ARENA boosts Sustainable Australia Fund, more renewables access for small businesses


The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has today announced $630,000 in expanded funding for the Sustainable Australia Fund (SAF) and its successful Better Building Finance (BBF) service to New South Wales (NSW) and South Australia (SA). 

The SAF was originally established by the City of Melbourne, where it provided low-cost financing under the Environmental Upgrade Finance (EUF) program. Then the Sustainable Melbourne Fund, as it was then known, landed a $200 million partnership with Bank of Australia to help Australian commercial and agricultural enterprises become more sustainable. 

One such example of the SAF in action would be the Paringa Estate winery on the Mornington Peninsula, which used SAF funding to install solar panels on its roof. “I see my energy bills here, over the last few years, have just constantly being going up…” said Paringa Estate winemaker Lindsay McCall, “We need to be looking at sustainable forms of energy and solar is one of the best ones we have.” 

Built upon the original EUF program, building owners can take out a low cost, long term loan to pay for upgrades to their existing building. By incorporating the building in question’s local council as a third party, an open market is created for access to sustainability finance. 

Currently, 34 Victorian councils use the BBF service, facilitating more than $30 million of investment in environmental upgrades over 70 buildings. Now with ARENA’s funding support, the SAF will bring in an initial 23 councils from across NSW and SA. 

This new ARENA funding will also help fill out a $1.6 million project to develop an online platform to make EUF simpler to implement and more efficient in its deployment of $50 million into renewable energy and building upgrades. 

“The expansion of the Better Building Finance service into NSW and SA highlights how successful the service has been in Victoria,” said ARENA CEO Darren Miller. “The Better Building Finance model removes any administrative burdens from councils, making it affordable and easy for them to help local businesses benefit from renewables.” 

“This project will help to support businesses to reduce emissions,” continued Miller, “find alternative energy sources and help to understand barriers in the uptake of renewables in the agricultural, commercial and industrial sectors.” 

Scott Bocskay, CEO of the Sustainable Australia Fund, seconded Miller’s words, speaking to the BBF model’s readiness to help businesses in NSW and SA. 

“We created Better Building Finance to address a gap in the market – to help councils offer this finance and administer it for them,” said Bocskay. “With ARENA’s support, we can expand this service and help more businesses access this finance and unlock utility bill savings while also becoming more sustainable.” 

The first NSW council to partner with BBF’s expanded project is Kyogle Council in the state’s Northern River’s region. Shay Sign, Executive Manager of BBF, was excited to welcome Kyogle as the first NSW council partner. “With the success we’ve had in Victoria, we know that this program can have a huge impact in supporting local businesses and helping councils deliver on their economic development and sustainability goals.” 

Danielle Mulholland, Mayor of Kyogle Council, was similarly excited, noting the council’s recent adoption of its Sustainable Councils and Communities Action Plan. “The partnership with the Better Building Finance program will provide an opportunity for Council to support its local businesses and primary producers and offer them an opportunity to invest in energy, waste and water efficiency projects that provide both environmental and economic benefits.” 

“It’s a win-win for us and our community,” concluded Mulholland. 

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