ESG Snapshot: Issue 35

ESG Snapshot: Issue 35

Highlights in this week's issue include:

  • Senate scrutiny. A Senate committee has launched an inquiry into Australia's waste and recycling policies.
  • Double bill. The Victorian government has introduced a Bill on offshore wind, and another on transmission infrastructure.
  • Circularity laggard. A new CSIRO report says Australia's circularity performance significantly lags the global average.
  • Alcoa set to be an offshore wind beneficiary. Alcoa's Portland smelter is likely to be a beneficiary of a newly-declared offshore wind zone.
  • WA EPA chief departs. As he leaves for a new role, the chair of WA's EPA says the state's greenhouse gas assessment framework leads the nation.
  • Poor compliance. There are still high levels of non-compliance with Queensland's Reef regulations, says a new statutory report.

Interested in working for AGL, Origin Energy, Stockland, or VicGrid? Check out this issue's jobs board! Plus plans for a biomass power station on exhibition, a new hydrogen EPBC referral, and new recycling grants awarded.


The Senate has instigated a new committee inquiry into waste and recycling. Issues to be examined include the effectiveness of the federal government's waste reduction and recycling policies in delivering a circular economy, and progress in implementing mandated product stewardship schemes.

The committee will report by 22 November, this year.

A new CSIRO report has found that Australia's circularity rate – the measure of the efficiency with which resources are reused and recycled within a system – is half (4%) that of the global average (8%). 

The Australian material flow analysis to progress to a circular economy report details how Australia uses its resources, linking human consumption to environmental impacts.

Dr Heinz Schandl, who leads CSIRO's circular economy research, said Australia could double its circularity rate if it was to employ circular economy opportunities in housing, mobility, food and energy provision.   

Australian Energy Infrastructure Commissioner Andrew Dyer will retire from the position at the end of this month.

Andrew Dyer was first appointed National Wind Farm Commissioner in November 2015, by former Environment Minister Greg Hunt, and his role was later expanded to address a broad range of energy infrastructure matters. An acting Commissioner will be appointed shortly.

Opposition leader Peter Dutton has appointed Melissa McIntosh as the Coalition's shadow minister for western Sydney and affordable energy.

ARENA is providing a $9.4 million grant to retrofit an Aurizon diesel-electric freight train with a 1.8MWh battery. Project partner Alta Battery Technology will be responsible for the design and construction of the battery wagon, which will couple to the locomotive. It will be trialled across one of Aurizon's major haulage routes.

The federal government has announced a $76 million funding package for electric vehicle projects, which will be financed by ARENA and the CEFC.

The Clean Energy Finance Corporation will provide $50 million to Angle Auto Finance (AAF), Australia’s largest independent retail auto financier, to get 20,000 new EVs onto Australian roads over the next two years.

AAF will provide short term loans to car dealerships to purchase vehicles from manufacturers, with dealerships to repay the loan when the vehicle is sold.

ARENA will provide more than $4 million to help Europcar add 3,100 new, electric passenger vehicles to its Australian fleet over three years. The rental car company is also teaming up with Ampol to install 256 chargers across 41 hire car sites. Europcar will operate the EVs for up to two years before selling them on to grow the second-hand EV market.

ARENA will also provide almost $22 million dollars for three projects in Western Australia to electrify logistics fleets and local government vehicles.

The federal government has officially declared an offshore wind zone in the Southern Ocean off western Victoria, which could potentially help power one of Australia's largest smelters.

The Southern Ocean offshore wind zone, which could potentially generate up to 2.9GW of offshore wind energy, is the third offshore wind zone declared by the government.

The zone is close to Alcoa's Portland aluminium smelter, which draws up to 10% of Victoria’s electricity. Currently, about 40% of the smelter's consumed electricity comes from renewable resources, including from the nearby Portland onshore wind farm.

In 2021, Portland Aluminium and Alinta Energy announced an MOU to collaborate on the proposed 1GW Spinifex Offshore Wind Farm, and Alcoa says the zone "would greatly assist the Spinifex development".

Countrywide Hydrogen, which is developing a renewable hydrogen production facility at Portland in two stages, also made a submission in favour of the zoning, as did offshore wind developer Bluefloat.

The final declared offshore area encompasses 1,030 square kilometres – one fifth of the originally proposed zone. It is located at least 15 – 20km from Victoria’s coast, and the zone no longer includes an area off South Australia.

Feasibility licence applications for offshore wind projects in the new zone are now being accepted, and must be submitted by 2 July.

The Australian Institute of Company Directors and Pollination Group have released a climate governance study, with 80% of surveyed directors saying their boards are concerned about climate change as a material risk.

Australia and Canada have agreed to work together to improve transparency in critical minerals supply chains and to promote the recognition of strong environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards in critical minerals markets, Resources Minister Madeleine King has announced.

The two countries issued a joint ministerial statement after talks in Toronto.

Leaders of ASEAN countries and Australia have released the Melbourne Declaration, which provides for a $2 billion Southeast Asia Investment Financing Facility to increase Australian investment in the region in key sectors such as infrastructure and clean energy.

