Partnership powering councils’ climate change action

A not-for-profit initiative supporting local government efforts to reduce emissions and adopt clean energy has been ‘overwhelmed’ by the interest from councils.

Strathbogie Shire, a picturesque rural municipality two hours from Melbourne, has shown that a community of just 10,000 can come together to tackle rising energy costs and climate change impacts.

The Strathbogie Shire Council partnered with the Yarra Energy Foundation and Cherry Energy Solutions to provide residents, businesses and farms with a trusted and secure renewable energy option – at a bulk buy price.

Strathbogie Shire Mayor Amanda McClaren said the “Bogie Bulk Buy” aimed to assist residents in overcoming the knowledge barriers associated with purchasing solar.

Strathbogie is one of 35 local governments that were the first to sign up to the Cities Power Partnership, an initiative of the not-for-profit Climate Council to support councils to reduce emissions and adopt clean energy.

The initiative, which marks its one-year anniversary this week, is on track to hit 100 councils next month, according to director Alix Pearce.

Alix Pearce

“We spent about eight months scoping the potential for building a free local government program that would support councils. We thought we’d get five or 10 councils this time last year in our first round, but we launched with 35 councils from around Australia,” Ms Pearce told Government News.

Many local governments are “at the frontline” of feeling the impacts of climate change, particularly coastal councils experiencing flooding or drought stricken councils dealing with worsening heatwaves, Ms Pearce said.

“But the really exciting thing we’ve identified is that councils are very much at the frontline of delivering solutions. We’ve seen councils around Australia reducing both council operations’ emissions and working with communities on projects to deliver savings for rate payers through renewable energy projects.”

Under the program, member councils commit to implementing five pledge items across energy efficiency, renewable energy, sustainable transport and working together.

“Once councils select those pledge items they then get support from us in a range of ways,” she said.

That support includes access to a national knowledge hub, which is an online resource that local governments can use to find case studies and practical resources to help them implement their pledges.

“We also run monthly webinars that are very popular and can be on anything from looking at an electric vehicle highway to showcasing a new project that a council got off the ground, like a floating solar farm,” said Ms Pearce.

A host of experts from the Climate Council also travel each month to different council areas to both upskill local government staff and speak at town hall events, she said.

“Another important component is our power analytics tool which allows councils to input projects and get top-line data on the cost saving of that project, the energy saving, the emissions saving. Once those projects are completed they go into a shared library, meaning all councils can log in and see the details of what’s happening around the country.”

Watch The Cities Power Partnership’s video on the Bogie Bulk Buy:

The program also has a “buddy component” whereby each local government is linked up with two fellow councils to promote collaboration and sharing of knowledge, Ms Pearce said.

“They’re buddied with one council from within their state and another from outside it, because often councils are great at looking at what neighbours are doing but not necessarily seeing beyond that, as they’re often pretty over-loaded.

“We’re seeing some of our members looking at working together to bulk purchase electric vehicles, for instance.”

The Cities Power Partnership is preparing to release a report in the coming weeks which presents a data collection from the first round of 35 councils.

“For example, we’ve seen 25 councils pledging to invest in renewable energy in council buildings, 13 pledge support to community energy projects and encourage private uptake of renewables.

“We’re starting to get a big picture view of what councils are committed to doing and as they input their projects via the tool we’ll get more of an idea of the emissions savings.”

The next round of participating council will see the partnership reach 100 members next month, Ms Pearce said.

“Because we’re a not-for-profit and it’s a free program we’ve been somewhat overwhelmed with the interest from councils and we’ve had to stagger the local governments we take on board to ensure we adequately support them.”

Ms Pearce added that the partnership is preparing to bring participating councils together for a summit in October where they can share their expertise and learnings.

See the partnership’s website for more information.

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