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Innovative energy thinking by Christchurch City Council

Innovative energy thinking by Christchurch City Council

18 May 2014

The Christchurch City Council (CCC) has completed a range of substantial energy efficiency projects, demonstrating lateral thinking leading to major savings.


Operating sports and recreation facilities requires major financial investment. For larger councils, the cost can surpass a million dollars a year. With escalating energy prices, and pressure on territorial and local authorities to limit rates increases, energy efficiency has become an important focus.

Like many authorities, CCC manages a large portfolio of public facilities and amenities, ranging from street lighting to libraries.

Around 15% of the council’s total energy bill is spent on sports and recreation facilities. In recent years, the council has completed a range of substantial energy efficiency projects – demonstrating that lateral thinking can lead to major savings.

Background and partners

The CCC has employed an energy manager since 1993. The role was held by Leonid Itskovich, who explained, “It’s my job to identify energy efficiency opportunities, provide finance, supervise projects and monitor results".

Staying in touch with what’s going on elsewhere is important. Energy managers from councils around the country meet about once a year. The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) facilitates these meetings. However, the CCC’s initiatives have not directly involved other councils.

The initiatives

Below are some feature projects undertaken by the CCC within the sports and recreation sector.

Ground source heat pumps used for pools

Back in 1999, the council undertook a major redevelopment of the Centennial Leisure Centre pool and Pioneer Swimming Complex. “We made a great effort to be as energy efficient as possible in pool heating. We didn’t want to use any fossil fuels", says Leonid. The boiler-free solution for both pools featured ground source heat pumps, which access heat from the soil.

Importantly, ground source heat pumps deliver stable efficiency all year round – more than air source heat pumps. Ground source heat pumps have a co-efficient performance rating of around 4.5, compared to a standard boiler’s efficiency rating of around 0.9. For the same kilowatt input the pumps deliver over four times the water heating.

Waste methane powers QEII pool

The QEII pool complex, Australasia's largest aquatic facility, faced a soaring energy bill. In 2007, a project was undertaken to pipe methane gas from the discontinued Burwood landfill site four kilometres away.

The gas is now used for heating, as well as for generating around half the electricity used on-site (using a ‘co-generation plant’). “We made an economic analysis. The capital cost was about $4 million, with a payback of five years. We decided it was a good project", says Leonid.

As it turned out, with energy costs continuing to rise, the actual payback will be around four years. “We’re saving around $1 million per year on gas and power compared to not piping the gas", he says. While it is difficult to assess the landfill’s exact methane capacity, stores will last for at least another 10 years.

Waste heat piped to Centennial Leisure Centre

The Centennial Leisure Centre is a modern inner-city leisure pool and fitness centre. Across the road from the pool there’s an industrial neighbour, WhisperTech Limited. “They had waste heat available which they were using a cooling tower to get rid of, 24 hours a day, all year round", notes Leonid. In 2007, the council approached the company.

They were happy to have a pipe installed to carry the heat across the road where it is now used for pool heating. The financial savings are about $30,000 per year – and it’s far more environmentally sound.

More information



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