Environmental report 2015–16

Ecologically sustainable development and operational environmental performance

Date published:
1 October 2016

This report details the department's environmental performance and contribution to ecologically sustainable development, and supplements our 2015–16 annual report.

About this report

Commonwealth agencies are required to meet statutory annual reporting requirements under Section 516A of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act). Government departments are to report annually on:

  • how activities accord with the principles of ecologically sustainable development (ESD) (subsection (6)(a))
  • how outcomes, specified in relevant appropriation acts, contributed to ecologically sustainable development (subsection (6)(b))
  • environmental performance and impacts of operations during the year on the natural environment, the mitigating measures to minimise impacts and the mechanisms for monitoring and reviewing the effectiveness of measures (subsections (6) (c), (d) and (e)).

* ESD principles are defined in section 3A of the Act.

* ‘Activities’ are defined as core business (policy work, program delivery and the administration of legislation) and daily corporate operations (use of buildings, energy, vehicles, information and communications technology, etc.).

The department operates under the Australian Government’s Energy Efficiency in Government Operations (EEGO) Policy to improve the energy efficiency and reduce the whole of life cost and impact of government operations. Under EEGO, agencies are required to comply with energy intensity performance targets, minimum energy performance standards for government tenanted office buildings and appliances, and provide annual reporting of energy consumption against core performance indicators.

The department’s environmental performance for the 2015–16 financial year, in line with the above requirements, is summarised below.


Contribution of core business activities to ESD

The department seeks to uphold the principles of ESD through the development and delivery of policies, plans, programmes, legislation, advice, education, and scientific services that reflect economic as well as environmental and social sustainability. For example, in 2015–16:

  • the Cooperative Research Centres (CRC) Programme enabled industry-led research partnerships to solve specific industry problems, with CRCs addressing a range of challenges facing Australia including ecological sustainability
  • the Leading Practice Sustainable Development Program for the mining industry provided practical guidance to the mining industry and other stakeholders to assist with the implementation of leading practice to improve social and environmental performance
  • through the National Measurement Institute, the department provided scientific services to government, regulators, industry and research stakeholders, including measurement and testing services to support planning and decision making on environment-related issues.

Implementation of these activities integrates both long-term and short-term economic, environmental, social and equitable considerations. Further information about the department’s core business activities can be found in the 2015–16 annual report.

Operational environmental performance

The department’s corporate operational activities consume resources and generate waste. Operations are the things an organisation has to do in order to carry out its business. Operational activities identified as having a significant impact on the environment include: building operations (use of energy and water), refurbishments, the procurement, operation and disposal of ICT equipment, the procurement and disposal of stationery (including paper) and the use of fleet vehicles. The department strives to minimise the effect of its operational activities on the environment, ensure best practice and drive improved performance and accountability.

The department’s sustainability performance throughout 2015–16 and progress towards achieving mandatory targets in the EEGO Policy are summarised below in the key performance indicator table. These indicators also satisfy EPBC Act requirements under s516A (6) (c) by quantifying the department’s environmental effects on the natural environment and their trends over time.

Key performance indicators of environmental performance:

Performance measure and indicator Target 2013–14 2014–15 2015–16 Change (%)
Energy use        
Total energy consumption (GJ) 1 n.a.* 86,436 85,190 7 85,829 1%
Stationery energy (GJ) – buildings n.a.* 75,175 75,135 7 77,321 3%
Total green power consumption (GJ) n.a.* 5,382 5,345 7 5,311 -1%
PV Energy (GJ) n.a.* n.a.** 798 7 1,150 44%
Energy intensity: TLP 2 (MJ/person/annum) ≤7,500 5,147 5,447 7 4,971 -9%
Energy intensity: CS 3 (MJ/m2)   ≤400 n.a.* n.a.* n.a.* n.a.*
Energy intensity: laboratories (MJ/m2)   n.a.* 1,487 1,189 7 1,183 -1%
Energy intensity: public buildings (MJ/m2)   n.a.* 451 485 7 469 -3%
Energy intensity: other buildings (MJ/m2)   n.a.* 107 145 7 351 142%
Energy intensity: computer centres (MJ/m2)  n.a.* 25,801 23,880 7 23,801 0%
Net greenhouse gas emissions (t CO2-e) from energy use n.a.* 24,498 16,251 7 16,176 0%
ICT sustainability        
Desktop energy per end user (kWh/annum) ≤250 336 277 270 -3%
Desktop computers off after hours 4 90% n.a.** 45% 58% 29%
Desktop computers to printer ratio 20:01 n.a.** 15:1 7 15:1 0%
Power usage effectiveness (PUE) – computer centres and data rooms ≤1.90 2.00 1.72 1.88 9%
Resource efficiency and waste        
Office paper recycled – offices nationally (tonnes) 5 n.a.* 115.69 97.69 73.99 -24%
Total waste diverted from landfill – offices nationally (tonnes) 5 n.a.* 155.96 137.63 123.24 -10%
Total waste produced – offices nationally (tonnes) 5 n.a.* 214.07 193.84 186.54 -4%
Percentage of waste diverted from landfill (ACT office sites only) 5 n.a.* 73% 71% 66% -7%
Total waste diverted from landfill – public buildings (tonnes) n.a.* n.a.** 25.90 33.00 27%
Total waste produced – public buildings (tonnes) n.a.* n.a.** 68.77 68.10 -1%
Percentage of waste diverted from landfill (public buildings) n.a.* n.a.** 38% 48% 26%
Air travel        
Total number of flights (trips) n.a.* 22,755 20,722 23,957 16%
Total number of flights (trips) n.a.* 22,314,887 21,295,416 26,439,072 24%
Vehicle fleet        
Transport energy (GJ) – all vehicles n.a.* 12,924 10,056 7 8,507 8 -15%
Energy intensity: passenger vehicles only (MJ/km) n.a.* 3.63 2.93 7 3.48 8 19%
Total fuel purchased (KL) – passenger vehicles only n.a.* 300.46 270.72 7 219 8 -19%
Total distance travelled (km) – passenger vehicles only n.a.* 3,102,446 2,937,169 2,001,056 8 -32%
Copy paper purchased by FTE 6 (reams per person per annum) 9 6 5 7 40%
Percentage of paper purchased: 100 per cent post-consumer recycled content 100% 95% 99% 82% -17%

