Environmental report 2018–19

Ecologically sustainable development and operational environmental performance

Date published:
1 October 2019

This report details the department's environmental performance and contribution to ecologically sustainable development, and supplements our 2018–19 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 2018–19 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 2018–19 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 2016–17 2017–18 2018–19 Change
Energy use
Total energy consumption (GJ) 1 n.a.* 84,642 73,226 70,073 -4%
Stationery energy (GJ) - buildings n.a.* 76,878 66,259 64,601 -3%
Total green power consumption (GJ) n.a.* 23 19 22 16%
PV energy1a n.a.* 1,196 358 432 20%
Energy intensity: TLP 2 (MJ/person/annum) ≤7,500 4,334 4,353 3,658 -16%
Energy intensity: CS 3 (MJ/m2)   ≤400 n.a.* n.a.* n.a.* n.a.*
Energy intensity: laboratories (MJ/m2)   n.a.* 1,204 1,142 1,153 1%
Energy intensity: public buildings (MJ/m2)   n.a.* 497 460 475 3%
Energy intensity: other buildings (MJ/m2)   n.a.* 413 183 227 23%
Energy intensity: computer centres (MJ/m2) n.a.* 20,833 17,922 19,650 10%
Net greenhouse gas emissions (t CO2-e) from energy use n.a.* 17,135 15,071 14,745 -2%
ICT sustainability
Desktop energy per end user (kWh/annum) ≤250 253 248 201.24 -19%
Desktop computers off after hours 4 90% 65% 62% 0% -100%
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 1.60 1.65 1.65 0%
Air travel
Total number of flights (trips) n.a.* 25,658 19,036 21,612 14%
Total distance of flights (km) n.a.* 24,402,300 22,948,879 25,329,599 10%
Vehicle fleet        
Transport energy (GJ) - all vehicles n.a.* 7,764 6,967 5,472 -21%
Energy intensity: passenger vehicles only (MJ/km) n.a.* 3.62 3.21 3.18 -1%
Total fuel purchased (KL) – passenger vehicles only n.a.* 197.89 175.38 143.35 -18%
Total distance travelled (km) – passenger vehicles only n.a.* 1,764,170 1,642,281 1,317,420 -20%
Copy paper purchased by FTE 5 (reams per person per annum) 9 7 6 6 0%
Percentage of paper purchased: 100 per cent post-consumer recycled content 100% 82% 99% 100% 1%

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

Note due to delays and issues with receiving accurate data from providers, it was decided to remove the waste along with the water use section from above. This will be reinstated for the 2019/20 FY report.

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 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 2018–19 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 (this includes transport and stationary energy sectors, i.e. passenger vehicles, offices, public buildings, laboratories, warehouses and data centres) in 2018–19 decreased 4% to 70,073 GJ. The decrease is mainly due to the reduction in overall leased area, reduced on-site server usage along with a decrease in passenger vehicle km and fuel usage.

Stationary energy consumption had a 2% reduction compared to 2017/18 which was as a result of the reduced leased area, server decommissioning and decreased electricity usage.

The department will focus on achieving outcomes from the laboratory energy audit commissioned in 17/18. This is an ongoing priority as it has enabled the identification of energy efficiency initiatives which will continue into 2019–20.

Energy intensity

The MJ/FTE for tenant light and power has improved from 4,353 MJ/FTE to 3,658 or a reduction of 16%, in line with the increased FTE count.

Emissions and green power

Stationary energy emissions had a 2% reduction which is in line with the similar reduction in stationary energy consumption noted above. There are 5 small sites that are currently purchasing 25% green power totalling 22 GJ which is an increase of 16% on 17/18.

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.

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, this has seen improvements in energy analysis and energy performance reporting during the current reporting period. A lighting audit has also been commissioned during the current period and this will see further improvements at this tenancy.

Earth Hour

The department participated nationally in Earth Hour on 30th March 2019, to promote greenhouse emission awareness and to review lighting system operations.

Continual improvement

The department continues to monitor environmental performance and will work with its Property Service Provider, Evolve FM, to improve its processes and reporting via the dedicated online ESP portal

ICT sustainability

End user computer environment:

The department has updated the majority of monitors for staff. This has resulted in the lowering of the desktop energy per end user as the new monitors are more energy efficient that the older models. The VDI model has changed to a hosted server model meaning the sessions persist through the night and therefore no desktops are shutdown. These servers are hosted on new hardware however which will lower the data centre power usage as a result.

Main data centre and data rooms

The power use effectiveness (PUE) for the main data centre and data rooms remained at 1.65 for 2018–19.

Other improvements in 2018–19 included:

  • the 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 is actively supporting the United Nations’ Sustainability Development Goals and is exploring opportunities to link core science communication activities with environmental awareness initiatives.

Other highlights include :

  • waste to landfill was 38% lower in 2018/19 when compared with 2017/18
  • the Questacon Sustainability Group continues to promote awareness of environmental and sustainability issues at Questacon
  • following a waste audit in June 2018, Questacon introduced a number of initiatives including a Container Deposit Scheme collection system and waste management changes to reduce organics sent to landfill.

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 21%, resulting in a 19% reduction in transport related emissions.

Passenger vehicles

Passenger vehicles continue to account for 87% of the department’s transport energy use. Energy use decreased by twenty six per cent and distance travelled decreased by twenty percent, which can be attributed to the return of AAO (Australian Astronomical Observatory) and EVS (Executive Vehicle Scheme) vehicles which have not been replaced. The energy intensity (i.e., energy consumption per kilometre travelled measured in MJ/km) decreased by one per cent from 3.21 to 3.18 in 2018–19 which was effected by the decrease in distance travelled.

Other vehicles

In 2018–19 the department reported a total energy use of 690 GJ within the other transport category, which accounted for 13% of total transport energy use. The number of department vehicles larger than 3.5 tonnes remained at seven in 2018–19, but they consumed less diesel fuel compared to 2017–18 due to lower mileage.

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