What is driving action to get off gas in Moreland?
Moreland’s Zero Carbon Moreland 2040 Framework, co-created by Council and the Moreland community, sets out a zero-carbon vision for 2040.
Moreland Council has a long history of substantial investment in energy efficiency, solar power and fleet electrification to reduce our corporate carbon footprint. All operations have been Climate Active certified since 2011. As part of the Melbourne Renewable Energy Project, Moreland purchases all electricity for Council operations from the Crowlands Wind Farm in north-west Victoria. This ensures that the electricity is zero carbon. We have now reduced our overall greenhouse gas emissions by 69% since 2011/12.
The Zero Carbon Moreland – Climate Emergency Action Plan 2020/21 – 2024/25 sets a goal for Moreland to “continue to be recognised for its innovation and leadership in the energy transition.” A key action is to “ensure Council builds highly energy efficient facilities, including onsite renewables and ‘no new fossil gas’.” Council has committed to consider outcomes of an investigation into the feasibility and timing of an accelerated phase-out of fossil gas from Council facilities (including aquatic centres), with particular consideration for the planned refurbishment of the Fawkner Leisure Centre.
An all-electric sports pavilion with heat pumps installed.
In May 2021, Moreland became the first council in Australia to endorse the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, reinforcing our commitment to phase out fossil fuels. The Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty aims to stop the expansion and production of oil, gas and coal fossil fuels in line with the Paris Agreement.
In 2018 Moreland adopted its Sustainable Buildings Policy, which sets out requirements for refurbishments and redevelopments of council buildings. The policy states that “Moreland is moving towards 100% electric buildings and is taking steps to actively reduce the usage of natural gas in building operations.”
What has happened so far?
A big win for Moreland was the installation of electric heat pumps at Council’s main administrative building at Bell Street Coburg in 2018. These heat pumps provide heating and hot water and make the site primarily electric. This was a complex project since the site is a large office space with heritage elements. It was also a stand-alone refurbishment since there were no planned works it could be integrated into. The project was ground-breaking, and a significant commitment by Council.
Heat pumps have also been installed at several pavilions and community centres, and for showering at one of Moreland’s leisure centres.
Moreland is developing messaging to encourage the community to transition to all electric, complemented by the purchase of renewable energy.
In 2020 Moreland commissioned a report on electrifying its aquatic centres. Moreland is currently carrying out detailed follow-up analysis on two aquatic centres due for refurbishment or re-development in the coming years.
What have been the challenges?
One challenge has been the fact that this technology is relatively new in Australia in the context of aquatic centres in a temperate climate. Heat pumps have been used for several years at aquatic centres in New South Wales, and in the context of domestic hot water and reverse cycle air-conditioning for much longer.
A lack of local experience can create hesitancy on the part of consultants, designers and construction teams.
Another challenge has been budgetary. Installing heat pumps can require significant funding. There are energy cost savings available, however these are not as dramatic as for earlier sustainability projects such as solar PV or LED upgrades.
Moreland is making progress on transitioning away from fossil fuels and in particular from gas plant to electric, powered by 100% renewable energy. This process takes time and budget.
Aquatic centres are a key focus for Moreland. Council has six aquatic centres in its portofilo including managing four heated aquatic centres. These account for the vast majority of Council's fossil fuel gas use, primarily for pool water heating.
Fawkner Aquatic Centre is due to be refurbished between 2023 and 2025. The design team is considering gas-free solutions, as laid out in the tender specifications. Electrifying all the aquatic centres will, however, be a long-term undertaking.
Heat pumps supplying hot water for showering at Oak Park Sports and Aquatic Centre.
How is it being led and embedded in the organisation?
Moreland has a long history in this space, with electric heat pumps for hot water first installed at a sports pavilion in 2013. Successful small-scale trials of the technology led to more ambitious projects, such as the installation of heat pumps at the Coburg Civic Centre in 2018.
The feasibility of “going off gas” is now well-established. The Buildings Projects team now install heat pumps at pavilions and in new buildings as a matter of course, while the Aquatics team are carefully considering the feasibility of making aquatic centres all-electric.
For degasification to be successful, heat pumps must meet the heating and maintenance requirements of the sites, and funding must be allocated for the up-front costs, which can include additional spatial requirements, upgrades to electricity supply, as well as the plant and equipment.