ESG Snapshot: Issue 31

ESG Snapshot: Issue 31

Highlights in this week's issue include:

  • Up to $18 billion in savings. Australia's energy rating and labelling scheme delivered energy bill savings worth up to $18 billion over a decade.
  • Efficiency grants on offer. A new federal grants round will benefit SMEs.
  • Seabed mining ban. A NSW Bill would ban mining for petroleum or minerals in the state's coastal waters.
  • Nature stewardship. A UN-backed responsible investor alliance has targeted South32 for engagement on nature stewardship (see company news).
  • AGL's decarbonisation progress. AGL's half-yearly results detail its decarbonisation efforts (company news).

Interested in working with Australia Post, CleanCo, Commbank, CSIRO, or Engineers Australia? Check out this issue's jobs board!


Australia's energy rating and labelling scheme (GEMS) saved Australian businesses and households between $12 billion and $18 billion in energy costs, between FY12 and FY22, according to a new report by the GEMS Regulator.

The report also found that GEMS saved between 45 to 67 terawatt-hours of energy, which is about the same amount of electricity that was used by all Tasmanian, Northern Territory and South Australian homes during the same period.

Australia's households and businesses are continuing to install PV at rates unparalleled across the globe, and the uptake of EVs is exceeding forecasts, says a new report from the Energy Security Board on Consumer Energy Resources and the Transformation of the NEM.

The report recommends the establishment of a new consumer energy resources taskforce, and sets out six priorities for the taskforce over the next 12 months.

The net benefit of effective integration and coordination of consumer energy resources has been estimated to be between $1 billion and $6.3 billion by 2030-2040, the report notes. 

Grant opportunity - energy efficiency. Small and medium businesses can start preparing applications now for energy efficiency grants valued at between $10,000 and $25,000.

Japanese energy company ENEOS has made an EPBC referral for a project on Queensland's Bulwer Island that would further develop and test a process using electrolysis to convert toluene, water, and electricity into methylcyclohexane (MCH).

"The production of MCH allows a transportable form of 'green hydrogen' that can be used to decarbonise fuel supply chains," the referral documentation says.

The Clean Energy Finance Corporation is providing $99 million in finance for renewables company Neoen to develop the second part of its Goyder South Stage 1 wind farm, which will provide firmed clean energy to BHP's Olympic Dam operation.

The investment will support the construction of 203MW of wind capacity and 238.5MW/477MWh of battery storage.

The latest investment means the CEFC has now helped Neoen secure finance for four large battery projects.

New consultation - Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan. The federal and Queensland governments are seeking survey responses by 16 February.

New consultation - Murray Darling Basin. Comments are invited by 4 March on the draft framework for delivering the 450GL of additional environmental water.

In a statement from their Annual Leaders' Dialogue, Australia's Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and PNG Prime Minister James Marape welcomed the inclusion of climate change as an area of security cooperation under their Bilateral Security Agreement.

They also noted that Australia has recently completed solar farms in West Sepik and the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, and has a pipeline of solar farms and household solar projects that will be deployed this year.

The government's new Investment Mandate for the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) says the entity must be satisfied that its investments align with one or more Australian government policy priorities including:

  • achieving Australia’s net-zero and energy transition goals.
  • economic development in the north.
  • alleviating social or economic disadvantage in Northern Australia.
  • improving First Nations outcomes and contributing to Closing the Gap.

The Investor Group on Climate Change has released its 2023 annual report.

The report shows IGCC members have global assets under management worth A$35 trillion, and almost A$5 trillion locally, up from A$30 trillion and A$3 trillion in 2022 respectively.

Members now also represent more than 14.8 million beneficiaries, up from 8 million when this was last calculated four years ago.

Consultation opportunity - water efficiency. The government is considering expanding the range of product categories regulated under the Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards (WELS) scheme. Product category nominations are invited by 15 March.

Grant opportunity - reducing livestock emissions. Applications will open on Wednesday for grants of between $1 million and $3 million for projects to reduce methane emissions from livestock. A total of $9 million is available, and applications must be submitted by 20 March.

CSIRO and Swinburne University of Technology have established a new partnership focused on green steel and mineral processing research and development. 

A new, CSIRO-led study shows that marine heatwaves are altering the microorganism communities that form the base of the marine food chain, disrupting coastal ecosystems.  

Open consultations:

  • Fuel efficiency. The government plans to legislate a New Vehicle Efficiency Standard, which will impose a gradually strengthening limit on CO2 grams emitted per kilometre by new vehicles sold in Australia. Comments are due by 4 March.
  • Offshore projects. The federal government is canvassing views on consultation requirements for assessing offshore petroleum and greenhouse gas storage activities. Submissions close on 23 February.

Grant opportunity - Reef water quality and natural capital. The state government is offering a total of $5.5 million for projects aimed at improving water quality in reef catchments.

Individual grants of up to $2.5 million, or possibly more, will be considered. Applications close on 30 April.

