On black gold and why it won’t wash

17 July 2014 – Australia’s governments are determined to betray this nation and our future. Today in the Senate they destroyed the carbon tax, one the most powerful ways to bring down carbon emissions. There’s no doubt that’s why they did it.

But it’s too late. The commercial property market’s road to decarbonisation is set.

The property industry’s energy efficiency thrust is now viral, reaching from commercial buildings into clubs, hotels supermarkets and heaven knows even in the toughest sector of them all retail.

The domination of energy supply by renewables is set. Nearly 1.5 million homes with solar panels means solar energy is now viral. Household battery storage is plunging in price and as Mark Diesendorf says, we can get base load renewable power now, at no big-deal cost.

Climate bonds

We’re about to get climate bonds for green property. The methodology has finally been hammered out (see our story flagging this in October 2012) and waiting for final sign off. What’s flying tandem on that development is a tsunami of appetite for clean and green investment that will take these recalcitrant governments and dopey Senators by storm and make them seem ridiculous.

Think massive superannuation and pension funds globally raking in funds month after month and wanting to place them in a safe and secure haven.

How about 10 and 20 and even 30 year bonds in green property where the performance criteria gets stronger with the longer time frames?

According to Che Wall who was lead author on the methodology to find a common carbon metric that could enable this new asset class, this is a movement that will only get stronger.

It taps into the divestment movement promoted by groups such as 350.org that motivates individuals and pressures institutions to place their money with clean green and ethical investment. It’s a  movement still in its infancy, but already showing signs of gigantism.

Innovation

On the business and innovation front, there’s a boom going on, with more and better processes, systems and options for buildings and their environments than ever before. There are new technologies for building controls, new lifts that give power back to the grid, new forms of housing focused on little or no overheads and a sustainable community.

Prefabricated housing

The prefabricated housing market focus is on fire. Led by Hickory group (check out how the stories on this company keep rating right at the top of the stories week after week). This week it’s got another project to show off in Perth for the Department of Housing that’s also shaving costs. Australand proudly announced a few weeks ago its multi-unit timber, part prefab building shaved a massive 25 per cent off conventional costs.

Another company we spoke to this week (story on the way soon) is champing at the bit to challenge Hickory. And is already fielding a string of projects and more inquiries than it can manage.

Landscape architecture and urban planning

And have you noticed the landscape architects and urban planning people recently? The awards for the Planning Institute of Australia’s Planning Australia Award at this week’s Built Environment Meets Parliament Summit in Canberra were testament to the passion and thought inspiring this industry.

If we didn’t know better we’d say this is all looking like a clean green steam train coming our way.

Cities

And we haven’t even got to cities yet.

Cities are ignoring the noise from the yokels in Canberra and state governments and simply getting on with the business of creating programs that lead on sustainability, solar energy, water efficiency and the engagement and motivation of its citizens and businesses. Not to mention the secret weapon of collaboration with each other. You think Sydney and Melbourne are arch competitors, right? Yes and no. They’re doing far more collaborating than people think, and with other cities as well.

The big news at BEMP this week was how the City Deals have the power to harness future income streams to fund current investment.

(Alarms bells must have sounded when the delegates realised it needed co-operation between the federal, state and city governments, as they do in the UK where the model has been refined and proved to work, but then we have generational change to look forward to).

Environmental Upgrade Agreements are back

Contrary to the yowling naysayers who make their money by finding problems and issues to warn their clients against, another nice juicy EUA deal was announced today (Thursday) in Philip Street in Sydney for the St James’ Hall building (with more deals on the way).

It was a sweet piece of news, well timed to salve the emotions after today’s bitter news from the Senate. Thank you Parish of St James, who did the deal. Yes even the churches are ahead of the government. And that’s a movement on the rise. Watch for coming news on how the powerful church congregations are getting that green spirit coursing through their veins.

Among the broader voting public the polls tell us the crowds are back supporting climate action.

The tea party is over, there is no going back.

What’s going on in Canberra, in Victoria, Western Australia and Queensland is annoying at best and destructive at worst, but it’s no deal breaker.

Yes hundreds of jobs have been lost, especially in Victoria. There might be more and investment in clean energy has stalled to almost a standstill.

But the hungry folk are turning their gaze from the property leaders at the big end of town to the booming – and bigger – residential market. Wondering for instance, why 49 residential towers announced in one quarter in Melbourne are not as green as can be. And wondering why the City of Melbourne doesn’t have a policy to change that. Not one that we could see, try as we might. City of Fremantle has, and City of Vincent has, we hear.

At least Sydney has the BASIX ratings that need to be applied, basic as they are, but hopefully to get stronger with the current review.

There’s baffling news from NSW, though.

This state that’s been performing surprisingly well in the climate wars for a conservative government, early this week let it slip it would scrap water efficiency targets, and remove the need for private water companies to recycle or minimise water use.

Politics again. Of course. Or dollars, to be more to the point.

As a major El Niño gathers up its fiery hot winds and empty puff clouds and heads our way soon, the new Baird leadership has buckled at the knees of the privatisation dollar and decided to “fatten up” Sydney Water for sale by cooking the books.

Now how much fiduciary responsibility would a potential buyer of Sydney Water have to its ultimate stakeholders and investors if it failed to pass on that knowledge when it took their money? Ahead of a drought?

It’s like the café that doles out double servings and makes the food especially wonderful – ahead of a sale of the business.

You could use all sort of words for that– a form of deception, a form of theft?

But Baird must be feeling pretty good about getting away with this behaviour right now. The yokel cousins in Canberra have just softened up the financial laws so that we’re back to wild west days, caveat emptor (buyer beware) and the old maxim in financial planner land that if you lose your money in an investment, you must have been greedy.

Dang that Senate again.

We’re 200 issues old

And on the milestone of our 200th issue, here’s thanking our readers for the amazing encouragement and good wishes and fine thoughts that keep us going in the wee hours of our malcontent with the loonies on the loose.

It’s you, our readers, that keep bringing us back to earth, sound in the knowledge that this is an army that only gets stronger and can can do anything.

Watch out for what we’ve got cooking for the next 200 issues!