Environmental report 2016–17

Ecologically sustainable development and environmental performance

Date published:
1 October 2017

This report details the department's environmental performance and contribution to ecologically sustainable development, and supplements our 2016–17 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 communication technology, etc.).

The department also 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.

This report summarises the department’s environmental performance for the 2016–17 financial year, in line with the above requirements, and specifically outlines the department’s energy and emissions performance and usage trends in each of the EEGO ‘end-use categories’:

  • office buildings (tenant light and power – TLP)
  • other buildings (i.e., computer centres, laboratories, public buildings, warehouses, storage facilities),
  • passenger vehicles and other forms of transport.

Contribution of core business activities to ESD

Information about the department’s core business activities can be found in Appendix A5 of the annual report.

Operational environmental performance

In the delivery of its role and functions, the department’s operational activities consume resources and generate waste. Operational activities identified as having a significant impact on the environment include:

  • building operations (use of energy and water, generation of waste)
  • tenancy refurbishments
  • the procurement, operation and disposal of ICT and office equipment
  • the procurement and disposal of stationery (including paper)
  • 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 key performance indicators of sustainability performance throughout 2016–17 and its progress towards achieving mandatory EEGO Policy targets are summarised below in Table 1. 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.

Table 1: environmental performance KPIs

Performance measure and indicator Target 2014–15 2015–16 2016–17 Change (%)
Energy use        
Total energy consumption (GJ) 1 n.a.* 85,190 7 85,829 84,642 -1%
Stationary energy (GJ) - buildings n.a.* 75,135 7 77,321 76,878 -1%
Total green power consumption (GJ) n.a.* 5,345 7 5,311 23 -99%
PV Energy (GJ) n.a.* 798 7 1,150 1,196 +4%
Energy intensity: TLP 2 (MJ/person/annum) ≤7,500 5,447 7 4,971 4,334 -13%
Energy intensity: CS 3 (MJ/m2) ≤400 n.a.* n.a.* n.a.* n.a.*
Energy intensity: laboratories (MJ/m2) n.a.* 1,189 7 1,183 1,204 +2%
Energy intensity: public buildings (MJ/m2 n.a.* 485 7 469 497 +6%
Energy intensity: other buildings (MJ/m2) n.a.* 145 7 351 413 +18%
Energy intensity: computer Centres (MJ/m2) n.a.* 23,880 7 23,801 20,833 -12%
Net greenhouse gas emissions (t CO2-e) from energy use n.a.* 16,251 7 16,176 17,135 +6%
Water use        
Total metered potable water use 5 (KL) n.a.* n.a.** 31,991 37,291 +17%
ICT sustainability          
Desktop energy per end user (kWh/annum) ≤250 277 270 253 -6%
Desktop computers off after hours 4 90% 45% 58% 65% 12%
Desktop computers to printer ratio 20:01 15:01 7 15:01 15:01 0%
Power usage effectiveness (PUE) - computer centres and data rooms ≤1.90 1.72 1.88 1.60 -15%
Resource efficiency and waste        
Office paper recycled - offices nationally (tonnes) 5 n.a.* 97.69 73.99 72.13 -3%
Total waste diverted from landfill - offices nationally (tonnes) 5 n.a.* 137.63 123.24 134.88 +9%
Total waste produced - offices nationally (tonnes) 5 n.a.* 193.84 186.54 218.18 +17%
Percentage of waste diverted from landfill (ACT office sites only) 5 n.a.* 71% 66% 60% -9%
Total waste diverted from landfill - public buildings (tonnes) n.a.* 25.90 33.00 37.39 +13%
Total waste produced - public buildings (tonnes) n.a.* 68.77 68.10 85.43 +25%
Percentage of waste diverted from landfill (public buildings) n.a.* 38% 48% 44% -8%
Air travel        
Total number of flights (trips) n.a.* 20,722 23,957 25,658 +7%
Total distance of flights (km) n.a.* 21,295,416 26,439,072 24,402,300 -8%
Vehicle fleet        
Transport energy (GJ) - all vehicles n.a.* 10,056 7 8,507 8 7,764 -9%
Energy intensity: passenger vehicles only (MJ/km) n.a.* 2.93 7 3.48 8 3.62 +4%
Total fuel purchased (KL) - passenger vehicles only n.a.* 270.72 7 219 8 197.89 -10%
Total fuel purchased (KL) - passenger vehicles only n.a.* 2,937,169 2,001,056 8 1,764,170 -12%
Copy paper purchased by FTE 6 (reams per person per annum) 9 5 7 7 0%
Percentage of paper purchased: 100 per cent post-consumer recycled content 100% 99% 82% 99% 21%

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 (passenger 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 AC.

