Environmental report 2020–21

Ecologically sustainable development and operational environmental performance

Date published:
1 October 2021

This report details the department's environmental performance and contribution to ecologically sustainable development, and supplements our 2020–21 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 2020–21 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 2020-21 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 2018–19 2019–20 2020–21 % change
Energy use
Total energy consumption (GJ) [1] n.a.* 70,704 72,254 68,725 -5%
Stationery energy (GJ) – buildings n.a.* 64,601 67,135 65,604 -2%
Total green power consumption (GJ) n.a.* 22 551 148 -73%
PV energy [1A] n.a.* 432 439 415 -6%
Energy intensity: TLP [2] (MJ/person/annum) ≤7,500 3,653 3,242 3,172 -2%
Energy intensity: CS [3] (MJ/m²) ≤400 n.a.* n.a.* n.a.*  
Energy intensity: laboratories  (MJ/m²)   n.a.* 1,153 1,523 1,497 -2%
Energy intensity: public buildings (MJ/m²)  n.a.* 475 451 421 -7%
Energy intensity: other buildings (MJ/m²)   n.a.* 227 252 284 13%
Energy intensity: computer centres (MJ/m²)   n.a.* 19,650 18,148 19,681 8%
Net greenhouse gas emissions (t CO₂-e) from energy use n.a.* 14,745 14,250 14,139 -1%
ICT sustainability
Desktop energy per end user  (kWh/annum) ≤250 201.24 199 135 -32%
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 1.69 1.71 2%
Air travel
Total number of flights (trips) n.a.* 21,612 14,240 3,771 -74%
Total distance of flights (km) n.a.* 25,329,599 16,196,557 3,586,926 -78%
Vehicle fleet
Transport energy (GJ) – all vehicles n.a.* 5,472 5,118 3,121 -39%
Energy intensity: passenger vehicles only (MJ/km)   n.a.* 3.63 3.72 3.96 6%
Total fuel purchased (KL) – passenger vehicles only n.a.* 143.34 127.67 71.67 -44%
Total distance travelled (km) – passenger vehicles only n.a.* 1,317,420 1,213,653 686,385 -43%
Copy paper purchased by FTE [4] (reams per person per annum) 9 6 3 2 -33%
Percentage of paper purchased: 100 per cent post-consumer recycled content 100% 100% 100% 100% 0%

GJ = gigajoule; kWh = kilowatt hour; m² = square metre; MJ = megajoule; n.a.* = not applicable, 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 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 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 2020–21 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 2020–21 decreased by 5% to 68,725 GJ. The decrease is mainly associated to the reduction in passenger vehicle km by around 44% and the total number of passenger vehicles by 27%.

Energy intensity

The MJ/FTE for tenant light and power has improved from 3,242MJ/FTE to 3,172 MJ per person, per annum. The EEGO performance improved by 2% this financial year. The reduction in office occupant density due to COVID restrictions contributed to the energy consumption decrease and the improved (tenant light and power) TLP performance. 

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 GreenPower

There has been a 73% drop in the reported GreenPower consumption during this financial year, which is mainly associated to 51 Allara Street tenancy. 

This tenancy came across to the portfolio in the Machinery of Government change and had a GreenPower allocation of 100%, contributing nearly 500 GJ to the total reported portfolio consumption. 

In 2020, the ACT achieved its goal to source 100% of its electricity from renewable generators. This means that all the carbon emissions generated by the DISER Canberra tenancies are now mitigated by feeding an equivalent amount of electricity to the grid through this ACT government initiative. Hence the GreenPower allocation was returned to zero, as the department now relies on this government scheme to mitigate the emissions generated at 51 Allara Street.

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 (expected – currently under renewal).

The department will renew the NABERS ratings for these sites and any potential in scope properties within the 2021-22 reporting period.

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. With added features it can now track lighting energy, base building energy and server room energy allowing for granular data analysis helping with early fault identification and efficiency implementation.

Earth Hour

Earth Hour is a global movement that took place this year (2021) from 8:30pm to 9:30pm on Saturday, 27 March.

All DISER state offices participated in this event which showcased the department’s support for climate change mitigation.

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 Canopy portal.

In the reporting period, the department undertook a risk mitigation and energy efficiency improvement identification exercise at one of their top-5 energy consuming sites at Port Melbourne, 153 Bertie Street.

This exercise identified opportunities to improve the energy efficiency by 30%, with an introduction of a new adiabatic system (a type of thermodynamic process), along with the condensing coil fin treatment for the existing chiller.

Operational strategies, in addition to the proposed structural changes, will reduce the risk of chiller breakdown and further enhance the shelf life to align with the end of lease period.

ICT sustainability

End user computer environment

The roll out of laptops by the department has significantly decreased the energy usage per end user. This has been a significant measure to reduce the effects of its operational activities on the environment.

COVID-19 was a factor in the decrease and the ability for staff to disconnect laptops from the docking stations and work remotely within the office buildings or take laptops home.

Main data centre and data rooms

The Power Use Effectiveness (PUE) for the main data centre has slightly risen from 1.69 to 1.71.

This is most likely caused by some compute workload migrating to the cloud and the deployment of laptops to all staff, which reduced the active number of virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) sessions hosted from the data centre.

The data rooms PUE remain unchanged.

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 :

  • electricity consumption decreased by 19%
  • gas consumption increased by 21%, which can be attributed to a cooler building due to occupancy reduction
  • diversion of waste to landfill
  • Questacon recently completed an emissions inventory, which is one step closer towards achieving 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 100% 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 by 39% and there was a 37% decrease in transport related emissions. The decrease is mainly due to the travel restrictions imposed due to COVID 19, which caused a significant reduction in the total number of kilometres travelled during this financial year when compared to the last financial year.

Passenger vehicles

Passenger vehicles account for 87% of the department’s transport energy use. Energy use decreased by 39% and distance travelled decreased by 43%, which can be attributed to COVID-19 – 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 6% per cent from 3.72 to 3.96 in 2020–21, as a result of changing the fuel type to diesel.

Other vehicles

In 2019–20, the department reported a total energy use of 405 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 reduced to six in 2020–21, as one vehicle was sold.

Waste reporting

DISER has actively been recycling where possible and in doing so we have saved 1,503.78 cubic metre from landfill, which also equates to 554.28 matured trees, 131.37 tonnes of CO₂, 20,911.07 L of oil and 11.33 cars off the road for a year.

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