We’ve started cleaning up our act on climate: Mayor

Micahel TraillAlbany Advertiser
Albany’s schools climate strike marched from Anzac Peace Park to the Albany Town Square.
Camera IconAlbany’s schools climate strike marched from Anzac Peace Park to the Albany Town Square. Credit: Laurie Benson

The climate strike which energised Albany last month led to a near 1000-signature petition being handed to the City of Albany. The petition called for the City to adopt the WA Local Government Association’s Climate Change Declaration. Michael Traill sat down with Albany Mayor Dennis Wellington to get his thoughts on the City’s approach to climate change and renewable energy.

The City of Albany’s has been pressed to sign on to the WALGA Climate Change Declaration, with nearly 1000 locals signing a petition.

The petition with 966 signatures was tabled during last Tuesday night’s council meeting, calling on the City to join 40 other WA local governments in adopting WALGA’s Climate Change Declaration.

Mayor Dennis Wellington said Albany had no plans to follow neighbouring town Denmark in declaring a climate emergency locally, stating he would would like to see the City lead through actions rather than words.

“What does the petition want? Well, it wants us to clean up our act,” Mr Wellington said.

“We started cleaning up our act in 2010, we’ve been cleaning up our act for nine years.”

In 2010, the City adopted an environmental policy.

Since then the City has adopted an electric and hybrid vehicle policy, resulting in a 25-tonne reduction of carbon emissions from its fleet, according to Mr Wellington.

He said the City had also achieved an 11.5 per cent increase in trees within its boundaries after adopting an urban tree strategy in 2017. A waterwise policy at the Albany Leisure Aquatic Centre had helped the facility reducing water use by 2000KL a year, while a biomass boiler kept the centre’s pools heated.

“I would rather actually do action than just talk about it, because the action of doing it is far important in my mind. Reducing the carbon emission from the car fleet by 25 tonnes a year is significant,” Mr Wellington said.

Mr Wellington said the City’s next step was installing solar panels and battery storage on all 53 of the buildings it owned.

“Solar panels, battery, back-ups, 100 per cent renewable – that will probably happen in the next 12 months,” he said.

“We’ll start by setting the example.

“The information we get is that it’ll pay itself back in four years.”

But he said balancing the economic and ecological needs of the community will remain central to any moves made to reduce the City’s carbon footprint.

“If it’s not cost-effective, to my mind, it’s just wasting money and you’re not here to waste ratepayers money,” he said.

“You’ve got to have good sound economic management.”

Leader backs 100 per cent sustainable energy by the year 2026

Albany Mayor Dennis Wellington is confident the City of Albany can meet its target of producing 100 per cent of local energy needs through renewables by 2026.

On average, 40 per cent of the City’s approximately $45 million energy market is already being satisfied by wind power, while the City expects another 35-40 per cent of demand will be provided through solar panelling by 2026.

To achieve this, Mr Wellington said the City would install rooftop solar panels and battery storage on its 53 buildings in the next year, before embarking on an ambitious goal of making 1000 Albany homes self sufficient. “What I would like to do, as our next project, is have 1000 houses as linked up to solar panelling,” he said.

It is early stages yet, but Mr Wellington said the City was looking to facilitate a process of bringing together local homeowners, funding from the Federal Government’s Australian Renewable Energy Agency and private enterprise. Mr Wellington said private enterprises would take the financial risk by supplying solar panels and back-up battery storage, while all residents would need to do is sign on.

To make up Albany’s remaining 25 to 30 per cent of energy through renewable means by 2026, Mr Wellington said it would be a matter of balancing return on investment.

“If they can get the cost down on the wave energy, that’s going to be the most reliable into the future because this water never stops moving. They’ve just got to find a way of getting the cost down from 350 per cent dearer than it is for ordinary electricity,” he said.

Hydrolysis and hydroelectricity were also being looked at. But he said converting waste to energy was shaping as the most likely accompaniment to solar and wind.

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