Post-election, it’s clear that local governments will be instrumental in continuing to lead the charge on climate action by fostering renewable energy projects, encouraging efficiency, and reducing transport emissions in their communities – essentially leading the way to a clean energy revolution. It is important to remember that the election result does not change the scientific facts and the imperative to reduce carbon emissions as quickly as councils and shires can.
For Western Australian councils, the task is difficult at present because state legislation places unnecessary regulatory roadblocks on local-level clean energy project – which, combined with the lack of a state renewable energy target, has seen the state fall behind the rest of the country in the energy transition.
“As it stands, local governments in WA can’t even change a lightbulb without running into state red tape – councils across the state are being held back from switching their streetlights to energy efficient LEDs due to clunky state regulation. It’s time for state government to clear the way to the clean energy transition, and work with local councils to move things forward,” said Greg Bourne, councillor at the Climate Council.
It’s not just changing light bulbs where councils are running into obstacles, but major hurdles like the fact that new generators seeking to connect to the WA network must pay for the augmentation, which can amount to several tens of millions of dollars, a substantial expense that makes a project uneconomic.
Councils are calling on the WA state government for:
- Accelerated action and fast tracked reform to remove regulatory barriers and facilitate the transition to a low carbon, energy efficient economy.
- A State level emissions reduction target and/or renewable energy target.
- Planning for climate proof communities, including funding for innovative climate change projects.
There are some shining examples of clean energy action around WA.
Fremantle is aiming for council’s operations to be carbon neutral by 2020 through installing renewable energy (especially rooftop solar), purchasing GreenPower, and energy efficiency upgrades (such as LED lighting). The City of Fremantle Council is also about to commence construction of Australia’s largest urban solar farm at the former South Fremantle landfill site.
Albany takes seriously the challenge of meaningful climate action and preparing its citizens adequately. They have initiatives in many areas, including:
- increasing energy efficiency within the City’s operations (specifically HVAC, street lighting, internal building lighting and alternative energy supply)
- TravelSmart Albany, which encourages residents to leave their cars at home and travel by foot, on bikes, or on public transport
- an organised tree planting initiative to help offset greenhouse gas emissions
The City of Cockburn is considered a leader in renewable energy in WA. The area has installed more than 4,500 photovoltaic panels on community buildings since 2009 and has a city approved Renewable Energy Policy to guide and inform the community on renewables installations. Cockburn is also home to WA’s largest rooftop solar installation, with a massive 1MW system made up of 3,592 solar panels, two EV charging stations, and has renewable energy production happening at the Henderson Waste Recovery Park (HWRP) by methane extraction and flaring.