Genia McCaffery (2nd from right), North Sydney mayor and NSW LGA president : “North Sydney businesses are a vibrant part of the community but also the largest users of energy.”

by Lynne Blundell…

Small businesses are keen to reduce their carbon footprint, not to mention their energy bills, if the early morning turnout at North Sydney Council’s breakfast launch of its Green Business Energy $aving Program is anything to go by.

More than 32 local businesses turned up at the 8am launch on May 12 and 112 have signed up to the program since mid March.

Project officer for the North Sydney Council program, Larissa Miller, told TFE the Council was impressed with the response from local businesses:

“We were really pleased with the turnout – it shows that businesses are committed to reducing their carbon footprint. We already knew households were because of the high participation in our residential program but it’s good to see businesses are also very keen.”

Miller said the council is aiming to have 200 businesses enrolled in the program by June next year.

The energy saving program aims to help local businesses reduce their energy use and costs by providing a ‘one-stop-shop’ for energy audits, discounted purchase and installation of energy saving equipment as well as ongoing energy monitoring.

Businesses also get help to determine whether they are eligible for the Small Business Energy Efficiency Program grant from the NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change (DECC), worth between $2,000 and $5,000.

Business sector highest user of energy

North Sydney mayor and president of the NSW Local Government Association, Genia McCaffery, told businesses who attended the launch that the program was vital to reduce the North Sydney business sector’s high energy use.

“With a large CBD and several key village shopping areas, North Sydney businesses are a prominent part of the community contributing to the culture, liveliness and economic stability of the area. But – unfortunately – they also emit the majority of the area’s greenhouse gases,” McCaffery said.

North Sydney Council has partnered with energy management company, Global Sustainability Initiatives, to deliver the program and also has support from the NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change (DECC).

Other councils joining in

Other councils running similar programs in conjunction with GSI and DECC in NSW include Hornsby Council, Fairfield Council (NSW) and Holroyd City Council (NSW). In Victoria Knox City Council has also partnered with GSI to offer an energy saving program.

A sustainability program run by Holroyd Council in 2007, involving 60 businesses, achieved some impressive results – energy and water saving initiatives saved the businesses a total of $9261.91 a year. Water consumption was cut by 658,280 litres and energy use by 78,937.61kWh, cutting 60,890kg of CO2 emissions.

Jeremy Mah, project officer with DECC NSW’s Sustainability Programs Division, told TFE that the council-run programs were an effective way of getting the message about energy use across to businesses.

“Small businesses are notoriously difficult to get involved in programs. We have adopted a multi-pronged approach to get our message across including letters, breakfasts such as the North Sydney launch and involvement with Chambers of Commerce.

“It comes down to the bottom line for small business. In the end they will be saving in energy costs through retrofits. A pilot study we did in Cammeray showed that by just replacing lighting businesses can save $400 a year. That’s before you even look at high energy consuming aspects of a business such as refrigeration, air conditioning and heating,” Mah said.

In addition to the its small business energy efficiency program DECC offers assistance to medium and large businesses through its Sustainability Advantage Program.

The Federal Budget delivered further incentive for businesses to do green retrofits, increasing allowable tax deductions for capital asset spending from 30 per cent to 50 per cent.

The 50 per cent reduction will be available for new capital assets worth $1000 or more bought between December 13, 2008, and December 31 this year. It is available to businesses with an annual turnover of less than $2 million.

lblundell@thefifthestate.com.au