22 October 2021 – ACOR Consultants has been appointed the global façade consultant for Project Remediate, the NSW government’s landmark program to remove flammable cladding from high-risk residential apartment buildings.

Minister for Better Regulation, Kevin Anderson said, “We want to ensure that the building’s look and feel, once remediated, aligns with the communities expectations, as well as adhering to our high safety standards.”

See the website for more details nsw.gov.au/project-remediate.

12 October 2021 : NAWIC recommends making women’s involvement a prerequisite for government construction contracts 

The National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) has recommended leveraging government procurement processes to get more diversity in the industry, especially as it struggled with skills shortages. 

NAWIC National Chair, Kristine Scheul, told a federal inquiry into procurement practices for government-funded infrastructure that making the engagement of women a prerequisite to undertaking government contracts would help with uptake.

Construction has the lowest female participation rate of any industry sector in Australia at just 12 per cent; women only represent 2 per cent of tradespeople and only 18 per cent of leadership or managerial roles.

12 October: Remondis signs deal with Jacobs to help with planned Swanbank Energy From Waste facility

Remondis Australia has signed a multi-million dollar contract with global “solutions provider”, Jacobs to support design and environmental aspects of its proposed $400 million Energy From Waste facility.  

Jacobs, which also works on weapons systems for the defence sector, will oversee key engineering, design, procurement and environmental work, including developing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

The site, which already functions as a tip, was first considered for the development of an Energy from Waste facility in 2016.

Up to 500,000 tonnes a year of non-recyclable waste currently goes to landfill at the site. A majority of this waste would be diverted to generate up to 50 megawatts of cleaner baseload energy per year – enough to power 50,000 homes each year. 

12 October: Stockland development using Reconophalt for sustainable roadways

Stockland Evergreen is set to become the largest residential project in Australia to use Reconophalt for roadways. 

The entire project at Stockland Evergreen will see 16.9 million plastic bags, 493,000 printer cartridges, 7600 tonnes of recycled asphalt and 2380 glass bottles that otherwise would have ended up in landfill or stockpiled.

The environmentally friendly road surfacing material which was successfully used for stages of the previous developments. When compared to standard asphalt it has a similar look, feel and durability.

“The new community will also feature shadeways on the main thoroughfares to absorb and reduce heat retained by the pavement, and drainage reserves throughout the community will be used to store and reuse drain water,” Stockland project director Kerry Balci said. 

“We’re also encouraging residents to install cool roofs in their homes to improve natural heating and cooling in their homes.”

28 September: Koalas and platypus are rising concerns 

Let’s just say the temperature is rising in Western and south western Sydney in more ways than one.

On top of the heat being generated in the area by the growing swathe of housing developments, is the threat to koala habitat. And no matter what leader of the Nationals John Barilaro thinks, a lot of voters care a lot about our furry friends. 

Barilaro famously called these vulnerable creatures “tree rats”, signalling that he might be a few tones short of an octave on environmental issues. Especially now that some of his political compatriots are starting to swing away from the rabid anti climate antics led these days by Matt Canavan. Check out what MP Jason Falinksi said on Tuesday on this score.

But there’s good news too.  

Western Sydney conservationists this week announced a $55,000 grant from Landcare to safeguard a newly discovered platypus population at Mulgoa Valley to “mitigate the impacts of Black Summer fires” on this rare and also highly prized species.  

The grant, from the Landcare Led Bushfire Recovery Grants will allow Mulgoa Landcare, based outside Penrith, to embark on regeneration and restoration work along Schoolhouse Creek and Mulgoa Creek to secure the area against current and future fire impacts, while monitoring water quality and educating nearby communities in protecting the species, the conservationists said.  

“Over the years, there has been anecdotal stories but with the urban development in the area we just weren’t sure. When we found out there was evidence of platypus in the creeks we were thrilled,” Mulgoa Landcare coordinator Lisa Harrold, said.? 

“Platypus are often referred to as ‘indicator species’ – a bit like the ‘canary in the coalmine’ and urban sprawl has significantly impacted waterways and the health of platypus habitat.” 

There’s $14 million from the federal government for these kinds of bushfire recovery projects led by Landcare, Ms Harrold said. 

But between the damage from bushfires and the damage threatened by our two legged invasive species we reckon that’s just a drop in the bucket of what we need to protect our environment.

28 September: Australian Unity raises $30.5 million to expand disability housing portfolio

An additional $30.5 million has been raised by Australian Unity’s Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA) Fund to fuel investment in high-quality accommodation for Australians living with disability.

“We are delighted with the strong support received from new and existing investors, including Australian Ethical, that will enable us to accelerate our pursuit of high-quality accommodation opportunities for Australians living with disability,” SDA fund manager Jacob Edwards said. 

“The capital raised will be deployed in accordance with our fund’s strategy to improve the wellbeing of Australians living with disability, delivering both social impact and strong returns for investors.”

Superannuation and investment management firm Australian Ethical was a “cornerstone participant” in the raise. 

Chief investment officer, David Macri said its investment in the fund reflected a commitment to generating superior investment performance while also generating a positive impact.

“The SDA sector – set to reach more than $10 billion – presents an opportunity for our customers to access a sector that will continue to thrive while making a tangible difference to the lives of vulnerable Australians,” he said. 

