ESG Snapshot: Issue 26

ESG Snapshot: Issue 26

Highlights include:

  • Voice of authority. The Climate Change Authority says the ACCU scheme should help underpin engineered carbon removals, and it wants public disclosure of NGER emissions at the facility level.
  • 'Clearly unacceptable'. Minister Tanya Plibersek has rejected a proposal for a facility to assemble offshore wind farm components at the Port of Hastings.
  • Support builds. The goals of Senator David Pocock's intergenerational equity Bill have the support of the National Environmental Law Association, the Environment Institute of Australia and New Zealand, and Engineers Australia.
  • All kinds. The EPBC water trigger now applies to all types of unconventional gas extraction projects, not just coal seam gas.

This first issue for 2024 covers federal news, and also includes listings of jobs and events and company news, as well as key international developments.

State and territory news will be covered in the next issue. Subsequent issues will each cover federal, state and territory news.

Interested in working for Coles, Geelong Port, Suncorp or Downer EDI? Check out this issue's jobs board!


Minister Tanya Plibersek has issued an EPBC decision that a proposal by the Port of Hastings to establish a Victorian Renewable Energy Terminal at the port for the assembly of offshore wind turbine components is "clearly unacceptable".

The reasons have not yet been provided, but the project - which initially had the backing of the Victorian government - would have potentially affected wetlands of international importance.

The Clean Energy Regulator has entered into a contract with Trovio Group to develop and deliver a new Unit & Certificate Register for Australian Carbon Credit Units (ACCUs).

The new register will consolidate the Clean Energy Regulator's current registers, and will progressively also record holdings of international units, large-scale generation certificates (LGCs), and small-scale technology certificates (STCs).

It will also support new future units and certificates, such as Safeguard Mechanism credit units (SMCs) and Guarantee of Origin (GO) certificates.

In a related move, the Regulator and the ASX are working together to develop a carbon exchange market, initially for ACCUs.

The Regulator currently anticipates the Register will be operating by the second half of 2024, and the Australian Carbon Exchange will be launched between late-2024 to early-2025.

The ACCC's final guidance on making environmental claims lists eight principles for making trustworthy environmental claims.

Newly-released submissions to a Senate committee inquiry show that the National Environmental Law Association, the Environment Institute of Australia and New Zealand, and Engineers Australia are among the organisations that support the intent of an intergenerational equity Bill introduced by independent Senator David Pocock.

The Bill would require approval decision-makers for proposed fossil fuel projects to ensure that their scopes 1, 2 and 3 emissions don't constitute a material risk to the health and wellbeing of current and future Australian children.

Ahead of the general public release of additional EPBC reform documents, the Environment Institute of Australia and New Zealand has made a new submission to the government based on its viewing of the documents ahead of their general release.

Australia's List of Critical Minerals that are deemed essential to the nation's energy and security requirements has been expanded to include fluorine, molybdenum, arsenic, selenium, and tellurium.

The federal government has also released a new Strategic Materials List of commodities essential for the energy transition, but which are not at risk of supply chain disruptions. The Strategic Materials list includes copper, nickel, aluminium, phosphorous, tin, and zinc.

In addition, the government plans to investigate the creation of Strategic Critical Minerals Hubs around the country. 

Meanwhile, the latest Resources and Energy Quarterly, released by the Department of Industry, Science and Resources, has identified a 75% increase in the value of committed critical minerals projects over the past year, from $6.7 billion in 2022 to $11.8 billion in 2023. 

The six projects shortlisted under ARENA's $2 billion Hydrogen Headstart Program are:

  • bp Low Carbon Australia Pty Ltd (H2Kwinana, 105MW electrolyser capacity)
  • HIF Asia Pacific Pty Ltd (HIF Tasmania eFuel Facility, 144MW)
  • KEPCO Australia Pty Ltd (Port of Newcastle Green Hydrogen Project, 750MW)
  • Origin Energy Future Fuels Pty Ltd (Hunter Valley Hydrogen Hub, 50MW in phase 1, then up to 200MW)
  • Stanwell Corporation Limited (Central Queensland Hydrogen Project, 720MW)
  • Murchison Hydrogen Renewables Pty Ltd as trustee for Murchison Hydrogen Renewables Project Trust (Murchison Hydrogen Renewables Project, 1,625MW).

