Tag Archives: Climate Active

How net zero strategies differ across local governments [with video]

We’ve recently been asked by the NSW Government to present on our experience helping councils achieve net zero emissions. In our presentation, we looked at the big growth in net zero commitments, investigated the differences between NSW metro and regional councils in terms of their emissions and readiness to implement emissions reduction measures, and the top barriers to climate action. This article is a summary of the webinar content.

You can also watch a video of our presentation here:

Growth in net zero commitments

We have seen a huge growth in the number of local governments looking to lower their emissions, whether as a long term goal toward net zero, or in the short term through becoming carbon neutral.

Have a look at the figure below. In 2018, when we published our second report on ambitious commitments of local governments, a total of just 24 had declared commitments, nationally.

Figure 1. Ambitious commitments of local governments in 2018

By 2021, more than 140 councils across Australia had set targets to reduce emissions and/or increase renewables. The video below illustrates the growth in ambitious commitments across all Australian states and territories.

Figure 2: Growth in ambitious council commitments from 2017 to 2021

How regional councils differ from metro councils when it comes to emissions and climate action

Emissions and implementation of emissions reduction initiatives is not evenly spread across councils. In 2021, we assessed the plans, resources and achievements of 47 councils for the NSW Government, based on our experience working across local governments throughout New South Wales.

The table below is a summary of what we found.

Table 1. Assessment of the plans, resources and achievements of 47 councils in NSW

Councils with low resources typically means that there is no dedicated staff working on energy, renewables or climate action, and people in operational roles typically take on the task.

Councils with high resources typically equates to at least 2 people working on climate action, net zero or sustainability for their council operations. Often, this includes one or more FTEs working on helping their communities reduce emissions.

Resources tend to be higher in metro and large coastal councils. Small regional councils are less well resourced. This means that implementation varies and that the level of success is higher in councils that are more well resourced.


Differences in the emissions profile

Local governments are estimated to account for ~2.1% of the State’s emissions, or 2.8 Mt of CO2-e, including energy and waste.

The interesting fact is that regional councils emit a disproportionately high percentage of local government GHG emissions at 75%, compared with just 25% for metro councils.

There are three primary reasons for this:

  1. Many regional councils operate landfills and are responsible for accounting for and managing the associated emissions.
  2. Many regional councils operate water and wastewater services, which are energy-intensive to operate, and lead to direct nitrous oxide and methane emissions from treatment processes.

Regional councils cover large land areas with significant road networks that are usually managed by the local council. This leads to large fuel emissions for heavy trucks and road plant, and also longer distances travelled in pool and leaseback vehicles by staff.

Figure 3. Reasons why regional areas emit a disproportionately high percentage of emissions

While most of the emissions occur outside Greater Sydney, a much higher percentage of Sydney metro councils are committed to significant emissions reduction compared with other councils. 55% of Sydney metro councils have committed to ambitious targets, while only ~30% of regional councils have committed to an ambitious target. This is shown in Table 2 below.

If we look at population numbers, we can see that 62% of the NSW population live in LGAs where councils have set ambitious commitments to reduce emissions.

Table 2. Comparison of ambitious commitments between Sydney metro and regional NSW councils


Differences in emissions reduction scope and opportunities

There are many factors that influence the plans, targets and successes of councils that are working across their operations and value chain to reach net zero emissions; here are the most important ones:

  • Acceptance of climate change
  • Climate literacy
  • Understanding of the projected impacts of climate change
  • Council and Executive Leadership support for action
  • Adequate levels of funding and resources

In resource-constrained councils, staff tend to focus on project-based approaches to implement efficiency and renewable energy measures. They may progress to develop energy (master) plans or renewable energy plans that also consider renewable energy purchasing and low-emission vehicles. These councils focus mainly on their operations and how to source funding to pay for initiatives. This is shown in Figure 4 below.

Figure 4. Examples of emissions reduction opportunities for a council with few resources

Councils with more resources and greater climate change acceptance and literacy may develop operational emissions reduction plans, which usually include other sources such as landfill waste and wastewater. Another approach is to develop discrete plans for key emission sources, such as EV or gas transition plans.

Going further, some councils are developing comprehensive net zero plans, which include offsets and sequestration or becoming carbon neutral under Climate Active. Some councils, such as Northern Beaches Council, are also analysing their value chain emissions and are developing plans to reduce them.

In Figure 5, we show the scope of a comprehensive net zero plan.

Figure 5. Examples of net zero opportunities for a council with more resources


Example pathway to net zero

Below, you can see an example pathway that is constructed across a variety of emissions sources, such as energy consumption, transport emissions and emissions from the value chain. There is no single solution that can take a council to net zero emissions. Net zero emissions is reached through a combination of measures that are implemented over time.

Figure 6. Sample pathway to net zero emissions

While the example pathway above shows a comprehensive roadmap to net zero, not all councils develop net zero pathways based on a full scope 1, 2, and 3 carbon footprint. Many councils are still only focused on energy-related emissions to reduce their carbon footprint.