Australian Ethical’s social infrastructure assets portfolio includes hospitals, medical centres, retirement and aged care accommodation, disability housing, and international student accommodation.

28 September: S&P warns of major underestimating of climate risk by reinsurers

Reinsurers — basically those who insure the insurance companies —  could be underestimating their exposure to climate change-induced natural disasters by 33 to 50 per cent, according to global financial market ratings firm S&P.

Despite increased effort to incorporate climate risk into decision making, just 71 percent of reinsurers who responded to a survey on the matter said they considered climate change in their pricing assumptions, and just 35 per cent included a specific component of the price allocated to climate change.

“Unmodelled risks and the inherent difficulties in attributing extreme events to climate change create the risk that climate change may not be fully reflected in reinsurers’ catastrophe modelling, particularly in the short term,” S&P global ratings credit analyst, Dennis P. Sugrue said.

“We believe that those companies that take a more proactive approach to understanding and adapting their exposure to climate risk will be better protected against future capital and earning volatility linked to climate-related losses.”

In a statement the company said it considered exposure to the physical risks of climate change to be a key factor in its ratings on 19 of the top 21 rated reinsurers.

24 September: Moremac’s sustainable community fund

Victorian developer Moremac has established a community sustainability fund for its new Sunbury residential development project, Kingsfield.

The idea is to hold money and property on behalf of the community to be used for eco-friendly initiatives such as electric car charging stations, solar battery sites, revegetation areas and community gardens.

Origin Energy and Green Sky Australia have signed onto the fund as partners, with both agreeing to donate $250 to the fund everytime they are chosen to install solar panels for residents. Moremac will also contribute $2,225 for home owners towards the cost of their solar panels.

“Each time residents take part in sustainable housing solutions, such as the installation of solar panels into their new homes, money will be able to be contributed into the fund,” Moremac director Bryce Moore said.

“More and more we’re seeing buyers attracted to the sustainability initiatives that we are rolling out, with residents actively engaging with the eco-friendly ethos that we’re promoting within the project.”

Kingsfield currently has 520 homes sold, and upon completion will be home to 6,500 residents.

24 September: California business-tech company, Salesforce goes net zero on scopes 1, 2 and 3

US customer relationship management software company, Salesforce has gone net zero across its value chain and switched to 100 per cent renewable energy for its operations.

The company developed emissions reductions strategies across Scope 1, 2, and 3 in four key categories—work from anywhere, infrastructure, business travel, and supply chain.

It has also developed a new platform for clients to track and reduce their carbon emissions and which aims to enable better collaboration with suppliers, easier access to quality carbon-offsets and industry specific climate action plans.

“I’m proud that Salesforce is one of the few companies to have achieved Net Zero and 100% renewable energy,” Salesforce chief executive and chair, Marc Benioff said. 

“But we can’t stop until we embrace every solution and get every business on board. Together, we can sequester 100 gigatons of carbon by restoring, conserving or growing 1 trillion trees; energise an ecopreneur revolution to develop innovative climate solutions; and accelerate the Fortune 1000 to reach Net Zero.”

16 September: New Zealand developer, K?inga Ora, will deliver a new public housing development in South Auckland that will meet Passive House standards, the firm says is first of its kind in Australasia.

The project, called Bader Ventura, will comprise 18 homes across three storeys that meet passive house’s unique requirements for insulation, ventilation, weather tightness and more.

Part of the motivation for the project is New Zealand’s Building for Climate Change programme, which will mandate a reduction in thermal demand from 80-90kWh/m2.a (kilowatt hour per square meter per annum), to 15kWh/m2.a by 2035.

15 September: Six homes at Stockland’s Highlands housing development in North Melbourne have been certified carbon neutral, thanks to a pilot research program aiming to better understand how to cut residential carbon emissions.

As part of the program, the homeowners had rooftop solar and battery storage systems installed at their homes on “Sustainable Drive” free of charge.

Joining Stockland as partners in the program were the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) and Climate Active.

Stockland head of sustainability, Amy Hogan said the pilot has achieved its goal of making homes more liveable and affordable for residents, while reducing the carbon emissions and energy costs.

“Over the course of a year, the six homes on Sustainable Drive successfully reached net zero emissions through a combination of the solar packages and carbon offsets demonstrating how we can leave our communities in great shape for future generations,” she said. 

15 September: AXA Investment Managers is offering academics whose work benefits the climate a chance to win 100,000 Euros to help fund their research. 

The company  is calling for self-nominations from around the world, aimed at those in the stages of between PhD + 8 years and PhD + 12 years.

It is based on a recognition that Institutional investors, asset managers and many other actors can be proponents of the climate transition, but are reliant on the good work of the science community.

The winner will be judged against the following criteria:

  1. Innovative solutions and approaches to reaching net-zero by 2050
  2. Nature-based solutions as a key component of our climate transition, both in terms of mitigation and adaptation.
  3. Measurement and tracking as the crux of the climate change issue, both in terms of assessing our limits and the extent of success or failure in reducing CO2 levels and other pollutants.
  4. And beyond CO2, the reduction of other shorter-lived climate forcers as a contribution to warming reduction.

August 23

In the first half of 2021, 8688 electric vehicles were sold in Australia compared with 6900 for the entirety of 2020, according to a new report from the Electric Vehicle Council (EVC).