The six applicants must now submit full applications for their projects, which are among the largest renewable hydrogen projects in the world and represent a total electrolyser capacity of more than 3.5 GW.

The CEFC is investing $75 million in an equity raise for a new Australia New Zealand Landscapes and Forestry Fund that is targeting $600 million over the next year, and has so far raised $450 million.

The fund will be managed by New Forests, and it aims to deliver one million tonnes of carbon abatement over the next decade.

It will support the development of new plantations, and the conversion of existing hardwood plantations to softwood plantations that have higher carbon abatement potential because of their longer rotation periods.

The plantations will generate ACCUs in recognition of their carbon abatement, and the fund will also invest in agriculture and downstream timber processing opportunities, with the majority of assets located in Australia.

Other participants in the equity raise include German pension fund Bayerische Versorgungskammer (BVK), and one of northern Europe’s largest pension funds, Andra AP-fonden (AP2).

Minister Chris Bowen has made preliminary decisions on the granting of feasibility licences for offshore wind projects in Commonwealth waters off the Gippsland region in Victoria.

Of the 37 applications received:

  • six are under preliminary consideration for the granting of feasibility licences and have begun the next stage of consultation with First Nation groups.
  • six are under preliminary consideration to progress through the regime's overlapping application process, where applicants will be invited to revise and resubmit their applications to remove overlap with other equally meritorious applicants.
  • a preliminary decision has been made to not to proceed to grant a feasibility licence in relation to the remaining 25 applications, on the basis that they are not as meritorious.

If all six proposed projects under preliminary consideration for a licence were to proceed, they could generate 12GW of electricity and create over 25,000 construction jobs and 1,500 ongoing jobs. These numbers would increase if the other six applications resolve their overlap and proceed to commercialisation.

A final decision on licences will be made early this year.

Revised grant opportunity. Applications are now being accepted for grants under ARENA's $40 million National Industrial Transformation Program which, unlike the $400 million Industrial Transformation Stream, is not restricted to regional NGER reporters.

The water trigger for assessment under the EPBC Act has been expanded to require independent, scientific consideration of likely significant impacts on water resources for all types of unconventional gas, not just coal seam gas.

The change resulted from negotiations between the government and the Greens over the Nature Repair Market Bill.

New consultation opportunity - renewables. Firmed renewables are the cheapest form of energy in Australia, according to the draft 2023-24 GenCost report prepared by CSIRO and the Australian Energy Market Operator.

The report shows utility-scale solar and onshore wind costs, including transmission and storage costs, are two to seven times cheaper than new coal and small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs).

Updated data on new-build projects found that the cost of onshore wind generation rose by 8%, while large-scale solar PV fell by the same proportion. The cost of gas turbine technologies increased by 14%.  

Comments on the draft GenCost report are due by 9 February.

New consultation opportunity - Safeguard Mechanism. Projects engaged in activities involving on-site electricity production, iron and steel-making, hydrogen production, met coal mining, oil and gas production, lithium ore mining and lithium hydroxide production, or hydrogen production, will be affected by proposed Safeguard Mechanism changes.

The proposed amendments to the Safeguard Rules would finalise remaining production variables, make changes to some existing production variables, and set international best practice benchmarks for priority new activities.

Comments close on 16 January.

The Climate Change Authority in December published its latest appraisal of the ACCU scheme, doing so exactly one year after the Chubb review was released.

The report says the ACCU regime should be amended so it can support engineered forms of greenhouse gas removal, like direct air capture with carbon storage or mineral carbonation, describing engineered removals as "the way of the future for offsets markets", given the need to eventually achieve net negative emissions. 

 The report backs a range of significant changes to the ACCU regime, building on the Chubb recommendations. 

In addition, it notes that the new Australian Carbon Exchange and associated Unit Register (see above) provide opportunities to enhance the transparency of the ACCU scheme, and could pave the way for ratings agencies to enter the market to assess carbon unit quality and provide more information. It points out that these sorts of agencies now operate in the international voluntary carbon market.

