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CVC works towards sustainability

Geoff Helisma A recent Cities Power Partnership media release trumpeted that “over forty mayors and councillors from across the country have … released a joint statement committing to economic recovery solutions that create jobs and tackle climate change”. “The mass commitment to a sustainable economic recovery aims to support industries and sectors that invest in a zero carbon future, along with driving strong economic recovery for communities hit hard by twin climate and COVID-19 crises,” the media release stated. However, while neither the mayor nor any of Clarence Valley Council’s (CVC) councillors are among the 40 representatives, CVC is a signatory to the initiative, along with 140 other local government areas in Australia. Meanwhile, in November 2018, Clarence Valley Council (CVC) set itself some targets to meet the challenges climate change is presenting. Councillors unanimously resolved to “adopt a target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions (excluding landfill emissions) by 40 per cent by 2030 [compared to] 2016/17 levels, with the long term goal to reach zero net emissions by 2050”. Councillors also adopted a target of supplying 50 per cent of its “electricity demand from renewable energy sources by 2030, with the long term goal to source all electricity from renewable energy. “[And to] implement measures outlined in [consultant] 100% Renewables’ report, to meet [CVC’s]renewable energy target by 2022/23”. As part of signing up to the Cities Power Partnership, local governments are asked to pledge action on five key issues from within four categories – Renewable Energy, Energy Efficiency, Sustainable Transport and Work Together and Influence. The Independent caught up with CVC’s waste and sustainability coordinator, Ken Wilson, to find out what progress has been made. The council chose two actions from the Renewable Energy category: 3. Install renewable energy (solar PV and battery storage) on council buildings; and 5. Power council operations by renewable energy and set targets to increase the level of renewable power for council operations over time. “We now have 43 council buildings with solar energy, with a capacity of 1,344 kilowatts,” Mr Wilson said. “We have set a target of using 50 per cent renewable sources [to power council operations] by 2030. “However, we hope to achieve that before then.” From the Energy Efficiency category, CVC chose 3. Roll out energy efficient lighting across the municipality. “We’ve replaced all of our minor road street lighting with LED technology,” Mr Wilson said, “3,000 street lights. “That will reduce the energy to run those lights by at least 50 per cent. “We’re in the process of trying to work on replacing all of the main road lights, [although we have] no program date for that yet. “With council buildings, we’ve upgraded 1,280 lights to LED technology. “We’ve also upgraded lighting at some sport fields – Rushforth, Barnier Park, Yamba rugby field [at Nyagindi Sports Complex] – and we’re about to replace lighting at McKittrick Oval at South Grafton.” In the Sustainable Transport category, CVC selected 1. Ensure Council fleet purchases meet strict greenhouse gas emissions requirements and support the uptake of electric vehicles; and 5. Support cycling through provision of adequate cycle lanes, bike parking and end-of-ride facilities. “With the light fleet, we’re now purchasing hybrid vehicles – electric combined with petrol or diesel engines; we have around 20 at the moment,” Mr Wilson said. Mr Wilson said the all of the fleet would be replaced with hybrid cars; however, he said the council is also “looking at the opportunity to trial fully electric vehicles”. “With our geographic regional area, we have limitations of distance at the moment, which is a little problematic for us, but that is quickly disappearing. “As range and battery technology improves, they will become more suitable for our geographical area.” On cycling, Mr Wilson said we always looking at those issues, “but we are doing more at the moment, although I can’t quantify [what we are doing], but that is one of our goals”. From the Working Together and Influence category, CVC chose 1. Set city-level renewable energy or emissions reduction targets. “Over the last few months, we’ve been working on a valley-wide emissions reduction strategy; a community one,” Mr Wilson said, “to identify opportunities and to encourage actions that the Clarence Valley community can take on board and run with. “Hopefully, [we can] set some targets to reduce emissions throughout the valley. “We ran a survey online a couple of months ago and made contact with various community groups. “The draft of this strategy will be released for public comment in a couple of months’ time, and we plan to do as much community consultation as we can. Mr Wilson said expenditure on the initiatives “is based on a four to six-year payback period”.