On the EVC’s “policy scorecard” NSW achieved a rating of 9/10, largely due to the introduction of a new incentive and purchase strategy by state leaders. 

The federal government scored just 3/10, having failed to make meaningful inroads compared to other national governments. Meanwhile, the ACT was slightly behind NSW on 8/10, the NT and Tasmania rated 7/10 and Queensland, SA, Victoria, and WA all rated 6/10. 

EVC chief executive Behyad Jafari said NSW’s $500 million investment and package of incentives meant it had caught up with comparable jurisdictions overseas. 

“I know the whole industry is buoyant about the effect it will have on electric vehicle availability and sales,” Mr Jafari said. 

“The movement across most states and territories is now generally positive and that’s providing greater confidence to private sector investors, which will pave the way for more places to charge and better services to support e-mobility.”

He added the federal government had failed to deliver on a promise for a national strategy it made two years ago.

“We need to see more electric vehicle models in Australia, particularly at lower price points,” Mr Jafari said.

“That’s happening slowly, but if we want to accelerate the process and attract the globally limited electric vehicle supply, we need policies enacted at the national level, like fuel efficiency standards.”

10 August –

Andrew McCasker – CBRE head of debt and structured finance, Pacific who this week contributed a Spinifex article says the impact of the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is unlikely to have an immediate impact on the capital markets but it will impact.

“The report today does hit you between the eyes,” he said on Tuesday.

“There are a lot of statistics there and it makes you take a backward step.” Especially, he said, in view that the globe is already at 1.1 degree Celsius warmer and Australia 1.5.

The sea level rises, the droughts the fires, “are events that have never happened before” [in their severity and frequency].”

In the last 12 months he said investors had been taking things more seriously and become more accountable around ESG (environmental sustainable governance) frameworks.

“Before that it was like a fashion statement – everyone had to have one but didn’t really know why.”

The biggest global investors such as BlackRock now have a specific focus on ESG (and not just because they had to put it in their annual report. “CBRE is the same.

“What will change in the next 12 months?

“In the next 12 months unfortunately I don’t think there will be massive change. There will be more talk around strategy and implementations of strategy to deliver better outcomes and deliver more on the ESG processes.”

but while there won’t much change in itself in the next year we will set ourselves up for change in the coming years.

Environmental experts raise concerns over desalination plant

A proposed desalination plant in the eastern Great Australian Bight could impact the local fishing grounds, a Flinders University expert warns.  

The proposed seawater desalination plant would produce freshwater of 4 gigalitres every year, with a future upgrade to 8 gigalitres.

But oceanographer and environmentalist Flinders associate professor Jochen Kaempf, says the science behind the report does not match up with reality. 

“The authors of the document do not seem to be familiar with environmental impacts of desalination plants such as the possible formation of dangerous brine overflows despite a wealth of scientific publications on the subject,” associated professor Kaempf says.

 “Critical elements have been overlooked, including well-documented scientific reports on how the flushing ability of ambient currents plays a critical role in the dilution of desalination brine – one of the stumbling blocks in the plant’s location near extensive seagrass beds and valuable aquaculture sites near Boston Bay and Proper Bay (near Port Lincoln).”

The report was prepared for Eyre Peninsula Seafoods CEO Mark Andrews based on a critical assessment of an SA Water document.

10 August – Retailers welcome $24 million recycling boost for NSW

The Australian Retailers Association has welcomed a $24 million joint investment by the NSW and federal governments to help fund 22 projects that will greatly increase recycling capability across the state. 

ARA chief executive Paul Zahra said while COVID-19 was the most immediate issue facing his industry, the importance of sustainability reform should not be forgotten.

“These joint government-industry projects will help our members continue to increase the amount of recyclable materials they divert from landfill and drive the innovation we need to solve some of our industry’s biggest challenges, like single-use coffee cups,” he said. 

He added that many of Australia’s largest retailers were implementing measures to become more sustainable and that continued government investment in recycling infrastructure helped create the appropriate market conditions to meet their targets.

GOVERNMENT: 5 August – In no surprise to anyone the federal government has succeeded in dumbing down ARENA – dumbing down in the sense that it must now invest in fossil fuels instead of its clean energy embedded in its name, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency. If you think this is archi cynicism or double speak reminiscent of the book 1984 you’d be right.

Greg Bourne, climate councillor with the Climate Council, former ARENA chair and former president, BP Australasia, said the Feds had “sullied ARENA by allowing it to invest in carbon capture and storage as well as hydrogen made with gas.”

It’s a retrograde step and it’s propping up fossil fuellers with our taxpayer money, he added.

“Gas is also a fossil fuel that powerfully drives climate change, and hydrogen from gas has no place in Australia’s zero emissions energy future. Only hydrogen made with renewable energy is worth investing in, as customers demand ‘green hydrogen’ in a decarbonising global economy,” said Mr Bourne. 

HOMELESSNESS: 5 August – While New South Wales and a growing number of other places around the country battle Covid, there’s another scourge not often in the newspapers – homelessness. 

New research by the Australian Alliance to End Homelessness (AAEH) and the University of Western Australian (UWA) tells us that “around 134 people died while sleeping rough in NSW last year, with the national estimate standing at 424 deaths”. 

