Sydney Opera House goes carbon neutral five years early

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Sydney Opera House goes carbon neutral five years early

The modernisation of a 50-year old seawater cooling system, the replacement of thousands of light bulbs and support for reforestation projects have combined to help the Sydney Opera House go carbon neutral five years ahead of target.

Investments reaching “easily $10 million and probably more” have been made to achieve the goal that chief executive Louise Herron hopes will act as a source of inspiration to visitors and the public more broadly.

But totting up the money spent “is not exactly how we’ve accounted for it,” Ms Herron said ahead of Monday’s announcement of the achievement, for which the famous sails at Bennelong will be lit up in green.

“It’s more an approach, it’s a way of thinking about how we go about doing our business,” she said. “We want to be a source of inspiration in everything we do.”

Electricity use has been cut by 14 per cent, with the help of the renewal of the pioneering seawater cooling and heating system that Danish architect Jørn Utzon incorporated into the building in the 1960s.

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Installing LED lights to replace incandescent bulbs in the Concert Hall cut that venue’s power consumption by 75 per cent, while also reducing risks to safety arising from the regular changing of bulbs in the ceiling.

Waste recycling has increased to 60 per cent from 25 per cent, a massive task considering the 5000 cubic metres of waste produced from 1800 events and 2.5 million food and beverage transactions every year.

The world-famous venue’s residual carbon footprint has been offset through certified emissions reductions projects arranged through the Opera House’s alliance with EnergyAustralia, which also saw a think tank set up with CSIRO to workshop new efficiency ideas.

“There’s still a huge amount of potential,” said EnergyAustralia managing director Cath Tanna. “It’s now a case of what are the next opportunities, that’s what the think tank is about and that’s why it’s great to have the CSIRO involved.”

The most fruitful initiative arising so far, Ms Herron said, is in the area of fault protection diagnostic technology, which offers the prospect of optimising equipment maintenance and replacement, offering major savings while keeping the highest reliability standards.

But a move to explore the installation of battery storage doesn’t look realistic given the lack of space at the site on Bennelong Point.

“It’s very difficult to work out where to put it – there’s just no room,” Ms Herron said.

An initiative to introduce peer-to-peer solar trading, which would allow fans of the Opera House to donate surplus solar power, remains in the trial stage, with the focus however at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, which also has a partnership with EA under the utility’s “sustainable icons” program.

“The trick is to get the platform working so it’s easy for customers to participate,” Ms Tanna said

“We think that’s definitely achievable based on the trial. The next step will be engaging customerss to want to do it.”

Ms Tanna said the initiative has potentially much broader applications that could eventually see people donating energy to their children’s school or to a charity they support.

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