South Australian government departments are now being told to find money within their own budgets to improve the energy efficiency of their buildings and some worthwhile projects could now be cancelled, the Energy Efficiency Council has said.
Council chief executive Luke Menzel said the Government Buildings Energy Efficiency Investment Program, set up in 2015, was now likely to have projects ditched because departments did not have the “spare change” to fund improvements.
“They started to come up with some really great projects to upgrade public buildings like hospitals around South Australia,” he said.
“Then we get the upsetting news just recently that the Treasurer has elected not to fund these projects directly but is going to be asking departments to try and find money from their own budgets to fund these big upgrades,” he said.
All state departments were told in 2015 to investigate ways to save energy and cut costs in government-owned buildings, on such things as lighting and air-conditioning.
“Our members are hearing that these projects are going to be cancelled, some of them are stalled, one of them has been officially withdrawn,” Mr Menzel said.
“Departments just don’t have this kind of spare change hanging around underneath their couch cushions.
“These programs only work when there’s both a commitment from the Government, which we have, and also funding from the Government, which currently we don’t have.”
The council is the peak body for energy efficiency, co-generation and demand management in Australia.
Targets ‘won’t be met’
The SA Government has an aim of improving the energy efficiency of government buildings by 30 per cent by 2020, reducing energy costs and cutting back greenhouse gas emissions.
“If they cut this funding, they’ll guarantee they’ll fail to hit their targets,” Mr Menzel said.
Energy-saving efforts can still get funding, especially for new buildings, the SA Government says. (ABC News: Chris Lawless)
Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis said departments were expected to spend part of their own budgets on energy efficiency, but the Government was still funding measures, especially for new buildings.
“This organisation obviously would like us to spend hundreds of millions of dollars in one year to suit their members, but what we’re doing is making sure that we are able to roll this out efficiently to protect the taxpayer and, of course, harvest the savings,” he said.
The leaders of four political parties debated a range of environment issues at an Adelaide forum on Tuesday, touching on oil and gas exploration in the Great Australian Bight, fracking in the south-east, the future of flows in the River Murray and the state’s renewable energy target.
Liberal leader Steven Marshall promised a practical approach, SA Best leader Nick Xenophon said the Murray-Darling Basin was a priority and Greens leader Mark Parnell said hoping for the best was not enough.
“Wishful thinking alone isn’t going to get us there. We do need to start prioritising our natural systems,” he said.
Premier Jay Weatherill promised 75 per cent of the state’s power would be generated from renewable energy by 2025 and said Labor’s plan was ahead of the rest of the nation.
But Mr Marshall said the Premier had a tired message.
“He’s been saying it for years — he said three years ago that our [power] prices would come down by 9 per cent [but] since then they’ve gone up by a massive 66 per cent,” he said.
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