But that’s just a guess because we don’t have a national systems in place to measure data regarding homeless deaths.

A bunch of advocates in the space want a reporting framework implemented. But what about providing shelter to lessen the fatalities? Is that not a better use of resources?

Without measurement you’re unlikely to get any action says the group, comprising the

 AAEH, St Vincent’s Health Australia and End Street Sleeping Collaboration. It worked for road deaths and we at least measure life expectancy gap for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

How the framework should work is set out in Parity

CIRCULAR ECONOMY: 4 August 2021 From the Financial Times, a fabulous piece about the circular economy going right to the top of the pyramid. By which we mean the people creating our new tech first world. At Tesla, JB Straubel,  the man who “convinced Elon Musk, over lunch in 2003, that electric vehicles had a future” and then served as chief technology officer for 15 years, now runs Redwood Materials focused on break down “discarded batteries and reconstitute them into a fresh supply of metals needed for new electric vehicles.”

“Straubel is betting part of his Tesla fortune that Redwood can play an instrumental role in the emergence of “the circular economy” — a grand hope born in the 1960s that society can re-engineer the way goods are designed, manufactured and recycled. The concept is being embraced by some of the world’s largest companies including Apple, whose chief executive Tim Cook set an objective “not to have to remove anything from the earth to make the new iPhones” as part of its pledge to be carbon-neutral by 2030.” Read the whole piece

BUSHFIRE APP, 29 July 2021: A world-first Bushfire Resilience Star Rating App will aim to make Aussie homes better prepared for bushfires by providing incentives and advice for reducing risk. 

Created by the Bushfire Building Council of Australia (BBCA) with $3 million in federal funding, the app assess bushfire risk based on location and other factors to do with the home and landscaping. 

It then provides a star rating from one to five along with a tailored list of evidence-based, site-specific measures to achieve a higher rating.

Results are entirely private and up to the user to take action on, however with each additional star achieved, residual risk is halved, creating strong incentive to act. 

 Industry and governments will be encouraged to provide incentives for the upgrade and maintenance of star rated properties. 

“We estimate that at least 90 per cent of buildings in high bushfire risk areas are not resilient to bushfire, putting lives, homes and livelihoods at unacceptable risk,” BBCA chief executive Kate Cotter said.

“We have brought Australia’s leading bushfire scientists, engineers and industry together to

give households a personalised, practical solution to adapt their homes.”

EUROPE EV DEMAND, 29 July 2021: Demand for new passenger EVs across Europe has surged in the first half of the year according to a report by finance media company, Finbold. 

At the end of Q2 2021 the total number of electric vehicle registrations was 751,460, compared with 236,015 at the same point last year. 

Hybrid vehicles made up the largest portion of the market with 541,162 registrations, while demand for new passenger battery electric (all-electric) was up 231.58 per cent on the year before from 63,422 to 210,298.

Meanwhile plug-in hybrid vehicle demand also surged 255.8 per cent, from 66,252 to 235,730.

During the first half of 2021, all-electric vehicles made up 6.7 per cent of new car sales, while hybrid electric vehicles had a share of 18.9 per cent and plug-in hybrids stood at 8.3 per cent. 

Finbold attributed the rise in EV popularity with government Covid stimulus been directed into the industry 

“When the coronavirus pandemic hit, most governments across the region focused their stimulus packages on companies that are operating in line with fighting climate change,” the report said. 

“Notably, a big part of the support focused on incentives for consumers to buy EVs, creating a surge in demand.”

AXA IM FORESTRY, 29 July 2021: Investment giant AXA IM has purchased 24,000 hectares of Australian forestry and the associated forestry management business, which forms a major part of the country’s logging industry. 

The sustainably managed patch of forest in south-east South Australia and south-west Victoria, has an estimated eight million tonnes of CO2 stored within the trees. 

Around 70 percent of the region’s harvest is currently manufactured into high value structural timber for the construction industry.  

The acquisition significantly adds to the company’s existing portfolio of forestry assets, with almost  60,000 hectares across France, Ireland and Finland, and marks AXA IM Alts’ first investment into Australia’s forestry market.

CARBON NEUTRAL, 22 July 2021: Australian property company, Goodman Group has had its global operations certified carbon neutral four years ahead of schedule.

The company, which was publicly listed on the ASX in 1995 before expanding into 13 other countries, cut emissions across its corporate activities and landlord controlled areas through better energy efficiency and expansion of rooftop solar installations.

It offset remaining emissions through the purchase of carbon credits, primarily stemming from Indigenous projects in the Northern Territory.

“Around the world, we have made progressive choices and changes in our strategy and  operations to achieve this net zero status ahead of our 2025 target,” Goodman Group chief executive Greg Goodman said.

Operations in Europe and New  Zealand were the first to achieve net zero status and in Australia the company now purchases renewable energy via the grid through the government’s GreenPower scheme.

As well as reducing emissions in its own operations, the company is also looking to support  and influence long term sustainable solutions for its customers and investors. “Globally, the property sector has a huge and vital role to play in sustainability,” Goodman said, “from the new estates we develop, through to the impact of assisting our customers across our  portfolio achieve greener outcomes within their own business

GAS TRANSITION, 22 July 2021: The Victorian government’s infrastructure advisers are in synch with the clear direction the world needs to go in, if its interim report flagging scenarios for Victoria to get off gas is anything to go by.

