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November 12, 2013
By: Diane Moss

Sydney Goes for 100% Renewable by 2030

Diane Moss, Founding Director Renewables 100 Policy Institute with Allan Jones, Chief Development Officer Energy and Climate Change for City of Sydney,


We, the Renewables 100 Policy Institute team recently caught up with the City of Sydney’s Chief Development Officer Allan Jones about the city’s plan to get all its power, heating, and cooling needs met with local renewable sources by 2030. Mr. Jones, who formerly served as head of the London Climate Change Agency, has overseen the development of Sydney’s Decentralized Energy Master Plan during its development over the past few years.

Mr. Jones says Sydney’s decision to embark on this ambitious program is really not that unusual. He cited Copenhagen as an example of a city that already aims to reach the 100% renewable target 5 years before Sydney does. This mirrors the perspective of the Institute, where we have been tracking hundreds of cities, communities, regions, and countries that are setting and achieving 100% renewable goals.

Sydney has set a 100% renewable energy goal because, according to Mr. Jones, it simply makes common sense. He calls lesser targets “supermarket trolley renewable energy,” in which policymakers are making random choices with no idea how they will turn out. While smaller targets may be needed as interim steps, he asserts it is essential to start out with a 100% renewable policy, so that planners are forced to have the discipline to make correct choices based on accurate calculations and an optimum technology mix.

The City of Sydney has chosen as its 100% renewable technology mix a combination of 30% solar and wind power, plus 70% trigeneration power and thermal energy from waste recovery.

Behind the decision were several factors. Included among them was the fact that the city has little land space, so only 18% of Sydney’s renewable energy needs can be met with solar and wind power within the city boundaries. The City of Sydney also set the parameter that no remote renewables should be used, in order to avoid the energy loss and vulnerability to storm damage that come with overhead grid transmission and distribution networks.

The city will, however, use the land just outside the city, where there is abundant organic waste and other renewable resources to make up for what is not directly available within city limits. A bonus of this strategy is that farmers and rural communities will have opportunities for added revenue streams, as new options emerge to participate in the new renewable energy economy.

The City of Sydney’s 100% renewable energy transition will be financed primarily by the private sector. The gas distribution system, which accounts for about 10% of the overall budget, will be paid for by the city. Initially, the gas distribution system will use natural gas while it is getting up and running, but this will be replaced by renewable gas from various waste resources, as the project matures. The City of Sydney developed a number of innovative financing mechanisms to help motivate businesses to buy in to the renewable energy plan and view it as a win-win.

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