COUNCILS could miss a chance to replace hundreds of thousands of inefficient streetlights if they do not act fast, sustainability advocates have warned.
Local governments are scrambling to work out what to spend millions of dollars in pandemic recovery funds on.
Advocates say a $500 million federal fund could be the key to replacing 8000 inefficient light bulbs across the Loddon Mallee alone.
Mercury vapour lights remain on many major roads years after ratepayers saved millions of dollars from a switchover on residential streets.
The federal government helped bankroll the replacement of 22,612 bulbs across 16 central and eastern Victorian council areas up to 2016.
That program helped the City of Greater Bendigo save 75 per cent of the energy in many of its streets. Other Loddon Mallee councils reaped similar savings.
Why councils don't want to go it alone
Councils often lack the money to make the switch without help from other levels of government, Ironbark Sustainability business manager and sustainability consultant Alexi Lynch said.
"The cost of the light themselves can be $700-$800, as opposed to $200 (for many residential lights)," he said.
"You (also) don't just need a crew and two or three minutes to change a smaller light. More often than not, you need to stop traffic. So everything takes a bit longer," Mr Lynch said.
Councils had been gearing up for any new federal government streetlight money ever since 2016, Central Victorian Greenhouse Alliance executive officer Rob Law said.
He had been working with councils to price replacements on major roads.
"We could expect the total cost to be somewhere between $14 million and $18 million, if councils from our area and the Wimmera get involved," Mr Law said.
"Councils could save somewhere in the order of $32 million to $45 million. So it would be a pretty significant payback."
Statewide action could fix 200,000 streetlights
The state government could also save money because it either pays for or shares costs on many major roads, Mr Law said.
His group is among a range of greenhouse alliances hoping to involve multiple levels of government in a push to change 200,000 streetlights statewide.
The coalition believes that could secure 100 jobs over three years.
Mr Lynch warned councils that they would have to deal with street lights sooner rather than later, even if they chose not to use the latest round of government funds.
He said major manufacturing countries like China and India are signing up to and ratifying international agreements that will phase out mercury products.
"Even if Australia does not ratify any agreements, the fact of the matter is that it's going to get a lot harder and more expensive to source components."
"We'd like to bring all parties together so we could bet all the changes to happen at the same time," Mr Law said.
Streetlights are among a slew of ideas CVGA would like action on as Australia recovers from the pandemic.
Others include electric vehicle charging networks, fast tracking spends on green infrastructure like trees, gardens and storm water reuse, food and organics programs and solar projects.
"There are a whole range of opportunities there that we think are good for creating jobs and reducing emissions," he said.
Ironbark Sustainability is organising a webinar to talk councils through what the federal stimulus money might mean, and how past federal spends have worked.
The "Federal Stimulus Projects and Local Government Climate Action Webinar: How To Prepare!" takes place on 16 June at 11am. Click here for more information or to register.
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