Environment Victoria, which we quoted last week  in our piece on the Gas Substitution Roadmap for the state was positive about the report and encouraged the government to go further. Why not mandate that all new buildings be all electric?

Given our mega event and ebook last year, Flick the Switch, we agree. The industry is working hard on transition but being stymied by the inevitable backlash. Hopefully, this won’t become as vicious as that of the coal industry, happy to burn the rest of us for the sake of its hip pockets a few high paying jobs in North Queensland.

Key paragraphs from the executive summary of the infrastructure advisers’ report are a good sign EV said:

“While the Morrison government has doubled down on gas infrastructure, this report to the Victorian government is focused on reducing gas use to meet climate targets, and doesn’t see much of a long-term future for gas.”

And: “Each of the scenarios we considered suggest that Victoria’s reliance on natural gas will decline significantly in the years to 2050 in order to achieve net zero. Further expansion of natural gas infrastructure increases the risk of some assets becoming unused or stranded. This could end up costing consumers more money as infrastructure owners attempt to recover the cost of their investment more quickly.” 

Rai Miralles, climate and energy analyst for the group said, “While the Morrison government has been doubling-down on gas infrastructure, Victoria is putting some serious effort into exploring how to get off gas to cut emissions to zero by 2050.”

Go Daniel Andrews!

WELLNESS: 20 JULY 2021 – According to Australia’s answer to Elon Musk, Atlassian’s Mike Cannon-Brookes, it’s fine these days for your kids to invade your work calls, perhaps in a similar way that work now invades our private lives.

Cannon-Brookes made this call during a media interview to discuss his company’s latest workers survey, undertaken by PwC.

Key findings were that mental health had risen to the top of the charters for workers, above career objectives, and that compatible values were important in a boss.

The survey of 1200 workers found:

  • 74 per cent of employees agree businesses should be just as concerned with their social impact as their financial results, up from 69 per cent last year
  • 69 per cent would consider turning down a job promotion in order to preserve their mental health
  • 37 per cent, up by 6 per cent on last year, would quit their jobs if an employer acted in a way that didn’t align with their values
  • 42 per cent would consider changing jobs to get more access to remote work
  • 80 per cent of Gen Y employees agreed it is important for businesses to speak up or act on societal issues their employees care about.

The survey found a workforce now more concerned with wellness than “work-grind” and shift following the pandemic from a “live to work” to a “work to live” mindset.

Interestingly, “more than a third (37 per cent) look to their employers as the most important provider of mental health support, and following a difficult year for many, one in four (26 per cent) reported experiencing mental health issues and distress over the past 12 months.

Around 25 per cent said they did not receive adequate support from their employers during the pandemic.

Philanthropy nearly doubles; ACT in sustainability offers

Interesting to see that climate change is not only attracting big money through the capital markets but also free money, given generously through donations.

According to a new report from Groundswell Giving and the Australian Environmental Grantmakers Network there’s been a surge of support for climate change advocacy organisations which have seen their revenue nearly doubled in 2020 compared to the previous year.

Top beneficiaries are World Wide Fund for Nature with $80.4 million, up from $31.4m the previous year; the Sunrise Project with $28.1m, up from $10m; and Greenpeace Australia with $21.6m, up from $18m.

Groundswell Giving Co-Founder Anna Rose who cut her teeth with the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, said people were now recognising the urgency and importance of funding climate advocacy. 

Ione McLean, Australian Environmental Grantmakers Network’s acting chief executive said, “Increasing concern about climate change, and the fundamental impact it will have on our lives, is driving a profound shift in philanthropy.”

 

There’d be a lot of people around the country who read longingly about the largesse of the German government to in supporting its net zero and energy efficiency ambitions. Including up to $40,000 it offers for each and every household doing an upgrade, renovation or whatever opportunity exists to retrofit insulation and other good sense elements that reduce the need for more power stations…

See our article, Pure poetry”: Australia and Germany open door for major energy efficiency collaboration

As Covid locks down vast swathes of the country, again, just on winter when the heating bills are likely to sting the most, it’s good to hear the ACT government that has released the guidelines for the $150m Sustainable Household Scheme, which will provide zero-interest loans for energy-efficient upgrades.

This means loans of between $2000 to $15,000 for eligible households that can be repaid over the next 10 years, without fees. It’s not a grant, but it’s a start.

Battery storage to lead renewables investment boom

Despite the federal government dragging its feet, Australia could be headed for a major surge in renewable energy investment with battery storage taking centre stage, Michael Pascoe wrote in the New Daily this week. 

According to Pascoe, “individuals, corporations, market forces and state government policies are leading where the federal government doesn’t go.” 

An industry research report conducted by Macromonitor has shown energy storage will lead the second renewables investment boom in five years. 

“We are on the cusp of the next surge, expected to reach $34 billion in 2022-23,” report author, Macromonitor economist Natalie Senga said.

“Construction of battery storage facilities will be particularly strong over the next two years, rising from $230 million in 2020-21 to just under $2 billion in 2022-23.”

EnergyLab’s second Scaleup Program to include nine of the world’s best late-stage energy startups

Nine of the world’s best late-stage energy startups will participate in EnergyLab’s second Scaleup Program, created in collaboration with utilities giants, TransGrid and Endeavour Energy.