A total of 2,400 facilities would have their NGER-reported scope 1 and 2 emissions made publicly available from next year, under a Climate Change Authority recommendation in its appraisal of the NGER scheme.

The requirement would be imposed by requiring facility-level disclosure if facilities emit at least 5,000 tonnes of greenhouse annually, and it would equate to facility-level public disclosure by about 57% of facilities that report through NGER. 

 The 57% of facilities between them would account for 99% of NGER-reported emissions. 

Currently, NGER only requires reporting at the corporate group level. The Authority's NGER review was released simultaneously with its ACCU scheme review. 

The federal government is introducing new vehicle noxious emissions standards from December 2025.

The change will reduce the level of aromatic hydrocarbons to a maximum of 35% in 95 RON petrol. All vehicles will be able to use the new 95 RON petrol. The existing 91 and 98 RON petrol grades and diesel will be unaffected.

Motorists can expect an increase of $8 per year—or 15 cents a week—for an average passenger vehicle running on 95 RON petrol, the government says. Light commercial vehicles can expect a $13 yearly increase.

The government will also delay by 12 months the start date for requirements that petrol sold in Australia contain no more than 10ppm sulphur. The requirement was scheduled to start in 2024, but will now start in December 2025, to align with the new noxious emissions requirement.

The changes will remove almost 18 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector by 2050 and will allow Australia to adopt the Euro 6d noxious emissions standards.

The Euro 6d standards will apply to new light vehicle models introduced to the Australian market from December 2025, and new vehicles from existing model lines from 2028.

Details of a separate Australian fuel efficiency standard, which will regulate average CO2 emissions from new vehicles, are yet to be announced.

Associate Professor Cris Brack, an Australian National University forestry expert, has completed his inaugural six-monthly review of checking procedures for human-induced regeneration (HIR) projects under the ACCU Scheme.

HIR projects must undergo regular "gateway checks" to demonstrate that ACCUs are only being issued for land that is progressing towards forest cover.

Brack's review of a subset of 25 HIR projects found they are demonstrating regeneration, proponents are implementing the project activities, and the projects are subject to strong assurance.

The projects examined by Brack are managed by a range of entities, and vary in their age and location.

Videos of government presentations at Australia's COP28 pavilion are available here (videos from the US pavilion are here, and from the We Mean Business pavilion are here).

ARENA has awarded a $9.75 million grant to utility services provider Intellihub to launch a $22 million Demand Flexibility Platform project targeting 510MW of aggregated residential load under combined control, to be achieved through the enrolment of over 140,000 residential hot water systems and solar PV systems.

Electricity retailers will be able to sign up households to the Demand Flexibility Platform and use it to manage their customers as part of a Virtual Power Plant (VPP). Intellihub will provide the interface between electricity retailers and the customer-owned devices.

Applications close on 1 February to join the Biodiversity Assessment Expert Reference Group that will provide independent advice to DCCEEW on the design and implementation of the Nature Repair Market.

The Group will help ensure that the Nature Repair Market is informed by science and that it enables First Nations people to contribute their unique knowledge on their terms.

Facility decommissioning and greenhouse gas exploration, injection and storage are among the topics covered in a new 2024 to 2027 research strategy issued by NOPSEMA, the offshore oil and gas regulator.

Grant opportunity. Local governments can now apply for grants to reduce emissions from their facilities through the $50 million first-round of the Community Energy Upgrades Fund, with grants of between $25,000 and $2.5 million available. Applications close on 30 April.

The federal government has awarded $9.8 million to five soil carbon research projects, through round two of the National Soil Carbon Innovation Challenge.

New consultation opportunity - climate change impacts. Comments are due by 12 February on proposed updates to the Climate Change Considerations chapter in the Australian Rainfall and Runoff Guide to Flood Estimation. 

Transcript of the first hearing of a Senate committee inquiry into residential electrification is now available.