An additional notional allocation of up to $750,000 is potentially available for applications that demonstrate a capacity to undertake natural capital projects.

Grant guidelines define natural capital projects as those that use carbon and environmental markets, or such things as impact funds or natural capital accounting, to help connect private capital to the restoration or protection of natural assets.

Transcript is now available from public hearings convened by the state Parliamentary committee that is inquiring into the government's Renewable Transformation and Jobs Bill.

The Australian Energy Regulator is prosecuting the energy entity that trades the output of the Callide C coal-fired power station over a 2021 explosion at Callide C4, which has left the unit still offline.

The AER alleges Callide Power Trading Pty Ltd failed to comply with required performance standards.

Callide Power Trading trades the output on behalf of a joint venture between state government-owned CS energy and Intergen.

Grant opportunity - low emissions. The state government is inviting expressions of interest from metallurgical coal mines for grants under its Low Emissions Investment Partnerships program.

The LEIP program supports projects that can deliver large reductions in scope 1 emissions.

Queensland’s metallurgical coal mines are concentrated in the Bowen Basin and produce about 90% of Australia’s metallurgical coal exports.

Grant opportunity - recycling. The state government has launched a $10 million ReMade in Queensland (ReMiQ) funding round, which will help small and medium-sized manufacturers and recyclers to adopt processes that reuse materials that are otherwise destined for landfill.

Applicants can submit an Expression of Interest for grants of between $50,000 and $2.5 million, with submissions due by 19 February.

Open consultations:

New South Wales

The Independent Planning Commission has approved Ark Energy's $569 million Bowmans Creek wind farm, which will be located near Muswellbrook, in the Hunter-Central Coast REZ.

Statutory development - seabed mining ban. The state government has introduced an Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment (Sea Bed Mining and Exploration) Bill, which would ban offshore mineral and petroleum mining, as well as associated activities, in the state's coastal waters.

Consultation opportunity - better use of Crown Land. The state government is seeking views by 19 March on potential reforms to the Crown Land Management Act.

They include possible support for partnership arrangements "to enable investment pathways for environmentally significant Crown land to be protected and conserved", according to a government discussion paper.

The Act already supports the use of Crown land for renewable energy generation and carbon sequestration.

Determining what role industrial hemp could play in the transition to a net zero, circular economy will be one of the tasks of a new Hemp Industry Taskforce.

Globally, it is estimated that hemp is used in more than 25,000 products spanning nine sub-markets, including agriculture, building materials and textiles.

The taskforce will examine the supply and value chains required to support increased crop production, and will examine legislative barriers .

The taskforce will only consider the cultivation of low-THC hemp grown under the NSW Industrial Hemp Act 2008, and will not consider its use as a therapeutic good, given medicinal uses are a federal matter.

A parliamentary inquiry into undergrounding transmission infrastructure will hold its next hearing on 16 February.

It will hear from representatives of entities including the Australian Energy Regulator, Transgrid, Ausgrid, Energy Networks Australia, EnergyCo, and Iberdrola.

The ACT government is consulting on a new draft disaster resilience strategy (comments due by 13 March), and a new drought resilience plan (comments due by 14 March).


The state government has released the referral for the Victorian component of the Victoria to NSW interconnector, known as VNI West, which will run from Kerang (the NSW connection point) to Bulgana.

The project will require the construction of about 240 kilometres of overhead transmission lines.

Referral documentation says the project will connect power from the wind and solar-rich Murray River REZ and Western Victorian REZ.

It will also provide Victoria with access to renewable energy stored in the Snowy 2.0 pumped hydro scheme, and will improve the security and reliability of the electricity network as coal-fired power stations retire, the referral says.

The state government has announced two new beneficiaries of Circular Economy Infrastructure grants.

Plasgain will receive $250,000 to help produce aluminium-covered lightpoles made of recycled plastic.

Pinegro will receive $1 million to install decontamination equipment that will allow it to turn an extra 65,000 tonnes annually of food and organic waste into landscaping materials.

Grant program - tree plantings. Grants of up to $2,500 per hectare will be provided by state government-owned Private Forests Tasmania to support tree plantings by Tasmanian farmers. Expressions of interest close on 1 March.

Grant opportunity - methane. The state government is inviting applications by 29 February for grants to trial methane-reducing animal feed supplements. A total of $4 million is on offer.

Open consultations:

  • Environmental impact assessment. The state government is consulting on environmental impact assessment processes for projects on reserves managed by the Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service. Comments are due by 8 March.

Grant opportunity - circular economy. Green Industries SA is offering grants of up to $100,000 for projects that design, apply, and scale-up innovative circular economy business models and practices, or that produce, manufacture, sell or promote South Australian recycled materials and/or recycled-content products.

Applications close on 19 February.

