MORNINGTON Peninsula Shire Council went further down the track towards a zero-carbon future last week by voting to explore only net zero carbon design in shire buildings – meaning new buildings would ideally produce no emissions.
Councillors at the 15 June planning services committee meeting moved to join others on the Council for Alliance of Sustainable Built Environment project to “advance environmentally sustainable development planning policies to achieve net zero carbon and climate resilience development”.
This means any new buildings should be designed to be highly energy efficient and to not use gas or coal-fired electricity through having a combination of rooftop solar and buying off-site renewable energy.
This project is supported by the Municipal Association of Victoria and driven by the Council for Alliance of Sustainable Built Environment and the cities of Moreland and Yarra. It builds on previous work by CASBE and other councils over the past decade in raising environmental standards in public and private built form, a shire statement said.
“This is another major step that supports our Climate Emergency Plan,” the mayor Cr Despi O’Connor said. “This plan was adopted in the last council term and supports calls from our community to take action against climate change.
“The plan also requires new council builds to be fitted with electrical appliances powered by renewables and looks to transition our community to renewable energy, not buying it or subsidising it for them, but advocating on their behalf. It also supports the facilitation of competitive offers to encourage community uptake of solar panels, and electrical equipment to replace gas appliances, if they choose that path.”
Cr O’Connor said while gas was being used to heat the new council pool in Besgrove Street, Rosebud, no alternative heat source was presently available. Future refits may be able to exploit advances in water heating technology to complement the full set of solar panels on the roof, she said.
But Cr Steve Holland said he was “very concerned that many residents are not aware of the shire’s target to phase out all natural gas across the entire Mornington Peninsula by 2040”.
“Some people have suggested I am scaremongering, but I think people have a right to know,” he said after the council meeting.
“We need to acknowledge that there are vulnerable members of the community who rely on natural gas in their day-to-day lives [who] cannot afford to transition.
“The vote on Tuesday night affirmed that council will start the process of phasing out gas by elevating net-zero energy policies like the Climate Emergency Plan. I don’t believe energy policy is within the remit of local government.”
Cr Holland pointed to comments by the shire’s principal strategic planner Claire Dougall on the agenda item the councillors voted on: “The project aims to advance ESD (Environmentally Sustainable Development) planning policy in Victoria, to achieve net-zero carbon and climate-resilient development … The Climate Emergency Plan commits council to achieving net-zero emissions across the shire by 2040”.
Cr Holland said: “Net-zero carbon means no natural gas – not just for new builds. The only way net-zero by 2040 can be achieved is if existing gas appliances are phased out. Council has not made that clear to the community.”
Cr O’Connor disagreed: “Tuesday night’s resolution did not see council vote to phase out natural gas from homes but rather to keep pursuing alternatives to finite resources, such as gas, to achieve economic and environmental benefits for the community”.
First published in the Southern Peninsula News – 22 June 2021