Climate Summit for Local Government

Sept 6-8, 2023 | Melbourne

Cr Bryan Payne, Mayor of Mornington Peninsula Shire, talks about his council’s work to help local businesses ramp up renewable energy.

Australian business and renewable energy are a winning combination.

Almost half of all major businesses in Australia are switching to clean, affordable and reliable renewable energy, in a bid to take control of soaring power bills and tackle intensifying climate change. But for small to medium-size businesses making a switch isn’t so straightforward.

A recent Climate Council report found that small businesses are struggling to keep up with energy costs, with price increases of 80 to 90 per cent over the past decade. But local government has an important role to play in connecting them with the required finance to get on board the renewable energy juggernaut.

Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula is showing how council collaboration with business can reap both financial and economic rewards. The council’s Environmental Upgrade Agreement (EUA) program enables local business owners to fund environmental upgrades, such as improving energy, waste or water efficiency or increasing renewable energy.

The most recent agreement, between Mornington Peninsula Shire, local salad growers Hussey and Co, and the Sustainable Melbourne Fund has financed a 505kW solar system for the business. Switching to solar power will save Hussey and Co. $86,000 a year as well as saving 754 tonnes of greenhouse gas pollution each year – the equivalent of taking 161 cars off the road!

Since January 2017, nine agreements have been signed in the Shire for Environmental Upgrade Finance to invest in solar power and energy efficiency upgrades, financing a total of 887kW of renewable power.

Programs like this help local businesses reduce their power bills, keeping money in the community instead of seeing it go to energy companies. And reducing a company’s total carbon emissions means there are also significant environmental wins to be had.

Hussey and Co. have found the security that renewable energy provides is already having an impact – they no longer need to invest in expensive back-up power to keep the business running during peak periods, or storm blackouts.

Local governments have a crucial role connecting small to mid-sized businesses with finance to realise their solar aspirations. As more government funding is unlocked to support Australia’s renewable energy revolution, councils must work with residents and business owners in their area. This support will not only help people access available finance, but also provide the information they need to make an informed decision about their energy future.