14 September 2011 – Moreland Energy Foundation Ltd is in an alliance with nine local councils in Melbourne’s north for greenhouse gas action – an arrangement that has resulted in cheaper energy benefits for the communities, says Foundation chief executive Paul Murfitt.
Murfitt told The Fifth Estate each council had signed a memorandum of understanding to form the alliance which comprises the councils of Moreland, Melbourne, Darebin, Nillumbik, Banyule, Hume, Whittlesea, Yarra and Manningham.
Yarra also has an energy foundation, smaller than MEFL, dedicated to making the City of Yarra carbon neutral by 2020.
MEFL was established in December 2000 by the Moreland City Council, in the fallout of Victoria’s privatisation of the electricity industry when councils were forced to sell their energy companies.
While strongly supporting other council areas establishing similar approaches, it has a distinctive leadership position as a driver of local climate action and has developed a reputation for bold and effective projects, acting as it does as a nexus between the Moreland community and the broader climate change action movement.
Bulk solar buy
“We are currently running a bulk buy program for solar panels and solar hot water systems. Many councils would like this delivered to their communities but they don’t have staff to do that. We do it for them,” Murfitt says.
“We are really happy with one project now out for tender for provision of a gas fired electricity plant in Fawkner, a suburb of Morelands.”
MEFL is working in partnership with Moreland council to deliver a low greenhouse energy supply into this precinct to make it carbon neutral overall, Murfitt says. It has a pool, community centre and a range of other council facilities. There is funding to establish a cogeneration plant and installation is expected next year.
It has also just finished retrofitting 500 low income households in the municipality, working with the Brotherhood of St Laurence, ceilings have been insulated, houses draught proofed, and windows shaded. By June next year a total of 1000 similar homes will have been retrofitted.
“If a carbon price was introduced today, one of the key concerns is how low incomers would cope with the extra cost price. More efficient energy use protects them from ongoing price increases, “Murfitt says.
He believes the “whole market had transformed in a very positive way.
“Ten years ago we were looking at doing some demo projects, to prove that the world didn’t end if you put solar panel on someone’s roof. Now we are establishing business models to make them viable at a really large scale.”
To prepare for future challenges to the foundation such as less reliable government grants, effective business models needed to be developed which could earn income from sustainable business services, for example, bulk purchasing, he says
“We must diversify our income sources. Cut through markets and confidently promote [our products] and through bulk purchasing schemes, get good prices. Extract different opportunities through spreading sustainability throughout.”
Sustainability next phase of economy
Murfitt says the economic drivers for sustainability have arrived.
“The next phase for our economy must be based on sustainability,” he says. “It is much more business focused now. People are engaged, interested and concerned although this has been impacted by political impasse. Two years ago there was a lot of momentum around climate change; this has now been reduced to such a negative base by politicians and politics.
“The reality is about transforming the economy: the jobs potential in sustainable energy; more efficient and cost efficient housing; better appliances that are cheaper to run, unlocking financial benefits creating value which will drive our economy.”
Murfitt took up the role of chief executive at MEFL in January 2008 and has been involved in it as a board member, a community member and as a consultant since it began.
He has worked, studied and taught conservation and environment issues for more than 20 years with a range of organisations, including with Moreland City Council and the Merri Creek Management Committee and spent about nine years working for the State Government (most recently with Sustainability Victoria). He has 25 staff.
What MEFL does
MEFL works with households, businesses and the wider community to:
- Reduce wasteful energy use
- Save money on power bills
- Promote practical sustainable ideas that make homes and buildings more comfortable to live and work in
- Encourage the use of greenhouse friendly and energy efficient domestic, commercial and industrial appliances
- Help people understand that the energy they use makes greenhouses gas that causes climate change
- Develop local low carbon alternatives to avoid coal based electricity generation
- Provide leadership in an urgent transition to a sustainable energy future.
This work is done through:
- Advice, training, consultancy services and advocacy
- Cheap and easy energy-saving tips, resource guides and info kits
- Home Renovators Service
- Detailed energy-efficiency audits and recommendations
- Partnership with like-minded bodies to increase our reach into the community and increase resources available for our work
- Facilitating research into new energy efficient technologies that will assist in reducing emissions
- Consultation with government to discuss options to make it easier for people to reduce energy use.
MEFL receives base funding from the Moreland City Council, as part of a rolling five-year partnership agreement renewed in 2010.
MEFL also receives additional funding, including government grants, to deliver projects and services within Moreland; such as the Moreland Solar City project
It provides training and consultancy services outside Moreland on a fee for service basis. Details
The Fifth Estate – sustainable property news and forum
The Fifth Estate – sustainable property news and forum