Latest green developments in Australian energy

The carbon tax has been removed, but many Australian companies are still trying to do their bit to reduce the impact of greenhouse gases on the environment.

A number of schemes have been set up to encourage businesses to reduce their carbon output, so read on to see what's happening.

City Switch Office Program

A milestone has been reached in the capital of New South Wales, with 12 per cent of all CBD offices in Australia registered to the City of Sydney's scheme, CitySwitch Office Program.

The scheme aims to see offices throughout the country reduce their carbon emissions and pay lower electricity prices through education, incentives and networking.

The majority - 80 per cent - of emissions from major cities come from office buildings, so it is important to reduce the effect these groups have on the environment.

Commonwealth Bank is the latest Australian company to jump on board the program with tenancies in Brisbane, Perth, Melbourne, Adelaide and of course, Sydney. The company is one of 473 offices to join the program.

Carbon emissions have been reduced by around 20 per cent by the bank which has introduced energy-efficient measures such as replacing lights and introducing automated switch-off technology for its computers.

The program intends to see all offices with a 4-star or higher performance rating under the NABERS energy tool.

The energy tool rates buildings from zero to six, with lower rated buildings having more scope for improvement.

To get a six-star rating, buildings must be at the top of their game, with market leading performance and half the greenhouse gas emissions or water use of a five-star rated structure.

A grant from the Energy Efficiency Information Program has allowed the program to spread from cities into more regional areas, promoting additional sign-ups in rural areas.

As well as reducing greenhouse gases, the companies involved in this program are seeing the changes reflected in lower electricity prices.

Green Building Council of Australia's first Green Star - Performance rated building

Melbourne's Wyndham Civic Centre has Australia's first Green Star - Performance rating, after implementing a number of sustainability measures across the existing buildings, including community e-waste recycling hubs and energy and water efficiency upgrades.

The Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) launched the Green Star Performance rating tool in October and the three-storey Wyndham Civic Centre is the first building to sign up to the PILOT program.

Another 30 or so buildings also look set to announce their application to the program in the next few weeks.

Wyndham City were keen to join the program, according to Mayor Bob Fairclough, and the city plans to reduce corporate carbon emissions by 40 per cent in 2015.

"These measures highlight our commitment to reducing our environmental footprint and, through our involvement with Green Star - Performance, we’ll be able to measure the environmental performance of the Civic Centre, identify pathways to improve the building over time and reduce its operational costs," he said

The city also plans to make the most out of a $2.47 million federal grant, replacing all 12,088 light bulbs with compact energy efficient fluorescent tubes.

This illustrates the city's dedication to reducing its carbon footprint and to future sustainability.

Greener schools initiative

A global network has been set up to ensure schools are greener and healthier in the future. The network is co-chaired by Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) chief executive Romilly Madew and the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC) chief executive Jane Henley.

In Australia, there will be a focus on investing in quality learning environments as well as on quality teaching and resources.

"Too many students in Australia learn in school buildings that are too cold in winter, too hot in summer, badly lit and poorly ventilated. This affects student health and learning, teacher morale and school operational costs - as well as the environment," said Ms Madew.

The project aims to have every child learn in a green school "within this generation," she added. Energy suppliers should keep this in mind.

Jane Henley said there is evidence to show classroom environment can affect academic performance by as much as 25 per cent.

There are more than 9,500 schools in Australia and so far more than 120 education centres, including some universities, have achieved green star ratings, or are not far off meeting this milestone.

This project will establish a hub to bring the right people together to create sustainable schools, using green energy initiatives.

The hub will provide a space to share information such as case studies, and more detail about the range of programs and resources that exist already to teach the leaders of tomorrow about sustainability.

Posted by Liam Tunney.