The Clean Energy Regulator has reminded Safeguard-covered facilities to submit their application for an Emissions Intensity Determination for FY24 by 30 April 2024, to avoid being subject to more onerous best-practice emissions intensity values.

Grant opportunity. DCCEEW has released initial details of a Gamechangers for Native Species funding round, with applications for a share in $11.5 million accepted from 24 January.

The Australian Energy Market Operator has released a report on the potential benefits and risks associated with the rising take-up of EVs.

The federal government has reappointed Dr Cathy Foley as Australia's Chief Scientist. 

Grant opportunity. The Australian and UK governments are inviting applications for grants of up to $2 million for hydrogen research, development and demonstration projects. Applications close on 19 January.

Open consultations:

Events, jobs, company news, and key international developments are listed below.

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February 5, ANU Climate update. An online event.
February 6, WA Clean energy conference. A conference in Perth, hosted by the Clean Energy Council.
February 8, Circular economy masterclass. An online event hosted by the Green Building Council of Australia.
February 13 and 14, The Australian energy and battery storage conference. An event in Sydney, hosted by Informa.
February 19 and 20, Queensland energy. An Informa conference in Brisbane.
February 21 and 22, The Hunter new energy symposium , hosted by NewH2.
February 26 and 27, Stakeholder capitalism and ESG. A Sydney conference hosted by Kruzade Events.
February 26 and 27, Australian offshore wind conference. An Informa conference in Melbourne.
March 6 and 7, Smart energy expo 2024. An event in Sydney hosted by the Smart Energy Council.
March 24, Climate integrity summit. An event at Parliament House in Canberra, hosted by the Australia Institute.
Jobs Board
Coles is recruiting a Melbourne-based climate transition lead.
Victoria's Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action is recruiting a manager and a technical advisor for the Victorian Transmission Plan.
Downer EDI has a vacancy for a Brisbane-based sustainability manager - operations.
Geelong Port is seeking a head of sustainability
South32 is hiring a Perth-based sustainability communications professional.
Stockland is hiring a Sydney-based sustainability manager.
Suncorp is recruiting a Sydney-based environment and climate manager.
The Tasmanian government is hiring a chief executive officer for Renewable, Climate and Future Industries Tasmania.
TasPorts is seeking a sustainability advisor.
Company news and resources
AGL has made a final investment decision to proceed with a $750 million 500MW/1,000MWh storage battery at the site of the former Liddell coal power station in NSW.

It will be Australia's largest battery with grid-forming inverter capabilities, and ARENA has provided a $35 million grant to support the project.

AGL says the project will be a key component of reaching its goal of 5GW of new renewables and firming capacity by 2030.

AGL has also signed an MoU with lithium battery recycling start-up, Renewable Metals, to develop a pre-feasibility study into establishing a lithium battery recycling facility at AGL's planned Hunter Energy Hub, which encompasses the Liddell site.
Australian Dairy has released its latest annual sustainability report.
Circular Plastics Australia, a joint venture between Pact Group, Cleanaway, Asahi Beverages and Coca-Cola Europacific Partners, has opened Victoria's largest PET recycling plant in the Melbourne suburb of Altona North.

The $51 million project was built with the assistance of a $6 million federal-Victorian grant. The joint venture already operates a similar-sized facility in Albury.
Inland Rail has released its latest sustainability report.

The UK government has announced it will implement a Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism by 2027. The UK CBAM will result in imports of iron, steel, aluminium, ceramics and cement facing a comparable carbon price to equivalent goods produced in the UK.

The US Treasury Department has released proposed guidance for the Inflation Reduction Act's clean hydrogen tax credit, and proposed guidance the advanced manufacturing production tax credit, which incentivises the domestic production of solar, wind, inverter, and battery components. 

Singapore's Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment and its National Environment Agency has published an Eligibility List of carbon project activities in Papua New Guinea that companies can use to source credits to help meet their obligations under Singapore's carbon tax regime.

The publication of the Eligibility List follows Singapore's signing of an Implementation Agreement with PNG on carbon credits cooperation under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement. The Singapore government notes that lists of eligible carbon credits may differ in for various project host countries, as each will also have its own project eligibility criteria. 

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