Bendigo’s council is set to adopt a target to try and make it carbon neutral by 2036.
The ambition is proposed in the City of Greater Bendigo’s draft environmental plan which – if adopted – would outline council’s environmental policy for the next 20-years.
Council’s current target is to cut its own carbon emissions by 50 per cent by 2020. However that only considers carbon dioxide generated from its energy use. The city’s overall emissions have risen 28 per cent in five years despite the target.
The new 2036 target would aim to see zero net carbon emissions.
The plan lists creating a local renewable energy network as one of three “flagship programs”. City energy projects officer Keith Reynard said such a network could generate millions of dollars for the local economy.
“North western Victoria has the best solar resources in the state and, as we are the capital city in the region, Bendigo is in a great position to tap into the solar future,” Mr Reynard said.
“Currently right across the region residential and commercial entities are spending $100 million a year on energy costs, 80 per cent of which flows out of region and a lot of that ends up in multi-national headquarters overseas.
“Imagine if we were able to retain that $80 million locally and reinvest it into local energy generation systems.”
But passing council chambers is not the only hurdle for the plan for zero carbon emissions.
“It is an aspirational plan,” Mr Reynard said. “Obviously council can’t mandate residents and businesses [adopt renewable energy] … but we can play a key role in leading and in setting an example.”
The former councillor cited current plans for the city to adopt a fleet of electric bikes as an example of how it could encourage others to follow suit by making the e-bikes a “far more acceptable way to commute within Bendigo”.
Mr Reynard said council could also play a role in encouraging the use of electric vehicles by establishing more recharge stations.
“There is significant uptake in the use of electric vehicles around world but Australia is lagging and it’s lagging because of a lack of policy and infrastructure,” he said.