What is driving action to get off gas in Banyule?
Getting off gas is a key direction in Banyule’s Council Plan. This came about because of an active community gaining the support of councillors.
The council has an ambitious target of net zero corporate emissions by 2028, without the purchase of offsets for Scope 1 and 2, meaning completely electric leisure centres and council assets and zero emission vehicles.
Part of Banyule's solar roll-out.
What has happened so far?
Since passing the Climate Action Resolution in 2019, Banyule committed an initial $5M over three years to work towards their target of net zero corporate emissions by 2028. This is to largely accelerate energy efficiency initiatives and solar installations.
Solar systems are being installed wherever feasible, and are being sized for excess production, not just to meet the needs of the site.
Energy efficiency upgrades are being implemented for many buildings, with a focus on moving away from gas. Gas heating systems and gas hot water systems are being replaced to reverse cycle air conditioning and electric hot water systems primarily at small sites so far, such as community centres, maternal and child health centres and sports pavilions.
There has been a strong focus on leisure centres as large energy users. The first step was to reduce energy use and increase efficiency. They are currently implementing metering at their large aquatic centre, Watermarc, in order to create a baseline of energy and gas use.
An electrification study will identify an electric replacement program for any outstanding gas use at small sites, including hot water systems, space heating and cooking. Importantly replacement to these to electric alternatives will occur via an updated asset management plan, which sees these actions as the new ‘like’ replacement.
Energy efficiency remains a strong focus at aquatic centres, with the improvements to Banyule’s maintenance program being driven by energy saving opportunities. Examples include an advanced Building Management Systems (BMS), pipe insulation and lighting replacements.
A feasibility study on replacing gas boilers with heat pumps will be undertaken in the short term to inform a future step in electrifying these important assets.
What have been the challenges?
An initial barrier was overcoming people’s preference for gas over electricity, and gaining understanding and buy-in for the reasons for change.
A technical challenge was to work out how to provide a very large volume of hot water instantaneously without gas. Small systems don’t present much of a challenge, but the showers in a sports pavilion, for example, may need 300-500L of hot water at one time, which is a challenge for an instantaneous electric hot water system compared with a gas hot water system.
They are looking to use heat pumps for their pools but they are currently using gas boilers – they are waiting for a technical solution powerful enough to replace them.
What have been the benefits?
For Banyule, with only seven years left to achieve their net zero target for corporate emissions, the primary benefit of getting off gas is in demonstrating leadership and breaking their reliance on fossil fuels, and generating and storing their own clean energy.
There have also been financial savings which have partially or fully offset many installations costs. The electric hot water systems used so far have all had a ‘payback’ period under ten years – one of the benefits of an instantaneous system which only operates when needed. Another advantage of these systems as that they do not require the same flow rate as conventional hot water heaters.
Banyule takes a collaborative approach:
Solar installation at WaterMarc Aquatic Centre.
How is it being led and embedded in the organisation?
A key component of Banyule’s climate change response is the recognition that climate action is the responsibility of everyone across the organization.
A strong cultural change program has been led by the Environment Team, to ensure everyone understands the strategic commitment in place and is equipped with the tool and knowledge necessary to undertake action.
The Environment Team continues to take carriage of the overarching program and provide technical support to teams such as Asset Management and Major Projects.
The Environment Team engages with many areas, and has found the key to engaging successfully has been to start early, provide the right information, and keep everyone involved – “You can’t do it alone.” They have built a strong collaborative approach and there is strong top-down leadership.