Jon Dee

Cairns is the testing ground for a new sustainability program that aims to help businesses, local government and public authorities reduce energy and water use.

Launched last month by Energy Cut author John Dee, the pilot Lean and Green program is a partnership between the National Electrical and Communications Association North Queensland Chapter and The Saver Group, and involves an energy use assessment, followed by retrofits or upgrades, which could realise energy savings of up to 60 per cent.

The Commonwealth Bank is providing low-interest green finance to participants for larger projects, and the Electrical Credit Union is providing low-interest finance for smaller ones. Participants are also introduced to Mr Dee’s book and its energy saving tactics.

“Energy efficiency is a guaranteed way to improve the profitability, resilience and value of your business. The Lean and Green initiative is a great opportunity for Cairns business owners,” Mr Dee said.

Robert Browning

NECA’s northern manager Robert Browning said it was hoped demonstrating the effectiveness of the Lean and Green program in Far North Queensland would give the initiative impetus to roll out nationally.

A stakeholder committee to instigate future expansion is currently being formed, he said. The initial group will include QLD energy provider Ergon, local government, tourism bodies, businesses and NECA members.

Within the first week of Lean and Green being available, Cairns Regional Council and close to a dozen businesses including the Cairns Night Market and Villa Marina had signed up for an energy assessment to identify opportunities for reducing use through both behaviour change and practical projects including retrofits and equipment upgrades.

Saver Group chief executive John Tilden said the target was to attract 100 businesses from all sectors.

Cairns Regional Council mayor Bob Manning said the council was supporting the initiative because it would help local businesses reduce their energy bills and carbon footprint.

“Council has reduced its electricity consumption by 21 per cent over the past four years, so we know the value of good energy management,” Mr Manning said.

The program extends on NECA’s existing EcoSmart Electricians training program, which has been running for the past five years.

Mr Browning said that because electrical contractors were technical people, rather than sales people, partnering with an established energy efficiency consultancy would help engage the business sector.

It was also necessary to have someone who would be “impartial” in terms of the contractors, he said, so consumers could trust that upgrade savings could be realised.

Ergon Energy is also assisting participants to gain hard evidence of results, by undertaking meter readings before program activities commence, and once the activities are underway.

That way, Mr Browning said, real data on energy savings is available.

He said the types of actions recommended could lead to up to 60 per cent lower power bills.

“Wasted energy is lost profit.”

He said behaviour and cultural change would provide the bulk of savings for many participants. Other things that may be recommended include retrofitting LED lighting and upgrading HVAC plant components.

There is also an appetite for solar power installations, he said.

All work will be undertaken by licensed contractors that have completed the EcoSmart sustainability training, he said. This is also an important protection for the consumer.

Once the business sector is fully engaged, the plan is to extend the program to residential energy users in the region.

“Hopefully Cairns will become the first Lean and Green city in the country,” Mr Browning said.