ section) as a quality control check.

Extrapolation of sustainability data

You will need to extrapolate your sustainability data to produce estimates for years after your last available data point and before new data is available. Extrapolation is similar to interpolation, but less is known about the trend.

Extrapolation can be conducted either forward (to predict future emissions or energy consumption) or backward, to estimate a base year, for instance. Trend extrapolation assumes that the observed trend during the period for which data is available remains constant over the period of extrapolation. If the trend is changing, you should consider using proxy data (see next section).

Figure 2: Using extrapolation for data gaps

When you use the simple linear method, you extend the line from the end of your known data line. You can also use more sophisticated extrapolation methods to account for more subtle features in the data trend.

The longer the extrapolation projects into the future, the more uncertainty is introduced. However, it is better to have an estimate, than not to have one at all.

It is good practice to update projected graphs with real data as this becomes available and to subsequently update your projections.

Please note that extrapolation is not a good technique when the change in trend is not constant over time. In this case, you may consider using extrapolations based on surrogate data.

Scaling

Scaling works by applying a ratio of known data to your data gap. The ratio is called a ‘scaling factor’. Known data is called surrogate, or proxy data. Surrogate data is strongly correlated to sustainability data that is being extrapolated and is more readily available than the data gap you are trying to fill.

For instance, emissions from transport are related to how many kilometres you travelled. Energy consumption in a building is related to how many people use the building. Emissions from wastewater are related to the population number.

Figure 3: Using scaling for data gaps

In some cases, you may need to use regression analysis to identify the most suitable surrogate data. Using surrogate data can improve the accuracy of estimates developed by interpolation and extrapolation.

Common scaling factors include:

  • number of employees, square metres, operating hours, or population (for community greenhouse gas inventories)
  • economic factors like production output, revenue, or GDP (for community greenhouse gas inventories)
  • weather-related factors like heating degree days or cooling degree days

Case example for extrapolation using scaling

One of our clients was evaluating the adoption of a science-based target. Given that a target is set some time in the future, they needed to find out how much carbon emissions would grow in the absence of abatement measures. Calculating this trend would show the size of the reduction task going forward.

We approached this task by following these steps:

  1. Extrapolation of the available historical greenhouse gas emissions into the future by applying an assumed year-on-year growth scaling factor.
  2. Refinement of the estimated trend by plotting known plant closures and other identified changes onto the timeseries.
  3. Application of estimated future emission factors. Since the grid is getting greener with new renewable energy projects feeding into it, the greenhouse gases associated with electricity consumption for the same underlying use reduce over time.
  4. Development of emission reduction scenarios. Once the baseline emissions growth was estimated, we developed emission reduction scenarios based on energy efficiency and renewable energy opportunities.
  5. Development of a graph to communicate the findings to the management team.

As a result of this extrapolation, our client was able to make an informed decision as to the ambition level of their target, as well as a suitable timeframe.

Conclusion

Choosing the right method depends on an assessment of the volatility of the sustainability data trend, whether surrogate data is available and adequate, and the length of time activity data is missing. If you need help with filling in data gaps, you should consider getting expert advice.

100% Renewables are experts in dealing with data gaps and projecting trends. If you need help with managing your data, please contact  Barbara or Patrick.

Feel free to use an excerpt of this blog on your own site, newsletter, blog, etc. Just send us a copy or link and include the following text at the end of the excerpt: “This content is reprinted from 100% Renewables Pty Ltd’s blog.

5 ways of visualising emission reduction pathways

Many of our services involve the development of emission reduction pathways, which greatly enhance climate change action plans. In this blog post, we will show you 5 common ways to visually display such a pathway. Seeing these different illustrations can help you to shape how you would like to present your own organisation’s pathway towards a low carbon future.

Introduction

What are emission reduction pathways?

Emission reduction pathways allow for the easy communication of

  • where your organisation is currently at in terms of greenhouse emissions (or energy consumption)
  • where you can be through the implementation of reduction measures that are feasible and cost-effective over time
  • where you would be in the absence of any measures to reduce emissions

Pathways usually start with your selected baseline year and end at some point in the future, typically at 2030, or when agreed or proposed targets are to be met.

