City News

Carbon tax funds small business energy savings

A recent climate change rally / Photo: Susiana Chandra

Funding for small and medium businesses to save energy is becoming increasingly available in Sydney as a direct result of the carbon tax.

Director of Sydney refrigeration engineering company Minus40, Michael Bellstedt said that in the past, it was difficult for small businesses to improve their energy efficiency due to time, cost and lack of information.

“Unlike the large companies who are much more focused on energy efficiency and able to maintain their systems in pristine condition, the small operators just cannot do that,” he said.

Mr Bellstedt said the new funds provided opportunities for small and medium companies to save money and reduce their energy costs without having to use their own cash.

“What we are really focusing on this year is the small sector, the small retailer, the small corner store, helping them to gain access to that finance. And that is really attractive,” he said.

Fifty per cent grants for food processors are available, as well as preferential loans for other businesses including retailers and distribution companies. Funds are lent to banks through the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, which is largely funded by the carbon tax. Banks then on-lend to small businesses.

Typically, businesses spend around two per cent or less of total revenue on energy, but manufacturers and users of refrigeration technology use more.

In the inner city area, independent supermarkets may be some of the first to take advantage of the increased funds.

“I’d imagine, within the next two to three months we’ll see the first implementations and it will accelerate from there,” said Mr Bellstedt. “Especially now with the Clean Energy Finance Corporation coming up to speed there will be a lot of money available for this, and it will filter through quite quickly I think.”

Business owners can also expect future savings in electricity costs as new inner city trigeneration technology rolls out, said a spokesperson for the City of Sydney.

Savings would come from replacing electric cooling with thermal cooling. Buildings which host trigeneration units would also avoid network costs, which make up 50 cents in each dollar of electricity bills.

“As an example, a 24-story office block could save in the region of $500,000 a year through avoided network charges,” said the Council spokesperson.

And the units are greener.

“Connecting to a precinct-scale trigeneration network will reduce a customer’s exposure to the carbon tax simply because high carbon grid electricity is replaced by low carbon natural gas powered electricity, heating and cooling,” said the spokesperson.

General Manager at energy efficiency consultancy Energetics, Rob Thompson said the clean technology sector was growing.

“I’ve never seen the environment so exciting,” he said. “I think that over the next few years we are going to see a complete change in the society as people take up new technologies.”

Electricity price increases due to the carbon price have been more than fully offset for most households by government tax cuts and benefit increases, according to the Australian Industry Group.