Sector: Hospitality  

Address: 87 Murphy St, Wangaratta VIC 3677 

Environmental Upgrade: 15kW solar system 

Key drivers: Reduce cost of electricity bills and feed renewable energy back into the grid 

 

Problem

Mark Sorrensen runs Café Martini, which he assures us is home to “the only true wood fired pizza oven in Wangaratta.” The Café is well-known for its selection of pizzas and variety of other dishes to grace the wood fire oven, from fish and steaks to the humble chicken parma.  

You’ll find the Café facing Wangaratta’s picturesque main street, housed inside what used to be the Bull’s Head Hotel. The building was originally constructed in 1866 – and being over 150 years old, it’s provided Mark with some interesting challenges. Namely, how to keep the space cool during summer.   

“Being such a large old building, we need all five air conditioners running when it gets hot,” he said. 

Mark also relies on two compressors to run the cool rooms, which are spread out over the building. Last summer, the Café’s power bills were debilitatingly high.    

“It’s very, very expensive to run the old girl.” 

Solution

It might seem counterintuitive to take out a loan while lockdowns make business earnings unpredictable. But for Mark, switching to solar energy was a way to immediately save himself some money – and without impacting Café Martini’s cash flow.   

Mark heard about Sustainable Australia Fund through his local installer, Cameron Kennedy of Kennedy Electrical & Solar.

“With the SAF low interest loan and Solar Victoria Business rebate, it’s never been more affordable for businesses to install solar,” said Cameron. “Not only will they be reducing their energy costs, they are investing in a cleaner, renewable future.”

Mark said he’d been speaking to Cameron about transitioning to renewable energy for a few years.  

“It was a no-brainer,” he said. “We might as well use what’s here for free – you know, the sun’s up there! So, when this opportunity came along, it fell into place beautifully for us.”  

Process

Mark worked with Kennedy Solar to have a 15kW solar system installed on the building. He chose to access Environmental Upgrade Finance, which was enabled by Rural City of Wangaratta Council.  

Unlike other business loans, Environmental Upgrade Finance combines low interest and long terms – 10 years, in this case – which means savings can exceed repayments in the very first year.   

Councillor Dean Rees – Mayor of Wangaratta – emphasised the benefits of this type of finance not only for the Café, but for the greater community.   

“The Environmental Upgrade Finance program gives our local businesses a great avenue to access finance over a longer term and enables them to reduce operational costs and improve building value,” he said. “At the same time, it brings environmental benefits for the Rural City of Wangaratta, which is something that’s important to the whole community.  

As part of the installation, Mark also accessed the Solar Victoria rebate, which was a breeze to apply for. With the combined SAF loan and rebate, his new solar system became much more affordable.  

“The whole process was just so easy,” he said. “And whenever I had a query, Sustainable Australia Fund were happy to help me out and talk me through it. 

“There’s just no mess, no fuss. Nothing was a hassle. I was really, really chuffed.” 

Outcome

Café Martini’s new solar system is set to be a big talking point for the Wangaratta community – and not just because of the ‘powered by solar’ sign in the front window.   

The Café is projected to save $3,164 in its first year of being powered by solar energy. Within the same time frame, it’s also expected to reduce the Café’s emissions by 24 tCO2-e – the equivalent of 4.4 homes’ annual energy use.  

“As we’ve seen with Café Martini, the Environmental Upgrade Finance helps local businesses not only lower their greenhouse gas emissions, but also reduce their annual energy bill,” Mayor Rees said. “And in the current climate, it’s critical for businesses to be able to reduce costs where they can.”   

Needless to say, Mark’s excited to see his savings pile up.  

“I’m really looking forward to seeing how much of an impact it makes on our electricity bill,” he said. “Leading into summer it’ll be in its peak period, which will be such a saving. And then to think that, if we’re making enough, we can put it back into the grid – that’s beneficial for all of us at the end of the day.” 

Café Martini

“There’s just no mess, no fuss. Nothing was a hassle. I was really, really chuffed.” 

– Mark Sorrensen, owner of Café Martini

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