Moreland City Council is on the charge to reduce emissions, writes Carolyn Rance.
Moreland Energy Foundation's new Positive Charge website and service promises Victorian householders and councils a gateway to a more sustainable future. The site will provide the public with technical advice and information on energy-saving products, and subscriber councils will receive regular reports on the progress of their community efforts to cut carbon emissions.
The independent, non-profit foundation was established 12 years ago by Moreland City Council in Melbourne's north. It followed a tradition of council commitment to providing energy infrastructure and services, which could easily have ended when the energy assets belonging to the former Brunswick and Coburg councils were sold to the private sector during the statewide wave of privatisations and council amalgamations driven by the then Kennett state government.
Instead, the council set aside 10 per cent of the proceeds from the sale to establish the foundation, says that group's director of major projects, Bruce Thompson.
Initial funding for environmental and social programs came from interest on that investment but, in the 12 years since, a stream of revenue has been built from project work and consultancy for the public and private sectors. Thompson hopes the Positive Charge program and website - launched in February - will help more people cut through the often confusing process of how to reduce carbon emissions from their homes and lifestyles.
He regards tackling climate change as the most complex and confronting issue facing Australia but says amid the noisy and sometimes toxic debate on how to act, there is progress.
"Just two years ago, only one in about 50 Australian households had a photovoltaic system; now it's about one in 18," Thompson says.
"Last year was the first ever that we used less electricity than the previous year. We need to do more and do it quicker but overall, households are becoming more efficient. We see a lot of small wins and we take inspiration from that but the challenges we face are very big."
Thompson became involved in environmental issues during engineering studies at Monash University and went on to work for Friends of the Earth.
Increasingly convinced that the risks of nuclear energy outweighed its advantages, he worked on campaigns to prevent mining of the Jabiluka uranium deposits in the Northern Territory and prevent construction of a nuclear waste facility in South Australia.
He now takes heart from the growing awareness in the business community of the economic risks posed by higher global temperatures, but says more action is needed now: "Climate science is no longer saying what may happen, it is saying what will happen in the lifetime of our children. It is very confronting."