Melbourne, Australia, is offering owners’ corporations of city residential buildings up to $3,000 to swap to low-energy light bulbs and install solar panels in an effort to reduce carbon emissions and make the Victorian capital carbon-neutral by 2020.

This scheme aims to speed up Smart Blocks which has already seen 63 of the city’s 1,262 residential apartment buildings replace their halogen lights with lower-emitting LED lights and install solar generation in the common areas of their buildings. Apartment buildings consume 25% more energy per resident because of the high energy usage in common areas, such as foyers, corridors and pools.

The buildings that have already made the change to Smart Blocks regain the cost in two years. The incentive is to try and persuade even more businesses to make the switch.

The scheme currently has 405 buildings signed up to it, complement the city’s 1,200 Buildings Program that aims to encourage green retrofits of commercial buildings and the Positive Charge program focused on detached homes.

The Freshwater Place complex in Southbank was one of the early adopters of the residential scheme. The owner’s corporation conducted an energy audit and came up with an energy plan that included replacing 1,200 common area, 20-watt, halogen lights with 6 watt LED light bulbs.

Commercial buildings account for just under three quarters of the city’s emissions, which are predicted to surge 60% from the 2010 level to 7.7 million tonnes at the current rate without serious changes.

This strategy reduced annual electricity consumption by more than 62,000 kWh per year and CO2 emissions by more than 84,000 kilograms a year, and the changeover paid itself off in just over two years.

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