The nine companies will be given the unique opportunity to collaborate with Australia and New Zealand’s most innovative utilities investors and founders, helping to unlock their next wave of growth. 

To select the participating startups, TransGrid and Endeavour Energy were consulted to identify their priority areas and recruit businesses from across the world that could help them unlock new opportunities to speed the transition to a low carbon future. 

The nine companies taking part are: 

Aperio Systems, Inc. (USA, Israel) – Aperio’s Industrial Data Integrity software automatically validates operational data at scale to improve data accuracy, allowing for better operational and business decisions based on real-time, trusted, reliable data. 

Camus Energy (USA) – Camus Energy provides cloud-scale grid management software as a service for utilities and energy providers to enable the transition to a zero-carbon future. 

Electron (UK) – Electron enables network utilities to launch and operate local energy markets to optimise the combined use of network capacity and renewable generation. 

Neara (Australia) – Neara creates engineering-grade digital twins of critical infrastructure, bringing organisations closer to their assets, environment, and business. 

Overstory (Netherlands) – Real-time vegetation intelligence, at scale. 

Proxxi (Canada) – Wearable technology and data to protect workers from electrical injury before they come in contact. 

Shifted Energy (USA) – Shifted Energy develops and deploys industry leading distributed energy resource aggregation software and IoT-connected load controls to help utilities create and rapidly scale demand side management programs. 

V-Labs (Switzerland) – V-Labs provides an innovative augmented reality solution for AR-glasses that can visualize, modify and acquire geospatial data with cm accuracy. In combination with their feature for step-by-step work instructions, V-Labs has developed a powerful tool for surveyors, engineers and contractors to increase their efficiency, verify engineering plans and avoid errors during construction. 

Zaphiro Technologies (Switzerland) – Zaphiro helps power utilities to increase the resiliency and reliability of their power grids in order to prepare them for the upcoming clean energy transition. 

ACCR slams Woodside emissions targets

The Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility (ACCR) has hit out at natural resources giant Woodside for emissions targets associated with its planned Pluto LNG expansion.

“Woodside’s claims that it is reducing carbon emissions, when in fact it is actually doubling its emissions at the Pluto LNG facility, is a feat of mental gymnastics that only Woodside could muster,” ACCR director of climate and environment Dan Gocher said. 

The company revealed plans to double operational emissions associated with the Pluto project from 1.8 million tonnes CO2e each year, to 3.6 million tonnes CO2e in 2026.

“Woodside’s targets do not address the much larger issue of Scope 3 emissions, ignoring the demands of half of its shareholders to take responsibility for the emissions from the gas it sells.”

ACCR estimates that Scope 3 emissions will increase from 13.9 million tonnes to 29 million tonnes in 2026.

This week the WA government imposed conditions on the multi-billion-dollar expansion, requiring it to go net zero by 2050.

“While Woodside has committed to net zero emissions by 2050, its 2030 targets are pathetic, and it will only reach them through buying land-based offsets and limited use of solar power,” Gocher said. 

“As demonstrated by the IPCC, Carbon Tracker and now the IEA Net Zero 2050 Scenario, we simply cannot afford any new oil and gas projects if we are to return to a safe climate.”

EU signals levy on embodied carbon 

The European Union intends to place a levy on the embodied carbon in materials produced in countries with lower environmental standards, in what would be a world first move, Bloomberg has reported. 

Affecting steel, cement, aluminum, fertiliser and electricity, the levies will reportedly be based on carbon costs that already affect domestic producers. 

The tariffs are part of broader measures due to be announced on 14 July aimed at bringing the EU in line with stricter emissions-reduction targets for 2030 to ultimately make Europe the world’s first climate-neutral continent by 2050.

Monash tech uses artificial intelligence to make construction sites safer

A team of engineers from the Monash University’s Department of Civil Engineering have developed a new system they say has the capacity to improve safety and operational outcomes on construction sites.

The program works by processing millions of images of the sites including heavy machinery such as cranes, scissor lifts, bulldozers and dump trucks to create datasets for artificial intelligence to analyse.

For instance, before using an excavator on a wet day, workers can identify all the safety features of this equipment within a digitised version of the working environment, including rain, clouds and reduced light and visibility.

With an Australian patent pending, the group say their system removes the need for cameras to be placed on construction machinery, which has time, cost and privacy implications.

“ Heavy construction equipment, vehicles and workers are often required to work closely due to spatial limitations and tight schedules, which often leads to suboptimal performance both in terms of safety and productivity,” said Dr Mehrdad Arashpour, project leader and head of construction engineering and management at Monash.

“Our method randomises various critical features of the scene, such as equipment pose and texture, scene texture and lighting, camera location and field of view, and adds other elements to the scene such as simulated dust and occluding objects.”

The Commons lands B Corp Certification

Coworking space operators, The Commons, have received B Corp Certification for the company’s above average sustainable and ethical practices. 

The Commons was launched in 2015 by co-founders Cliff Ho and Tom Ye and currently caters for 2800 members with six locations in Sydney and Melbourne, which have been certified carbon neutral since 2019. 

Other key factors helping the company achieve its new rating were eliminating single-use plastics from its locations, hiring a leadership team which is 70 percent female and encouraging alternative modes of transportation. 

