Tag Archives: energy footprint

Best practice Climate Action Strategies for local governments [with video]

I was recently invited to present at the Local Government NSW Net-Zero Emissions Insight Series webinar. I gave our thoughts on best practice climate action strategies for local governments, specifically focusing on developing an emissions reduction strategy and plan both for council operations as well as for the community. I also talked about the barriers to action and cited a few case studies. This blog post summarises what I presented and includes a 10-min video of my presentation.

Emissions reduction strategy and plan for local government

100% Renewables specialises in developing climate action strategies for business (also referred to as energy master plans, renewable energy strategies, or net-zero emissions plans).

Here is our method for developing a climate action strategy focused on greenhouse gas emissions reduction. It’s a seven-step method that is based on best practice we have developed over the years.


The most important aspect of our method is that a climate action strategy needs to be built on stakeholder engagement, which generates buy-in and the development of emission reduction opportunities that are practical, cost-effective and feasible. Feasible options are developed into business cases, which are then put into short, medium and long-term plans, which ideally align with a local government’s Delivery Program, Operational Plan and Strategic Plan.

It’s always a good idea to present a draft strategy to councillors before a plan is put up for adoption, so that councillors are aware of what the benefits are and have an opportunity to shape the strategy before it is finalised.

Actions on climate can address multiple abatement areas, technologies and cross-cutting approaches. The figure below shows the typical carbon reduction areas for a local government’s operations.


Opportunities range from energy efficiency, onsite solar and battery storage, to energy-efficient transport and opportunities for waste management. Councils can also look at sequestering carbon in wetlands and urban forests (though these are hard to measure!). Abatement can also be achieved through procurement, such as buying renewable energy – through a renewable energy PPA, for instance, by reducing emissions in your supply chain, or by investing money in carbon offset projects. Local governments may also be interested in developing their own local clean energy generation projects, such as a mid-scale solar farm or bioenergy generation.

Carbon reduction is also enabled by having an appropriate financing strategy, and by having good governance and leadership structures in place.

There are also other external opportunities, such as a greening grid, though forecasts of grid decarbonisation support organisations acting now to reduce their emissions, rather than wait for this to occur.

An example of a net-zero pathway we developed for the City of Canada Bay’s operations is shown below. This scenario sees Council continue to increase its level of renewable energy purchased via PPAs to 100% in successive procurement cycles. It also sees 80% of petrol and 50% of diesel vehicles switch to electric by FY2030. Carbon offsets need to be purchased in 2030 to reduce residual greenhouse gas emissions to zero.

Emissions reduction strategy and plan for communities

Moving on to take a look at community emissions reduction plans. With many councils now having a plan in place for their operations, some are turning their attention to their communities. Local governments usually emit around 1-2% of the emissions in their community, so the key to unlocking deep cuts at a local government area level is to engage households and business.


The abatement opportunities here are similar to council’s operational emissions, with the addition of agriculture, forestry and land use, particularly in regional areas. Key tasks are to identify and get the buy-in from many stakeholders, to understand their ability to influence their emissions, to develop opportunities that will help them to unlock that potential, and most importantly, to identify resources that can coordinate and help to facilitate some of these opportunities, such as community and business groups, Council staff, other levels of government and suppliers.

In our experience, we have identified ten key levers that can help to drive action at a community level, centred around government, business and community members each doing their part.


For instance, Councils lead by example by committing to and achieving affordable emissions cuts in their operations and can demonstrate the feasibility of technologies like solar and electric vehicles.

Councils can also work with the community to educate and inform, incentivise and implement some planning controls, but rely on state and federal governments to do the heavy lifting on building standards.

Infrastructure to enable deep cuts can range from new transmission infrastructure to enable new large scale renewable energy generation, which federal and state governments need to lead, to EV charging that Council can influence in collaboration with others.

Of course, individuals and businesses can and do take action themselves, and this is key to whole communities decarbonising.

