Rural and Regional Councils Walking the Talk: 22,000 LEDs. 16 Councils. $57m Savings. 180,000 Tonnes GHG Reduction

Alexi Lynch

Stand up and take a bow Greater Bendigo, Central Goldfields, Hepburn, Pyrenees, Loddon, Swan Hill, Gannawarra, Mount Alexander, Buloke, Ararat, Northern Grampians, Hindmarsh, Horsham, Yarriambiack, West Wimmera and Mildura. These 16 councils comprise nearly half the entire area of regional Victoria. And they are all changing over all of their old inefficient street lights to new LEDs that will reduce energy and greenhouse emissions by 77%.

The Lighting the Regions project will be one of the biggest energy and cost efficiency partnerships ever undertaken in Australia. The numbers are staggering with the 16 councils changing 23,000 old inefficient mercury street lights to LED (light emitting diodes) that use 77% less energy. This will reduce energy consumption and save regional councils more than $57 million over 20 years in reduced energy and on-going maintenance costs.

The project will save 180,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. This is the equivalent to taking 41,860 cars off the road each year or heating and cooling 90,909 Australia homes for a year.

Moving on from Talking the Talk to Walking the Walk

These 16 councils, representing around 300,000 Australians, are walking the walk. Tired of hearing about the so-called barriers to energy efficiency or that street lighting projects should sit in the "too hard basket", they are implementing projects. They are demonstrating what councils and communities can achieve when they focus on outcomes, work strategically and move on from "talking the talk" to getting it done.

As we outlined recently there is somewhat of an energy efficiency revolution occurring in Australia with local governments installing LEDs to replace old inefficient and expensive technology. Lights are being changed over in their hundreds of thousands and the traditional barriers of high capital costs, lack of expertise and relationships with Distribution Network Service Providers (DNSPs) who own the lights, poles and wires have been overcome. 

Councils that have long moved on from arguing with stakeholders and talking down the possibilities and are now letting the dollars, energy reductions and maintenance savings do the talking for them. Around Australia there are hundreds of thousands of lights coming down from Brisbane through Western Sydney and there are 232,000 lights in Victoria alone. Lighting the Regions represents another 23,000 of those lights and will vie with Brisbane for title of the most lights changed over and greatest energy reduction.

The lesson is pretty clear – if your council wants to change your street lights there is no longer anything stopping you.

Just witness the Lighting the Regions numbers: 1, 2, 3 all the way to 23,000!

Wider Community Engagement 

The project also represents a once in a generation opportunity to engage regional communities and individuals to make positive energy efficiency changes in the home and the workplace. Community engagement is at the very heart of the project and it is also a tremendous opportunity to engage regional people to think about how they can be more energy efficient at home and in the workplace. 

All the latest news, updates and events can be found at the new Lighting the Regions website where you can also check out a cool little 2-minute video explaining the benefits of the project!

The $11.6 million project was made possible with the assistance of more than $5 million of funding from the Australian Government and will run until June 2016. The project has significant support from the Wimmera Mallee Sustainability Alliance and the Central Victorian Greenhouse Alliance. 

Ironbark was involved from the very start working with the small group of committed and switched-on council staff who can now confidently say that they played a part in pulling together the single greatest energy efficiency and greenhouse gas reduction project in the history of the 16 councils.  

Finally, a quick nod to Andrea Joyce, Andy Van, Robyn Major, Cr Ray Kingston, John Harvey, Sonny Neale, Robert Kretschmer, Ben Bowman, Mark Woodhouse, Dean Robertson and others have worked tirelessly over the last 4-5 years to get this project initiated, funded and now implemented: take a bow too, this is massive.