What do emission reduction pathways cover?

Boundary:

Your emissions boundary will typically consider three things:

  • The level of an organisation or region you want to assess in terms of emissions reduction. This could be a single site, an asset class (e.g. community buildings), a Division in an organisation, a whole organisation, a town or community, and up to State and National levels.
  • The emissions and energy sources that you want to evaluate. For example, electricity, natural gas, petrol, diesel, refrigerants, waste, wastewater and so on.
  • The Scopes of emissions you want to include. Typically Scope 2 (electricity) is included, and material Scope 1 emissions (on-site combustion or direct emissions). Selected Scope 3 emissions may also be included, such as upstream emissions associated with energy usage and waste.

Units of measure:

The unit for reductions or savings to be modelled will typically be tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, or a unit of energy, such as kilowatt-hours or megajoules.

What greenhouse gas reduction measures are considered in abatement pathways?

For most organisations greenhouse gas reduction measures usually relate to six high-level carbon abatement areas as shown in Figure 1 below, being

  • Energy efficiency
  • Management of waste and other Scope 3 emissions sources
  • Sustainable transport
  • Local generation of renewable energy such as rooftop solar PV
  • Grid decarbonisation
  • Buying clean energy and/or carbon offsets

These high-level categories can be further broken down into as many subcategories as relevant within your selected organisation boundary.

Figure 1: 6 categories for carbon reduction opportunities

The need for a graphical representation of emissions pathways

For many people, it is hard to engage with complex data presented in a table or report. In our experience, it is most effective if abatement potential can be shown in a graph. The visual representation of a carbon abatement pathway allows people to better grasp the overall opportunity for abatement, where this will come from, and the timeframes involved.

It also helps organisations to better communicate their plans to their stakeholders, be they internal or external. Simple and well-presented graphics can also help when seeking decisions to budget for and implement cost-effective measures.

5 ways to graphically represent emission reduction pathways

There are many different ways you can display an emissions reduction pathway; some are more suited to specific circumstances than others. The five examples we are using in this blog post are:

  1. Line chart
  2. Waterfall chart
  3. Area chart
  4. Column chart
  5. Marginal Abatement Cost Curve (MACC)

Let’s look at these examples in detail.



Example #1 – line chart

A line chart is a simple but effective way to communicate a ‘Business-as-usual’ or BAU pathway compared with planned or target pathways at a total emissions level for your selected boundary. Such a boundary could be comparing your whole-business projected emissions with and without action to reduce greenhouse gases.

This type of graph is also useful to report on national emissions compared with required pathways to achieve Australia’s Paris commitments, for example.

Figure 2: Example of a line chart

Example #2 – waterfall chart

A waterfall chart focuses on abatement measures. It shows the size of the abatement for each initiative, progressing towards a specific target, such as 100% renewable electricity, for example. It is most useful to highlight the relative impact of different actions, but it does not show the timeline of implementation.

Figure 3: Example of a waterfall chart

Example #3 – area graph

Area graphs show the size of abatement over time and are a great way to visualise your organisation’s potential pathway towards ambitious emissions reduction targets.

They do not explicitly show the cost-effectiveness of measures. However, a useful approach is to include only measures that are cost-effective now and will be in the future, so that decision-makers are clear that they are looking at a viable investment plan over time to lower emissions.

Figure 4: Example of an area chart that shows reduction actions and diminishing emissions

Another option of displaying an area chart is shown in Figure 5. In this area chart, the existing emission sources that reduce over time are not a focus, and instead, the emphasis is on emission reduction actions. You may prefer this version if there is a large number of reduction measures, or if you include fuel switching actions.

Figure 5: Example of an area chart which emphasises emission reduction actions



Example #4 – column graph

A column graph is similar to the area graph but allows for a clearer comparison between specific years compared with the continuous profile of an area graph. In the example column graph below, we are looking at Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions, as well as abatement in an organisation over a 25-year timeframe covering past and future plans.

