Environmental report 2019–20

Ecologically sustainable development and operational environmental performance

Date published:
1 October 2020

This report details the department's environmental performance and contribution to ecologically sustainable development, and supplements our 2019-20 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 2019–20 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 2019–20 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 2017–18 2018–19 2019–20 Change
Energy use
Total energy consumption (GJ) 1 n.a.* 73,226 70,073 70,703 1%
Stationery energy (GJ) - buildings n.a.* 66,259 64,601 65,585 2%
Total green power consumption (GJ) n.a.* 19 22 551 n.a.*
PV energy 1a n.a.* 358 432 439 2%
Energy intensity: TLP 2 (MJ/person/annum) ≤7,500 4,353 3,653 3,242 -11%
Energy intensity: CS 3 (MJ/m2)   ≤400 n.a.* n.a.* n.a.* n.a.*
Energy intensity: laboratories  (MJ/m2)   n.a.* 1,142 1,153 1,523 32%
Energy intensity: public buildings (MJ/m2)   n.a.* 460 475 451 -5%
Energy intensity: other buildings (MJ/m2)   n.a.* 183 227 252 11%
Energy intensity: computer centres (MJ/m2)   n.a.* 17,922 19,650 18,148 -8%
Net greenhouse gas emissions (t CO2-e) from energy use n.a.* 15,071 14,745 13,857 -6%
ICT sustainability
Desktop energy per end user  (kWh/annum) ≤250 248 201.24 199 1%
Desktop computers off after hours 4 90% 62% 0% 73 73%
Desktop computers to printer ratio 20:01 15:1 15:1 15:1 0%
Power usage effectiveness (PUE)  - computer centres and data rooms ≤1.90 1.65 1.65 1.69 2%
Air travel
Total number of flights (trips) n.a.* 19,036 21,612 14,240 -34%
Total distance of flights (km) n.a.* 22,948,879 25,329,599 16,196,557 -36%
Vehicle fleet
Transport energy (GJ) - all vehicles n.a.* 6,967 5,472 5,118 -6%
Energy intensity: passenger vehicles only (MJ/km)  n.a.* 3.21 3.63 3.72 4%
Total fuel purchased (KL) – passenger vehicles only n.a.* 175.38 143.34 127.67 -11%
Total distance travelled (km) – passenger vehicles only n.a.* 1,642,281 1,317,420 1,213,653 -8%
Copy paper purchased by FTE 5 (reams per person per annum) 9 6 6 3 -50%
Percentage of paper purchased: 100 per cent post-consumer recycled content 100% 99% 100% 100% 0%

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

Note due to delays and issues with receiving accurate data from vendors and our property service provider, it was decided to remove the waste along with the water use section from above. This will be reinstated for the 2020/21 FY report and the department will work with Evolve FM to ensure accuracy throughout the reporting period.

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

1A Relates to Questacon sites only

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 2019–20 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 2019–20 increased 1% to 70,703GJ. The increase is mainly due to the increase of FTE numbers, decrease in passenger vehicle km and a change fuel usage.

Energy intensity

The MJ/FTE for tenant light and power has improved from 3,653 MJ/FTE to 3,242 or a reduction of 11%, within the EEGO target of ≤7,500 even thought there was a slight increase in stationary energy consumption which is in part due to the increased FTE count.

While there is no energy target for non-office space, the department monitors the energy consumption in these facilitates as part of its commitments to reducing the impact on the environment from its activities.

Emissions and Green Power

Stationary energy emissions had a 6% reduction which is due to the large increase in GreenPower consumption from 22 GJ to 551GJ. 51 Allara St in Canberra, which came across to the portfolio in the Machinery of Government change, is a major factor in this increased figure as there is 100% GreenPower consumed at this site. The department also has 3 other sites that are currently purchasing 25% GreenPower.

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. The department obtained NABERS office energy ratings for two sites (> 2,000sqm) within the reporting period :

  • 10 Binara St, Canberra: 4.5 Stars for this tenancy
  • 51 Allara St, Canberra:  5 stars, and with 100% GreenPower a 6 star equivalent rating was obtained for the tenancy.
 Main office tenancy

The Building Management System (BMS) at the department’s main tenancy, Industry House in Canberra received a software update that has seen improvements in energy analysis and energy performance reporting during the current reporting period. A lighting audit has also been undertaken during the period and this will see further improvements at this tenancy.

Earth Hour

The department participated in Earth Hour on 27th March 2020, 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 Envizi portal.

ICT sustainability

End user computer environment

The department updated to laptops for the majority of staff. The change in the figure relating to desktop computers off after hours relates to the switch to laptops resulting in them being turned off or in sleep mode and in some case taken home after hours. The laptops have been gradually rolled out over the past year with some offices still using thin clients PCs which is reflected in the 73%.

The desktop to printer ratio has increased due to rollout of more printers and an increase in staff numbers as a result of the Machinery of Government change in 2020,

Main data centre and data rooms

The Power Use Effectiveness (PUE) for the main data centre and data rooms has decreased slightly from 1.65 to 1.69 in 2019–20 this is caused by a slight overall reduction in IT power load most likely due to the deployment of laptops to all staff reducing the active number of VDI sessions, ongoing replacement or decommissioning of older inefficient IT hardware and the continued migration of systems to the cloud.

Performance of public buildings: Questacon

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

Other highlights include :

  • diversion of waste to landfill increased from 60% to 66%
  • water usage was reduced by 16%
  • Questacon commenced development of a strategy to achieve Climate Active 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 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 6%, but there was a 2% increase in transport related emissions. Due to increase in usage of diesel fuel and the reduction in kilometres travelled.

Passenger vehicles

Passenger vehicles account for 89% of the department’s transport energy use. Energy use increased by six per cent and distance travelled decreased by eight percent, which can be attributed in some part to the COVID 19 pandemic with a significant reduction in usage since March 2020. The energy intensity (i.e., energy consumption per kilometre travelled measured in MJ/km) increased by 4% per cent from 3.63 to 3.79 in 2019–20 which is due to change in fuel type to diesel and the decrease in kilometres travelled.  

There was an increase in vehicles, due to replacements being delivered throughout the financial year, this means that both the previous vehicle and its replacement are included.

Other vehicles

In 2019–20 the department reported a total energy use of 513 GJ within the other transport category, which accounted for 11% of total transport energy use. The number of department vehicles larger than 3.5 tonnes remained at seven in 2019–20, but they consumed less diesel fuel compared to 2018–19 due to lower mileage. Improved and more accurate odometer readings when vehicles were being refuelled contributed to this result.

More information