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The Victorian Government has announced a massive $797 million energy efficiency stimulus package to improve the quality of homes, create jobs and boost public health.

The stimulus measures include:

  • $335 million to replace old wood, electric and gas-fired heaters with new energy-efficient systems in 250,000 homes
  • $112 million to upgrade the comfort and efficiency of 35,000 social homes
  • $14 million for appliance upgrades under the Victorian Energy Upgrades program 
  • New minimum energy efficiency standards for rental homes to ensure that they are fit for habitation will be in place from 2022

The government is also providing funding to help set Victoria up for the move to seven star efficiency standards for new homes, supporting skills, training and jobs in the construction sector.

Furthermore, the government will step in and help those facing more immediate hardship, with a one-off $250 payment for eligible concession card holders, including anyone receiving JobSeeker, youth allowance or pension payments.

The direct bill relief is available to help an estimated 950,000 Victorian households who would otherwise struggle to pay their energy bills.

Victorian Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change, Lily D’Ambrosio, said, “Most Victorians have spent more time at home this year – and more on power bills – than they ever have. That’s why we’re helping those struggling to pay their bills and making homes across the state more energy efficient.

“This pandemic has been hard enough without worrying about whether you can pay the power bill. Not only will we help cover that cost – we’ll help Victorians make their home more efficient and fight climate change.”

The Australian Energy Council (AEC) has welcomed the Victorian Government’s power bill support for households facing immediate hardship.

The AEC’s Chief Executive, Sarah McNamara, said, “The bill relief and improvements to energy efficiency in social housing are good initiatives that recognise the importance of maintaining connection to electricity.

“We know some households have been struggling and the Victorian Government’s rebate will be a direct help to customers. Energy retailers will work with the government to ensure this support gets to customers as soon as possible.

“There are a range of support options available to help customers and we encourage anyone who might be concerned about paying their power bills to contact their retailer as soon as possible.”

Luke Menzel, CEO of the Energy Efficiency Council, said, “This is a transformative investment in energy efficiency from the Andrews Government, the largest single energy efficiency investment from any state government in Australian history.

“We know that energy efficiency upgrades of buildings have the biggest jobs multiplier of any form of clean energy stimulus. 

“Victoria is harnessing that jobs multiplier to supercharge their post-COVID recovery, create thousands of good, local jobs and cut carbon along the way.

“Not just that, but this is an investment that will improve the quality of life of Victorians. A lot of us found out this winter just how cold our homes are, and how expensive they are to run. 

“Upgrading the heating and cooling of social housing, rental properties and hundreds of thousands of other homes will slash people’s energy bills and save lives.

“Poor quality homes can have big health impacts. A major program in New Zealand to improve the homes of low-income households delivered massive savings to their health system, with an estimated $7 in benefits for every $1 invested by the government, largely through reductions in mortality.”

More than 100,000 households have installed power stations on their roof through the Victorian Government’s Solar Homes program. To help more Victorians get the benefits of solar, the government announced it will provide $191 million to expand the Solar Homes program as part of the Victorian Budget 2020/21.

This includes 42,000 additional solar rebates, meaning a total of 140,000 households will be able to install solar panels on their roof at no upfront cost over the next two years. And for the very first time, small businesses will also be able to apply – with 15,000 solar rebates for businesses.

In addition, Victorians in every corner of the state will now be able to apply for a Solar Homes battery, with the government providing 17,500 household battery rebates over the next three years.

The Clean Energy Council supports the additional rebates for rooftop solar and batteries, commenting that the Victorian Government is creating the biggest household battery program in the country, which will reduce power bills and create much-needed jobs across the state.

The scaling up of the home battery program means that many more Victorian households will have access to cheap, reliable and clean energy, and also mitigates some of the challenges experienced by the existing home battery program, with demand outstripping the limited number of rebates previously available.

Clean Energy Council Chief Executive, Kane Thornton, said, “The Andrews Government has used its solar rebate program to improve standards for safety, quality and new technology.

“We expect the battery rebate will also help deliver in these areas as well as strengthening and stabilising the grid.

“Importantly, the announcement allows energy users and the rooftop solar industry to reap the benefits immediately, unlike long-term projects. Rooftop solar and battery installation will be a welcome relief for stretched household budgets and the state’s Clean Energy Council Accredited Installers and Approved Solar Retailers. This sort of activity is critical in moving Victoria towards a Clean Recovery.” 

The Clean Energy Council looks forward to working with the Victorian Government on the detailed design and implementation of these initiatives to ensure the industry and customers can have continued confidence in rooftop solar and batteries.

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