Environmental report 2017–18

Ecologically sustainable development and operational environmental performance

Date published:
1 October 2018

This report details the department's environmental performance and contribution to ecologically sustainable development, and supplements our 2017–18 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). Under the Act, government departments are to report annually on:

  • how their activities accord with the principles of ecologically sustainable development (ESD), at subsection 6a of the EPBC Act
  • how their outcomes, as specified in relevant appropriation acts, contributed to ecologically sustainable development, at subsection 6b of the EPBC Act
  • 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, at subsections 6c, d and e of the EPBC Act.

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 performance targets.

The department’s environmental performance for the 2017–18 financial year, in line with the above requirements, is summarised below.

Contribution of core business activities to ecologically sustainable development

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

Operational environmental performance

The department’s 2017–18 environmental performance and its progress towards achieving the mandatory EEGO targets are summarised below in the table at Figure 1. The performance indicators also satisfy the requirements of the EPBC Act section 516A 6c, by quantifying the department’s environmental impact on the natural environment and the trend over time.

This report specifically outlines the department’s energy and emissions performance and usage trends in each of the EEGO ‘end-use categories’:

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

The department strives to minimise the effect of its operational activities on the environment, ensure best practice, and drive improved performance and accountability.

Figure 1: Table of environmental performance indicators

Performance target and actuals Target 2015–16 2016–17 2017–18 Change
Energy use        
Total energy consumption (GJ) 1 n.a.* 85,829 84,642 73,226 -13%
Stationery energy (GJ) - buildings n.a.* 77,321 76,878 66,259 -14%
Total green power consumption (GJ) n.a.* 5,311 23 19 -17%
PV energy 1a n.a.* 1,150 1,196 358 -70%
Energy intensity: TLP 2 (MJ/person/annum) ≤7,500 4,971 4,334 4353 0.40%
Energy intensity: CS 3 (MJ/m2)   ≤400 n.a.* n.a.* n.a.* n.a.*
Energy intensity: laboratories  (MJ/m2)   n.a.* 1,183 1,204 1142 -5%
Energy intensity: public buildings (MJ/m2)   n.a.* 469 497 460 -7%
Energy intensity: other buildings (MJ/m2)   n.a.* 351 413 183 -56%
Energy intensity: computer centres (MJ/m2)   n.a.* 23,801 20,833 17,922 -14%
Net greenhouse gas emissions (t CO2-e) from energy use n.a.* 16,176 17,135 15,071 -12%
Water use        
Total metered potable water use 5 (KL) n.a.* 31,991 37,291 29,913 -20%
ICT sustainability        
Desktop energy per end user  (kWh/annum) ≤250 270 253 248 -2%
Desktop computers off after hours 4 90% 58% 65% 62% -5%
Desktop computers to printer ratio 20:01 15:01 15:01 15:01 0%
Power usage effectiveness (PUE)  - computer centres and data rooms ≤1.90 1.88 1.60 1.65 3%
Resource efficiency and waste        
Office paper recycled - offices nationally (tonnes) 5 n.a.* 73.99 72.13 66.52 -8%
Total waste diverted from landfill - offices nationally (tonnes) 5 n.a.* 123.24 134.88 117.12 -13%
Total waste produced - offices nationally (tonnes) 5 n.a.* 186.54 218.18 179.21 -18%
Percentage of waste diverted from landfill (ACT office sites only) 5 n.a.* 66% 60% 65% 7%
Total waste diverted from landfill - public buildings (tonnes) 5 n.a.* 33.00 37.39 23.71 -37%
Total waste produced - public buildings (tonnes) 5 n.a.* 68.10 85.43 59.72 -30%
Percentage of waste diverted from landfill (public buildings) 5 n.a.* 48% 44% 40% -9%
Air travel        
Total number of flights (trips) n.a.* 23,957 25,658 19,036 -26%
Total distance of flights (km) n.a.* 26,439,072 24,402,300 22,948,879 -6%
Vehicle fleet        
Transport energy (GJ) - all vehicles n.a.* 8,507 7,764 6,967 -27%
Energy intensity: passenger vehicles only (MJ/km)   n.a.* 3.48 3.62 3.21 -11%
Total fuel purchased (KL) – passenger vehicles only n.a.* 219 197.89 175.38 -11%
Total distance travelled (km) – passenger vehicles only n.a.* 2,001,056 8 1,764,170 1,642,281 -7%
Copy paper purchased by FTE 6 (reams per person per annum) 9 7 7 6 -14%
Percentage of paper purchased: 100 per cent post-consumer recycled content 100% 82% 99% 100% 1%

GJ = gigajoule; kWh = kilowatt hour; m² = square metre; MJ = mega joule; 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).

1a the significant drop in the PV rating was due to the vacation of the Nishi Building

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, this was down from previous years so the figures are not wholly comparable. 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.

Mitigation measures and methods for reviewing effectiveness

The measures undertaken by the department during 2017–18 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, in accordance with the requirements of EPBC Act section 516A 6d and e.