In the historical part, for instance, we can see Scope 1 (yellow) and Scope 2 (blue) emissions in the baseline year. The impact of GreenPower® (green) on emissions can be seen in any subsequent year until 2018.

Going forward we can see in any projection year the mix of grid decarbonisation (red), new abatement measures (aqua) including fuel switching and renewables purchasing, as well as residual Scope 1 and 2 emissions.

Figure 6: Example of a column chart

Example #5 – Marginal Abatement Cost (MAC) Curve

MAC curves focus on the financial business case of abatement measures and the size of the abatement. MAC curves are typically expressed in $/t CO2-e (carbon), or in $/MWh (energy), derived from an assessment of the net present value of a series of investment over time to a fixed time in the future.

The two examples below show MAC curves for the same set of investments across an organisation. Figure 6 shows the outcome in 2030, whereas, in Figure 7, it is to 2040 when investments have yielded greater returns.

MAC curves are a good way to clearly see those investments that will yield the best returns and their contribution to your overall emissions reduction goal.

Figure 7: Example of a Marginal Abatement Cost curve with a short time horizon

Figure 8: Example of a Marginal Abatement Cost curve with a longer time horizon

Please note that no one example is superior over another. It depends on your preferences and what information you would like to convey to your stakeholders.

100% Renewables are experts in putting together emission reduction and renewable energy pathways. If you need help with determining your strategy, targets and cost-effective pathways, please contact  Barbara or Patrick.

Feel free to use an excerpt of this blog on your own site, newsletter, blog, etc. Just send us a copy or link and include the following text at the end of the excerpt: “This content is reprinted from 100% Renewables Pty Ltd’s blog.

How choosing a target influences your emissions over time [with video]

100% RE - emission reduction through 100% renewable energy
100% RE – emission reduction through 100% renewable electricity

We recently worked with a regional council to provide their senior management and other key stakeholders with input to the development of their climate change action plan and target-setting process.

An important part of our work was to show council, based on our experience with many other local governments, what different carbon reduction scenarios look like in this sector. In particular, we showed what a no-action scenario would mean for electricity demand, what a focus on demand reduction within council operations would look like, and what an approach that encompasses both aggressive demand reduction and a comprehensive renewable energy supply strategy could achieve.

Presenting and workshopping these scenarios helped our client to set ambitious goals for energy and carbon reduction that are achievable, affordable and can be planned and resourced in the short, medium and long term.

Three scenarios for electricity-based emissions

To illustrate how inaction and action to mitigate climate change can influence emission reductions over time, we created a series of animations. Please click on the video (< 4min) below to view the effect of energy efficiency and renewable energy measures on a council’s business-as-usual electricity consumption.

Scenario 1: no action

For most local councils, rising population, asset upgrades and service improvements are factors that influence the energy demand of council operations.

In the absence of clear policies and practices to reduce energy demand and increase renewables, these factors will lead to increased energy use. As electricity prices also rise, this will result in higher energy costs over time.

Scenario 2: action within council operations

In most organisations, there are numerous opportunities to reduce energy demand and increase onsite renewable energy.

  • Upgrading building lighting systems, air conditioning controls and installing rooftop solar panels usually have an attractive payback.
  • Incorporating lowest life-cycle cost technologies and solar into new developments, and implementing sustainable procurement policies for appliances and office/IT equipment can reduce or reverse energy growth over time.
  • Replacing capital-intensive equipment such as air conditioning systems, water & sewer pumping systems, sporting field lighting and servers with best-practice energy-efficient technologies can similarly reduce or reverse growth in energy demand.
  • Street lighting is often one of the largest energy-using accounts in a local council. As LED technology becomes available, local and main road lighting can be upgraded, leading to large energy savings.

Planning, scheduling and funding implementation of these opportunities over time will lead to a sustained and cost-effective reduction in a council’s grid energy consumption.

However, for most councils, these actions will only take climate mitigation so far, typically a 30% to 40% reduction over time. This would likely fall short of the 2018 IPCC report on ‘Global Warming of 1.5 ºC’, which states that we need to reduce global net anthropogenic CO2 emissions by about 45% from 2010 levels by 2030.