GJ = gigajoule; kWh = kilowatt hour; m2 = square metre; MJ = megajoule; n.a.* = not applicable; n.a.* = not available, t CO2-e = tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent; t = tonnes

1 Includes transport and stationary energy sectors (all vehicles, offices, public buildings, laboratories, warehouses and data centres).

2 TLP: tenant light and power - energy used for tenant operations in office space, including lighting, office equipment, and supplementary air conditioning.

3 CS: central services - a measurement of energy used providing services common to all tenants in office building, including building air conditioning, lifts, security and lobby lighting and domestic hot water.

4 Relates to virtual desktop.

5 Relates to only those sites where data was available from providers. E-waste has not been included.

6 General use office copy paper is regarded as plain A4 size paper, mostly 80gsm.

7 Figures updated based on revised or additional 2014-15 FY data.

8 Transport data for 2015-16 included 161 passenger vehicles, data for an additional 14 vehicles with Leaseplan was not received in time for reporting.

Mitigation measures and methods for reviewing effectiveness

The measures taken by the department to minimise effects of its operational activities on the environment and the mechanisms for monitoring and reviewing the effectiveness of measures to reduce impacts, are outlined below (EPBC Act requirements under s516A (6) (d) (e)).

Office and building efficiency

2015–16 annual EEGO performance

The department’s total energy consumption remained steady in 2015–16 with an increase of 1% to 85,829 GJ. Stationary energy (buildings) consumption remained reasonably consistent with a 3% increase to 77,318 GJ. Laboratory sites constitute the largest proportion (60%) of total portfolio energy, with tenant light and power contributing 13%. The charts below provide a breakdown of total energy by end use category (building type), along with the proportion of energy sourced in 2015/16. Total solar energy reported increased by 44%, with a minor decrease in output of the Nishi solar PV system offset by additional reporting data being available for the Questacon PV system in 2015/16. The department purchased 5,311 GJ of green power from electricity services in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory, procured through the whole-of-government electricity contract. Total emissions remained steady at 16,176 t CO2-e, with 97% of emissions attributable to stationary energy.

Key EEGO energy intensity performance indicators for each building category in the 2015–16 FY are listed in the table above with targets. The department continues to meet the EEGO Policy’s mandatory energy intensity target of 7,500 MJ/FTE for tenant light and power for 2015/16, with an energy intensity of 4,971 MJ/FTE (9% improvement compared to 2014/15). The department does not currently report against the mandatory central services (CS) target of 400 MJ per metre squared per annum, as it does not currently have any properties in this end use category. Public building energy intensity improved 3%, whilst the energy intensity for ‘other buildings’ increased 142%, primarily due to additional data being available for reporting in 2015/16.

Pie chart of electricity sources

Pie chart of energy consumption by end use


Pie chart of emissions sources

EEGO Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS)

The energy performance of the property portfolio is rated using the National Built Environment Rating System (NABERS) for offices. The department strives to occupy office buildings and tenancies that are designed to achieve the EEGO Policy’s minimum energy performance standard of at least 4.5 stars. NABERS office energy ratings (without green power) for the department’s largest office tenancies (>2,000m2) currently include:

  • 2 Philip Law St, Canberra: 5 stars Tenancy | 5 stars Base building
  • 10 Binara St, Canberra: 4.5 stars Tenancy | 5 stars Base building
  • 341 George St Sydney: 5 stars Tenancy | 4 stars Base building.

