The Victorian Energy Upgrade program is cool and you should use it to get off gas

My air conditioner crapped out after the latest heatwave in Victoria and instead of spending anything to repair it, I’m finally replacing it with a reverse cycle system and taking advantage of recent updates to the Victorian Energy Upgrade (VEU) program.

Choosing a reverse cycle air conditioner deserves its own post, what I want to focus on here is the VEU. I think it’s under promoted as a way to make it easier to justify the cost of upgrading to newer, more efficient appliances like reverse cycle air conditioning and heat pump hot water systems.

If you’re familiar with the federal government’s Small-scale Technology Certificates (STCs) for stuff like solar panels and heat pumps, the VEU is similar, just on a local level in the state of Victoria and work in addition to those programs.

The VEU awards Victorian Energy Efficiency Certificates (VEECs) for a range of energy efficiency activities for both homes and businesses with the aim of reducing the states carbon emissions. VEECs are purchased by polluters to offset the shit they spew into the air as an incentive to get them to clean up their act so they don’t have to waste money buying VEECs. Right now, one VEEC is worth over $90 on the spot market, but $55 ex-GST via a broker like Greenbank. It’s like a little stock market for carbon emissions!

Most trades and installers use a broker to handle claiming and selling the VEECs and simply place a rough value on them at the time they give you a quote, passing on the value of the VEECs as a discount on the cost to do the activity - e.g: if the activity gets 10x VEECs from the VEU and the installer values them at $60ea, they’ll give you a $600 discount on whatever it is they’re doing for you.

Nerds of a particular variety might enjoy learning more about the technicalities of the VEU and VEECs on the Essential Services Commission (ESC) website.

For the rest of us not so big nerds (admit it, you’re a nerd if you’re reading this, normal people don’t read blog posts about government certificate programs), there’s a big list of activities that earn VEECs on the ESC website. Some of the more interesting ones for home owners looking to do some upgrades include:

  • heat pump replacing electric resistance (activity 1D)
  • heat pump replacing gas/LPG (activity 3C)
  • double glazed window (activity 13)
  • installing a high efficiency air conditioner (activity 6)
  • high efficiency pool pump (activity 26)

An induction cooktop activity is coming in the 2nd half of 2024 - which I’m personally excited about as my cooktop is the last bit of gas left in my house and freestanding ovens with induction cooktops are expensive!

The ESC maintains a list of products eligible for VEECs for each of those activities. If it’s not on the list, no VEECs are earned, so make sure to consult it! Luckily they let you export it to various formats, including XLSX so you can filter and compare in Excel. Once you know the activity and the product, you can use the ESC’s calculator to find out how many VEECs you’re entitled to.

Replace an old gas hot water system with a fancy Reclaim Energy REHP-KY-CO2-315SST heat pump hot water system and you’ll get 8 VEECs ($480) on top of the 23 STCs ($920) from the federal government, plus $1,000 from Solar Victoria as part of their rebate.

Replace a ducted gas heater with an 8kw reverse cycle multi-split with 4 indoor units and get 37 VEECs ($2,220), or a 12.5kw ducted reverse cycle unit and get 51 VEECs ($3,060) or if you’ve got a big ol’ McMansion out in the suburbs like me, piss off your ducted gas system and refriderative air conditioner at the same time with a honking 18kw reverse cycle unit and you’ll be blessed with up to 71 VEECs ($4,260).

Now that you know the VEU exists, there’s never been a better time to start getting your home off gas and start saving money. Oh and saving the planet, don’t forget about the planet.