Scenario 3: ambitious action on energy demand and supply

In our experience, it is not possible for a council to achieve deep emissions cuts without focusing on both energy demand and energy supply. In an ‘ambitious action’ plan, there will be a more aggressive rollout of energy efficiency and renewable energy measures, as well as an energy procurement strategy that will source renewable energy for council’s operations.

Energy demand action will:

  • Extend solar PV to more marginal sites,
  • Develop a plan for larger-scale onsite solar with battery storage,
  • Incorporate smart controls with street lighting,
  • Plan for charging of electric vehicles over time, including passenger and commercial vehicles and road plant

Energy supply action will include renewable energy purchasing as part of a council’s normal energy procurement process. Typically, this takes the form of a renewable energy Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) as part of overall energy supply, with the potential to scale up renewable energy purchasing towards 100% over time.

For some councils, building their own solar farm may be another way to scale up supply-side action on renewables.

Ambitious action that focuses on both energy demand and renewable energy supply is aligned with global targets to decarbonise by mid-century. As leaders, local governments have an important role to play in showing their communities that deep cuts in emissions are possible and affordable.

You can read more about achieving ambitious targets in our ‘How to achieve 100% renewable energy’ paper.

Ambitious action is achievable and cost-effective

It is possible to achieve ambitious targets cost-effectively – what is required is to plan and resource ahead, to understand the cost implications as well as the cost savings, and to know what measures can be rolled out at what point in time.

100% Renewables are experts in helping organisations develop their renewable energy strategies and timing actions appropriately. If you need help with setting targets that are achievable and cost-effective, please contact  Barbara or Patrick.

Feel free to use an excerpt of this blog on your own site, newsletter, blog, etc. Just send us a copy or link and include the following text at the end of the excerpt: “This content is reprinted from 100% Renewables Pty Ltd’s blog.

Developing the Climate Change Action Plan for Queanbeyan-Palerang [with video]

100% Renewables ran two community consultation workshops in the Queanbeyan-Palerang area to help Council with the development of the new Climate Change Action Plan. We were engaged by QPRC Council to develop the Action Plan both for council operations, as well as for the community. This blog post contains a video (<2min) with a summary of the workshop in Braidwood.

Development of the Climate Change Action Plan

The new Climate Change Action Plan is informed by science, community input, analysis of council operations and community emissions, as well as previous climate change actions.

Shaping the Community Climate Change Action Plan
Shaping the Community Climate Change Action Plan

Community workshops

At the workshops, we provided the community with background information about the emissions profile of the community (about 1 million tonnes per year), but also about the population growth which will mean that emissions may grow further.

We also pointed the community to ambitious targets by local governments and communities in NSW. We asked the community to recommend targets for carbon emissions and renewable energy, for both the community and council operations.

As part of the workshop, we asked the community to provide input on how carbon emissions can be reduced, across energy, transport, waste, water and the natural environment. We also sought input on climate change adaptation.

Next steps

Our next steps are to take the feedback we received at the two workshops, as well as the survey, and work with Queanbeyan-Palerang Council to develop their Climate Change Action Plan.

100% Renewables are experts in helping organisations develop their renewable energy strategies. If you need help developing yours, please contact  Barbara or Patrick.

Feel free to use an excerpt of this blog on your own site, newsletter, blog, etc. Just send us a copy or link and include the following text at the end of the excerpt: “This content is reprinted from 100% Renewables Pty Ltd’s blog.

How Eurobodalla Council evaluated its options to reach 100% renewable energy at the same or lower cost than grid electricity

Speakers, from left to right: Patrick Denvir from 100% Renewables, David West from Sourced Energy, Barbara Albert from 100% Renewables and Mark Shorter from Eurobodalla Council
Speakers, from left to right: Patrick Denvir from 100% Renewables, David West from Sourced Energy, Barbara Albert from 100% Renewables and Mark Shorter from Eurobodalla Council

On 9 October, 100% Renewables in conjunction with our partner organisation Sourced Energy presented to a group of NSW Government representatives on Sourcing Renewable Energy, using the example of Eurobodalla Shire Council’s Renewable Energy Options Analysis. The presentation was also broadcast via a webinar to NSW Councils participating in OEH’s Sustainability Advantage program.

