Sustainable Living

One Million Homes

What if we could cut energy bills, reduce pollution and help vulnerable Victorians all at the same time? That's the clever idea behind this campaign to make one million homes more energy and water efficient.

Our vision

Imagine a Victoria where electricity price rises didn’t cause a ripple because all Victorians – homeowners and renters alike – lived in energy-efficient homes, even making their own electricity from the sun.

Where homes were more comfortable to live in – warmer in winter and cooler in summer – and vulnerable Victorians were shielded from the health impacts of extreme weather events like heatwaves.

Where thousands of Victorians were employed in a thriving energy efficiency industry, manufacturing, selling and installing efficiency measures like insulation, efficient lighting and draught-sealing in our homes.

And where smart energy and water use in our homes was helping us cut greenhouse emissions, fight climate change and save water for our rivers.

That’s our vision for Victoria.

Read our Six Steps to Efficiency Leadership report which spells out how the Victorian government could deliver on its promise to lead on efficiency. And what’s more, taking real action to upgrade the water and energy efficiency of our homes could stimulate $10 billion of investment and create up to 13,000 jobs.

The Six Steps report builds on the 2025 Roadmap: Overcoming the barriers to efficient housing published by the One Million Homes Alliance in August 2015, which outlines a plan for turning our vision for efficient homes into reality.

Since 2010, the One Million Homes Alliance of Victoria’s leading environmental, consumer and social sector organisations has been calling on government to set a clear goal to upgrade our housing stock to an average 5 star and 100 litre/person/day performance standard within ten years.

Our plan could be achieved through a mix of targeted assistance for home-owners in the lowest income bracket, as well as improved standards, better information and financial incentives to assist all other home-owners and landlords invest in improvements.

It’s practical, cost-effective and could be funded by the estimated $2.5 billion the government stands to save over the next 20 years from its energy concessions budget.

Right now, a big priority is to bring rental housing up to scratch by requiring properties to meet basic energy efficiency standards before they can be leased. Most rental properties are pretty inefficient, which means renters are missing out on the benefits of lower bills and healthier living conditions. That’s unfair – and it’s adding to climate pollution. Add your voice to our call for rental standards

The One Million Homes Alliance has welcomed the Victorian government’s commitment to an “efficient, productive and resilient state” as outlined in the June 2015 energy efficiency and productivity statement “Saving energy, Growing Jobs”.

The August 2015 announcement of increased Victorian Energy Efficiency Targets to 2020 is a good first step. There is now an opportunity to follow up with further important reforms to strengthen the scheme further.

We’ve also welcomed several recent funding announcements for retrofit programs targeting low-income households, people with chronic health conditions and households experiencing energy hardship in the Latrobe Valley.

We’re looking forward to the government building on these announcements with the release of its long-awaited Energy Efficiency Strategy, which we hope will outline an ambitious plan for transforming Victoria’s building stock.


Upgrading Victoria’s 2 million residential buildings to an average 5-star equivalent and 100 litre/person/day standard would stimulate investment of $10 billion and create up to 13,000 jobs. And targeting government investment to Victoria’s one million low-income households would save the State Government $2.5 billion over 20 years in energy concession payments.

Why does it matter?

Every time we experience a record-breaking heatwave like ones in 2009 and 2014 or a severe cold snap, the costs mount up. Electricity and water use soars, as do our household bills and our greenhouse emissions. The electricity grid struggles to cope with the spike in demand, threatening blackouts and fuelling high prices.

And tragically, hundreds of Victorians lose their lives, making extreme weather events (particularly heatwaves) responsible for more deaths each year than any other natural disaster.

But there’s nothing inevitable or unavoidable about many of these impacts – a large chunk of which can be blamed on the ineffectiveness of our responses and in particular the poor quality of our housing.

Draught Effects
Image courtesy of Efficiency Matrix at

Too many of us live in homes that use too much energy to stay comfortable, generating millions of tonnes of greenhouse emissions every year and costing us money in unnecessary power bills. For many Victorians that cost is simply unaffordable, consequently costing the Government millions more in energy concessions.

Raising the efficiency of a home from 2 to 5 stars could save a household up to $600 a year on their energy bills. But low-income households – those who need the savings the most – are missing out because they can’t afford the up-front costs, and/or because they rent.

Energy efficiency is also one of the cheapest and fastest ways to cut our greenhouse emissions, and is a premium area for employment growth.

Show me some stats

  • The average star rating of pre-2005 homes is 2 stars or less.
  • The average Victorian household spends around $2,800 on their energy bills every year
  • Around 60 percent of the energy used in the average household goes on space heating and cooling
  • Melbourne electricity prices rose by 84 percent between 2008 and 2012
  • Raising performance from 2 to 5 stars can cut overall household energy consumption by more than 30 percent
  • The residential sector contributes nearly 20 percent of Victoria’s total greenhouse emissions each year
  • Victoria’s 1 million low income households are typically most vulnerable to energy hardship (going without other essential items to pay bills) but generally can’t afford the up-front cost of energy-saving measures
  • Around 1.9 million homes (or 86 percent) of homes in Victoria were built before 2005 when the 5-star standard was introduced.
  • Energy efficiency is the cheapest and fastest way to cut our greenhouse emissions
  • Most older homes will see a significant improvement in performance through spending less than $5000
Retrofitting 1 million Victorian homes would deliver emission reductions of over 2 million tonnes annually, water savings of 32 billion litres annually, energy bill savings of $300-$600 annually per household and create up to 6,700 new trades and manufacturing jobs. And it would save the State Government $2.5 billion over 20 years in energy concession payments.

This is what a 1-Star home looks like

A 0- to 2-Star home is hot when it’s hot outside and cold when it’s cold outside.

