Greening the Church

Solar panels on churchWhen the Synod resolved to reduce energy use by 20 per cent by 2020, many congregations set about working towards ways in which they could live out the commitment to responsible stewardship of the environment.

Whether it is investing in solar power, retrofitting buildings or simply shopping around for the best utilities provider, church groups are increasingly seeking opportunities to lower their carbon footprints.

In 2012 the small team at Glen Waverley Uniting Church started their journey of investigation.

Throughout the next two years, Warren Greenwood, Neil Leister and Ross Lennon reviewed the electrical needs of the congregation and looked at various options to reduce energy use.

They found between 60 to 70 per cent of their annual power usage was in the daytime and 80 per cent of energy usage was electricity.

After consulting a number of solar companies, Glen Waverley UC recently installed a new 30 kW solar electric system. The system will slash their annual power bill by more than half and pay for itself in seven years and will produce free, zero-carbon electricity for at least 20 years.

It was calculated the system would reduce their annual power bill from $14,000 p.a. to between $5000 and $6000. The total cost of the project was approximately $50,000.

An added benefit is that, when the community looks up at the roof of the church, they are seeing a clear – or rather a shiny black – representation of the church’s commitment to the environment.

The Queenscliff-Point Lonsdale congregations have also taken steps to reduce their carbon footprint and lower their bills.
Treasurer Lorel Larcombe was encouraged to review their energy deal after being contacted by the Synod’s new Uniting to GREEN program.

“It could not have been simpler,” Ms Larcombe said.

“I told them we could get a better deal elsewhere, and they immediately offered to review our current plan. They then offered a fantastic additional 20 per cent reduction. This will mean the churches now save nearly $1,000 per year in energy bills.”

Encouraged by these savings, church members are now considering using the money they’ve saved to invest in more green initiatives.

“There is a nice synchronicity about using the savings to fund another green activity, such as solar panels. We are delighted that the serendipitous contact with Uniting to Green has opened up these options,” church secretary Richard Allen said.

Congregations interested in learning more about energy efficiency initiatives are encouraged to make contact with the National Energy Efficiency Network (NEEN).

Michael Hwang, NEEN regional leader for Victoria and Tasmania is based at the synod as another resource to assist congregations to get started on energy reduction initiatives.

Funded by the Federal Government and Department of Industry, NEEN provides information and advice on how to implement energy reduction initiatives.

Mr Hwang said that often the first steps are the most difficult.

“There is so much information out there that it can be daunting to get started,” Mr Hwang said.

“But once you get started there are significant cost savings to be made from simple behaviour changes and low cost initiatives.

“These in turn can support more significant investments like retrofitting or solar panels.”

For more details on Glen Waverley’s project please visit or contact Warren Greenwood on 9560 3580.

Congregations interested in reviewing electricity and gas energy plans can contact the Uniting to GREEN team at or 03 9251 5916.To find out more about NEEN visit or contact Michael Hwang on 0417 342 017 or

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