State Govt announces energetic endeavour

RETROFITTING Latrobe Valley buildings for energy efficiency is considered “low hanging fruit” in the pursuit of easing the region’s economic challenges.

With the Victorian Energy Efficiency Target scheme to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 tonnes over the next five years passed in Parliament yesterday, the State Government has also announced a plan to increase energy efficient buildings.

Under new Environmental Upgrade Agreements, businesses can borrow money through an approved lender to pay for environmental upgrades such as solar panels, double glazing and energy efficient lighting.

Local councils will then collect the repayments through the rates system and pass them on to the lender.

Latrobe Valley Sustainability Group spokesman Dan Caffrey said the plan would save businesses money and hoped Latrobe City Council would get behind the scheme.

He said the plan was a cost effective way to “nibble at the edges” of decreasing emissions, reducing each premises by a few tonnes of carbon each year.

However, the environmental campaigner and Environment Victoria are also calling for the scheme to include residential housing as an effective way to give a leg-up to low income households.

“To improve social-economic conditions this needs to be extended to private dwellings, who could benefit the most from insulation and energy efficient lighting to bring their power bills down and spend more money in the local economy,” Mr Caffrey said.

A report by ClimateWorks Australia’s Low Carbon Growth Plan for Gippsland in 2011 said improving the energy efficiency of Gippsland’s existing commercial buildings could save $27.7 million with upfront costs recouped in less than four years for most types of buildings.

Gippsland households could also save $22.9 million each year by retrofitting their homes to improve energy efficiency, building more efficient homes or choosing cars that consume less fuel.

Meanwhile, Environment Victoria this week announced a report offering ‘Six Steps to Efficiency Leadership for Victoria’, noting the Latrobe Valley as a region to benefit from targeted energy efficiency investment.

It said low income and disadvantaged households were missing out on the benefits of efficient homes because they couldn’t afford the upfront costs of efficiency measures or because they rent.

Environment Victoria campaigner Anne Martinelli said there was an overlap of issues as the region considered its reliance on coal and moved towards renewable energy sources.

“Energy efficiency hasn’t been a high priority when there has been an abundance of cheap energy sources, but there is a huge opportunity for cutting waste that not only saves money, makes living more comfortable and significantly impacts cutting emissions,” Ms Martinelli said.

Latrobe City Council was contacted by The Express for comment.