Environmental IQ

NSW businesses cashing in on drive for energy efficiency/

Ben Cubby Sydney Morning Herald July 16, 2011

THE state’s small- and medium-sized businesses are reaping the benefits of government energy efficiency programs, saving a combined $70 million in power costs for about $8 million in government subsidies in the past two years, new data shows. So far, 345 dairies have participated in energy-efficiency programs in NSW and some have saved as much as 15 per cent on the cost of refrigerating milk.

In the past year, 247 butchers have saved up to 8 per cent, or roughly $1240 a year, on energy costs. And 2393 cafes and restaurants have improved their energy performance by up to 13 per cent, or $1362 a year. One winery, Tamburlaine in the Hunter Valley, was able to cut its energy use by three-quarters and save $110,000 a year.

The changes range from simple measures such as switching light bulbs to remote-controlled cooling and heating, or changing voltage and fan speeds. ”In terms of environmental benefits, it reduces costs for business, it reduces demand for electricity, it reduces carbon emissions,” said the NSW Environment Minister, Robyn Parker.

Country areas stand out for the highest number of businesses who are participating, with only North Sydney, Sydney and Marrickville making it into the top 10 regions. Most of the programs were initiated under the previous state government and some face funding pressure under the new government. The current government opposes the federal government’s carbon pricing plan, which includes a substantial energy-efficiency component, but Ms Parker said NSW would work with its federal counterpart where necessary.

”We can work with whoever can deliver good environmental outcomes – we have worked productively with the federal government in the solar flagships program – but I think programs like this deliver much better outcomes than a carbon tax. That is our position,” she said.

The government said it would publish mandated targets for energy-efficiency savings later this year. ”We’re working towards targets [for energy efficiency] and we hope that we will have those available as part of a broader state plan within a few months,” Ms Parker said.There are about 20,000 businesses in NSW classified as medium-sized energy users and the government says it will provide energy-efficiency subsidies to 5 per cent of them over the next five years.

The national industry body, the Energy Efficiency Council, said the NSW data was similar to that from other states, but much more could be done. ”NSW’s energy-efficiency programs are already helping businesses save over $56 million a year, but we haven’t even started to scratch the surface,” the council’s chief executive, Rob Murray-Leach, said. ”Energy efficiency could save the economy over $5 billion a year … These programs show that people who claim the carbon price will damage the economy are talking pure rubbish.”