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. Some data has been estimated for periods when contracts were transitioned to new providers and accurate metrics were not available.

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 not received in time for reporting.

Mitigation measures and methods for reviewing effectiveness

Various measures taken by the department to minimise the 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

Total energy

The department’s total portfolio annual energy consumption remained relatively steady in 2016–17. The total includes transport and stationary energy sectors. Over the last ten years, total portfolio energy increased 6%, despite a 42% increase in staff and a 103% increase in total nett lettable area (NLA). Total stationary energy consumption in buildings decreased 1% and accounted for 81% of total energy consumed.

The breakdown of 2016–17 NLA and stationary energy use by end use category is detailed in the pie graphs below. Whilst the majority of the department’s NLA is office space, this category only used thirteen percent of total energy (10,149 GJ). Laboratories continue to consume the largest proportion of energy (45,974 GJ) relative to their proportion of total NLA. Auditing and understanding laboratory energy use has therefore been an ongoing priority for the department to enable identification and effective implementation of key energy efficiency initiatives. Other buildings and public buildings occupy 15.0% and 11.5% of total NLA and consume ten and nine percent of energy respectively (7,620 GJ and 7,030 GJ). The department’s computer centres occupy the smallest area (0.2%) and use eight percent of total energy (6,104 GJ).

Energy consumption at the department’s head office and largest tenancy, Industry House in Canberra, increased by only one percent to 11,511 GJ in 2016 to 2017, despite a twenty percent increase in staff. Recent consolidation of Canberra accommodation, ICT improvements and tenancy upgrades contributed to this performance.

The pie graph provides a percentage breakdown of the department’s property portfolio Net Lettable area (NLA) in 2016-17 by EEGO Policy end use category. It shows that the majority of the department’s NLA is office space at 42.2%. Laboratory sites comprise 31.1% of NLA, Other Buildings 15%, Public Buildings 11.5% and computer Centres 0.2% of NLA.

The pie graph provides a percentage breakdown of the department’s property portfolio energy consumption in 2016-17 by EEGO Policy end use category. It shows that 60% of the department’s energy is used by laboratory sites, 13% office sites, 10% Other Buildings, 9% Public Buildings and 8% computer centres.

Energy intensity

EEGO energy intensity KPIs and targets for each building category in 2016–17 are listed in Table 1. In 2016–17, the department made a 13% improvement on 2015–16’s energy intensity for office tenant light and power, achieving an energy intensity of 4,334 MJ/person/annum. This indicates excellent progress in the energy efficiency of our agency’s office spaces and is a 24% improvement compared to 2007–08 data, which indicates more effectively, the real progress made in tenancy energy efficiency over the last decade. The department does not currently report against the mandatory central services (CS) target of 400 MJ/m2/ annum, as it does not have any properties in this end use category.

The 12% decrease in energy intensity in the computer centre category to 20,833 MJ/m2/annum was offset to some extent by energy intensity increases in public buildings (6%; 497 MJ/m2/annum), laboratories (2%; 1,204 MJ/m2/annum ) and other buildings (18%; 413 MJ/m2/annum). These higher trends are primarily due to additional sites being leased and access to more site data for reporting in 2016–17 (changes to leases and utility metering).

Emissions and GreenPower

Stationary energy emissions increased 6% to 16,669 tonnes CO2-e primarily due to an almost 100% reduction in GreenPower purchasing at all sites in the ACT with the transition to a new whole of government electricity contract in July 2016. The department nominated 0% purchase of GreenPower for all sites in the four year contract. GreenPower is still being purchased for a number of small interstate sites, under different electricity contracts.

Office building and other facility end use categories account for the majority of the department’s greenhouse gas emissions (17,135 tonnes CO2-e) due to the greater greenhouse impact of electricity, compared to other fuel types. Consequently, energy saving strategies in buildings offers the greatest potential for reducing the department’s greenhouse emissions.