In our recent community emissions reduction plan for Clarence Valley Council, we have tried to capture the level of influence that different community stakeholders can have on different abatement areas, and this is summarised in our graphic below.


Note though that even when the ability to influence emissions is considered to be low, the combined advocacy of many for change can also be impactful, so this does not mean that stakeholders should not act. They should, and do. Community Strategic Plans are a great example of precisely this, and we see many CSPs where individuals in communities have called for sustainability and action on climate to be a key pillar of their 10-year plan.

Top 5 barriers to action

There are, of course, many barriers to reducing emissions. Five key ones stand out[1]:

[1] Sustainable Councils and Communities Program Research by Iris Research, July 2020

  • Financial constraints – naturally, there are financial constraints, whether through limited funds, low rate bases, or competing priorities
  • Lack of knowledge and internal resources – lack of information about opportunities is decreasing as initiatives like solar, LED, variable speed drives (VSDs) and Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) become ‘the norm’, but even then, many local governments don’t have the resources to identify, plan and engage on energy
  • Old infrastructure – lots of energy-using assets are old, and big savings won’t happen until these systems are upgraded, which often relies on grants
  • Lack of a plan or strategy – simply not having a plan of actions to do over the next 4-5 years is a barrier, usually linked to a shortage of resources
  • Lengthy payback periods – lastly, some measures are currently difficult to justify. Batteries, for example, are still expensive, and small solar farms need other local co-benefits to be considered compared to a PPA from large solar and wind farms

Case study examples

Below are case studies from projects we have been involved with in recent years through the development of climate action strategies.

  • Coffs Harbour City Council’s ‘Powering Ahead’ is the next stage in Coffs Harbour City Council’s REERP implementation and involves the rollout of 2.2 MW of rooftop and ground-mounted solar PV to 16 sites across Council’s operations
  • Tweed Shire Council: multiple solar PV systems have been completed. Council also committed to a 604 kW ground-mounted solar array at its Banora Point WWTP.
  • Narrandera Shire Council’s Climate Action Strategy has recently been adopted. Council has applied for grant co-funding to implement the plan.
  • Nambucca Valley Council’s Renewable Energy Action Plan (REAP) was adopted in 2019. Since then, Council has steadily implemented the identified energy efficiency and renewable energy opportunities.
  • Kyogle used a Government grant of just over $400,000 for solar PV and building lighting upgrades and put aside a further $300,000 for streetlighting LED upgrades – to be done in two years, with initial capital coming from savings from actions implemented to date.
  • Clarence Valley Council recently developed a Community Energy and Emissions Reduction Strategy with funding help from the NSW Government. This plan follows the development of Council’s operations strategy in 2017, where ambitious goals for emissions reduction and renewable energy were set.

If you need help with your climate action plan

100% Renewables are experts in helping organisations develop their climate action strategies and plans, and supporting the implementation and achievement of ambitious targets. If you need help to create your Climate Action 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.

Emissions, renewables and barriers to uptake [includes video]

I was recently asked to give a speech to the Maribyrnong community in Melbourne to help them with the development of a climate emergency plan. The session started with me presenting on energy-related emission trends and developing climate emergency plans, followed by a Q&A session.

In this blog post, I’ll write about energy-related emission trends, and I also recorded myself in a video. In the next article, I will go deeper into the development of climate emergency plans.

Global energy-related emission trends

In the last thirty years, energy-related carbon emissions have risen from a little over 20 Gt CO2-e to about 33 Gt CO2-e, which was mainly due to an increase in energy consumption by developing nations, as can be seen in Figure 1.

Energy-related CO2 emissions, 1990-2019

Figure 1: Energy-related CO2 emissions, 1990-2019[1]

Energy-related emissions by advanced economies is at nearly the same level today as in 1990. This is illustrated clearly when we look at emissions from electricity generation in advanced economies below in Figure 2. We can see here that while demand for electricity grew by approximately 300% over roughly 50 years, related carbon emissions have grown at a much slower rate. If fact, since the Global Financial Crisis, corresponding GHG emissions have rapidly decoupled.

