Cityscape of Melbourne at sunset, Australia

Is net zero carbon infrastructure on the horizon?

After the events in Canberra in late August, one could be forgiven for concluding that Australia is destined to remain in a state of perpetual carbon policy paralysis, punctuated only by occasional attempts to pass increasingly tortuous legislation (and by the biennial departures of crestfallen Prime Ministers). Having drawn such a conclusion, the divergence between Australia’s emission trajectory and that which is needed to meet our 2030 targets under the Paris Agreement would seem all the more alarming.

However, all is not lost. Developments at other levels of government are converging upon a concept that could substantially reduce Australia’s long-term emission reduction challenge – net zero carbon infrastructure.

In lieu of meaningful action at a federal level, states and territories (TasmaniaVictoriaNSWACT and Queensland) have each developed net zero carbon targets. These targets align with Australia’s 2030 target and look to establish a downward emissions trajectory to reach net zero carbon by 2050.

Having set these targets, states and territories are beginning to recognise that appropriate infrastructure planning and design decisions will be crucial in meeting them. For example, a net zero carbon strategy has been developed for Victoria’s Fishermans Bend Urban Renewal Area (the largest urban renewal area in Australia), and Infrastructure Victoria is actively investigating net zero emissions vehicle infrastructure.

In parallel, the Australian Government Department of the Environment and Energy released the National Carbon Offset Standard for Precincts in 2017, thereby providing a mechanism by which carbon neutrality can be brought into the planning of precinct-scale developments.

These developments have been mirrored by the Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia (ISCA), which has continued to develop and roll-out its Infrastructure Sustainability (IS) rating system. The breadth and detail of the IS Rating System has seen it be incorporated into tender requirements for multi-billion dollar state-funded infrastructure projects (e.g. the $11b Melbourne Metro tunnel). With the July 2018 release of Version 2.0 of the IS rating system, ISCA has now created a credit to reward the carbon neutrality of infrastructure projects.

Finally, in July 2018, Infrastructure Australia released its Infrastructure Decision-making Principles. Principle number 1 requires that infrastructure planning take into account: “changes in technology, market and regulatory developments that are likely to impact infrastructure services over the coming decades.” Arguably (and perhaps optimistically), this could necessitate consideration of the state and territory net zero targets in infrastructure decision making.

Given the convergence of these developments, it is likely only a matter of time before state and territory (and potentially federal) governments further align infrastructure planning and tender requirements and with their net zero carbon aspirations. Should this occur, tens of billions of dollars of cumulative infrastructure funding annually will begin to place downwards pressure on Australia’s emissions trajectory.

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What is the ISO 50001 Energy Management standard?

The term “energy management” is something that is thrown around regularly, however what does this really mean? Sometimes the term is used to vaguely reflect a company’s ambition to become more energy efficient, and therefore energy audits must be undertaken to find opportunities for energy savings. But this is only part of the equation. All too often an energy audit is commenced, a report is delivered, and six months later it is sitting in a dusty pile on the edge of someone’s desk. True energy management is an ongoing process of continual improvement that helps avoid this situation. 

The ISO 50001:2011* – Energy Management System standard offers a robust framework to develop an Energy Management System (EnMS) that supports a company to continuously improve its energy performance. This not only means improving the business’s energy efficiency, but also means conserving resources, and reducing energy costs through better tariff agreements or improving overall productivity.  

How can ISO 50001 help? 

Many companies already track energy usage on some level, and undertake projects intermittently to improve energy efficiency, however there is no unifying strategy. Development of an effective EnMS is a very bespoke affair, with some companies needing to start from scratch, while other companies have existing environmental policies and systems that need to be integrated into. Regardless, integrating an energy management system into an organisation is extremely beneficial because it necessitates the development of suitable systems to identify, capture, and verify energy savings.  

Critical requirements of the ISO 50001 Energy Management Standard that ensure energy performance success include: 

  • An Energy Management Policy must be developed that dictates more efficient and cost-effective use of energy 
  • Energy performance targets and objectives must be set to provide a goal-post to aim for 
  • Energy data must be used in a smart manner to track energy performance and to track ongoing performance. This may require the installation of more advanced energy monitoring systems.  
  • Measuring performance may also mean that Energy Performance Indicators (EnPIs) need to be developed so that meaningful analysis can take place e.g. (kWh per unit of production). 
  • The EnMS must be periodically reviewed via regular meetings to determine its effectiveness and energy performance targets may need re-adjustment 
  • As for other ISO standards, this process is one of continual improvement and gaining momentum is of key importance. 

Taking it to the next level 

ISO 50001 certification is possible but not obligatory, and can be achieved further along the energy performance journey. Apart from the benefit of having a third-party ensuring your system is robust, it can also be used as a marketing tool. Companies in some industries may benefit from customers that perceive this positively. 

*a 2018 version of the standard is soon to be released at the time of writing. The new version will bring the standard in line with the high-level structure of other ISO standards such as ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 with a greater emphasis on leadership and top management commitment. There will also be slight modifications to specific energy management topics, however there will be no major fundamental changes. 

For further information, please contact Ross Tunmer. 

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Conference presentation – energy intelligence

Charlie Knaggs, Principal Consultant in our Energy & Climate Change team, will be presenting at the Energy & Water Efficient Public Buildings & Facilities conference next week in Sydney.

Charlie will be presenting on the topic ‘Energy Intelligence:  using metering and analytics to save energy.’

If you’re at the conference, be sure to say hello!

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Report release: EEOB – Transforming the Mid-Tier Sector

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Point Advisory would like to congratulate Sustainability Victoria on their win in the ‘Best Energy Efficiency Program’ category of the National Energy Efficiency Conference Awards last week for their ‘Energy Efficient Office Buildings’ (EEOB) program. The program demonstrated that energy savings of up to 29% can be achieved across the mid-tier office building sector, via building tuning and cost effective energy efficiency measures.

Point Advisory is proud to have worked with Sustainability Victoria to develop the EEOB – Transforming the Mid-Tier Sector report, released at last week’s conference. The report outlines the energy efficiency-related opportunities and challenges presented by the mid-tier commercial buildings sector. It also highlights to successes of Sustainability Victoria’s EEOB program in addressing the challenges relating to the mid-tier.