The pie chart indicates that in 2016-17, stationary energy used by buildings accounts for 97% of greenhouse gas emissions, while transport energy accounts for 3% of greenhouse gas emissions.

The pie chart indicates that in 2016-17, 98% of electricity was sourced from black power and 2% of electricity was sourced from Solar PV.

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) during the reporting period included:

  • 2 Philip Law St, Canberra: 5 stars Tenancy | 5 stars Base building
  • 10 Binara St, Industry House, 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.

Main office tenancy

In 2016–17, the department collaborated with relevant stakeholders to review the capability and functionality of the Building Management System (BMS) software in our largest office tenancy at Industry House. This identified software limitations and recommended specific requirements for more detailed energy analysis and energy performance reporting to inform the tenancy’s energy management plan. New BMS graphical interface and energy metering display software was installed with new virtual metering and improved energy monitoring and metering reporting.

The department participated nationally in Earth Hour on 25th March 2017, to promote greenhouse emission awareness and to review lighting system operations.

The department continues to enhance governance processes through the annual review and reporting on its environmental performance. Table 1 above outlines the department’s performance against the EEGO policy (and former ICT Sustainability Plan) targets over time.

Waste performance

In 2016–17, the department continued to reduce the impacts of waste on the environment through a continued focus on more sustainable long term waste management practices in tenancies around Australia. The main objectives included:

  • developing and implementing a strategic waste management system that delivers coordinated and consistent internal and external waste infrastructure, on site processes, cleaning and waste services from contractors, and communication and awareness material for staff and contractors
  • improving waste monitoring, measurability and reporting capability.

To enable increased waste separation, recovery and diversion from landfill, the department’s National Waste Program is based on five key practices: streaming recyclable and non-recyclable waste into separate bins, colour-coding bins and signage to Australian Waste Standards (AS 4123.7–2008 ), locating bins in central areas where waste is created, providing under-desk recycling bins that staff sort, check and keep clean and removing general waste (non-recycling) bins from individual work stations.

Given the dynamic nature of the government leasing environment, bin infrastructure utilised by the department has been designed and standardised to meet short and long term needs, so that it can be relocated to any site around Australia. Multi-bin ‘waste and recycling stations’ are designed to fit any kitchen floor plan and be easily recognised and understood by staff based at any site (e.g. look, colour, style, and signage), similar to an exit sign.

The department diverted at least 178 tonnes of waste from landfill in 2016–17 at offices, laboratories and public buildings around Australia (where metrics are reported). Waste recycling streams included: comingled or mixed recycling, paper, food organics, batteries, soft plastics, toner cartridges, expanded polystyrene and cardboard.

The waste management system in offices, laboratories and public buildings continued to achieve very good results, with ten tonnes of organic material diverted from landfill over the reporting year, reducing emissions and producing beneficial worm castings and compost.

Main office tenancy (Industry house, Canberra)

The department transitioned to a new waste and clearing contractor in August 2016 for all ACT office and public building sites, which resulted in significant changes to systems, processes and staff. Due to loss of waste data during the transition period, data for part of the reporting period had to be estimated, which may not reflect actual overall performance. Extensive flexible workplace refurbishments at Industry House may have contributed to the 17% increase in total waste generated in 2016–17 at Industry House, from 124.9 tonnes to 145.5 tonnes. Below is a summary of the site’s performance:

  • Total waste generated: 279 g/person/day
  • Recyclables recovery rate: 161 g/person/day
  • Recycling rate: 57%

Cleaning up our rubbish in other states

Early in 2017, the waste management system at one the department’s Victorian sites underwent a major redesign and overhaul to align with the standardised program. This involved extensive auditing, waste profile analysis, staff consultation, staff training, collaboration with new cleaning and waste contractor, new infrastructure and the introduction of new recycling streams. Prior to the launch, the site generated 83 tonnes of waste per year, with 56 tonnes landfilled. The site’s recycling rate more than doubled to 67% after just one month using the new system. Out of four tonnes of waste generated in the first month, 1.3 tonnes was landfilled and 2.7 tonnes was recycled, with 50% of total waste (2 tonnes) sent for composting, as organic recycling.

Water usage

Water consumption includes all water supplied to the premises. The department’s water use is typically associated with tenant fixtures and fittings. Water consumption increased by 32% with 37,291kL purchased in 2016/17. Four sites contributed approximately 95% of the department’s water consumption:

  • 36 Bradfield Rd, Lindfield, NSW
  • Coonabarabran, Siding Spring, NSW
  • King Edward Terrace, Parkes, ACT
  • 106 Reichardt Rd, Winnellie, NT.

