Solar helps keep rates down


Solar energy systems installed across South Australia’s Northern Areas Council buildings are delivering savings of more than $100,000 a year – about 1.5 per cent of rate revenue.

The council began a roll-out of solar systems to many of its buildings in 2013-14 in response to rising electricity costs.

The council has since saved a combined $345,000, exceeding the $265,000 investment to start the program.

Mayor Ben Browne said while some councils historically have looked to make savings by cutting the level of services to the community,  the council “opted to take a longer term view” to find efficiencies in existing operations.

“There is a payback period for solar, where the savings delivered recover the costs of the investment, but having already reached that point our solar projects are now delivering over $100,000 in savings to our ratepayers each year, which is the equivalent of around 1.5% of rate revenue,” Browne said.

“What this has meant is that we’re better able to keep our rates at a stable level and reduce the level of council debt without having to resort to service cuts, which are never popular in the community.

“People in the community pay rates, so as a council we appreciate that it’s fair and reasonable that they don’t then expect to see services cut.”

Browne said a grant program established by Neoen, the owners of the Hornsdale Wind Farm and Battery, has also helped dozens of community organisations across the council area achieve energy savings.

The Neoen Hornsdale Wind Farm Energy Efficiency fund provides grants to not for profit groups to help them undertake projects such as solar installations and energy efficient lighting to help mitigate rising electricity costs.

“The Neoen Energy Efficiency Fund has delivered savings for a variety of groups such as bowling clubs in Gulnare and Georgetown, the RSL hall in Jamestown, local swimming pools in Gladstone, Jamestown and Spalding and the community-run caravan parks in Laura and Gladstone.

“These aren’t just small savings, groups are saving thousands of dollars annually. Like the savings seen by council through its solar projects this program delivers major savings every year, year on year.

“We also have some highly reputable solar installers based in the Northern Areas Council which have been engaged by both council and the community across both programs, delivering further benefits to the local economy.”

The next round of the Neoen Hornsdale Wind Farm Energy Efficiency Fund is expected to open in March, 2022.

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