Office and building energy efficiency

Total energy

The department’s total portfolio annual energy consumption in 2017–18 decreased 13% to 73,362 GJ. The decrease is mainly due to the reduction in overall leased area, ongoing energy efficiency upgrades and reduced on-site server usage.

The department undertook energy audits at a number of its sites, with a focus on auditing and reviewing laboratory energy use. This is an ongoing priority as it has enabled the identification and effective implementation of energy efficiency upgrades which will continue into 2018–19.

Energy intensity

The department’s performance remained consistent against the EEGO target for office tenant light and power and energy intensity. Energy intensity in the other buildings category has reduced by 56%, which may be an anomaly as not all AAO data was available.

Emissions and GreenPower

Stationary energy emissions decreased 12% due to the department’s exit from the Nishi building and the loss of the benefit from the photo-voltaic solar array at that site.

The office building and other facility end use categories account for the majority of the department’s greenhouse gas emissions, which is due to the greater greenhouse impact of electricity, compared to other fuel types. Consequently, energy saving strategies in buildings offers the greatest potential for further reductions to the department’s greenhouse emissions.

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 (>2,000sqm) during the reporting period included:

  • 10 Binara St, Canberra: 4.5-stars for tenancy and 5-stars for base building
  • 341 George St Sydney: 5-stars for tenancy and 4-stars for base building.
Main office tenancy

The Building Management System (BMS) at the department’s main tenancy, Industry House in Canberra, received a software update during 2017–18, which has provided detailed energy analysis and energy performance reporting to inform the tenancy’s energy management plan.

Earth Hour

The department participated nationally in Earth Hour on 24th March 2018, to promote greenhouse emission awareness and to review lighting system operations.

Continual improvement

The department continues to monitor environmental performance and will work with the new Property Service Provider, Evolve FM, to improve its processes and reporting.

Waste performance

To increase waste separation, recovery and diversion from landfill, the department has continued to educate staff about its National Waste Program. The 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
  • removing general waste (non-recycling) bins from individual workstations.

The department continues to reduce waste and improve its long term waste management practices, with the 2017–18 outcomes including:

  • 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
  • the department diverted approximately 161 tonnes of waste from landfill in 2017–18 at offices, laboratories and public buildings around Australia.
  • improved awareness of waste recycling opportunities and streams, which includes: comingled or mixed recycling, paper, food organics, batteries, soft plastics, toner cartridges, expanded polystyrene and cardboard
  • the department reported a 63% recycling rate for its Canberra offices and a 40% recycling rate for its public buildings. The waste management system in offices, laboratories and public buildings continued to achieve very good results, with 18 tonnes of organic material diverted from landfill over the reporting year, reducing emissions and producing beneficial worm castings and compost.

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.

Snapshot of waste at two tenancies

The performance of waste reduction efforts at Industry House (an office) is as follows:

  • Total waste generated: 238 g/person/day
  • Recyclables recovery rate: 150 g/person/day
  • Recycling rate: 63%

By comparison, the annual waste performance at a Victorian laboratory site is as follows:

  • Total waste generated: 33 tonnes
  • Total landfill: 16 tonnes
  • Total recycled: 17 tonnes
  • Total organics: 9 tonnes – this is due to a focussed education campaign and high staff participation rates, and will form the model for future roll-out across the department

ICT sustainability

End user computer environment

The department is progressively updating monitors throughout all offices. The new monitors are more energy efficient. They are also larger and replace the current dual-screen arrangement, thereby using less power. The department’s virtual desktop system automatically logs staff off at the end of each day or after periods of inactivity. The virtual desktops also shut down overnight and on weekends, with only the small number left running for staff who work at these times. This helps to reduce the power usage at the desk and within the data centre.

Main data centre and data rooms

The power use effectiveness (PUE) for the main data centre and data rooms has increased from 1.60 to 1.65 in 2017–18. Improvements were made to the main data centre’s cooling and after-hours hot air extraction that also lead to reduced energy consumption. All other data rooms across 10 office floors are set to incorporate the same cooling improvements in 2018–2019.

Other improvements in 2017–18 included:

  • the ongoing replacement and installation of the 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 successfully transitioned to the new international standard for environmental management systems, ISO 14001-2015.

Other highlights include:

  • the environmental policy has been successful in reflecting the context and goals of the organisation
  • the Questacon Sustainability Group continues to improve communications and awareness of environmental and sustainability issues at Questacon
  • a waste audit was undertaken in June 2018, with recommendations to be implemented 2018–19.

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 usage of recycled paper 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). Total transport energy decreased 10%, resulting in a 9% reduction in transport related emissions.

Passenger vehicles

Passenger vehicles continue to account for 82% of the department’s transport energy use. The number of fleet vehicles in this category decreased over the reporting period, energy use also decreased by eight per cent and distance travelled decreased by twelve percent, the energy intensity (i.e., energy consumption per kilometre travelled measured in MJ/km) decreased by eleven per cent from 3.62 to 3.21 in 2017–18 which was effected by the decrease in fleet vehicles.

Other vehicles

In 2017–18, the department reported a total energy use of 1,305 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 reduced to seven in 2017-18, and they consumed less diesel fuel compared to 2016–17 due to lower mileage.

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