Sydney Opera House reaches carbon neutrality

Monday, 24 September, 2018

Sydney Opera House reaches carbon neutrality

The Sydney Opera House has officially become carbon neutral, achieving certification against the Australian Government’s National Carbon Offset Standard (NCOS) and meeting its target to reduce emissions five years ahead of schedule. The venue’s iconic sails will be lit green from sunset tonight to mark the achievement.

The Opera House successfully reduced its carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by creating efficiencies in how it manages energy and waste, streamlining day-to-day business and building operations, and offsetting remaining emissions for the year 2017–2018 with help from major partner EnergyAustralia. Key drivers to the Opera House’s carbon neutral certification include:

  • Reducing electricity use by 14% from baseline:
    • Replacing incandescent bulbs in the Opera House’s Concert Hall with custom LED lights to achieve a 75% reduction in electricity consumption (2014).
    • Implementing a new building management control system to monitor energy and water use and manage climate control (2017).
    • Replacing chiller units connected to the Opera House’s pioneering seawater cooling system (2017) resulting in a 9% energy reduction.
  • Increasing the Opera House’s waste recycling rate from 25% to 60%:
    • Implementing a new waste management program, including the introduction of new recycling streams and transferring food waste which would have otherwise gone to landfill to an organics facility to be turned into energy (2017).
    • Rolling out an educational program on waste management for onboarding staff and contractors.
  • Offsetting remaining emissions with help from EnergyAustralia:
    • Investing in NCOS-certified international emissions reduction projects and offset projects with environmental organisations Greenfleet and SouthPole.

Custom LED lights in the Opera House Concert Hall. Image© Prudence Upton.

“Each year the Opera House hosts thousands of events and serves millions of meals — producing 5000 m3 of waste and using electricity equivalent to 2500 households (16 GW),” said Sydney Opera House CEO Louise Herron AM. “It’s our responsibility to find innovative solutions to reduce our carbon footprint and inspire our community to do the same.

“Architect Jørn Utzon incorporated sustainable design into the fabric of the building in the 1960s — we aim to honour and enhance this legacy by embedding sustainable thinking into everything we do. I’m proud to announce that thanks to long-term focus, creativity and the support of our partner EnergyAustralia, we’ve become carbon neutral five years ahead of target.”

Sydney Opera House CEO Louise Herron, NSW Minister for Energy and Utilities & Minister for the Arts Don Harwin, and EnergyAustralia Managing Director Catherine Tanna. Image ©Caroline McCredie.

EnergyAustralia was particularly helpful by mapping out the Opera House’s pathway to carbon neutrality and providing funding to offset remaining emissions with native reforestation and renewable energy projects. The company’s Managing Director, Catherine Tanna, said, “We’ve shown it’s possible for Australia’s most famous house to offset its carbon emissions, and we’re making it simple for millions of households around the country to do the same.”

The next step in the Opera House’s ambitious Environmental Sustainability Plan (2017–2019) is to reduce its energy use by 20% from baseline; achieve 85% recycling of operational waste; achieve a 5 Star Green Star Performance Rating; and maintain its certified carbon neutral status year on year in time for its 50th anniversary in 2023.

Top image: Sydney Opera House sails in green.

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