Sydney Opera House

 

As the symbol of modern Australia, the Opera House’s role has a responsibility to lead by example. Climate Active certification enables us to reduce our own environmental impact and inspire other organisations to take action.

 

― Emma Bombonato, Sydney Opera House Environmental Sustainability Manager

The Sydney Opera House is one of Australia's premier tourism destinations. A world-class performing arts centre and celebrated community meeting place, the Opera House welcomes 10.9 million visitors to the site annually, including more than 2.1 million performance and tours patrons. A global beacon for creativity, the Opera House is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, and is now midway through a program of major upgrades to ensure this 20th-century icon continues to inspire 21st-century artists, audiences and visitors.

Business case for obtaining Climate Active certification

Each year the Opera House hosts thousands of events and serves millions of meals producing 5000 cubic metres of waste and using electricity equivalent to 2500 households (16 gigawatts). It is committed to finding innovative and efficient solutions to reduce its carbon footprint and inspire the community to do the same.

Achieving carbon neutrality

Carbon footprint

The Opera House has continued to reduce its carbon footprint through energy, waste and building efficiency projects. The Opera House reduced its energy use by 9% by installing a new Building Management Control System to monitor energy and manage climate control, and upgrading ageing chiller units connected to the Opera House’s original seawater cooling system. In its Environmental Sustainability Plan 2017-19 the Opera House set out to become carbon neutral by its 50th anniversary in 2023, and achieved certification five years ahead of schedule in 2018.

Opera House staff
Sydney Opera House CEO Louise Herron, NSW Minister for the Arts The Hon. Don Harwin and EnergyAustralia Managing Director Catherine Tanna

Emissions Reductions

Electrical energy consumption contributes more than 80 per cent of the Opera House’s total carbon footprint, so improving energy efficiency has been an ongoing focus.

In 2014, the Opera House replaced hundreds of incandescent light bulbs in the Concert Hall with custom-made LEDs, reducing the venue’s energy consumption by 75 per cent. In 2017, it replaced ageing chiller units connected to its pioneering original seawater cooling system to optimise the heating and cooling of the building.

Seawater cooling system
The Opera House employs a unique seawater cooling system to efficiently cool the building

A new Building Management Control System introduced in 2017 helps the Opera House track energy and water use and climate control more effectively. Together with the chiller upgrades, this resulted in a 9 per cent energy reduction.

In 2017, the Opera House introduced a new waste management program with new recycling streams increased its recycling rate from 25 per cent to 60 per cent. Crucial to this success, the Opera House created waste-management advocates among its restaurant and bar operators and resident companies by rolling out an educational program. Food waste from the millions of meals served at the Opera House’s onsite bars and restaurants is now transferred to organics facility Earth Power where it is converted into energy.

Offsetting

Emissions that could not be eliminated entirely through reductions activities have been offset by investing in projects that both reduce global emissions and deliver additional environmental benefits. With the support of its Major Partner EnergyAustralia, the Opera House invested in international offset projects and purchased dual credit offset units that combine Victorian biodiversity conservation with international emissions reduction through renewable energy.

Benefits and outcomes of Climate Active certification

Carbon neutral certification allows the Opera House to better understand and manage its annual carbon footprint. This helps to inform decision making and identify the best opportunities to reduce the Opera House’s impact.

Importantly, the Opera House’s certification demonstrates a commitment which can be communicated to its community, staff, contractors and suppliers to encourage collaboration in environmental sustainability initiatives. Through its latest Environmental Action Plan, launched this year, Opera House is taking steps to become Climate Positive by its 50th anniversary in 2023.

'Businesses thinking about Climate Active certification need to understand the process it takes to achieve carbon neutral certification, including the time and on-going fees and costs. Ask for assistance and support from a specialist to guide you through the process initially. Also, invest time and resources into reducing your footprint so you are in a solid position to become certified.'