Calls for greater oversight of ESG investing

So-called ESG investing is in fact ripe for greenwashing, Stoic Venture Capital Partner Geoff Waring has warned.

Dr Waring said that investors had become more ESG-aware in recent years but that fund managers should be subject to more rigid oversight to ensure accuracy in their disclosures.

“Many investors are concerned about the hazy reporting of fund managers when it comes to their ESG investments,” Dr Waring said.

“There is a lack of consistency and regulation in how funds report ESG investments and how ESG principles are integrated into their investment decisions and strategy and the impact this has on their returns.”

New survey probes Aussie sustainability attitudes

A new survey conducted by consultancy firm, Faster Horses has delved into the sustainability attitudes of Australians, revealing that just 66 per cent would like to see less reliance on fossil fuels as sources of electricity.

The older generations actually came out on top in terms of taking action with 82 per cent of over 55 year olds cutting down on their electricity and water use compared with 62 per cent of 18-34 year olds. 

Older Australians were also more likely to compost household waste, with per cent of over 55s saving their scraps compared with versus 39 per cent of 18-34 years.

On a more optimistic note, 81 per cent  of all adults separate recycling waste while 76 per cent were taking active steps to reduce consumption of single use plastics.

Iron Man joins growing green investment trend

More and more capital is pouring into the sustainability sector, with Iron Man himself, Robert Downey Junior joining the trend. 

Earlier this year the Avengers star founded his own investment firm called, FootPrint Coalition Ventures focussing on “high-growth, sustainability-focused companies.”

Many believe the sector has reached a tipping point whereby formerly sceptical investors are suddenly paying attention and more than willing to bring their cheque books with them. 

Climate focused investment firm Congruent recently closed its second fund at $US175 million, with a total $US300 million under management.

Managing partner and co-founder Abe Yokell explained there had been a massive perception shift as to the financial viability of sustainable ventures in just the past decade. 

“If you brought up the word cleantech to any institutional investor allocating to venture ten years ago, they would do their best to avoid the meeting, but now, there’s a fundamental belief there will be significant financial returns investing broadly in climate tech over time,” Yokell said.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) said on Friday it will invest $11.3 million into Alcoa to “demonstrate technology that can electrify the production of steam in its alumina refining process using renewable energy”.

Let’s hope. As the media release said, “Australia is the world’s largest exporter of bauxite and one of the largest exporters of alumina accounting for 15 per cent of global alumina refining capacity” and “alumina refining is an energy intensive process that in 2019 accounted for over 14 million tonnes of carbon dioxide in Australia, which represents approximately 24 per cent of Australia’s scope 1 manufacturing emissions.”

Several of Australia’s biggest brands including Coles and Woolworths have signed a pact to radically reduce the amount of plastic waste from Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific ending up in landfill. 

Signatories to the highly anticipated ANZPAC Plastics Pact include the major supermarkets as well as Nestle, Coca-Cola, the Australian Beverages Council, the Australian Food and Grocery Council and Planet Ark.

They have pledged to work towards meeting four key targets by 2025:

  • Eliminate unnecessary and problematic plastic packaging through redesign, innovation and alternative delivery models.
  • Plastic packaging is 100 per cent reusable, recyclable or compostable 
  • Increase the collection and recycling of plastic packaging by 25 per cent 
  • Achieve an average of 25 per cent recycled content in plastic packaging across the region.

ANZPAC joins the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s global Plastics Pact Network and represents the complete plastics supply chain, from retailers and packaging manufacturers to resource recovery leaders and policy makers. 

“To tackle plastic waste effectively we need to find solutions that aren’t constrained by national borders or old ways of thinking,” chief executive of the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation Brooke Donnelly said. 

“Through the Plastics Pact model, we will bring together the complete plastic supply chain across the entire Oceania region.” 

Canberra’s richest man backs major cattle grazing, carbon farming plan

Canberra’s richest man, Terry Snow has backed plans by Packhorse Pastoral Company to create a two million-hectare cattle grazing and carbon sequestration portfolio.

PPC was established by funds management veteran Tim Samway and founder of labour hire company AWX Group Tom Strachan, and is seeking to raise $1.5 billion over five years to fund the project. 

The company plans to purchase up to 10 cattle grazing properties that they will restore and lease out to beef producers for feed purposes. 

The restoration of these properties will return carbon to the soil, providing the capacity

for PPC to sell carbon credit offsets at scale.

Mr Samway told The Australian Financial Review a two million hectare portfolio of restored Queensland cattle stations could generate 2.7 million carbon credits annually.

AGL has launched legal action against Greenpeace Australia Pacific, over a campaign that alleged the energy giant was Australia’s biggest corporate climate polluter.

The campaign, AGL: Australia’s Greatest Liability, accused the company of formulating a green image when in fact 85 per cent of its energy was produced by coal.

Senior Greenpeace campaigner, Glenn Walker, said his organisation would meet AGL’s legal challenge and was ready for a “David and Goliath battle”.

“By throwing legal roadblocks in our path, AGL is trying to sink our campaign exposing the company as Australia’s biggest climate polluter,” Mr Walker said.

“AGL likes to slap a wind turbine on their ads to hide their dirty coal pollution, and now they’re trying to slap a lawsuit on us to keep us quiet.”

