MAV anger over green light flip

By Councillor Bill McArthur, President of the Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV)
This week’s State Budget cut of the $20 million Green Light Plan will hurt local councils trying to convert to energy efficient street lighting to reduce their carbon price exposure.
MAVs condems the cut and called for the program to be reinstated to ensure the Baillieu Government delivered an important election promise to Victorian communities.
The state government’s decision to cut its $20 million Green Light Plan will significantly reduce the capacity of councils to achieve cost savings for ratepayers and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 
The surprise benching of this key green reform program is a blow to Victorian communities given that many councils will have to pass on rising energy costs through rates when the carbon price starts in two months.
There are high upfront costs to change Victoria’s 300 000 local road street lights using old, expensive lamps to energy efficient lights. It’s simply beyond the capacity of many councils.
Street lighting is the largest energy use for many municipalities, costing between one and two per cent of council expenditure. Green lights use up to 68 per cent less electricity and can dramatically cut energy bills.
Converting to energy efficient lights could save councils $7 million a year and 1.56 million tonnes of gas emissions over the life of the new lights.
The government’s cut is in stark contrast to the Premier’s $20 million commitment of November 2010 when he hailed the need for governments to play their part by investing in energy saving initiatives.
The Coalition’s plan is a cost-effective way to take practical action to reduce emissions, help the environment and reduce costs for Victorian families.
Victoria’s street lighting system is regulated by the Commonwealth Government, funded by local councils, and was set up by the Victorian Government, so any effective transition to energy-efficient street lighting would need to occur in partnership with all three levels of government”.
Ted Baillieu on the campaign trail, 20 November 2010
Alas, this partnership has now been reduced to two as the State breaks its 2010 election promise.
This was the first time that federal, state and local policy priorities had aligned to enable real momentum to make the change to energy efficient street lighting.
Councils are drafting their budgets for the coming year, and in many cases municipal investment for green lighting was reliant on partner funding from the State’s Green Light Plan and the national Community Energy Efficiency program.
While we acknowledge the tough economic climate, it’s extremely disappointing that this Government plan to reduce costs for councils and ratepayers was terminated as the carbon price is about to commence.
Green lighting should be prioritised by the State as saving money and cutting emissions is good for government, the environment and communities.
Common sense must prevail to see this State Budget scratching reversed 

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