The annual electricity bill for Cootamundra-Gundagai Regional Council could be reduced by as much as a third, it was revealed at the council's recent monthly meeting.
Acting general manager Phil McMurray said the council had joined forces with the Riverina Eastern Regional Organisation of Councils (REROC) and was now in the final stages of negotiating a new contract.
Mayor Abb McAlister told council REROC was hoping to drive the cost down by a third.
The bid to reduce power costs was revealed during debate about a motion by Councillor Charlie Sheahan for the council to prepare a detailed report on energy efficiency.
Cr Sheahan said the report should consider rooftop solar panels and batteries for council buildings, as well as replacing street lighting with solar smart street lights, and replacing petrol-driven vehicles with electric vehicles, as available, in the future.
He said the council's current annual electricity bill was $539,000, not counting street lighting, plus an extra $322,189 for street lights.
"Smart street lights work with a background 20% illumination but boost up to 100% when a person or vehicle approaches, then shut back to 20% once they've moved on," he said.
"The lights cost around $100 each so when you're looking at a bill of $322,000 you can buy quite a few lights for that cost and negate the ongoing overhead."
On electric vehicles, Cr Sheahan said a recent NRMA article in Open Road claimed EVs were around 70% cheaper to run per kilometre, even during times of high electricity prices and low petrol prices.
"NRMA says the cost of recharging a vehicle's batter is around five cents per kilometre compared to 14 cents for petrol, and adds there are other cost savings because fewer moving parts mean less maintenance.
"You don't need to replace filters and spark plugs or change oil and in 2018 savings on maintenance and servicing were estimated at between $300 and $400 a year.
"Electric cars available for sale in Australia now include the Hyundai Iconic which retails at $44,900, the Renault Zoe ($47,490), the Nissan Leaf ($49,990), the Hyundai Icona ($59,990 and the BMW i3 ($68,700 - then you move into the Teslas which are hundreds of thousands.
"These EVs are coming off the production lines now and it's something we should be seriously looking at given our ongoing financial problems.
"Also given the very low return our reserves are bringing us now, some amount of those reserves would be better put into this capital which is going to give us an overhead saving on running costs."
Deputy mayor Dennis Palmer said while he was fully supportive of the solar panels and street lighting, there were issues with electric vehicles that warranted caution.
"A fully electric car has arrived in Cootamundra but its owner has had to find another $2000 to get an adapter to charge it in his own garage.
"It comes with an emergency pack but you only get 3 kilometres for every 15 minutes of charging."
"I would tread very lightly on converting council's fleet."
Mr McMurray said the council was already discussing using solar power from the proposed solar farm at Cootamundra, and also speaking with suppliers on the local government procurement lists for putting solar collectors on roofs.
"We're working in this space already, but I'm happy to bring a report back to council as proposed."
The council voted in favour of Cr Sheahan's motion to have a report prepared for submission to council no later than its meeting scheduled for February 25 next year.