La Trobe Valley residents struggling with the transition away from coal will be given a hand through a $5 million program to fund energy efficiency upgrades for up to 1000 homes.

The Latrobe Valley Home Energy Upgrade Program will be available to those homes in the greatest need located in the Latrobe City, Wellington and Baw Baw region, with up to $4500 available per household for solar PV, solar hot water and upgrades like efficient lighting.

Aside from assisting reduce energy bills, the Victorian government said the program would help to support skill development and generate activity in the area by using local businesses, trades and products.

Those eligible for the program will undergo a home energy assessment to work out the most effective upgrades, with a local program provider delivering the upgrade package.

“As part of our record investment in the transition and development of the greater Latrobe Valley area, this program will provide real and long-term help with energy bills and ease the pressure on vulnerable households, whilst boosting business for local workers,” member for Eastern Victoria Harriet Shing said.

The news was welcomed by Environment Victoria, which said it showed the government was committed to tackling the “real causes” of energy unaffordability.

“The solution to keeping household energy costs affordable is not to build more expensive, polluting coal-fired power stations, but to make sensible, low-cost improvements to our homes to cut energy waste,” Environment Victoria efficiency campaigner Anne Martinelli said.

The current housing stock in Victoria had an average NatHERS ratings of less than two stars, she said, and improving this would protect against high energy bills and the health risks associated with heatwaves.

Ms Martinelli agreed that the program would help with the transition to a cleaner economy.

“This announcement comes at a good time, with Earthworker Cooperative in the process of setting up its solar hot water manufacturing operation in Morwell,” she said.

“Environment Victoria’s recent Life After Coal report identified household and business efficiency upgrades and solar hot water manufacturing as potential drivers of new economic activity in the Latrobe Valley. So it’s good to see the Andrews government backing new sustainable industries that will deliver multiple benefits for the region – creating jobs, cutting household bills and tackling climate pollution. This is a win-win-win for the Latrobe Valley community.”

The program will be delivered by the Latrobe Valley Authority in conjunction with Sustainability Victoria, and consultations will be held with the local community, government and businesses to refine the details of the program before further details are released in April and the program takes off in the second half of the year.

Residents can register their interest on the Latrobe Valley Authority website.

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