About Eurobodalla Council’s renewable energy goals

Eurobodalla Council has a goal to source 100% of its electricity from renewables by 2030 as per its Emission Reduction Plan 2017-2021. The plan also has two additional goals to reduce emissions by 25% by 2020 and by 80% by 2030 for council operations.

With a strong track record of carbon abatement, Eurobodalla Council has already reduced its emissions by 35%. Despite the target of 100% renewable energy being 12 years away, Eurobodalla Council wanted to look at their options now, for a number of reasons:

  • Council is coming off its electricity contract at the end of 2018 and faces much higher prices
  • Some councillors and the community were interested in the recent developments in local government-owned solar farms, like the ones by Newcastle and the Sunshine Coast councils
  • Recent developments in renewable Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs), like the SSROC PPA
  • Council had also received an offer from a private developer for a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) and another offer for a Virtual Generation Agreement via a PPA.

With several offers on the table and given the uncertainty and volatility in the energy market, Eurobodalla wanted to get independent, expert advice on the viability of these options. They selected 100% Renewables and partner organisation Sourced Energy to help them navigate the options and put recommendations forward.

Renewable energy options assessment

100% Renewables performed an analysis of three different business cases:

  1. Build and own a ~10 MW solar farm in the LGA
  2. Co-invest in a 30 MW solar farm via a Public Private Partnership
  3. Contract directly via a Power Purchase Agreement
Figure 1: Evaluated options for Eurobodalla Council to achieve 100% renewable energy
Figure 1: Evaluated options for Eurobodalla Council to achieve 100% renewable energy

We evaluated each option in terms of how well it was able to meet the objectives of ‘cost’, meaning achieving the same or lower than grid price, ‘sustainability’, meaning the need to achieve a 100% renewables goal, and ‘risk’, meaning the reduction of risk to an acceptable level.

Figure 2: Finding the best-fit 100% renewable energy solution
Figure 2: Finding the best-fit 100% renewable energy solution

Our findings

For all of the options considered, a major factor limiting Eurobodalla – and other councils – from sourcing 100% renewables cost effectively is a ministerial order that prevents councils from entering into “contracts for difference”, a contracting method that underpins many ‘corporate PPAs’ in the market. In effect, this means that all options must consider Council’s load and timing of energy demand, and look to sculpt solutions that align with this demand while managing differences between renewable energy generation and demand via load balancing strategies.

Our analysis found that in the current environment, a PPA is the lowest-risk and easiest-to-implement option for Eurobodalla Council, but sourcing 100% renewables is unlikely to be feasible at this time. Council should seek to incorporate the purchase of large-scale renewable energy from the start of the next electricity contract period using a shorter-term agreement where it is found to be financially viable and has no additional risk when compared to a regular retail contract.

Council should also consider forming a buying group or partnering with other councils in the region or state to increase the size of the electricity (including renewable energy) load to be contracted and to increase the attractiveness of the opportunity to retailers, potentially leading to lower cost outcomes.

The build options evaluated offer a fairly low return in the short term, require substantial upfront investment and carry some delivery risk. The current uncertain policy environment plays an important part in this outcome, particularly for mid-sized projects. At this time, build options for Council should be a lower priority for investment, but can and should be re-visited as build and implementation costs reduce further and the policy environment changes.

Conclusion

While in the case of Eurobodalla Shire Council, the ‘build’ case was only marginal, your situation might be different. If you are unsure as to whether you should ‘build’ or ‘buy’, please call/email Barbara or Patrick for an informal chat.

Feel free to use an excerpt of this blog on your own site, newsletter, blog, etc. Just send us a copy or link and include the following text at the end of the excerpt: “This content is reprinted from 100% Renewables Pty Ltd’s blog.”