The Essential Services Commission administers and regulates the Victorian Energy Upgrades program for the Victorian government. A tip off to the commission led to a six-month investigation into ASEU’s energy efficiency upgrade activities. The investigation gathered evidence of breaches involving energy efficient lighting upgrades installed across farms and businesses in regional Victoria over a 22-month period. This included alleged false claims relating to the number and type of lamps in place before they were upgraded.
Commission chairperson Kate Symons says the investigation showed the alleged breaches were significant and systemic.
“Evidence obtained by the commission suggests there was deliberate non-compliance or potentially fraudulent conduct involved. Some of the properties we inspected did not even have power connected to the premises that ASEU reported as having received energy efficiency upgrades,” said Commissioner Symons.
“We consider this to be a serious breach of the program rules, a breach of public trust in the program, and unacceptable.”
Commissioner Symons says that while the installations were done by two different subcontractors, as the accredited person under the Victorian Energy Upgrades program, ASEU is ultimately responsible to ensure all upgrades follow program rules.
“Our responsibility is to maintain the integrity of the program and confidence in the energy efficiency benefits delivered to consumers. The commission will not hesitate to take enforcement action against accredited persons where we find breaches of the program rules.
“We urge persons accredited under the Victorian Energy Upgrades program to review their business activities, practices and behaviours to ensure they follow the program rules,” said Commissioner Symons.
ASEU is suspended from providing products and services under the program for three months, effective 16 June 2022 to 16 September 2022. ASEU has also been ordered to conduct an independent audit to improve its processes and controls.
Due to the serious nature of the case, and possible electrical installation safety and compliance breaches, the commission has referred the matter to Victoria Police and the electricians involved have been referred to Energy Safe Victoria.
Commissioner Symons says this action comes as persons accredited under the program prepare for a new enforceable code of conduct to come into effect on 1 July 2022. Further reforms will follow later this year.
“To support consumers who choose to take up the program, from 1 July 2022, every accredited person and third-party person or business acting on their behalf to deliver products and services under the Victorian Energy Upgrades program must follow the code of conduct.
“More than 2 million households and businesses have benefited from the Victorian Energy Upgrades program since it began in 2009. It has delivered critical outcomes to help meet Victoria’s greenhouse gas emissions reductions targets and achieve important cost savings for energy consumers. The code of conduct will continue to grow public confidence by setting out the behaviours and standards Victorians should expect from people and businesses delivering services under the program,” said Commissioner Symons.
About the Victorian Energy Upgrades program
The Victorian Energy Upgrades program is part of the Victorian Government’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It provides access to discounted energy-saving products and activities via accredited persons.
Under the program, energy retailers offset greenhouse gas emissions by acquiring energy efficient certificates from accredited persons who install energy-efficient products in homes and businesses across Victoria. Accredited persons are businesses approved by the Essential Services Commission to provide products and services to consumers under the program rules. When accredited persons undertake an eligible energy upgrade, they create Victorian energy efficiency certificates under the program. Each certificate represents one tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent of greenhouse gas saved.
Energy retailers are required to acquire and surrender these certificates to meet the annual targets set in Victorian legislation. Since the program began in 2009, it has saved over 70 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. This is equivalent to taking over 21 million cars off the road for a year.
The commission regulates the creation, registration and surrender of certificates in accordance with the program’s legislative framework. Read more about the Victorian Energy Upgrades program legislative framework, our responsibilities and our compliance and enforcement framework.