Renewable energy switch to cut emissions in half

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Council will cut its emissions in half and save over $200,000 per year, moving its small and large energy accounts to renewables from 1 July.

At their 25 May meeting, Councillors unanimously voted to move its small and large market energy accounts to the Victorian Energy Collaboration (VECO) contract through Red Energy, which currently supplies renewable energy for street lighting.

Deputy Mayor, Johanna Skelton, said this move would cut Council’s emissions by 50 per cent, while delivering significant savings through energy bills.

“It’s great to know Council is responding to community feedback and climate science and transitioning away from coal and gas,” Cr Skelton said.

“Over time there will likely be even more electricity needed to power more electric vehicles, aquatic centres, cooktops and other infrastructure that currently use fuel and gas – so it is essential to make sure Council has set up an energy source that minimises air and land damage, as well as reducing the energy needed wherever possible.

“I appreciate that, when Council improves or replaces any assets, reducing energy use is always a key consideration.

Cr Skelton said that the community was at a pivotal time in history, and taking action on the climate was crucial.

“Every climate action we take now is making the years ahead safer. Individuals in this country can do a lot to reduce emissions, but government coordination is vital to guide and encourage the process,” she said.

“Working with other councils to bulk buy from a safer energy source is now another way Yarra Ranges Council does this.

“It was such a fantastic result with the street lighting contract in its first year. I think our Council staff made it a very easy decision for Councillors to vote to move our remaining energy accounts to a renewable source.

“This decision means that, from July, Council managed facilities including, venues, community links, the Civic Centre, libraries, aquatics centres, public toilets and public lighting will all be run with 100 per cent renewable energy.

“This move, alone, will cut Council’s annual greenhouse emissions in half, which is incredible.”

Switching to renewable energy is a key feature of Council’s Liveable Climate Plan, outlining how the organisation will move towards net zero emissions by 2040.

“Of course, we will take whatever opportunities we are able to, in making the climate safer,” Cr Skelton said.

“We’re doing fantastic work in generating solar power on our community facilities with over one megawatt capacity on roofs – and now the energy we draw from the grid is entirely from renewable sources.

“There’s more we’ll need to do in coming years, but this is a fantastic outcome. It gives community members optimism to see steps forward made by Councils and I hope that this gives more residents and businesses motivation to look at Climate Change and say, ‘Game on’ instead of ‘Game over’.”

As part of VECO, 46 Councils across Victoria formed a buyers group, to jointly secure reliable and affordable energy through a power purchase agreement.

In April, 2021, Council committed its street lighting power contract to VECO, meaning that public street lighting was powered by renewable energy.

As a result of this contract, Council saved more than $90,000 in the last year, with a 20% reduction in emissions. The expiry of the remaining energy contracts in July means the financial and energy savings for Yarra Ranges can be increased soon.

The VECO agreement was the winner of the Local Government Pro Awards for Excellence, in their Sustainability category, reflecting the commitment of the partner Councils to reducing greenhouse emissions while saving money.

In Council’s Liveable Climate Plan, a goal is transitioning all Council services and infrastructure to 100 per cent renewable energy by 2030, with zero operational energy expenditure by 2040.

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