Open consultations:

  • Plastics. Comments are due by 11 February on proposals to ban more types of single-use plastic items.
  • Biodiversity. Comments are due by 14 February on a discussion paper on the state government's proposed introduction of a new Biodiversity Act.
Western Australia

TransAlta has made a referral to construct, operate and maintain up to 150MW of gas reciprocating engines at BHP Nickel West's Mt Keith operations, to meet Nickel West's expanded processing capacity and future growth.

The proposal aims to reduce reliance on TransAlta's existing legacy gas and diesel generation, which would reduce total emissions, and facilitate a greater penetration of renewable energy generation in the future.

In 2020, the existing gas and diesel system produced 352,657 tonnes of emissions. The proposed changes would result in total emissions falling to 271,130 tonnes by 2030.

The referral adds that emissions from the existing system would increase significantly, if it was the sole source of electricity for an expanded Mt Keith operation.

New grant opportunity - e-waste. Applications must be submitted by 29 March for e-waste re-processing infrastructure grants, with grants of up to $2 million on offer.

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

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February 14, ESG in the property sector. An event in Sydney, hosted by the Property Council Academy.
February 14 to 16, Sustainable industrial manufacturing. An event in Brisbane, hosted by Quartz Business Media. Featuring a panel session moderated by BCSDA chief executive Andrew Peterson on ESG/SDG/zero carbon strategies.
February 15, Mastering marketing automation. A one-hour webinar hosted by BCSDA member Swift Digital.
February 19 and 20, Queensland energy. An Informa conference in Brisbane.
February 20, The shifting sands of ESG. An online event hosted by The Fifth Estate.
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 20, Climate investor forum 2024. An event in Melbourne, hosted by Zeitgeist.
April 22 and 23, Impact X summit - climate and nature 2030. An event in Sydney supported by the NSW government, WWF and Impact X.
Jobs Board
Australia Post has a vacancy for a Melbourne-based sustainability manager - modern slavery and supply chain sustainability.
CleanCo is hiring a Brisbane-based environmental specialist.
The Commonwealth Bank has a vacancy for a Sydney-based finance manager - climate and sustainable finance reporting.
CSIRO is hiring a Brisbane-based climate strategy and risk coordinator.
Defence is recruiting an energy engineer with responsibilities including providing advice on clean energy technologies for use within Defence entities.
Engineers Australia has a vacancy for a Sydney-based climate change manager.
Marsh is hiring a Sydney-based leader, climate and sustainability consulting.
Company news and resources
Rio Tinto, BHP and BlueScope have agreed to jointly investigate the production of green iron from Pilbara ores, using a renewables-powered Direct Reduced Iron (DRI) process. Several potential locations for an Electric Smelting Furnace (ESF) pilot plant are under investigation, and it could be commissioned as early as 2027.
In its half-yearly presentation, AGL reports an 85% increase in "green revenue" from FY19, which comprises green energy and carbon neutral products and services.

It remains the biggest provider of commercial solar, and now has 657GWh contracted with commercial and industrial customers through renewables-linked power purchase agreements (up 68% on the first half of FY23).

It now has 480,000 homes signed up for its carbon neutral services, representing a 14% increase since the first half of FY23.

It's peak energy rewards scheme for households and commercial premises now has 137,000 customers, up 39% on the first half of FY23.

AGL says that it now has between six and eight major industrial clients located on or connected to its three energy energy hubs.

Its development pipeline has advanced from 5.3GW as announced in its FY23 results to 5.8GW, and it now has 800MW of new grid-scale batteries in operation, testing, or under construction.
The UN PRI, a global responsible investment alliance, has named South32 as the sole Australian business on a list of 40 companies that it will initially target for engagement in its 'Spring' nature stewardship initiative.

The European Commission has presented its recommendations for the EU's 2040 climate target, arguing for a 90% cut in emissions compared to 1990, and paving the way for carbon capture technology to abate remaining emissions from industry.

A legislative proposal to adopt the target will be made by the next Commission, after the June European elections.

Achieving the 90% recommended target will require both emissions reductions and carbon removals, involving the deployment of carbon capture technologies, the Commission says.

An associated EU industrial carbon management strategy has also been released. During this decade, the main focus will be on capturing CO2 from process emissions as well as some emissions from fossil and biogenic CO2 sources, the strategy says.

The European Parliament and Council have agreed a provisional deal aimed at ensuring greater transparency and public oversight of ESG rating agencies, reports Euractiv.

Under the agreement, all major EU-based ESG rating agencies will need to be authorised and supervised by ESMA (the EU's financial markets regulator), and those located outside the bloc will need to be formally endorsed by another ESMA-authorised rating provider, or by its ESMA-approved national financial regulator.

The number of companies and financial institutions setting greenhouse gas reduction targets and having them validated by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) doubled in 2023 to 4,204 (up from 2,079 in 2022). 

Capital investment in global power grids jumped 5% in 2023 from the previous year to $310 billion, with the US spending $87 billion and China $79 billion, according to analysis by BloombergNEF, while another BloombergNEF analysis shows offshore wind investment surged to a new high in 2023.


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