Australia has a stop-start history of energy retrofit programs, including one-off projects funded at various levels of government.
While there have been successful programs, they have not always been efficiently developed or implemented in partnership with industry. At worst, programs delivered quickly and without rigorous management have meant risks have eventuated and subsequently impacted the political appetite for retrofit programs.
Building a large-scale, targeted and efficient program of energy retrofits is complex. Historically, the high costs associated with physical energy audits, business case development and competitive procurement have constrained their success. For example, energy audits and business case reports have historically cost in excess of $450 to either the government agency or individual household – excluding program overheads like training and on-boarding of energy auditors, quality control and risk management.
Once audits and business case reports are completed, competitive procurement and project delivery remains. These require an additional layer of systems and processes for managing risks and, again, increase the overheads using traditional systems and processes.
Government officers can now use the BOOM! software to support their energy programs. Initially seed-funded through the Victorian “New Energy Jobs Fund” in partnership with the Community Housing Industry Association Victoria, BOOM! subsequently underpinned the $3m Victorian Property Fund’s “Environmentally sustainable housing funding round 2017–18” – solving the challenge of delivering large-scale energy retrofit programs transparently and efficiently, with low overheads.
The BOOM! platform is a sophisticated cloud-based “software-as-a- service” (SaaS) with a quick and easy five-stage process. Users can start using the software at any one of the five stages. BOOM! saves time and money, and reduces the risks associated with a lack of transparency and oversight at every stage for government departments, staff, suppliers and delivery partners.
Managing supply chain risk
Supply-chain partners are pre-qualified before being granted access to tenders via the BOOM! e-tendering module. The pre-qualification has been designed in partnership with global procurement experts, ArcBlue. Supplier’s financial history, qualifications, capability and experience of key staff and management systems are all reviewed and analysed.
The pre-qualification process is open to new applicants at any time, and supports local jobs through the procurement of quality companies in regional areas such as Port Macquarie (NSW), Port Hedland (WA) and Shepparton (VIC) – enabling local companies to compete with national and global companies.
For example, local solar company, SolaXs in Port Macquarie, recently won a CHL project at the beginning of the Covid-19 lockdown.
Actively measuring outcomes reduces the risks of program delivery – particularly where funding is tied to results being achieved.
The BOOM! software talks directly to energy monitoring devices, including solar inverters or third-party metering like Wattwatchers. It also stores key project documentation, including contracts, warranties and photographic evidence from before and after solutions are installed. For example, suppliers will now be uploading all documents required by the Victorian Government's “Solar Homes” program, so Community Housing Organisations can send them to Solar Victoria at the touch of a button.
The platform creates a “paper trail” at every stage, by tracking activities all the way through – especially during procurement. It also provides transparency over any performance issues caused by faulty equipment, or incorrect installations. Faults can be identified and actioned for immediate rectification – enabling government officers to refine program design and delivery requirements as they go.
Collectively, BOOM! helps officers and agencies to mitigate and manage the risks associated with large-scale energy retrofit programs.
Using the BOOM! software can also support energy assessors and consultants as “delivery partners”. Their workload is significantly streamlined and standardised, leading to more consistent and transparent program delivery, lower risks and delivery costs.
Alternatively, BOOM! can be used by internal property and tenancy staff, with basic training ensuring data gathering (in particular) is accurate and valid. Stage Two – Business Case reporting and Stage Three – Options Analysis are standardised and automated by the software, eliminating the need for specific energy expertise or intensive training.
Government officers can also use the software – in particular Stage Three – Options Analysis provides visibility over workflows and transparency over budget and grant-making decisions.
For example, grant-funding can be awarded based on business case results, with BOOM! automatically scoring and prioritising grant allocations across a complex property portfolio, or multiple applicants’ buildings at the click of a button. Where necessary, government officers can easily interrogate and validate the data gathered, including geo- tagging of site photos to ensure energy audit data has been gathered accurately.
BOOM! has delivered results from two years of deep collaboration with the housing sector – the Community Housing Industry Association Victoria, and the Victorian Property Fund (Vic Gov) in particular.
The BOOM! platform supported seven Community Housing Providers throughout delivery of $2.7m of solar, battery storage and air-conditioning upgrades during 2017–18. By underpinning the program, BOOM! cut costs for providers and the Victorian Property Fund by reducing the time and cost required by housing organisations and measuring the outcomes for the government team.
Few renters would expect their landlord to install solar power for their benefit but SouthEast Housing Cooperative Ltd has done just that.
Andrew Phillips is the sole community housing resident in a small block of two-bedroom units in Croydon, yet his is the only home sporting solar panels.
‘My owner occupier neighbours are jealous,’ Andrew says.
Andrew’s home is one of the 162 properties managed by SouthEast that have had solar panels installed with the support of the Victorian Property Fund’s Environmentally Sustainable Housing Funding Round.
‘But I noticed a difference in my bills immediately,’ Andrew says, with his bills dropping from an average of $5 a day to $3 a day.
Andrew says he was pleased SouthEast took advantage of the opportunity to reduce the energy consumption of their properties.
‘I think this is something that should be rolled out throughout the country.’
The Victoria Property Fund program delivered:
1572 kW of Solar
26.2 kWh of Battery Storage
147 Reverse-cycle Air Conditioners
We're just getting started
Community Housing Providers continue to use BOOM! for similar programs, with $1.5m of solar and air-conditioning projects being finalised before the end of the 2020 financial year, despite the COVID-19 crisis.
Providers are also using BOOM! To support the significant activity they’re planning around the Victorian Stimulus packages – for example.
Programs being supported by the BOOM! platform include the $30m funding to Aboriginal Housing Victoria, and $50m to the community housing sector more widely for the “energy improvement” elements.