There’s a lot of air transfer through draughts and gaps; not much effective insulation in the roof, walls or floor; and heat radiates straight in or straight out through windows.

And when you consider that heating and cooling accounts for about half of total energy use in the average Victorian household, that’s potentially quite a lot of money ‘blowing in the wind’.

one million homes diagram final a + b

How do you increase the star rating of a home?

From 2005 new homes and extensions have been required to be built to a minimum 5-Star standard and this has since been increased to 6-Star.

But 1.9 million of Victoria’s 2.2 million homes were built before 2005, at a time when water conservation, energy efficiency and energy prices were a long way from builders’ and residents’ minds.

While every house is different, most pre-2005 homes will see a significant improvement in performance from spending less than $5000 on basic measures such as:

  • Quality weather sealing and draught sealing
  • Roof insulation to R-value 3.9
  • Internal window coverings (thick blinds or curtains) and pelmets
  • External window shading on west and north walls
  • Energy efficient lighting
  • Low-flow shower heads (which not only save water, but reduce energy use for hot water.

Check out some real life examples of household retrofits in Rosanna, Geelong, Coburg, West Heidelberg, and Ballarat.

What needs to happen now?

Victoria already has a minimum 6-Star standard in place for all new homes and renovations. So the next big task is to bring the rest of Victoria’s homes up to scratch and into the 21st century. Increasing the efficiency of these older homes is a big project, and the State government needs to take a lead in making it happen.

The One Million Homes Alliance is calling on the government to commit to progressively improving the standard of all of Victoria’s pre-2005 homes over 10 years, with a focus on low-income households.

We can get this done most cost-effectively with a combination of government investment in retrofits for the most disadvantaged households, and a range of policy measures that create real incentives for home-owners and landlords to upgrade their properties. Complementary policy measures targeting business could also drive improvements in non-residential and commercial buildings.

Improve standards for residential buildings

  • Introduce a visually simple efficiency rating system covering new and existing homes
  • Introduce mandatory disclosure of efficiency rating at the point of sale by 2016
  • Introduce minimum efficiency standards for rental properties by 2017
  • Set a goal of zero net emission and water-efficient new buildings by 2020
  • Improve compliance regimes to ensure construction meets standards

Facilitate accessible and affordable finance

  • Broaden low-income household participation in the Victorian Energy Efficiency Target scheme
  • Extend Environmental Upgrade Agreements to residential buildings and work with local government to access finance
  • Assist low-income landlords and protect tenants from rent increases and evictions

Create a culture of efficiency

  • Fund a public information campaign to build community support for action on efficiency
  • Support local government and community services to provide advice and services

Deliver targeted programs for those in need

  • Fund a low-income energy efficiency program encompassing behaviour change, building upgrades and appliance replacement
  • Partner with utility retailers to co-finance retrofits for hardship program participants
  • Invest in skills and training and provide opportunities for disadvantaged job-seekers

Upgrade government buildings

  • Reinstate and strengthen the Greener Government Buildings program
  • Upgrade Victoria’s existing public housing stock by 2025 and raise the standard for new buildings
  • Support community housing operators to implement efficiency and renewable energy upgrades

Drive improvements in non-residential buildings

  • Reinstate a state mandatory efficiency scheme for large energy- and water-using sites
  • Develop a 10-year plan for upgrading lower quality mid-tier office and retail buildings.

Read our report Six Steps to Efficiency Leadership for more information about these policy options.

What will it cost and how would it be funded?

While every house is different, most pre-2005 homes will see a significant improvement in performance from spending less than $5000 on basic measures such as draught-sealing, insulation, window treatments and water-efficient fittings.

A 10-year comprehensive retrofit program targeting low-income households would start with a pilot of 5,000-10,000 homes in the first year, increasing to 100,000 homes in later years as the lessons learnt from the pilot were scaled up into full program delivery.

The program could be funded through a combination of direct assistance for lowest income home-owners, and a mix of financial incentives (such as rebates and low-interest loans), market-based schemes such as the Victorian Energy Efficiency Target (VEET) and policy measures such as minimum standards to encourage and assist the rest of Victoria’s home-owners and landlords to invest in upgrades.

Most of the cost to government in rolling out this program would be covered by an estimated $2.5 billion the Victorian government stands to save in the energy concession payments it makes to households who are struggling to pay their bills.

And we know from our research and industry experience that most home owners can pay off their investment in retrofit improvements within 7-10 years just through the savings they make on their electricity bills.

And once the initial investment – by government or private householder – is paid off, the savings still keep coming. So it’s a win-win situation for everyone.

Read our 2015 Six Steps to Efficiency Leadership report here

Read our 2013 One Million Homes industry roundtable report here

Read our 2.5 billion reasons to invest in efficiency report here

The One Million Homes Alliance

We’ve formed an alliance with other groups to make sure our voice is heard load and clear.

The Alliance comprises consumer, social, and environment organisations including Victorian Council of Social Service, Consumer Utilities Advocacy Centre, Moreland Energy Foundation, Alternative Technology Association, Kildonan Uniting Care, Victorian Local Government Association and Energy for the People.

The Alliance is working to show the State government that Victorians support energy and water efficiency, and that it needs to deliver a proper plan of action.

Hop here to see who’s involved


Dig deeper – One Million Homes Resources

Six Steps to Efficiency Leadership: The path to energy and water efficient homes and businesses

2025 Roadmap: Overcoming the Barriers to energy and water efficient housing

2013-14 State Budget Submission – One Million Homes

2012-13 State Budget Submission – One Million Homes

Energy Saver Incentive Review – Environment Victoria

One Million Homes: A 2010 Energy and Water Efficiency Campaign

2.5 Billion reasons to invest in efficiency