Warrnambool City Council has been spared the full impact of energy price hikes, for now, with cost-saving measures starting to pay off.
The council's electricity bill usually hovers around $1 million, but the installation of solar panels on municipal buildings and green power deals are set to buffer the budget from soaring prices.
"Council has managed to keep electricity costs relatively stable over the past three years despite increases in electricity usage and price increase by retail and network providers," the council said.
"Council energy prices for electricity and gas are known and secured until June 30, 2023."
The most recent changes in energy prices are not expected to impact council until after that date.
Since July 2020, the council has had its electricity portfolio split into two contracts which has allowed it to meet its carbon emission obligations but also provided some protection against electricity price increases.
"Each contract has a different procurement method, duration and pricing conditions," the council said.
About 40 per cent of the council's electricity is procured through a power purchase agreement, and provisions in the contract split the risk of price increase between the council and the supplier.
"So while the full impact on council of energy price increases will not be known until July 2023, council is in a strong position to mitigate the impact because of changes in procurement and the strong investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency," it said.
Its green power deal secured cheaper electricity for the first three years of the contract, but prices will have to be reset for another three years from July 1 next year. "The green power deal prices are about 37 per cent cheaper than council's conventional electricity," it said.
Using 2020-2021 financial year figures, the move to more renewable power has saved the council more than $50,000 per year. On top of that, the council's street lighting LED replacement also saves more than $100,000 per year in energy and maintenance costs.
When the solar, which is being installed on the art gallery roof, becomes fully operational by August it too will help lower energy costs, the council said.
But the pandemic lockdowns, which did bring energy savings for the council, makes it hard to measure the full impact of power saving measures.
In 2020-21, the council's power bill was about $1 million while for 2021-22 it will be about $940,000 - although it is yet to receive all its May and June bills.
For 2022-23, the total electricity cost for the council is expected to be $970,000 to $1 million - but that doesn't include electricity costs from the new library or take into account savings from newly installed solar panels.
The council's gas bill in 2020-21 was about $230,000, but this year it is set to jump by at least $70,000 to more than $300,000. "A longer outdoor season at AquaZone because of the pandemic was the main driver of this difference in cost," the council said.
While gas prices are set to increase in the next financial year, the council expects to use less but the bill is still expected to be between $315,000 and $330,000 in 2022-23.
AquaZone is the council's main gas user, and to help save on energy costs pool blankets will be installed in the next two months.
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