City of Sydney targets net zero by 2035

The City of Sydney has brought forward its plan to reach net zero carbon emissions by five years to 2035, in a move to help avoid “catastrophic climate change.”

“Overwhelming climate research tells us we cannot afford to take our time reducing carbon emissions in Australia – emissions need to plummet now,” Lord Mayor Clover Moore said.

To cut energy emissions, the city council will encourage businesses, residents and other organisations to switch to GreenPower, to increase the amount of renewable energy in the power grid, as well as supporting the development of more energy efficient buildings.

While the council does not itself control public transport services it will also encourage more people to take that option as well as choosing to walk or cycle, as well as supporting businesses shift to electric vehicles.

Waste reduction will also be a focus with an aim to divert 90 per cent of residential waste away from landfill by 2030. Diverting food scraps from landfill can significantly impact emissions, which is why the council is already is running food scrap recycling pilots which it intends to extend to more households.

In brief: Rebecca Huntley, Aware Super, Renew, Macquarie Group

COVID-19 an opportunity to shape better Australia

A new report headed by renowned social researcher Dr Rebecca Huntley has reinforced that a return to pre-pandemic normal would be a major wasted opportunity for Australia in terms of climate, social and economic outcomes. 

“I wanted to show that despite COVID-19 there’s this momentum from the public, from business and from government to act on climate,” Dr Huntley said. 

Commissioned by Aware Super, the report pointed to evidence that strengthening Australia’s climate targets and policies to net zero by 2050 could create $63 billion in new investment opportunities. 

It also highlighted figures showing with the right policy measures, 76,000 jobs could be created around large-scale renewable energy projects in just the next three years. 

“For such a long time there’s been this kind of idea that we have to choose between acting on climate and building a strong economy and creating jobs,” Dr Huntley said. 

“And in fact all of the economic modelling and all of the expert opinion in the report shows that’s not the case.”

Electric appliances cheaper than gas 

For homes in WA, going all electric may actually be cheaper than gas, according to a report from industry veterans, Renew. 

Based on modelling for homes in Perth and Albany, the study compared appliance options for heating, hot water and cooking.

It concluded that for both new and existing homes, the most economic options were reverse cycle air conditioners, heat pump hot water systems and induction cooktops.

Renew policy and research manager Dean Lombard said that converting all appliances to electric and disconnecting from gas could save homes $2400 over ten years.

For new homes, installing electric appliances and adding a rooftop solar system could save between $7500 and $10500 over ten years.

The report recommended that when an old gas appliance needs replacing, choose an efficient electric option, and that all new homes are built to be all-electric. It also called for assistance for disadvantaged consumers to replace old appliances.

Macquarie marks record profit with sustainability pledge 

Investment behemoth Macquarie has marked a record $3.02 billion profit with a pledge to achieve net zero operational emissions by 2025. 

The company said it will also align its financing activity with the global goal of net zero emissions by 2050.

As part of the commitment, Macquarie will set science-based emissions targets for its financing activities, and work with clients to identify emission reduction opportunities.

Macquarie said it would work with oil and gas companies in its portfolio to “deliver a managed transition to decarbonise and reduce the emissions intensity of their activities.”

It will also seek to invest further in renewable energy and climate mitigation solutions including zero emissions transport, hydrogen, carbon sequestration, nature-based solutions, and climate resilient infrastructure.

Victorian government outlines emissions reduction targets

The Victorian government has backed up its 2050 net zero targets with a strategy and interim targets.

It’s aiming to reduce emissions by 28-33 per cent by 2025 and 45-50 per cent by 2030.

How to deal with our waste and who should pay – From The Fifth Estate

The strategy includes a commitment to power all government buildings and infrastructure with 100 per cent renewable electricity by 2025, including schools, hospitals, police stations and metro trains.

The strategy also includes reducing emissions in transport, including a $3000 subsidy for buying EVs, and a carbon farming program.

ALDI Australia commits to zero waste

ALDI Australia is pursuing zero waste to landfill by 2025. 

The ambitious target is backed up with strategies such as doubling food rescued for animal feed that is no longer fit for human consumption, selling imperfect fruit and veg and trialing in-store recycling services in which common materials including coffee capsules and soft plastics can be recycled

The Materials & Embodied Carbon Leaders’ Alliance goes live

The Materials & Embodied Carbon Leaders’ Alliance (MECLA) group was officially launched last month. The group is a collaborative effort made up of businesses involved in the use and manufacture of building materials with the mandate to reduce the embodied carbon in building materials. 

The steel, cement and aluminium industries alone produce about 7-9 per cent of annual global greenhouse emissions each.

AMP signs PPA on office portfolio

AMP Capital has signed a seven-year renewable Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with Diamond Energy, linked to solar farms in central NSW. 

The financial services giant will procure and retire renewable energy certificates that match 100 per cent of its Wholesale Office Fund’s base building electricity consumption.

The contract is to purchase approximately 25 GWh (giga-watt-hours) of electricity per year, equivalent to the entire output of two solar farms. 

According to Head of Sustainability, for AMP Capital’s Real Estate team, Chris Nunn, the cost of electricity under the new deal is approximately 5 per cent lower than what the fund was previously paying.

AMP has a Zero Net Carbon target for its entire managed real estate portfolio by 2030.