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Solar power helps Yarra City Council get carbon neutral

13th Dec 2012

After being named Victoria's Sustainable City of the Year in 2011, it seems that Yarra's City Council was not content with just one day in the sun.

Solar power has helped it emerge as Victoria's first officially carbon neutral council under the federal government's National Carbon Offset Standard (NCOS).

Gaining carbon neutrality was first identified as a goal for the council in its 2008 Yarra Environment Strategy report and since then the city has progressed in leaps and bounds towards its goal.

Yarra mayor Jackie Fristacky says that investment in renewable energy projects played an important role in becoming carbon neutral.

She says that being a "carbon reduction leader" wasn't just about purchasing carbon offsets.

The council has installed energy efficient bulbs in the bulk of its street lights as well as solar panels and hot water systems at council-owned community buildings.

In 2011-12, solar panel systems were installed on nine buildings, adding 140kW to the council's solar capacity, according to its annual report.

Yarra now boasts 25 council structures with solar energy generation capabilities, including children's centres, libraries and recreational facilities.

Not only can kids and other community members get an up-close glimpse of solar power at work, but the council says these retrofits have helped save over 300 tonnes of carbon emissions.

The council is also committed to providing information about solar power systems to its residents. In August 2011, it hosted a free information session for people interested in installing solar panels at their home.

Last year, it also established the Yarra Energy Foundation, which provides education programs and retrofitting initiatives to help the city's residents and businesses reduce their emissions.

The foundation is solely dedicated to achieving the council's goal of city-wide carbon neutrality by 2020.

Yarra is only Australia's second council to receive NCOS certification, after the City of Sydney.

The standard was established by the Australian government in 2010 to provide clear requirements for organisations wishing to become carbon neutral.

It aims to give consumers confidence that any organisation or product bearing the NCOS stamp of approval has genuinely offset its carbon emissions.

Low Carbon Australia, the official certifier of the standard, praised Yarra for its commitment to achieving carbon neutrality.

"Yarra City Council is proof of what can be achieved with strong community leadership and strategic decision," said LCA chief executive officer Meg McDonald.

Posted by Mike Peacock

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