However, as I mentioned above, more councils are starting to include value chain emissions as well. Some even go carbon neutral right away via the purchase of carbon offsets. As these councils reduce their emissions over time, their offset purchases decrease. Councils are also looking at insetting pathways, by reducing their emissions via sequestration in trees, for instance.


Top 5 barriers to emissions reduction action

In 2021, the NSW Government surveyed numerous councils as part of the Sustainable Councils and Communities Program, which found that the major barriers to action are lack of money and resources among regional councils, which accords with our observations as outlined above.

These five barriers are likely to be applicable to all councils to some extent, but in many regional councils in particular these barriers are more acute and a greater obstacle to progress.

Figure 7. Top 5 barriers for councils progressing emissions reduction initiatives



Metropolitan councils

  • Serve the majority of the NSW population but with just 25% of local government emissions
  • Have the most ambitious targets, better funding and more resources to act on climate than their coastal or inland regional counterparts
  • Have had greater success to date in achieving emissions reductions through PPAs, streetlights, onsite efficiency and solar

Inland regional councils

  • Higher emissions from their operations than metropolitan councils (and similar opportunities for abatement), but a fraction of the funds and resources to respond to climate change
  • Unlike metropolitan and coastal councils, there is a lesser call for urgent action on climate (e.g. climate emergency declarations, ambitious targets, peer collaboration)
  • Small, low socio-economic inland regional councils generally have few resources to address emissions reduction opportunities
  • Implementation is lower/slower but lots of solar and streetlighting LED upgrades have been completed

Large coastal councils

  • Many are actively engaged in action on climate through setting of targets, planning abatement in operations, declaration of climate emergency, etc.
  • Larger coastal councils tend to be better resourced to plan their pathways to renewables and low emissions, whereas smaller councils tend to require greater support from the State government to help them plan, set targets and implement

There are several great examples of large solar rollouts, for example, Tweed Shire and Coffs Harbour City councils, as well as mid-scale solar farms (Newcastle), and a switch to LED streetlighting



100% Renewables are experts in helping councils and their communities develop their net zero strategies and plans, and supporting the implementation and achievement of ambitious targets. If you need help to create your net zero 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.

Exploring carbon neutral and NEXTneutral with Craig Scroggie, CEO NEXTDC [with video]

Information technology is responsible for as many carbon emissions as air travel. Data centres, which house IT infrastructure, are growing at an exponential rate globally, and it is predicted that over the next five years, as much as 20% of all electricity generated will be consumed by the ICT sector.

Australia’s leading data centre provider NEXTDC is tackling this problem head-on: They have been carbon-neutral since 2018 and now offer an industry-leading carbon-neutral service to their customers. I recently had the pleasure to speak with Craig Scroggie, CEO of NEXTDC, about their journey to net-zero.

Craig is a visionary leader who is never satisfied with the status quo and is always on the lookout for performance improvements for his customers, and emissions reductions in NEXTDC’s business. In this article, I’ll share how NEXTDC achieved carbon neutrality, how they are helping their customers achieve their own sustainability goals, and Craig’s three key takeaway messages for other organisations looking to achieve net-zero emissions.

Data centres are power-hungry

Every time you watch a movie on Netflix, make a Zoom or Teams call, search for something on the Internet, post on LinkedIn, watch a funny cat video, or order online, data centres are working away in the background, processing, storing and disseminating the data and applications that enable our modern lifestyle.

In our interview, Craig notes that forecasts from Gartner, IDC and others indicate that every 18 to 24 months, the total amount of information worldwide doubles! It follows then that the amount of information that data centres need to store, back up, protect and share is also doubling.

ICT equipment needs power – and a lot of it. But it’s not just the equipment itself, there is also the power required to cool data centres. Even with advances in digital technology, ICT equipment still generates a lot of heat, which needs to be efficiently removed to ensure the data centre functions optimally.

When you add electricity use from air conditioning to the electricity consumption by the computer equipment itself, you can picture just how much energy is needed. Craig said that the power consumed by data centres globally is between 2% and 3% of all electricity use  and that over the next five years, it is forecast that data centres will consume as much as 20% of all electricity generated.

How NEXTDC achieved carbon neutrality

NEXTDC is dedicated to continuously improving the benchmarks in the industry for data centre operational and sustainability excellence. For Craig, sustainability improvements start at the supply chain, the design, construction and development of data centres, and go all the way through to day-to-day operations.

NEXTDC is making use of the environment rather than use power to drive high-cost cooling and carefully manages airflow to reduce the amount of energy that is required to drive mechanical cooling systems.

They pioneered renewable energy production in the Australian data centre industry with M1 Melbourne’s $1.2 million photovoltaic system, installed eight years ago in 2013. NEXTDC is continuing its rollout of solar on data centre roofs as well as on adjacent buildings. They are also investing in power purchasing agreements, where they act collaboratively with other buyers to fund the development of wind farms and other generation technologies to power their facilities.

