Several initiatives implemented at the Sydney Opera House helped the iconic building reduce emissions and achieve carbon neutral certification against the Australian Government’s National Carbon Offset Standard (NCOS).
The Opera House successfully met its target to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions five years ahead of schedule primarily through efficient energy and waste management, and streamlined building operations, while offsetting remaining emissions for the year 2017-2018 with help from Major Partner EnergyAustralia.
Key milestones in the Opera House’s road to carbon neutral status included reducing electricity use by 14 percent from baseline, and increasing waste recycling rate from 25 percent to 60 percent.
Energy use was reduced through measures such as replacing incandescent bulbs in the Concert Hall with custom LED lights to achieve a 75 percent reduction in consumption (2014); implementing a new building management control system to monitor energy and water use and manage climate control (2017); and optimising the heating and cooling of the building by replacing chiller units connected to the Opera House’s pioneering seawater cooling system (2017), resulting in a 9 percent energy reduction.
The increase in waste recycling rate came from a new waste management program, which introduced new recycling streams and transferred food waste to an organics facility to be turned into energy (2017), instead of sending it to landfill. An educational program on waste management was also rolled out for staff and contractors.
EnergyAustralia not only mapped out the Opera House’s pathway to carbon neutrality but also provided funding to offset remaining emissions through measures such as investing in NCOS-certified international emissions reduction projects and offset projects with environmental organisations Greenfleet and SouthPole.
Sydney Opera House CEO Louise Herron says: "Sustainability is in the Opera House's DNA. Architect Jørn Utzon incorporated sustainable design into the fabric of the building in the 1960s. We aim to honour and enhance this legacy by embedding sustainable thinking into everything we do. I'm proud to announce that thanks to long-term focus, creativity and the support of our partner EnergyAustralia we've become carbon neutral five years ahead of target.”
NSW minister for Energy and Utilities & minister for the Arts Don Harwin says: “The Sydney Opera House is our nation's symbol to the world and I'm doubly proud as both Minister for the Arts and Energy to celebrate this remarkable building's carbon neutral status.
"By slashing energy use and ramping up recycling the Opera House has truly set the stage for others to follow and I congratulate the Opera House team on their transformational work."
EnergyAustralia Managing Director Catherine Tanna says: “No country on earth can give us a blueprint for the transformation to an energy system reliant on renewables, with low or zero emissions. Our challenge – and our job – is making sure families have access to cleaner, affordable and reliable power no matter where they live or what they earn.
“We’ve shown it’s possible for Australia’s most famous house to offset its carbon emissions, and we’re making it simple for millions of households around the country to do the same.”
Key objectives in the Opera House’s ambitious Environmental Sustainability Plan (2017-2019) include reducing energy use by 20 percent from baseline, achieving 85 percent recycling of operational waste; attaining a 5 Star Green Star Performance Rating; and maintaining its certified carbon neutral status year-on-year in time for its 50th anniversary in 2023.