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CEFC congratulates Tumut on impressive energy savings

23 April 2014

The Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) congratulates Tumut Shire Council on transforming its administration building and reducing its electricity costs by an impressive 66 per cent.

Already recognised through the NSW Government's Green Globe Awards as a 2013 Local Government Sustainability Award finalist, the Riverina Highlands Building Energy Efficiency Project is being officially opened on Thursday, 24 April.

CEFC CEO Oliver Yates said the council's $2.1 million upgrade of the building, which houses the council, Rural Fire Service, NSW Forestry and Probation and Parole, is just one example of how CEFC finance is helping local governments achieve notable cost and energy savings while moving towards a low carbon economy.

"We've helped councils to accelerate the transformation of their operations through financing street lighting upgrades, onsite generation, lighting upgrades, upgrades to air conditioning systems and the installation of solar PV," he said.

"At Tumut we provided $1.18 million towards improvements to the Riverina Highlands Building that will ensure it remains a vital hub for its local community, with reduced operating costs for the council and other tenants."

Tumut Shire Council in the Snowy Mountains, about 400 kilometres south west of Sydney, used CEFC's finance to cover the upfront cost of replacing a 34-year-old air conditioning system with a ground source heat pump system and the cost of installing new T5 fluorescent lights. The council also installed a 30kW solar PV array and ceiling insulation to further reduce energy costs.

An audit by CDE Energy of the new equipment six months after its installation proved that the council had not only realised projected savings, but had registered better than expected results.

The council is expecting a direct electricity cost saving of 66 per cent and a reduction in annual maintenance cost of up to $75,000 per annum, well up on the 60 per cent saving originally estimated.

Mr Yates said the result would be welcomed by other councils planning upgrades, as proof that energy efficiency can make substantial inroads into improving the energy productivity of council assets.

The project received a grant in July 2013 from the Australian Government through the Community Energy Efficiency Program for about $877,000 and the NSW Government's Office of Environment and Heritage provided funding assistance for a preliminary energy audit through its Energy Saver program.

Local Government in Australia

Australia is served by 565 local councils with greatly differing populations and geographic sizes. The ABS estimates that the average council serves 28,400 residents and councils nationwide employ around 178,000 people, which accounts for about 10 per cent of the total public sector.

The Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) says local government owns and manages non-financial assets worth more than $300 billion. Each year local councils spend more than $20 billion in providing a range of infrastructure, economic and community services and they face an enormous challenge in meeting the infrastructure and service needs of their communities.

The CEFC has been at the forefront of understanding and identifying the opportunities for local councils to realise potential energy productivity gains and reduced operating costs.

Some other council projects that have benefited from CEFC finance include:

  • Wagga Wagga City Council, NSW replaced lighting and lighting systems at its Civic Centre, Civic Theatre and airport to reduce energy consumption by about eight per cent, while a cogeneration plant at its Oasis Regional Aquatic Centre is expected to halve the centre's annual energy costs.
  • Mount Alexander Shire Council, Victoria is expecting to cut the energy bill of the heritage-listed former School of Mines building in Castlemaine following a lighting upgrade as part of more extensive building improvements.
  • Baw Baw Shire Council, Victoria which is expecting to save more than $160,000 a year on street lighting energy costs following replacement of 2,660 mercury vapour street lights with energy efficient lamps.
  • Richmond Valley Council, NSW which reduced its energy usage by 34 per cent through a street lighting upgrade involving 1,000 lamps.
  • Kingborough Council, Tasmania replaced lighting in its Civic Centre reducing the building's lighting energy use by 75 per cent.
  • Great Lakes Council, NSW is saving about 12 per cent on its energy use following more than 20 individual upgrade activities focusing on lighting, water heating and insulation at Forster's local aquatic centre and council administration centre.
  • Central Goldfields Shire Council, Victoria is saving more than $22,000 a year on energy bills following upgrades to three buildings involving lighting, HVAC, insulation and solar PV installation.

About Tumut Shire Council

Tumut lies at the foothills of the Snowy Mountains, just over 400 kilometres south west of Sydney. The Tumut Shire Council is responsible for an area of 4,567 square kilometres and a population of 11,480.

Tumut's Riverina Highlands building provides Council services to the local population of Tumut and surrounding towns of Gilmore, Adelong, Grahamstown, Gocup, Brungle, Talbingo, Wondalga, Batlow and Cabramurra.

The Council occupies just under half of the Capper Street building and leases the remainder to the Rural Fire Service, NSW Forestry and Probation and Parole. The building also contains meeting rooms that have been refurbished for use as an operation centre in the case of natural disasters such as flooding or bush fires.

(UPDATE: Tumut Shire Council is now part of the Snowy Valleys Council established in May 2016).

Media release, 2014

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