Gavin Gilchrist

24 November 2010 – Gavin Gilchrist’s Big Switch Projects has increased staff levels this year after a moderate uptick in demand for energy audits following the introduction of  the mandatory disclosure regime.

The requirements are that offices of 2000 square metres or more disclose their NABERS energy rating on sale or lease.

According to Mr Gilchrist assistance through government subsidies for audits – up to 60 per cent in South Australia and a new rebate program of 80 per cent in Blacktown in Sydney –  has helped to stimulate demand.

The rebates are available for companies with large electricity bills. Audit costs  average about $15,000 for a typical office building of about $10,000 square metres, Mr Gilchrist.

In Canberra there was also an ACT government tune up program of $2 million that provided dollar for dollar subsidies to improve the energy efficiency of buildings. Round three closes 3 December.

This is understood have had a slow initial take-up, which is now improving as news filters to the market.

And nationally the latest round of Green Building Fund offers is expected to open and close quickly.  See our article on this

Mr Gilchrist said mandatory disclosure or the Commercial Building Disclosure program was driving demand to “some extent” but that this had ebbed now.

“There was a surge of interest late September and early October from people who realised they needed an exemption and now that’s died down and it’s too early to tell how this is going to change the market. You don’t turn around the Australian commercial market overnight.

“Increasingly I’m sensing people are building ratings into their management systems to ensure they are reporting how they are tracking. But we’re not seeing an explosion of services overnight.”

In the end the CBD program only applied to buildings for sale or lease, Mr Gilchrist said.

“And most buildings are not for sale and most do not have more than 2000 square metres for lease [the cut off point]

“If there was requirement that all buildings have a NABERS rating, things might be different.”

Another new trend that Mr Gilchrist said had been noticed by his peers is that large corporate tenants could be jumping back aboard the sustainability bandwagon.

“Clients of ours who disappeared in the GFC (global financial crisis) who couldn’t find a few bob to do a NABERS rating are now back, starting up again. Other people have heard similar things.”

A major insurance company for instance who had done regular NABERS ratings but had dropped them, retrenched their corporate sustainability manager and disbanded is sustainability team was now set to replace those units, Mr Gilchrist  said.

In South Australia Big Switch Projects has recently completed a number of energy efficiency audits under the state government’s rebate program that can save up to 60 per cent of audit costs for mid to large sized businesses, up from a previous rebates of about 20 per cent.

The audits qualified for rebates under the Business Energy Efficiency Program, a component of the Australian Government funded Adelaide Solar City Project. They included work for:

•    The Department of Transport Energy and Infrastructure’s Building Management Division tenancy at 211 Victoria Square
•    SA Health’s main administration building, Citicentre at 11 Hindmarsh Square
•    Commonwealth Bank’s SA head office at 100 King William Streeet
•    Adelaide City Council’s Colonel Light Centre at 15 Pirie Street
•    The Embassy Apartments at 96 North Terrace
•    The Suncorp Metway Group tenancies at 367 King William St and 45 Grenfell Street.

The company has also secured the first hospital participant for BEEP. The Modbury Hospital has recently joined the program for a level 2 audit of the site, the company said.

Big Switch Projects state manager SA Vikram Kenjle said the increased rebate was available to businesses with energy bills of more than $70,000 per year within the Adelaide City Council area and the cities of Salisbury, Playford and Tea Tree Gully,

“The maximum rebate will vary depending on the type of facility, its amount of energy consumption and complexity of the equipment used on site.”

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