By Rachel Borchardt
Councils need to cut down on their energy usage if they want the community to follow suit, according to Logan City councillor Darren Power.
“If people see the local council not trying, they’re not going to try,” Power says.
Logan City Council, Queensland’s third most populous city bordering Brisbane to the north and the Gold Coast to the south, embarked on an initial energy audit to assess its usage and has followed up with an energy-efficiency retrofit of council facilities.
The council expects annual savings of more than $12,000 and a reduction of more than 84 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions a year as a result of the retrofit. Initiatives have included improving the efficiency of air-conditioning systems and installing photocell sensors that ensure fluorescent lighting turns on in facilities such as car parks only when there is insufficient natural light.
Power says for the council the focus is on “doing the right thing.”
“(It is about) saving money and also creating leadership in the local community … I know there are other local authorities that are doing this … We’re not inventing the wheel here.”
Stephen Pupilli, managing director of energy management consultancy EMET Consultants, says the Logan moves are “pretty basic housekeeping-type things” that all councils should be adopting.
“They should review their operations by doing energy audits or an energy review initially … (Then) they need to get into more detail to get the saving plan of action formulated for the whole council.”
Logan City Council has spent about $54,000 on its energy-efficiency retrofit but expects the payback period to be less than five years on the back of energy savings.
Pupilli agrees that councils can make savings in energy costs in the long run.
“Depending on how much they’ve done already (they can expect) typically 25 per cent as an average (saving).”
When the Rudd Government’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme starts in July 2011, Pupilli says energy savings will become even more critical for councils throughout Australia.
“It’s going to mean being more and more cost-effective.”
For Logan City Council, its initial energy audit provided the data that has proven the stimulus for change.
“We’ve been doing things over the years like installing solar lights and solar barbecues (in the community) … It’s just that we’re looking at ourselves now,” Power says.
He admits finding the funds to implement new energy-saving programs has not been easy. For example, the $600,000 originally earmarked for the Logan Entertainment Centre has been redirected to a new solar air-conditioning system for the council’s administration centre.
“It was far better spent on the administration building itself,” Power says.
If other councils are struggling to find the funding to improve their energy performance, he says there are some straight-forward measures they can implement. He says the ‘lights off in meeting rooms’ campaign that the council recently promoted is a simple way of cutting energy costs.
“That’s about being responsible individually – by doing that I think collectively we are reducing the amount of energy.”
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