NEXTDC also places a high value on water efficiency and recycling of water, as well as recycling the company’s and their customer’s waste materials. As a testament to their operational efficiencies, NEXTDC’s SI Sydney and M1 Melbourne data centres have both been certified as NABERS 5-star rated data centre infrastructure facilities for energy efficiency.

To take responsibility for all relevant greenhouse gas emissions, NEXTDC decided to go carbon neutral, and has been a certified Climate Active organisation since November 2018.

Extending NEXTDC’s carbon neutrality to their customers

The next step in NEXTDC’s sustainability journey was to allow their customers to come together around a shared commitment to sustainability leadership and create a more sustainable future. NEXTDC created a service called NEXTneutral, which enables customers and partners to leverage the carbon offset capability NEXTDC has built for their own corporate program.

It is difficult for data centre customers to know how many carbon emissions are generated by data centre operation that relates to their business. Under NEXTneutral, the carbon emissions produced in a standard data centre rack are pre-calculated. NEXTDC takes care of the procurement of carbon offsets on their customers behalf, which helps their customers quickly and easily neutralise carbon emissions attributable to their portion of data centre electricity use. The carbon offsets fund important ecological projects, which in turn creates real change for the environment and for society.

It’s as easy as choosing to fly carbon neutral – NEXTDC customers can opt-in by going to their service management portal and clicking the NEXTneutral button, which allows them to offset their data centre emissions quickly and efficiently.

How NEXTDC manages physical climate change risks

In the interview, I asked Craig how physical climate risks are affecting NEXTDC. Craig mentioned that physical climate risks such as flooding, bushfires, earthquakes and cyclones are front of mind for data centres, alongside other physical risks that could cause outages and disruptions. He says that when you think about protecting customers infrastructure and building business continuity and resilience into operations, the first action is ensuring that the data centre is always on and always available.

With this in mind, NEXTDC has certified to the highest standard in the world. The Uptime Institute, an independent thought leader and certification body in IT and data centres, awarded NEXTDC the ultimate recognition of the overall design excellence of NEXTDC’s facilities. NEXTDC started with Tier III certification, then moved to Tier IV Certification for Fault Tolerance, which is the highest standard in the world.

Craig Scroggie’s three tips for other organisations moving to net-zero

The opportunity to be the platform of choice for the digital era comes with the responsibility to be stewards of a sustainable future. I asked Craig what advice he would give other organisations moving down the net-zero path. He provided these three takeaway messages:

1 – Just start

Craig says to just start and do something. It doesn’t matter where you start, but when you think about your operations, the sustainability of what you do, and looking for partners that can assist you, you don’t have to spend the next three years thinking about all elements of a sustainability strategy. Start somewhere, look at the areas in your supply chain that you can have the most influence over and choose something to make a difference on.

2 – Get help

The second key takeaway message from Craig is that there are a lot of people out there that would love to help. So if you’re looking to achieve Climate Active certification, you can talk to the relevant stakeholders and the Climate Active government department. If you need assistance with energy efficiency, benchmarking, and certification, talk to the NABERS team. You can speak with independent providers who measure energy efficiency and help you build strategies to reduce the amount of power you consume.

And if you’re a customer who builds IT infrastructure, or a cloud service provider or an enterprise, you can talk to a company like NEXTDC to help you opt into programs that allow you to offset the carbon footprint of your data centre and to also reduce your energy footprint. There are many people that want to make a difference in this area, so reach out to someone and start having a conversation on what action you can take that will make a difference.

3 – Never stop

Don’t try and solve the sustainability challenge all in one go. NEXTDC started out with small strategies, such as wanting to have renewable energy as an input to their business, and over time, they got better at managing airflow and reducing their PUE. Craig says that you need to look at the challenge with a long-term view. Being more sustainable is not something that is ever finished; it will always be a work in progress. Every day, every month, every year, you learn something new, and you continue to build that into your long-range plans.

For NEXTDC, every new sustainability achievement will put them a step closer to their long-range plan of getting to 100% renewable energy and to the long-term goal of 100% of their customer base opting into offsetting their carbon footprint as well.

About NEXTDC Limited

NEXTDC is Australia’s leading data centre-as-a-service company and one of Australia’s fastest-growing technology organisations. NEXTDC data centres and custom co-location solutions are engineered to grow in line with the demands of a business and promote flexibility through solutions that scale, supported by the country’s most dynamic and highly skilled ecosystem of partners, carriers and cloud platforms.

About 100% Renewables

100% Renewables are experts in helping organisations develop their net-zero and carbon-neutral pathways. If you need help with developing your climate action plan, please contact  Barbara or Patrick.

If you are an organisation leading in climate action and would like to get interviewed in our Driving Net Profit With Zero Emissions show, please get in touch with Barbara.

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.