If approved in the coming months, a City of Sydney proposal asks that all future development applications lodged to council adhere to new energy requirements that will enforce and encourage the use of renewable energy sources in order to support the transition towards net zero emissions.

Never seen before in Australia, the proposal made by the council is in line with its desire for the city to be net zero by 2035

The proposal asks that DAs for new office buildings, hotels and shopping centres and major redevelopments of existing buildings must comply with minimum energy ratings from January 2023, and achieve net-zero energy output by 2026. 

The measures are expected to save more than $1.3 billion on energy bills for investors, businesses and occupants from 2023 to 2040, and help the City meet its target of net-zero emissions by 2035. 

Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore says that every building and future proposal has a role to play in the race to net zero.

“Energy use in buildings is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions,” she says. 

“Commercial office space, hotels and apartment buildings contribute 68% of total emissions in our LGA. If we’re to meet our target of net-zero emissions by 2035, we need to ensure this sector is contributing to emissions reduction through increased energy efficiency, on-site renewable energy production and off-site renewable energy procurement. 

“We have worked with industry and government to develop performance standard step changes that are ambitious, but achievable. We’re providing a clear pathway and time for developers to improve energy performance and transition to net zero buildings. 

“Not only will this program help us reach our target of net-zero emissions by 2035, it will provide energy savings of more than $1.3 billion for investors, businesses and occupants across Greater Sydney. As we emerge from the impacts of the pandemic, we’re helping ensure sustainability and resilience is at the core of business recovery.” 

The City’s new planning controls will combine energy efficiency and the use of onsite and offsite renewables to move buildings towards net zero energy use. Including the option to use off site renewable energy purchases is another first for local planning controls in Australia. 

Moore says the proposals have been created in collaboration with developers, industry bodies, consultants and government agencies. 

“The climate challenge is one that we can only meet with concerted action. The more we can work together and exchange information, knowledge and experiences, the greater our ability to meet the NSW Government net-zero emissions target and allow us to continue to create truly liveable cities.” 

The new energy targets have the backing of leading developers, property owners and industry groups. 

Greater Sydney Commission environment commissioner Emma Herd says the proposed changes in development applications should be adopted by councils across the Greater Sydney region, and not just the metropolitan areas.

“Across Greater Sydney, the changing climate is a shared problem. These performance standards will help us meet our shared goal of net zero emissions and deliver progress against the Greater Sydney region's low carbon city objective,” she says. 

“I would encourage councils across the Greater Sydney region to look at these performance standards as a useful tool for achieving environmental targets of net zero emissions and sustainability actions in their local strategic planning statements.” 

Lendlease’s Executive Development Director Neil Arckless says his organisation supports the ambitious performance standards. 

“At Lendlease we recently set our own pathway to net zero carbon by 2025 and absolute zero by 2040. We are always pushing the boundaries to innovate in sustainability and welcome the City of Sydney leading the way in the development of these performance standards. I’m confident we can all rise to the challenge,” he says. 

The measures are expected to deliver substantial financial benefits. Annually office owners will save $2,750 per 1,000 square metres of floor area and hotel owners $170 per hotel room. 

There are also additional public benefits and savings in health, energy network and emissions costs, worth around $1.8 billion. The planning controls also support the NSW Government's renewable energy zones through investment, and create demand for jobs and new skills in energy efficiency. 

The performance standards to net zero energy buildings report has been prepared for Council consideration on 17 May 2021. For more information, click here.