“Coal is really dirty. Gas is pretty dirty too. It's a bit cleaner than coal,” said City of Sydney CEO Monica Barone as she explained the plan to move to gas-powered energy production at a packed community meeting at St Peters Town Hall organised by Sydney Residents Against Coal Seam Gas (SRACGS) on April 13.
Barone agreed that we need to move to a low carbon economy, but said moving to a zero carbon economy, such as the plan set out by Beyond Zero Emissions, would be “enormous”.
“That is a really huge journey, and that is hugely expensive, and hardly any of the hard infrastructure, or the social infrastructure, or the regulatory infrastructure, is in place to take that trip,” she said.
The City of Sydney plans to use gas as the primary fuel to transition away from coal. The City will use a method of energy production known as trigeneration, which burns gas to generate electricity and to heat and cool buildings.
Barone said the cost of wind and solar power make them less viable options for Sydney's energy future than trigeneration.
She said: “The amount of infrastructure, of money you have to spend per tonne is much more expensive. That's because we don't have a carbon tax.
“Trigeneration is powered by gas, that's the truth. In time it can be powered by renewable gas.
“We're not saying that our solution is the end game, or the very best thing that you can do. We're just saying it's a plan and it's better than no plan, and it's a hell of a lot better than what we're currently doing.
“We want our trigeneration to be fuelled by natural gas."
However, she conceded that "we can't necessarily control what is going in to that supply". This was a reference to the fact that coal seam gas could make up at least part of the gas supply that is used in the trigeneration process.
At the end of 2010, plans emerged that energy company Apollo Gas has been granted a licence for exploratory coal seam gas drilling in Sydney.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported on November 16: “The licence covers 3285 square kilometres — most of greater Sydney — from Kurnell to Gosford and west to Eastern Creek.”
Local resident and spokesperson for SRACSG Jacinta Green said: “The gas company has cited these [trigeneration] plans as one of the drivers for the St Peters coal seam gas well.”
SRACSG formed to oppose this proposed drilling. SRACSG remains concerned that the proposed coal seam gas well in St Peters — an inner-city residential area — won government approval despite the lack of community consultation and environmental safeguards.
Local residents at the meeting said they were concerned that the council’s plans for trigeneration would mean locking the City into a future that includes little room for energy from clean renewable sources such as wind and solar.