AUSTRALIAN churches have been issued with a challenge to increase the switchover to renewable energy such as solar.
While some Queensland Catholic dioceses are taking giant steps towards renewables, overall, Australia’s record on installed renewable energy lags behind North America and most of Europe.
Figures released by United Kingdom charities show more than 3500 churches in the United Kingdom have either switched their electricity from fossil fuels to renewables or registered to do so.
Pope Francis named September 1 as the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation – the start of the Season of Creation, a global Christian ecumenical time of prayer and work for the protection of the environment.
In the UK, around 2000 of the churches switching to renewable energy sources come from 16 Catholic dioceses, which are running entirely on renewables.
Some of those dioceses made the decision following Pope Francis’ encyclical for the environment, Laudato Si’.
The number also includes the majority of the Salvation Army’s UK sites and a third of Britain’s Quaker Meeting Houses.
In addition, the UK charities Christian Aid and Tearfund have persuaded nearly 700 churches from across denominations to pledge to increase their renewable energy use.
‘The massive take-up of clean, renewable energy by churches in the UK is a great sign of hope,” Professor Stephen Pickard, Anglican Bishop and Director of the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture in Canberra, said.
“It would be inspiring if Australian churches could do the same. We have an abundance of sun and wind and we are well aware of the damage done by the burning of fossil fuels. What are we waiting for?’”
Australian churches are yet to make the large-scale shifts to clean energy, but some notable projects are already taking shape.
And dozens of Christian organisations have passed resolutions to divest their holdings in fossil fuel extraction.
In Townsville Dicoese, 23 out of 28 Catholic schools have now switched to power from solar panels as part of a pioneering environmental project, reducing annual power bills by $250,000.
Fluorescent lights are also being systematically replaced with highly energy efficient LED lights, and there are further plans to introduce battery storage allowing schools to go “off-the-grid” for their power.
Cairns diocese has started introducing the Townsville template, and Darwin diocese has the template on the drawing board.
The vast Townsville Diocese, which stretches from the coast to Mt Isa, has invested $6 million in one megawatt of solar panels.
Catholice education director Dr Cathy Day is aiming for even greater returns.
“The best figures that I like to think is a saving of $40 million over 25 years,” she said.
“Now when you turn that into teachers that we can pay for, or resources for students, that’s quite a substantial amount of money and I think it’s a great investment.”
By Mark Bowling