Victoria’s successful energy efficiency program, the Victorian Energy Efficiency Target (VEET), has been revamped, getting a catchy new title – the Victorian Energy Upgrades program – and expanding its remit to include large energy users getting battered by rising gas and electricity costs.

Announcing the changes on Tuesday morning, energy, environment and climate change minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the program was on track to save households and businesses $400 million in 2017 alone.

“Victoria is leading the way in providing affordable energy-saving activities,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

“We’re adapting this program to ensure it meets the changing and future needs of energy users by increasing access and providing more incentives for energy efficiency upgrades.”

Prior to today, large energy users that were registered participants in the Environmental Protection Agency’s Environment and Resource Efficiency Plans (EREP) program were excluded from the VEET scheme – which focused on households and small-to-medium enterprises – but the changes mean they can now “opt in” to the Victorian Energy Upgrades program.

However, opting in will create a liability for large energy users’ energy retailers in terms of energy efficiency certificates that must be purchased, the cost of which could be passed on.

The Essential Services Commission has recommended that users discuss the associated liability with their energy retailer and/or seek legal advice on the implications for their energy retail contract before opting in.

Opting in, though, could prove lucrative, with the new Victorian Energy Saver website saying savings for large companies could run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on which upgrades are implemented.

Aside from bringing into the fold once-excluded large energy users, the program will also introduce new approved energy efficiency activities and provide a customised way of measuring energy savings.

The Energy Efficiency Council welcomed the move and said it would help large energy users that were being stung by increasing energy costs.

“Today Minister D’Ambrosio introduced a way for businesses to get support for more complex, tailored projects, which will help Victorian manufacturers that are being hit hard by electricity and gas price rises,” EEC chief executive Luke Menzel said.

“As the cost of each unit of energy goes up, getting smarter about the way we use that energy becomes more important than ever.”

He said the VEU program was a way businesses could gain back control of their energy costs.

“It should be on the radar of anyone that is worried about their energy bill – so basically everyone,” Mr Menzel said.

The VEU program has set a target of 5.9 million tonnes of CO2 emissions saved for 2017, rising to 6.5 million tonnes in 2020.

Approved energy efficiency products include water heating, heating & cooling, weather sealing & insulation, lighting, standby power controllers, shower heads, televisions, refrigerators or freezers, refrigerator or freezer disposal, clothes dryers, pool pumps, in-home displays, commercial lighting upgrades, refrigerated display cabinets, refrigeration fans, motors, water efficient pre-rinse spray valves and low-flow trigger nozzles.