Uniting Energy: Bringing Renewable Energy To Congregations

Uniting Energy: Bringing Renewable Energy To Congregations

This month a new announcement appeared on the electronic noticeboard outside of Balgowlah Uniting Church on Sydney’s Northern Beaches – ‘These buildings are powered by 100 pecent GreenPower electricity – reducing carbon emissions into God’s world’.

Balgowlah Uniting Church (actually a church, hall, and office) is one of nine Church properties that are participating in a pilot scheme managed out of the Sydney & Central Coast Presbytery, trading as Uniting Energy. The pilot is an important first step in a Synod-wide initiative to swiftly and economically cut carbon emissions from properties managed by congregations.

If all goes well, the pilot will be followed by a much wider roll-out from October this year targeting most if not all of the 1000+ such properties in NSW and the ACT. If you would like to get involved – read on!

Uniting Energy’s mission is to implement Synod policies regarding climate change action and earth stewardship as they relate to the Church’s own power consumption. In the short term, this means to rapidly cut carbon emissions from buildings managed by Church Councils. In considering this, much time was devoted to the economics and practicality of solar panel installation, and to a lesser extent to energy saving measures. Both can be great forms of climate action – as well as cost reduction – but in the end 100 percent GreenPower was selected as the fastest way to make a real impact.

Under the pilot – and, if all goes well, the much wider rollout starting in October – Uniting Energy buys 100 percent GreenPower electricity from an Energy Retailer and resells it to participating congregations.

GreenPower is a government scheme that ensures that for every 1 KWh (Kilowatt Hour) of electricity a customer uses, up to 1 KWh of renewable energy is generated (with 100 percent GreenPower, it is the full 1 KWh), with the extra few cents per KWh that the customer pays for GreenPower flowing to the renewable generator. As such it is an easy way for consumers to switch to renewable electricity.

Uniting Energy adds to this scheme by buying its power through a process of competitive tender in order to buy 100 percent GreenPower at a relatively low price. This value will mount as re-tendering occurs every 12-24 months, a regular search for value that few Church Councils have the time to do for themselves. The 2022 tender process resulted in Powershop being selected as energy retailer to Uniting Energy.

The GreenPower scheme is not perfect and could be improved, undermined or even abandoned by future governments. Better, smarter, or cheaper government or commercial schemes could be introduced. Uniting Energy will be monitoring developments and will shift its supplier and scheme depending upon what is available, and as best fits the direction that the Synod wishes to take.

While Uniting Energy is and will be not-for-profit, a margin on power sales will be used both to pay internal costs, and to cover and encourage additional services to Congregations that will reduce emissions in line with Synod policies. Such services are likely to include free assistance for Congregations considering installing solar panels and energy saving measures, with cost-benefit modelling (based upon usage figures gathered by Uniting Energy) to help ensure that money is spent most effectively. There are also plans afoot to promote the use of 100 percent GreenPower with members of our Congregations.

During the pilot period Uniting Energy is starting to gather information in relation to the rollout. We are keen to hear from either congregations that can see potential benefits in transferring their properties to Uniting Energy once the rollout commences, or individuals who might be interested in helping to make the rollout a success by promoting green energy in their regions, particularly those in metropolitan areas.  

Contact Uniting Energy through by email. A website is coming soon at www.unitingenergy.org.au.

David Moser

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