The Victorian Government is pledging $3.59 million toward improving energy efficiency in the state's mid-tier commercial buildings in a bid to significantly reduce carbon emissions.

Minister for Environment and Climate Change Ryan Smith announced the Smarter Resources Smarter Business – Energy Efficient Office Buildings initiative earlier this week.

Designed to be a cost-effective strategy, the program will provide matched grant funding between $20,000 to $150,000 to commercial building owners seeking to invest in low carbon building technology.

 Ryan Smith

Minister for Environment and Climate Change Ryan Smith

Eligible building upgrades include those that efficiently regulate heating and cooling systems and monitor energy use. The program will also provide support to owners looking to retrofit their buildings.

“Buildings involved in the program will be eligible for energy audits and monitoring to identify opportunities to improve efficiency through low-cost operational and maintenance improvements,” Smith said.

The commercial building sector is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions with older and less efficient office buildings estimated to produce more than 1.3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year.

“The Smarter Resources Smarter Business – Energy Efficient Office Buildings program is expected to reduce CO2 emissions by more than 140,000 tonnes over 10 years,” Smith said.

Along with the direct environmental benefits, the program also aims to increase business productivity while increasing tenant appeal and asset value. It will also include 12 months of monitoring to measure the effectiveness and financial savings achieved associated with the building upgrades.

“Many of these measures have a payback period of less than three years and the total program is expected to save Victorian businesses around $9 million. We also expect the program to create jobs and seed the market for further upgrades,” Smith said.

Energy Efficient Buildings

Energy efficient building

Applications for Smarter Resources Smarter Business – Energy Efficient Office Buildings will be accepted starting early September. Building owners must meet the following requirements to be considered for a grant:

  1. Opportunities analysis: provides an opportunities report on the current energy efficiency of building systems such as lighting, lifts, and heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems and identifies opportunities for improvement
  2. Building tuning: delivers simple, cost-effective energy efficiency building upgrades through tuning of building services and operations. This will identify and correct building system problems to maintain optimal building performance
  3. Monitoring: implements metering and monitoring to enable an evaluation of building performance for the 12-month period following building tuning in order to measure the effectiveness and cost savings achieved through the building tuning upgrades

The Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) has welcomed the initiative and the commitment by the Victorian Government to improve the energy efficiency of its existing buildings.

“For more than a decade, we have argued that improving the performance of our built environment requires a range of complementary measures, including both financial and non-financial incentives, and both public and private sector leadership,” said GBCA chief operating officer Robin Mellon.

Robin Mellon GBCA

GBCA chief operating officer Robin Mellon

Mellon compared the program to other Australian state initiatives, including the Tasmanian Government’s plan to achieve Green Star ratings for all new buildings and the NSW Government’s aim of upgrading its portfolio of buildings.

However, the GBCA is still seeking a similar commitment by the Federal Government as outlined in their three-point plan proposal for better buildings and communities, which calls for visionary government leadership, retrofitting existing buildings and moving beyond buildings to communities.

In its call for a commitment from the Federal Government, the GBCA estimates that a 10 per cent improvement in energy efficiency across government buildings could save more than 620,000 gigajoules of electricity and over $35 million per year in energy costs.