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Reap the benefits of energy efficiency

Victorian Energy Upgrades (VEU) is a Victorian state government program that provides financial incentives to reduce the barriers for Victorian households and businesses interested in undertaking energy efficiency upgrades. The program includes 36 different activities that use either a ‘deemed method’ (where incentives are predetermined) or a ‘project-based method’ (where upgrades unique to a facility can be incentivised). The program is accessed using accredited providers, namely private businesses, who can guide consumers through the process of accessing the program and creating financial incentives on their behalf.

For many facilities, energy is quickly becoming a major expense that needs active management. Reducing the energy intensity (energy use per square metre) of your facility can be the quickest way to improve your business’s bottom line, reduce energy bills and improve the comfort of building occupants. As a facilities manager, you are in a unique position where you can directly influence the energy efficiency of your facility. In fact, a study of critical non-technical factors affecting the energy performance of office buildings found that awareness of energy effiency among facilities managers was the second strongest predictor of superior building performance. You, too, can join the growing list of facilities managers who are reaping the benefits of energy efficiency.

Upfront costs can be one of the biggest challenges in undertaking energy efficiency upgrades. While facilities managers know their premises best, for every stage of the process – including selection, design, installation, commissioning, operating, and replacement of appliances and equipment – there are often multiple people involved in decision-making that have their own priorities and perspectives. Factors including time availability, maintenance of production output or service quality, business operating processes, and access to finance can have a higher priority than factors like energy performance and operating costs. The VEU program can help to ease the burden of high upfront costs to help get energy efficiency projects across the line.  

Since its commencement in 2009, almost 100,000 businesses have used the VEU program for energy efficiency projects across Victoria, receiving help with upfront costs and allowing sites to save an average of $3700 per year on their energy bills. The new energy-efficient equipment also provided a reduction in operation and maintenance costs, improving the overall payback of an upgrade. There are a number of ways that facilities managers can use the VEU program to help fund projects, save on energy bills and reduce emissions.

Measurement and Verification (M&V) activities can be carried out at any commercial or industrial facility, and can cover any kind of energy efficiency upgrade or combination of upgrades. This is the most flexible type of energy efficiency activity offered under the VEU program. M&V projects are typically more complex activities and may be specially designed for a facility. M&V projects measure the difference between a facility’s energy consumption before and after an energy efficiency upgrade. Incentives are generated at the end of the project based on the  calculated 10-year reduction in emissions.

Alternatively, if your facility currently has a NABERS rating, the Benchmark Rating method is an easy way to get financial incentives to help you meet your energy efficiency goals. The Benchmark Rating method was designed to be as simple and as flexible as possible, and can be used with any rateable building. This method compares two NABERS ratings before and after an upgrade, and awards incentives for energy efficiency projects, which result in an increased NABERS rating. The method can incentivise any type of energy efficiency upgrade or combination of upgrades, and the scale of incentives that can be generated is based on the results achieved. Incentives for an upgrade can be claimed annually, up to eight times.

The first step to take advantage of the Benchmark Rating method in the VEU program is to identify an energy efficiency project. A good way to do this is to conduct an energy audit of the building to determine what kind of energy efficiency upgrades will have the greatest efficiency benefit. The facilities manager can then approach a VEU-accredited provider with the proposed recommendations from the energy audit. Details of expected energy savings and how they are achieved will be needed for participation in the Benchmark Rating method.

The accredited provider plays a valuable role in allowing you to engage with the VEU program. They will undertake the necessary preliminary data collection (e.g. the existing NABERS rating and details of the energy efficiency project you wish to undertake) and collate the paperwork required to get approval for the project under the program. You must involve an accredited provider before the commencement of any physical installation or upgrades to be eligible to receive financial incentives from the VEU program.

Energy efficiency projects improve the operational efficiency of buildings and reduce the overall energy bills. They help free up your time so you can budget for other activities, and enable reduced maintenance costs, increased asset value, and overall productivity improvements at your facility. If your facility is in Victoria, see what the Victorian Energy Upgrade program can do for you!

Contact an accredited provider or find more information about the VEU program click here

View the Energy Efficient Office Buildings report to learn more about what improved energy efficiency can bring to your facility click here

This story was first published in Facility Perspectives, Vol 13, No 3.