Council-installed solar panels atop the South Port Surf Life Saving Club with club president, Dick Olesinski.
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The City of Onkaparinga in South Australia has taken a leadership position when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions, adopting solar PV and a range of other technologies to green its energy supply and reduce the carbon dioxide emitted across the entire council area.

With more than 170,000 residents, City of Onkaparinga is South Australia’s largest council area by population. The council has been committed to reducing its carbon footprint for decades, and is home to a community heavily invested in renewable energy. So, while it was pleasing to learn the council had slashed its corporate greenhouse gas emissions by 42 per cent over the past decade, it wasn’t a surprise.

The drop (from 15,065 tonnes of CO2e in 2010-11 to 8733 tonnes in 2018-19) comes in the wake of a slew of energy-reduction projects.

One such project saw the council change 12,000 streetlights to 14-watt LED technology in 2018, which slashed the lights’ electricity use by 40 per cent (and reduced emissions by 1900 tonnes of CO2e).

City of Onkaparinga replaced 12,000 streetlights with 14-watt LED technology in 2018.

City of Onkaparinga replaced 12,000 streetlights with 14-watt LED technology in 2018.

Other projects included a Green Buildings Initiative, which aims to reduce energy and water use, waste and greenhouse gas emissions from all council owned buildings over time.

Two of these flagship buildings are the McLaren Vale & Fleurieu Visitor Information Centre, and the Woodcroft Community Centre.

Boasting features such as solar PV systems, passive design (such as external shading, high performance glazing and rammed earth construction), solar hot water systems, electric vehicle charging stations and smart building controls, these buildings have become “Green Hub” demonstration sites to inspire the community.

The council’s emissions reduction over the decade was boosted by the increase in renewable energy use at state level. Council’s electricity consumption has also dropped by 37 per cent since 2010-11.

Mayor Erin Thompson says the emissions reduction is a fantastic result for the environment, demonstrating how the council’s long-term commitment to reducing our carbon footprint is paying off.

“City of Onkaparinga has been serious about reducing its carbon footprint for a long time, and we’ve been measuring our emissions since 1998,” she says.

“The 42 per cent reduction is really pleasing, but the work doesn’t stop here. We’ve been involved in a number of significant projects since to further reduce our emissions and future-proof our region from the impacts of climate change.”

Other exciting energy-reduction projects completed or underway in 2019-20 include:

  • Installation of 1000 solar panels at three of council’s high energy consuming sites (which will save over $80,000 per year and reduce council’s footprint by 161 tonnes of CO2e annually)
  • Installation of devices at a number of sites to remotely monitor electricity consumption and solar PV generation using real-time data
  • Circular procurement targets prioritising the use of recycled materials in council projects
  • The use of 10,000 tonnes of recycled asphalt in road works across the city
  • The first South Australian road built using recycled soft plastics and glass

A corporate emissions target will be brought to elected members by the end of 2019-20, which will be included in a Climate Change Response Plan currently under development.

The reduction announcement follows news that a new material recycling facility will be built in the City of Onkaparinga through the Southern Region Waste Resource Authority (a subsidiary of Holdfast Bay, Marion and Onkaparinga councils), delivering more major benefits to the environment and economy.

The McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast Visitor Centre has become a Green Hub demonstration site to inspire the community.

The McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast Visitor Centre has become a Green Hub demonstration site to inspire the community.

But the council’s energy-reduction projects are just one part of the renewables story in Southern Adelaide.

In early 2019, Vicinity Centres laid and connected nearly 5000 solar panels at Colonnades Shopping Centre, which sits alongside City of Onkaparinga’s main council offices at Noarlunga, with the 1.8MW system being the region’s largest commercial installation.

The City of Onkaparinga council area also has a higher overall proportion of residential solar installations at 39.8 per cent, compared to the rest of the state at 33.1 per cent.

In fact, Morphett Vale/Woodcroft was the top postcode in SA for household solar installations in 2017 and 2018, and more than 50 per cent of our rural areas are now powered by the sun.

Local governments across Australia have key roles in addressing and adapting to climate change, and helping communities to reduce emissions.

In Southern Adelaide, City of Onkaparinga looks forward to building on its successes and slashing its carbon footprint for decades to come.

Featured image: Council-installed solar panels atop the South Port Surf Life Saving Club with club president, Dick Olesinski.

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