To ensure that the department’s larger tenancies operate at the required level of energy efficiency, in line with EEGO minimum energy performance standards, landlord and tenant obligations are managed under Green Lease Schedules by implementing site-based energy management plans, quarterly building management committee meetings, quarterly energy reporting and separate metering.

The department also participated in Earth Hour on 19th March 2016 to promote greenhouse emission awareness and to review lighting system operations.

A project has been initiated to carry out detailed energy audits at two of the department’s largest energy usage sites (laboratories) to benchmark energy usage and identify energy opportunities. Implementation will commence in 2016–17. Recommendations from an audit of the Lighting Control System's passive infra-red (PIR) occupancy sensors, located in its main Canberra office tenancy, are also currently under review.

The department continues to enhance governance processes through the annual review and reporting on its environmental performance. The table above outlines the department’s performance against the EEGO Policy (and former ICT sustainability plan) targets over time.


The department diverted a total of 156.24 tonnes of waste from landfill in 2015-16 at offices and public buildings around Australia. The organisation currently has an approximate 66 per cent diversion rate for its offices in Canberra and 48% for public buildings overall (a 26% increase on last financial year). The waste management system in Canberra offices and public buildings continued to achieve very good results, with 9.82 tonnes of organic material diverted from landfill to vermiculture—reducing emissions and producing beneficial worm castings and compost.

ICT sustainability

PUE performance

Power usage effectiveness (PUE) for computer centres and data rooms has increased 9% in 2015–16. This is despite various improvement measures including:

  • the activation of a hardware modernisation project to replace a number of infrastructure components in the Industry House Data Centre
  • newer hardware commissioned and data centre hardware consolidated
  • refresh of a large number of server racks, enabling better airflow and more efficient cooling properties.

Planned works for 2016–17 to lower the PUE include: (a) the consolidation of hardware from the Macquarie Telecom Data Centre (Sydney) to Industry House in Canberra, which will reduce hosting and lease costs and minimise the ICT footprint (b) installation of motion activated lighting system in the Industry House data centre (c) removal of old copper cabling from under the Industry House data centre floor to improve air flow and cooling properties(d) completion of rack refresh milestone enabling a one third reduction of cooling required and resulting savings in data centre power facilities costs.

Planning commenced in 2015–16 to improve the operational efficiency of data rooms in 2016–17 through: the relocation of room temperature sensors, extraction fans and air supply; increasing cool air flow during hours from existing vents; and the installation of large speed variable extraction fans for hot air to increase speed after hours when cool air is not available.

End user compute environment

The proportion of desktop computers turned off after hours has increased 29% in 2015–16. VDI machines and thick clients have been programmed to log off users after 3 hours in a disconnected state, assisting to return resource capacity to the VDI environment and to minimise power usage in non-work periods. Thin client physical devices remain on outside business hours to enable security and Microsoft patches on end point devices. Monitors on thick and thin clients go into standby mode after 20 minutes of inactivity, saving up to 98% of normal peak load. The department has a desktop device per end user ratio of 1.26:1.

Performance of public buildings: Questacon

In October 2015 Questacon introduced measures to assist the cleaners to actively divert recyclable material from general waste bins to mixed recycling. Prior to this, mixed recycling was approximately 38% of the total waste generated at Questacon’s Parkes centre. This figure increased to over 53% following introduction of the measures.

Questacon introduced measures to separately monitor café waste and to increase the proportion of café waste sent to recyclers by providing incentives for improved waste management practices.

Communication and training were added to Questacon’s environmental objectives and targets. One of the key targets was 75% completion of the ACTSmart business recycling training, which is aimed at improving staff waste management practices awareness and practises. On achievement of the objective, Questacon was awarded ACTSmart business recycling accreditation.

Procurement of goods and services

In line with the requirements of the Commonwealth Procurement Rules, the department considers environmental sustainability as part of its value for money assessment. The department’s procurement and grants toolkit provides templates and guidance to assist staff on undertaking procurement sustainably. The department maintains 100% recycled paper targets outlined in the Australian Government ICT Sustainability Plan 2010–2015 for general use office copy paper.

Transport energy – vehicles

Transport energy decreased 15% to 8,507 GJ in 2015–16 which resulted in a reduction in associated transport related emissions from 574.6 tonnes CO2-e in 2014/15 to 500.6 tonnes CO2-e 2015/16. Contributing factors included a reduction in passenger fleet vehicles (234 passenger vehicles to 175) and vehicles larger than 3.5 tonnes (11 to 8), along with a 33% reduction in the number of LPG vehicles. The energy intensity of passenger vehicles increased 19% to 3.48 MJ/km, despite a 32% reduction in kilometres and a 19% reduction in fuel usage.

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