Climate Summit for Local Government

Sept 6-8, 2023 | Melbourne

The Cities Power Partnership and Better Building Finance are working together to help councils across Australia inform their local businesses about an exciting funding initiative called Environmental Upgrade Finance . The funding model will help businesses of all sizes unlock access to renewable energy and energy efficiency, allowing them to operate more sustainably and save significantly on power bills.

Essentially, Environmental Upgrade Finance is a loan provided by a lender (like Sustainable Melbourne Fund) to a building owner. Under these agreements between councils, lenders and businesses, repayments are collected by local governments via a special council rate.

Unlike other forms of finance, it doesn’t require a mortgage, directors’ guarantees or registered security interests; it’s a charge on the land (just like normal Council Rates) so it can be transferred between owners or tenants upon sale or change of occupancy.

Ritchies IGA in Mildura has installed a 99kW solar system that was financed by the landlord but whose rates will be paid by the tenant. In a win-win situation, the landlord acquires a new asset, and the tenant gets cost savings in the form of lower power bills (energy costs have risen 15% in Mildura recently).

How Better Building Finance works

Better Building Finance helps protect businesses from rising energy, water and waste costs by facilitating access to affordable finance, supported by government.

They are the organisation that informs and educates councils and helps councils to offer this new form of finance to their business community to install projects like, renewable energy and energy efficiency upgrades to buildings across the country.

The services they provide to councils are:

  • Marketing and awareness – case studies, flyers, presence on websites and information sessions, to help councils promote the program to businesses
  • Implementation – working closely with council to get the process up and running and provide all the relevant forms and templates
  • Administration – acts on behalf of council to respond to inquiries and assess applications and facilitate the signing of the agreement

Another cool example of the funding at work is at Booth Transport in Laverton, Victoria. Without providing any of its own cash up front, the business, which employs 600 people and has relatively high energy costs, has installed a 100kW solar array and LED lights. The savings from these projects are greater than the repayments under the financing, and they have more money in their business as a result.

Yarra Ranges Council and Four Pillars Gin, a distillery in Healesville, have recently completed an agreement that will see a 70Kw solar system installed on the boutique gin maker’s roof. It will greatly reduce Four Pillars’ energy bills and also take pressure off the grid, something manager Cameron McKenzie, had become increasingly concerned about.

“Two of our stills are electrically heated, and I think it’s fair to say that when they’re up and running early in the morning, nobody in the street can cook a piece of toast. They draw a lot of power, so for us, covering this whole roof with solar panels will run these stills comfortably and hopefully take a lot of pressure off the local grid.”

If you’re a council looking to find out more about Environmental Upgrade Finance, or a business wanting to get involved, contact us at [email protected]