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Reducing energy use through partnerships: local government and industry sector

Dianne Vivian

Environment Management Planner, City of Charles Sturt, South Australia


More than 3,000 businesses operate in the City of Charles Sturt. Mainly manufacturers, they are a major source of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions. Under the auspices of the Cites for Climate Protection Program, the city initiated a pilot project and formed a partnership with Pierlite Pty Ltd in association with Clipsal/Gerard Industries. Pierlite is a large private sector Australian Greenhouse Challenge company. The project aimed to assist businesses to reduce their energy use and greenhouse gas emissions and was funded by the Australian Greenhouse Office Challenge Allies Program.

The project was the first of its kind in Australia and demonstrates that local government, working in partnership with large private sector industries, can help medium and smaller businesses to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions through energy efficiency and conservation.

Savings and benefits

• Financial savings for the participating companies: The companies total annual energy bills were reduced by $311,222

• Investment required: An investment of $157,110 was required from the companies to achieve the savings. For all actions the payback period was less than two years

• Social benefits: Council, small and large businesses cooperating, learning from and assisting each other.

• Environmental benefits: The companies total annual CO2 emissions were reduced by approximately 2,711 tonnes a year, an average reduction of 11.4%.

Motivation for local businesses to reduce their energy consumption

The City of Charles Sturt initiated the project as part of its commitments to the Cities for Climate Protection (CCP™) campaign. CCP is an International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives program delivered in collaboration with the Australian Greenhouse Office, the lead Commonwealth Agency on greenhouse matters. In addition the project was initiated as part of the implementation of the ‘Northern Adelaide Greenhouse Management Community Action Plan’ Council developed with the Cities of Playford, Port Adelaide –Enfield, Salisbury Tea Tree Gully.

Analysis of energy use and greenhouse emissions showed Charles Sturt’s community produced over 1.8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2-e) in the 1994/5 period. As the manufacturing industries and the commercial sector are a major source of greenhouse gases they were identified as priority areas for achieving emission reductions.

About the project

The project started in May 2000 to encourage better workplace practices at a local level, to reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions through improved energy efficiency in medium and smaller scale businesses.

The City of Charles Sturt initiated the project. It developed a partnership with a large private sector Australian Greenhouse Office Greenhouse Challenge Company, Pierlite Pty Ltd in association with Clipsal/Gerard Industries, to implement its initiative. The city managed the project; secured Australian Greenhouse Office Greenhouse Challenge Program funding, supervised the project officer, organised the launch, and developed the educational materials and methodology for the project.

Pierlite was an obvious business to work with on the project as it had been awarded the Sustainable Energy Smart Authority’s 1999 Energy Smart Ally of the year and could provide excellent mentoring and guidance for smaller and medium sized businesses. (Pierlite and Clipsal/Gerard Industries are leaders in the manufacturing of electrical accessories, lighting products, energy management control systems and energy efficient technologies.)

Pierlite and Clipsal provided technical capability and expertise in energy technologies and management systems, assisted in workshop presentations and completed lighting audits of the participating companies. Council carried out the equipment and process audits while Clipsal provided the media and promotional strategy and activities of the program. The Australian Greenhouse Office Greenhouse Challenge Program provided materials and networking support as the primary funding body. A steering committee, with representatives of all parties oversaw the project, which was completed in June 2001.

Thirty businesses joined the program and agreed to implement measures with acceptable payback periods. The businesses:

• participated in workshops where energy efficiency in welding, air compression, lighting technologies and systems, and insulation was demonstrated;

• participated in walk-through energy audits;

• received individual Business Greenhouse Reports that recommended financially viable energy and greenhouse reduction actions;

• CEO/Manager sign-off on individual reduction recommendations from the report as part their agreed action plans. These agreed and signed-off action plans have commenced implementation;

• received a Business Greenhouse Services Guide to assist them to achieve the action measures.

There was a high rate of sign-off to implement the agreed action plans (see Table 1).

Table 1 Potential and agreed reductions and average percentage sign-off


Identified during the audits

Agreed to in the individual action plan

Percentage sign-off

Annual savings




Reduction in Greenhouse Gas Emissions




A payback period on capital investment for many of the recommendations was less than one year. All were less than two years.

Many measures in the agreed plans, such as fixing air compression leaks, turning off lights and idle machines and activating computer energy saving modes, required no capital investment, just improved ‘energy housekeeping’.

The program was evaluated to assess business attitudes and knowledge as well as the perception of barriers to introducing energy efficiency measures, and the extent to which businesses would commit to implementing changes.

One company, an automotive engineering component supplier, used a Programmable Logic Controller, to turn the temperature of its furnace down to 8000 Celsius when it was least required, such as overnight and on the weekends. With the timer, the company’s greenhouse gas emissions have been reduced by 53 tonnes annually as well as dramatically reducing energy use and costs by $15,000.

Current status of the project

The fifteen-month was a pilot for local governments participating in the Australian Greenhouse Office Challenge Allies Program. The City of Charles Sturt is planning a refined and larger scale project with new private industry partners. As the trial was very successful minimal refinement is needed.

Costs and Benefits

Before the program started the 30 companies were producing almost 24, 000 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually with a combined energy bill of over $2, 750, 000.

Under the individual action plans, the companies reduced their annual carbon dioxide production by 2,711 tonnes. The average company reduction was 11.4 per cent. (See Table 2) The combined annual energy bills were reduced by $311,222 with the average company reduction being 11.3 per cent.

Table 2 The average reduction in greenhouse emissions per business sector






Business Sector — total of 30 businesses





Percentage reduction in Greenhouse Gas Emissions





Issues and lessons learned

The project addressed the financial barriers, low awareness and low profile of energy reduction opportunities in business. The companies came to realise that by implementing simple energy efficiency measures:

• they can save money as well as reduce greenhouse gas emissions;

• that energy efficiency is fast and rewarding for industry; and

• will also often be an attractive and competitive investment.

The perceived benefit of the project by business was illustrated by this comment:

Highlights the relationship between energy use and CO2 production and that there are easy reduction opportunities.

Councils can facilitate a partnering approach to energy reduction programs for small to medium industry/ businesses using their connections to business support structures and networks. This can also lead to better community awareness through the combined media and promotional capacity of councils and private industry.

The challenge is to build an information exchange between business and government policies and programs: The project demonstrates that successful partnerships between local government and large private industries can effectively encourage emissions reduction in medium to smaller scale businesses.

The project demonstrates that different types of businesses have varying capacities to reduce their energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. These variations largely relate to the activities undertaken by the business.

In the project evaluation most businesses indicated that they were amazed at how easy it was to implement changes to reduce their energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.


The information used in this paper has been sourced from a CCP case study. Charles Sturt ‘Energy Partnership Project’ acknowledges the AGO and ICLEI for their permission to use this material. Any further use of material should seek their approval before its use.


The views expressed in this paper are those of the authors are not necessarily those of the Commonwealth of Australia. The Commonwealth does not accept responsibility for any advice or information given in relation to this material.

About the author

Dianne Vivian is the Environment Management Planner at the City of Charles Sturt and has been employed in local government since 1996. In this position she is responsible for strategic planning and policy matters with a focus on integrated sustainable environmental management and systems. Her responsibilities include managing and coordinating the Cities for Climate Protection Program to achieve sustainable reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

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