The majority of the increase in water consumption across the portfolio in 2016/17 was due to an increase at 36 Bradfield Rd of almost 100%, or 9,200 kL.

The proportion of water consumption by building category is provided in the graph below:

The pie chart indicates the department’s water consumption by EEGO end use category (or building type). It shows that 69% of water usage occurred in laboratory sites, 21% in other buildings and 10% in public buildings.

ICT Sustainability

End user compute environment

The department has invested in more energy efficient monitors for staff which save around 40% on power compared to the existing fleet of monitors. Users are automatically logged off virtual desktops each day. The majority of the virtual desktops are then shutdown overnight and on weekends, with only the small number left running for users logging in at these times. The department has seen a 10% decrease in the number of printers, due to a smaller floor area in use by our staff after refurbishments. The department has reduced its desktop device per end user ratio from 1.26:1 in 2015–16 to 1.19:1 in 2016–17.

Main data centre

The Power Use Effectiveness (PUE) for the main data centre and data rooms has decreased by 15% to 1.6 in 2016–17 and is the result of the following improvements:

  • replacement\installation of ten more efficient, high density racks
  • decommissioning aging, inefficient IBM ICT hardware
  • turning off and resting one of the three air conditioners full time
  • consolidation of hardware and services from VANguard and Macquarie Telecom data centres within the existing cooling abilities.

Data rooms

Improvements have been made in the department’s largest office tenancy at Industry House in Canberra to increase cooling and enable after hours hot air extraction in the main data room. All other data rooms across eight office floors are set to incorporate the same improvements in 2017–2018.

Planned works to further improve the efficiency further in 2017–18 include the following:

  • replacement and installation of new racks which are currently being used for networking equipment
  • removal of 90% of all underfloor copper and fibre cables to increase airflow efficiency.

Performance of public buildings: Questacon

Questacon is transitioning to the new international standard for environmental management systems, ISO 14001–2015. In preparation for the transition Questacon has:

  • introduced a new environmental policy that better reflects the context and goals of the organisation
  • established the Questacon Sustainability Group to improve communications and awareness of environmental and sustainability issues at Questacon
  • completed an assessment of environmental risks and opportunities.

Questacon has reduced lighting and general power consumption in Gallery Two by over 65%, following a recent upgrade which included replacement of metal halide exhibition lights with energy efficient LEDs.

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 one hundred percent recycled paper targets outlined in the former Australian Government ICT sustainability plan for general use office copy paper.

Transport energy – vehicles

Transport energy reported by the department relates to two types of fleet vehicles used: passenger vehicles (less than 3.5 tonnes) and ‘other vehicles’ (larger than 3.5 tonnes).

In 2016–17, the transport sector accounted for 9% of the department’s total energy use (which includes stationary energy—building gas and electricity). Total transport energy decreased 9% to 7,764GJ in the 2016–17 reporting year, which resulted in a 6% reduction in associated transport related emissions from 495.5 tonnes CO2-e in 2015–16 to 466 tonnes CO2-e 2016–17.

Passenger vehicles

Passenger vehicles continue to account for 82% of the department’s transport energy use, with a total of 6,391 GJ. Whilst the number of fleet vehicles in this category decreased 6% over the reporting period, energy use decreased by 8% and distance travelled decreased by 12%, the energy intensity (i.e., energy consumption per kilometre travelled measured in MJ/km) increased by 4% from 3.48 to 3.62 in 2016–17. Contributing factors to this increase could be: 71% of the fuel used by passenger vehicles was gasoline, which comprises ULP and PULP - this fuel type has a higher fuel energy content factor (34.2 GJ/kL) than other fuel types; the fleet now includes less e-10 fuelled (23.4 GJ/km) vehicles and no LPG fuelled vehicles (26.2 GJ/km).

Other vehicles

In 2016–17, the department reported a total energy use of 1,372 GJ within the other transport category, which accounted for 18% of total transport energy use. The number of department vehicles larger than 3.5 tonnes remained at eight in 2016–17, however they consumed 11% less diesel fuel compared to 2015–16 (35.553 KL) due to lower mileage.

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