Bellingen council sees the light

ENERGY-efficient street lights are to be installed throughout the Bellingen Shire.

Councillors today voted in favour of the proposed upgrade that will contribute an estimated 10% towards the council’s target of a 40% reduction in carbon emissions by 2020.

In his report, the council’s sustainability officer, Nic Denshire, said upgrading the shire’s 786 streetlights would also result in economic savings due to reduced electricity use – an estimated $62,000 annually and $627,000 over 10 years.

His recommendation that these savings be reinvested in the council’s Revolving Energy Fund (REF) was passionately supported by councillors Kerry Child and Sean Tuohy, who both spoke against the final recommendation for 50% of the savings to be returned to general revenue each year.

“I believe it is short-sighted to put any of this money back into general revenue,” Cr Child said.

“To achieve the targets we have set we need to reinvest in the REF to fund even bigger programs in the future.”

Director of corporate services, Peter Wilson, said management had tried to achieve a balance by using some of the savings to enhance the council’s bottom line, as well as putting some of the money back into the REF.

With $72,000 of the $91,000 upfront cost coming as a loan from internally restricted funds, Cr Gordon Braithwaite said he supported a percentage of savings going back into the council’s general revenue.

Councillors Bruce Cronin and Ian Coe agreed.

“I don’t believe the 40% target is achievable anyway,” Cr Cronin said.

Cr Child wondered if the council was serious about the target it had set itself in December 2009.

“Was it just a feel-good exercise?” she said.

The council voted in favour of allocating $30,000 from the projected savings to the Revolving Energy Fund annually.

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