Electricity generation and power sector CO2 emissions in advanced economies, 1971-2019

Figure 2: Electricity generation and power sector CO2 emissions in advanced economies, 1971-2019[2]

The decoupling of electricity and emissions in advanced economies is due in large part to the growth in renewables. In 2019, almost 70% of new global generation was from renewables compared to only 25% in 2001, as shown in Figure 3. In 2017, 20% of global power capacity was renewables, in 2019 it was one third!


Renewable share of annual power capacity expansion

Figure 3: Renewable share of annual power capacity expansion[3]

Emission trends in Australia

These global trends are repeated in Australia, though at a somewhat slower rate than in other leading economies. By 2040, of the 16 coal-fired plants in the National Electricity Market (NEM), nine are expected to be closed, with the remaining seven expected to close by around 2050.

Even without new policies and targets, the renewables share of electricity will grow, which means that together with increased energy efficiency, emissions from electricity generation should decrease by 2030 to almost 1990 levels, as shown in Figure 4.

Electricity emissions trend in Australia

Figure 4: Electricity emissions trend in Australia[4]

This trend is the right direction, but the rate is not fast enough to align with climate change science. So why are renewables not replacing coal sooner?

Barriers for the uptake of renewables in Australia

There are a range of barriers at the grid level as well as at consumer levels that influence the uptake of renewables.

Major barriers for renewables at a grid-level

Investment uncertainty

Due to the lack of clear federal policy and direction, there is great investment uncertainty for renewable energy project developers. If the business case for projects is uncertain, new projects stall. Some of this inaction is made up for by the positive actions by States & Territories, such as Victoria and the ACT, who have legislated higher renewables. NSW is also implementing new renewable energy zones to boost the growth of renewables and jobs in regional areas.

Connection and transmission issues

Many renewable energy projects are finding it hard to connect to the transmission or distribution network due to congestion issues. Marginal Loss Factors (MLF) also tend to negatively affect the business case of renewable energy projects, which are located further from the grid than ‘traditional’ coal-fired generators. So, for the same generation, coal-fired operators will receive more than renewable generators that are located further from the grid.

Lack of transmission infrastructure

Renewable generation areas are not the same as centralised coal-fired locations, so new transmission infrastructure is needed, which has to be financed and built.

Major barriers for renewables at a community level

Australia is the most successful country globally in terms of the proportion of households with solar, with more than 20% of homes generating their own clean energy. This is more than double the next highest penetration. However, despite this barriers remain to more widespread and rapid uptake of solar.


Some people and businesses simply may not know that installing solar panels helps them to save money and so don’t evaluate the opportunity. They may also not have a trusted installer and don’t know how to go about finding a suitable supplier.

Capital cost

For many people, the capital outlay of solar panels is a significant barrier to reaping the financial benefits of free generation once the initial money has been spent.

Pricing signals

Energy pricing and metering do not yet adequately facilitate demand response at a household and small business level.


People may know that installing solar panels is a good idea, but they may have other priorities that they attend to first.

Renters versus owners

It’s relatively simple for people and businesses that own their premises to install solar on their roofs. It is much harder for people and businesses who rent. We have developed fact sheets for North Sydney Council that help overcome this problem.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this article, which is going to progress in to the development of Climate Emergency Plans that councils and communities can develop to accelerate their switch to renewables.

100% Renewables are experts in developing climate emergency plans, and supporting the implementation and achievement of ambitious targets. If you need help to develop your Climate Emergency 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.

[1] IEA, Global CO2 emissions in 2019 – https://www.iea.org/articles/global-co2-emissions-in-2019

[2] IEA, Electricity generation and power sector CO2 emissions in advanced economies, 1971-2019, IEA, Paris

[3] IRENA – Renewable capacity highlights 2020

[4] The Commonwealth Government – Department of Industry – Australia’s emissions projections 2019