Local government is latching on to energy savings.
The recent signing of a partnership agreement between Waikato councils and the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) marks a growing awareness by local government of its need to be both energy efficient and carbon responsible.
Local Authority Share Services (LASS), the organisation representing 12 councils in the Waikato region, recently signed a three-year partnership with EECA to enable a cost-effective and structured energy management approach amongst participating LASS members.
The agreement will involve monitoring energy use and audits to identify actions to save energy, and the development of an energy management plan across the Waikato councils. It will deliver 2.5 gigawatt hours (GWh) of energy savings each year, $405,000 of energy cost savings each year, and annual carbon dioxide reductions of 426 tonnes.
LASS chief executive Sally Davis says this is a good example of local government collaborating with central government for the benefit of ratepayers.
“Our partnership with EECA has been an important one for us. It will lead to increased engagement and interest amongst member councils, encouraging them to prioritise energy efficiency in the operation and development of their infrastructure, buildings and community assets,” she says. “It will also provide direct savings to ratepayers.”
Sally says the partnership is the first EECA has entered into with a consortium of local authorities working together, and follows on from other shared services initiatives being undertaken collectively across the Waikato councils through LASS.
The Waikato councils join a growing list of local bodies working with EECA to improve the way they use energy. Local government is one of the country’s top energy users and EECA estimates potential savings of 20 percent remain untapped within the sector.
EECA has partnerships in place with seven councils covering the main urban areas, as well as with council-controlled organisations such as Watercare and Panuku Development Auckland. Combined, these partnerships will result in energy savings of 24GWh and a 3800 tonne reduction in carbon emissions each year.
EECA account manager Graham Dray works with councils in the lower and central North Island. He says EECA is a good first stop for any local government organisation wanting to make meaningful gains in energy efficiency. “After years of working with large energy users we have an extensive understanding of energy efficiency opportunities and knowledge about implementing energy management programmes.”
Another attraction for local government is the EECA BUSINESS Crown loans scheme which offers public agencies, including local government, low-cost funding for equipment installation or replacement. Recent loans funded include lighting upgrades, solar for pool heating, building management systems, heating and ventilation upgrades, and wood boiler installations.
EECA also runs the NABERSNZ programme which makes visible the energy performance of office and other commercial buildings, and is a driving force for better-performing buildings.
Graham says in addition to being large energy users, with the potential for significant energy and carbon reductions, councils can also play an important leadership role in encouraging businesses, vehicle fleets and households to prioritise energy efficiency.
“Local government can act as a powerful lever for greater energy awareness across all sectors and that’s good for all New Zealanders. Focusing on energy efficiency not only saves money but it can reduce the need to build new electricity generation capacity,” he says.
This article was first published in the April 2016 issue of NZ Local Government Magazine.