Its majestic sails and warm-white glow are familiar to millions all over the world, but the beloved Sydney Opera House could soon be just as well known for its energy smarts. With the help of EnergyAustralia, the multi-venue precinct has achieved carbon neutral certification, beating its own deadline by five years. The news comes just weeks after EnergyAustralia helped the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) go carbon neutral for the month of September. Each year, the Opera House receives more than eight million visitors, hosts thousands of performances and produces 5,000 cubic metres of waste. So, how did such a busy building become carbon neutral?
Defining ‘carbon neutral’
Carbon dioxide (or CO2) is the gas released when fossil fuels are burned to generate electricity or used to drive our vehicles. To achieve carbon-neutral certification under the government’s National Carbon Offset Standard (NCOS), the Opera House needed to reduce the amount of carbon it generated by devising ingenious ways to make the precinct more energy efficient. The remaining emissions needed to be ‘offset’ by investing in projects that reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.
Smart energy-saving solutions
The Opera House has made some big changes in order to slash the amount of electricity it uses:
- In 2014, it replaced the light bulbs in the Concert Hall with custom-made LEDs, reducing the Concert Hall’s energy consumption by a whopping 75%;
- In 2017, it upgraded its seawater cooling system (which helps cool the building using cold water from the sea floor) by replacing the old chiller units, reducing energy consumption by 9%;
- Also in 2017, it introduced a new Building Management Control System to keep track of its energy and water use and climate control more effectively, reducing consumption by a further 9%.
All up, the Sydney Opera House has reduced the total amount of electricity it uses by 14%, even though it is receiving more visitors and hosting more performances than ever before.
Offsetting the rest
EnergyAustralia is helping the Opera House offset its remaining emissions through investment in NCOS-certified projects such as EcoAustralia, which combines biodiversity conservation in the Annya State Forest (VIC) with international emission reduction projects. Individual staff members are getting involved, too: in September, staff from the Opera House and EnergyAustralia travelled to Mount Carmel in Western Sydney to plant trees in collaboration with Greenfleet. These trees will help absorb and store carbon over their lifetime, regenerate land and, when they’re grown, will provide wildlife habitats essential for native species.
A greener future
The Sydney Opera House and EnergyAustralia are committed to maintaining the building’s carbon-neutral certification, which aligns with the NSW Climate Change Policy Framework to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. In 2017, EnergyAustralia collaborated with CSIRO to create a think tank to help achieve neutral certification and to support the Opera House’s sustainability objectives now and into the future. There are plenty more exciting innovations to come. Watch this space.