The financing facility will be managed by Export Finance Australia.  It will provide loans, guarantees, equity and insurance for projects to boost Australian trade and investment in Southeast Asia, particularly in support of the region's clean energy transition and infrastructure development.

A joint statement signed by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Vietnam's Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh, announced at the ASEAN-Australia summit, pledges greater cooperation in areas including climate, environment and energy cooperation.

The statement pledges Australian financial support for Vietnam's efforts to respond to climate change, and reaffirms commitment to a Ministerial Dialogue on Energy and Minerals.

The UNESCO World Heritage Centre has formally accepted the nomination of the Murujuga Cultural Landscape for World Heritage status, and it is now entering the next stage of the World Heritage Listing process.

Grant opportunity - energy efficiency. Small and medium businesses can apply for energy efficiency grants valued at between $10,000 and $25,000. Applications close on 8 April.

Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek has released a new recovery plan for Victoria's critically endangered Leadbeater Possum. The federal government is also investing $360,000 for activities including the installation of 400 nesting boxes in the state's central highlands.

Open consultations:

  • Clean energy. Submissions are due by 25 March on a DCCEEW discussion paper on the Capacity Investment Scheme.
  • Innovation. The Business Research and Innovation Initiative (BRII) has opened a new $7.5 million funding round for small and medium enterprises targeting three key sustainability challenge areas. Applications close on 3 April.

The state government has released the report of a statutory review of Queensland's Reef protection regulations, which took effect in late 2019. The report shows there are still high levels of non-compliance.

"There is still some scepticism around the need for the Reef regulations, mistrust in both the science and government, and a general resistance to being regulated," the report says.

The state government has joined the international Equal by 30 campaign, which aims to deliver gender equality in the clean energy sector. The federal government is already a signatory.

Grant opportunity - bioenergy. A $4 million Bioenergy Fund is offering matched financial assistance of between $250,000 and $2 million. Applications close on 11 April.

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

New South Wales

New consultation - biomass power plant. The state government has placed on exhibition a proposal by Verdant Earth to restart Redbank power station, with biomass as its feedstock, rather than coal tailings.

The power plant would use up to 700,000 tonnes of "ecologically sustainable biomass", ultimately in the form of purpose-grown energy plantations. Comments are due by 4 April.

The state government has announced partnerships with six companies and organisations that will result in a range of carbon farming projects receiving $23.8 million in public and private funds.

The NSW Primary Industries Productivity and Abatement Program (PIPAP) is investing $6.8 million, and the six grantees are co-investing $17 million.

The successful grantees are 24 Degree Forest, Wilmot Cattle Company, Regen Farmers Mutual, Greening Australia, WWF, and the NSW Department of Primary Industries.

The partnerships include four reforestation projects, a soil carbon project, a blue carbon project, and a beef herd management project.

The projects will generate Australian Carbon Credit Units and will be implemented on about 100 properties across regional New South Wales, covering about 2,000 hectares of forest and woodland.

Transport for NSW is trialing a bio-bitumen, known as ECO5, that contains recycled materials and has a carbon footprint that is 30% lower than conventional asphalt. The product is made by asphalt company COLAS.

The EPA says it has "reached the end of the supply chain" in its tracing of asbestos contaminated mulch, which was originally discovered at the Rozelle Parklands.

"The NSW government will move to tighten regulations and strengthen penalties for a range of environmental crimes," says an EPA release on the contaminated mulch.

Consultation opportunity - koalas. The state government has released a discussion paper on its NSW Koala Strategy, ahead of a 22 March koala summit. The feedback from the discussion paper and summit will be used to develop a new koala plan. Submissions on the discussion paper are due by 26 April.

The 2024 Community Zero Emissions Grants program is now open for applications from individuals and not-for-profit community groups. Funding of up to $50,000 per single application and up to $75,000 per joint application is available, and applications close on 4 April.

Grant opportunity. The ACT government is inviting applications by 9 April for environmental grants, with $350,000 available. The government is also offering 'Nature in the City: Cooling your Suburb' grants, with $150,000 available.


Statutory development - offshore wind. A new government Energy and Public Land Legislation Amendment (Enabling Offshore Wind Energy) Bill would amend Victoria’s public land and electricity legislation to support the establishment of a Victorian offshore wind industry. The Bill would enable licences and permits under these Acts to be granted over public land for up to 21 years, for the purposes of:

Assessing the desirability or feasibility of constructing or installing offshore electricity transmission infrastructure.

Determining the optimal placement of offshore electricity transmission infrastructure.

The Bill would also amend the National Parks Act 1975 to make offshore wind energy generation companies public authorities for the purposes of that Act, enabling them to perform functions in relation to parks.

Statutory development - transmission infrastructure. A new government National Electricity (Victoria) Amendment (VicGrid) Bill would amend Victoria's National Electricity Act to:

Introduce a process for the VicGrid chief executive to make payments to landholders who host transmission infrastructure on their land.

Confer new functions and powers on VicGrid to plan major electricity transmission infrastructure in Victoria.

Allow for the declaration of Renewable Energy Zones by the Minister.

