Sydney Opera House is now carbon neutral


What does ‘carbon neutral’ really mean?

Carbon dioxide (‘CO2’) is the gas released when we breathe, drive our cars, or from the fuels that are burnt to provide the electricity that powers our lives. With the world consuming more, more fuels are being burnt, our temperatures are rising and our climate is being affected.

Carbon offsetting is when energy companies can choose to invest in projects that offset their carbon emissions. For example, planting trees or building solar or wind farms.

By the National Carbon Offset Standard (NCOS), the Sydney Opera House is now certified carbon neutral.

From the start, sustainability has been in our DNA

As he was designing the Opera House, architect Jørn Utzon always had the natural environment in mind – from the building’s pioneering seawater cooling system, chilled ceiling systems in the Drama Theatre (using cold seawater to cool the pipes in venues), self-cleaning tiles (rainwater washes them off), and green cleaning methods (the age-old technique of olive oil to polish brass).

We’re five years early

In our Environmental Sustainability Plan (2017-19), we set out to go carbon neutral by 2023. We’re five years ahead of schedule. But, we still have plenty more to do.

We switched out the lights

In 2014 we replaced the light bulbs in the Concert Hall with custom-made LEDs. It makes for a great light show, too.

By the numbers: reduced the Concert Hall’s energy consumption by 75%.

We’re replanting forests

By planting tree saplings we’re contributing directly to offsetting our carbon output.This year, 20 staff from across the Opera House and Energy Australia traveled out to Mount Carmel and planted 300 trees. This is the second time we’ve taken this on, the first time for Vivid LIVE in 2015.

We’re keeping an eye on what we use

We reduced our energy use by 14% with the Honeywell Building Management Control System in 2017, which lets us watch and adjust our energy use, water and climate control more effectively.

By the numbers: reduced energy consumption by 9%.

We’re turning food into energy

With more shows and visitors every year, we need to manage the amount of waste this brings. In 2016, we introduced a new waste management program and started recycling even more types of materials – from the usual papers and plastics to mobile phones, fluoro tubes, toner cartridges and batteries.

In 2017, we started moving our food waste – from staff and performers in the Green Room, concerts, visiting artists, catering – to Earth Power, an organics facility where we convert it into energy.

We’ve also been rolling out an educational program on waste management for people that work with us, such as: our events companies, food operators, Resident Companies like Opera Australia and The Australian Ballet.

By the numbers: increased our waste recycling wait from 25% to 60%.

Keeping it cool

In 2017, we replaced the old chiller units connected to our seawater cooling system in order to optimise the heating and cooling of the building.

By the numbers: reduced energy consumption by 9%.

Our global goals

The Opera House’s commitment to carbon neutrality aligns with Australia’s pledge at the Paris climate conference (COP21) in 2015 to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to well below 2°C, and the NSW Climate Change Policy Framework to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

Energy Australia helped us crunch the numbers…

In 2017, EnergyAustralia created a CSIRO think tank to support the Opera House’s Sustainability objectives including achieving Carbon Neutral certification.

These strategies, currently being scoped, include CSIRO fault-detection diagnostic technology and on-site electricity generationusing hydrogen fuel cell technology.

EnergyAustralia enabled us to engage a carbon and renewables expert to map out the building’s pathway to carbon neutrality, instrumental to achieving the certification.

…and offset the rest of it

EnergyAustralia helped us invest in NCOS-certified environmental organisations like Greenfleet and SouthPole. This includes supporting SouthPole’s project EcoAustraliawhich combines biodiversity conservation in the Annya State Forest (VIC) with international emissions reduction.

“At EnergyAustralia, it’s our job to create change in Australia’s energy system and pioneer the transition to cleaner energy reliant on renewables with low or zero emissions. We’ve shown it’s possible for Australia’s most famous house to offset all its carbon emissions, and we’re making it simple for millions of households around the country to do the same.”

Energy Australia Managing Director Catherine Tanna

“As the icon of Australia, the Opera House is setting a powerful example for organisations, venues and households across the country to contribute to our goal of net-zero emissions by 2050 and ensure a more sustainable future for Australia.”

NSW Minister for Energy and Utilities & Minister for the Arts Don Harwin