Rebecca Pearce, CBRE (left) and Rosemary Kirkby, GPT at the Sydney launch event for the EUA ebook

2 November 2012 – On great ideas, how to get them out the gate, and win

It’s been the biggest and most important project The Fifth Estate has embarked on. A guide to an Aussie finance innovation that could unlock a retrofit bonanza, good for the bottom line and good for the planet.

That’s exactly the kind of talk we like.

And the launch events were fabulous. In Sydney on Tuesday night last week and in Melbourne on Wednesday, some of the most influential and key people in the sustainable property world helped us celebrate and hear about the potential of EUAs.

Making the book happen, was the cream of the property industry’s sustainable property industry.

Melbourne launch guests

It was collaboration of the kind we imagined and hoped for when we launched this publication: a place where the industry could come together in an independent communications platform, to talk with each other, share ideas, brain waves, discuss roadblocks and find solutions to the vital issue of reducing our emissions and creating a better built environment for all.

The book was a huge project. We started work on it nearly 12 months ago. And it was totally a team effort.

Not to mention our own Lynne Blundell, the book’s author, who worked her regular magic and turned a subject potentially riven with issues and technical detail into stories accessible to all.

Our grateful thanks to principal sponsors Siemens and Norman Disney & Young and to other other important sponsors NuGreen, NAB, NB Verdigris (Napier & Blakeley) and to Cundall.

At Melbourne’s launch, Scott Bocskay, chief executive of Sustainable Melbourne Fund, who also contributed a fantastic chapter, recalled where the idea took root.

It was after an event on the coming carbon price at the Melbourne offices of Napier & Blakeley. He and Aurecon’s Jeff Robinson lost no time in getting deeply embedded in discussion of the EUAs.

The idea seemed like such a bright one.

Retrofit your tired energy guzzling building, get the energy savings to pay for much of the upgrade and then pay the whole lot back as a charge on the council rates. Win-win for tenant and owner alike.

Genius, we thought.

But this is an industry has seen a lot of clever schemes in the past – some clever by half – and it’s developed a healthy line in scepticism.

Bocskay and Robinson were working their way a shopping list of issues and roadblocks drummed up by the sceptics. There were answers or solutions to most, but how to communicate them?

The danger was that the people who make their living from finding problems and roadblocks, lawyers and tenant adviser could have such quiet conversations – no EUA expert in sight – and quietly agree to tell their clients to stay away from EUAs.

It was a bright idea that might never make it past the start gate,.

Ignorance is not bliss, we thought, it’s a missed opportunity.

Richard Day, Climate Change and Strategy SA Government, Peter Frith, Napier & Blakeley; Scott Bocskaym Sustainable Melbourne Fund, at the Melbourne launch

What was needed was to corral all the negative views. Find sceptics and experts from each of the main industry sectors – lawyers, tenants, owners, advisers, and consultants, but not too many so that everyone could have a chance to speak their mind.

Turn the sound recorder on. And see what happened.

Thanks to the wonderful people who participated the result was a brilliant set of roundtable discussions in Sydney and Melbourne.

In Sydney we had:

  • James Allston, from Siemens
  • Peter Frith from Napier & Blakeley
  • Pat Dale from Aeris Capital (previously with NAB where he was of the first players to cook up the idea)
  • Mark Yates of Low Carbon Australia (whose job it is to disseminate all these bright spark ideas and help fund them)
  • Mark Matthews and Philippa Sutherland of City of Sydney (strictly as observers only)
  • Emlyn Kean from AMP
  • Geoffrey Learmonth from LPC (our resident uber sceptic tenant rep)
  • Peter Frith of Napier & Blakeley, as host

In Melbourne there was:

  • Robert White of NAB
  • Krista Milne of City of Melbourne
  • Scott Bocskay  of Sustainable Melbourne Fund
  • Garrit Schot of Cundall
  • Adam Murchie of Forza Capital
  • Shane Quinn of Quintessential
  • Dave Colliins of Synergetics
  • Nicholas Burt of Facility Management Association
  • Jeff Lynn of Ashurst
  • Peter Frith of Napier & Blakeley, as host again.

The conversations, the heated discussions over certain topics, the frustrations and barriers to upgrades in general were collected and formed the backbone of the book.

Each issue was dealt with. Understanding grew, even during the writing phase.

New companies revealed their interest; and new councils and state governments as well.

Tony Arnel, NDY, speaking at the Sydney launch

So where are EUAs at this stage?

Let’s put it this way.

When the uber shrewd NSW former Labor Planning Minister,  Frank Sartor heard about them, it was near the inevitable end of the government he was part of and he knew he had to move fast.

He personally went to Melbourne, got the low-down on the program and sped the legislation through in NSW. It past at virtually at a minute to midnight.

As we put our ebook to bed and got ready to enjoy the festivities of the launch, the announcement that the City of Parramatta had signed NSW’s first EUA.

It’s by Australian Unity for its 10 Valentine Avenue, Parramatta. And the really exciting part is that it was initiated by the tenant, the NSW Property Authority.

Left to right- Tony Arnel, Norman Disney & Young; Tina Perinotto, Suzie Barnett, The Fifth Estate; Ian Hopkins, NDY; Geoff Gourley, NuGreen; Luke Zha, Siemens

Another deal at Parramatta is in the wings, we hear. And there’s a spate of deals lining up in both Sydney and Melbourne.

There are new councils coming on board, South Australia is getting close to structuring a set of agreements and even Queensland is interested (Well, Queensland has got to start doing something positive.)

As NDY’s Tony Arnel, a  long time chair of Green Building Council and former chair of the World Green Building Council, put it at his launch presentations Green Star took a good 10 years to take root in the industry but now it’s the accepted norm. EUAs are likewise going to take time to be accepted, but there’s little doubt about the trajectory.

In other words this is a scheme with Black Caviar legs. Sure there are still issues that need to be ironed out.  Let’s get them sorted.

And let this little bolter out of the starting gates.