Victoria’s commercial buildings will get a boost to their sustainability potential following the announcement of a new collaboration between the state government and the Sustainable Melbourne Fund.

The program involves help to take up Environmental Upgrade Agreements, the benefits of which include reduced energy costs and emissions.

Energy, environment and climate change minister Lily D’Ambrosio launched the new agreement during a visit to manufacturer Class Plastics, which had 1460 solar panels installed by Powercor subsidiary Beon Energy.

The manufacturer expects to save $100,000 a year on energy bills thanks to what was reportedly the largest EUA to date in Australia.

The government has committed funding to EUAs through Sustainability Victoria as part of its Boosting Business Productivity grants program.

An additional $630,000 was allocated in the 2017/18 budget for new grants, including measures to reduce costs and greenhouse gas emissions.

“We know that increasing energy costs are affecting Victorian businesses, and we are working closely with them to deliver more affordable, sustainable and reliable energy,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

“This government-backed initiative will give businesses greater accessibility to the financing which funds energy efficiency programs and reduces energy costs.”

Expert advice and low-cost finance

Sustainable Melbourne Fund chief executive Scott Bocskay said the partnership would enable more small-to-medium-sized enterprises to access expert advice and low-cost finance for purchasing commercial-scale solar.

“Victoria has some 460,000 small-to-medium-sized enterprises, each grappling with ways of finding capital to increase their energy productivity,” Mr Bocskay said.

He said 14 Victorian councils were currently offering EUA finance, and that 20 projects were expected to be completed or underway by June.

The expected collective energy bill saving is close to $1 million a year for projects on the books to date, and CO2 emissions are projected to be reduced by over 8500 tonnes a year.

He said the boost to EUA finance would be a catalyst for market expansion, and would also deliver employment growth across the state.

“Expansion of the market has the potential for 50,000 buildings to implement energy efficiency measures, generating over 835,000 kilowatt-hours of renewable energy,” Mr Bocskay said.

“This directly boosts business profits, reduces power bills and delivers capital growth. As a result, it increases businesses’ economic resilience and improves energy productivity across the state.”

General manager at Beon Energy Solutions Glen Thomson said EUAs were simple and attractive to a range of its customers, as it enabled them to access capital to save money immediately.