The federal and Victorian governments have jointly awarded six grants totalling $3.4 million to boost the state's recycling capacity.

The recipients included Australian Paper Recovery Pty Ltd (APR) in Dandenong South, which received $1 million to install a new infrared process to improve the separation of difficult to recover plastics.

Another $1 million went to Schutz Australia Pty Ltd Recycling in Laverton North for new equipment that will improve its capacity to recover high-density polyethylene (HDPE) from used Intermediate Bulk Containers (IBCs).

Melbourne Water has had a carbon project approved by the Clean Energy Regulator that will allow it to earn carbon credits by reforesting water catchments with native vegetation.

Long-time acting chief executive of Sustainability Victoria, Matt Genever, has been appointed to the role in a permanent capacity.

Open consultations:

  • Clean energy jobs. The state government has issued a consultation paper on its proposed Victorian Energy Jobs Plan. Submissions are due by 3 April.
  • Tesla and CEP. Tesla Energy Ventures Australia Pty Ltd has applied to the Essential Services Commission for a licence to sell electricity in Victoria, and so has CEP Energy Retail Pty Ltd. Submissions are due by 29 March.

Subsidy opportunity - solar for apartments. Applications close 15 April under round one of Solar Victoria's new Solar for Apartments program, which is partly funded by the federal government.

The state's Department for Energy and Mining has lodged an EPBC referral for the state government-backed proposed hydrogen project near Whyalla, comprising a 200MW hydrogen power station, 250MWe electrolysers, and a 100 tonne-capacity storage facility.

A total of nine hydrogen projects have now lodged EPBC referrals.

Open consultations:

  • Climate change. The state government has released a draft Bill to amend the state's Climate Change Act, with comments due by 5 April.

Western Australia

The state government has released a new Electric Vehicle strategy.

EPA Chair Matthew Tonts is departing the agency to take up a new role as Provost of Curtin University. Tonts, who took up the EPA top role in 2021, will temporarily be replaced by EPA deputy chair Lee McIntosh.

Tonts said he was proud of his time leading the EPA.

"Western Australia's environmental impact assessment process under the Environmental Protection Act leads the nation on the assessment and regulation of greenhouse gas emissions from significant proposals," he said.

Grant opportunity - carbon farming. The state government is offering a further $2.77 million in carbon farming grants. Applications close on 20 May.

Consultation opportunity - offshore wind zone. The federal government is seeking comments by 3 May on a proposal to declare an offshore wind development zone 20 kilometres offshore from Bunbury.

This is the sixth region to be considered as potentially suitable for future large-scale offshore wind projects in Australia.

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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March 19, How Australians benefit from climate-ready homes. An online event hosted by Climateworks.
March 20, Climate investor forum 2024. An event in Melbourne, hosted by Zeitgeist.
April 17, Sustainability forum 2024. An event in Adelaide hosted by the National GS1 Traceability Advisory Group.
April 22 and 23, Impact X summit - climate and nature 2030. An event in Sydney supported by the NSW government, WWF and Impact X.
May 29 and 30, Fourth annual Australian renewable energy zones conference. An event in Sydney, hosted by Informa.
June 5 and 6, Tasmanian energy development conference. An event in Devonport, hosted by Informa.
Jobs Board
Commbank is hiring a Sydney-based associate, natural resources, energy and carbon.
Agritech company Farmbot is seeking a Sydney-based sustainability and natural capital partnerships manager.
JLL has a vacancy for a Brisbane-based associate director - energy and sustainability services.
Origin Energy is recruiting a Brisbane-based product lifecycle analyst (carbon and energy), and a Sydney-based commercial carbon lead.
Stockland is hiring a Sydney-based sustainability strategic projects manager.
VicGrid is recruiting a regional engagement manager for Gippsland, with a focus on transmission infrastructure and renewable energy zones.
Company news and resources
BlueScope's head of sustainability, Tim Rodsted, has provided details on the company's sustainability plans at a Sustainability Leaders Summit.
Netherlands-based environmental markets company DGB Group says it is developing a biodiversity credits project in Australia, in conjunction with a local partner.
GPT Group has released its first integrated climate and nature disclosure statement.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission has finalised rules on climate-related disclosures.

The UN Environment Programme has released its 2024 Global Resources Outlook.

The RE100 international alliance has released its latest annual report.

The sustainable bond market has grown rapidly, says a new OECD report on bond markets.

"At the end of 2023, the outstanding global amount of sustainable corporate and official-sector bonds totalled USD 4.3 trillion, up from USD 641 billion just five years ago," the OECD says.

"This has made it a key source of funding for both governments and companies to accelerate their transition to a low-carbon economy," it says.

"The growth of the sustainable bond market calls for a detailed assessment of its functioning. Sustainable bonds typically allow for the refinancing of concluded eligible projects, rather than new ones, and issuers are not penalised for failing to use all proceeds to finance eligible projects."

Australian news items in all issues of ESG Snapshot can be searched by relevant Sustainable Development Goal category. To do this, click on the '17 SDGs' link at the top of this web page, or on any of the SDG keys below.

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