The Victorian Andrews government has reinstated the Greener Government Buildings program, a government building energy efficiency program that was axed by the former Coalition government in 2014, despite being on track to save taxpayers billions in avoided energy costs.
The government will spend $33 million over the next two years – funded from recently announced Victorian green bonds – to “reboot” the program, with energy and carbon reduction projects to include:
- Installing new lighting technologies and upgrading heating and cooling systems at Gordon TAFE in Geelong and Peninsula Health facilities, including the Frankston Hospital
- Replacing all of Victoria’s freeway lighting with LEDs
- Installing solar power and LED lighting in 200 Victorian schools and regional healthcare facilities
The projects are expected to repay the initial investment after five years.
The overall program is expected to save $6 million a year over 15 years, cut 25,000 tonnes of CO2 a year, and create hundred of new jobs in the energy efficiency sector.
“Unlike the former Coalition government, the Andrews Labor Government is leading the way when it comes to tackling climate change,” finance minister Robin Scott said.
“The Greener Government Buildings Program will save an estimated $100 million and proves that greenhouse gas abatement does not need to be expensive.”
The news was welcomed by the Energy Efficiency Council.
“Australia’s energy efficiency experts applaud Dan Andrews and Robin Scott’s decision to introduce a program to upgrade state-owned buildings and streetlights,” EEC chief executive Luke Menzel said.
“Dan Andrews’ decision is win-win-win – it will improve public facilities, strengthen the state’s finances, save energy, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create hundreds of skilled jobs.”
He said the news put Victoria back in the race to become the country’s most energy-efficient state.
When looking at the new program, the amount committed and estimated benefits seem much smaller than when the program was cut in 2014 – with annual direct cost savings in utilities and maintenance bills at the time of $32.17 million – though according to EEC head of policy Rob Murray-Leach, this is because the program is in a ramp-up phase and only takes into account the initial two years of funding.
It is understood the government is currently investigating extending the program as well as the funding commitments needed following the initial two-year investment.
Mr Murray-Leach said annual investment of around $30 million would be ideal, and would be similar to funding enjoyed by the program before it was axed.
If the program were to be extended after two years it could save the government over $2 billion in energy and maintenance costs, the EEC estimates.
Environment Victoria also welcomed the move.
“Environment Victoria joined with the Energy Efficiency Council and the Australian Industry Group to advocate for the reinstatement of Greener Government Buildings,” chief executive Mark Wakeham said.
“We’d like to congratulate the finance minister Robin Scott and energy minister Lily D’Ambrosio for delivering a good outcome today for the environment and the state’s economy.”
The Fifth Estate had just last week called out the Victorian government for having failed to reinstate the widely supported program.