Universities find targets tough

03 May 2010Archived News Energetics in the News

PUBLISHED: AFR by Joanna Mather. Energetics Pty Ltd is mentioned for assisting the University of Queensland with carbon strategies.

Institutions are struggling to reach their own self-imposed carbon-reduction schemes, now that the ETS has been scrapped, writes Joanna Mather.

Universities will push ahead with ambitious carbon-reduction efforts despite uncertainty over a national emissions trading scheme and significant campus growth, which are making earlier targets more difficult to reach.

Monash University concedes reducing its greenhouse gas emissions has been more difficult than expected and it may miss its 2010-11 deadline to become carbon neutral. The university blames uncertainty over the ETS, which the federal government shelved last week until the end of 2012 at least.

Director of Monash’s Office of Environmental Sustainability, Paul Barton, said the university was still committed to carbon neutrality, but achieving it hinged on whether the university was willing to purchase carbon offsets from offshore.

He said Monash had planned to purchase credits through the Australian ETS to offset any emissions it could not eliminate, but that option no longer existed. Monash might still purchase international offsets to keep its carbon neutral pledge. A final decision would be made by the end of the year.

Mr Barton also admitted it had been more difficult than expected to reduce emissions at the same time as the campus was growing, with three large new buildings constructed recently.

“Much of our gains have pretty much offset any growth so we’ve pretty much been fairly static in terms of emissions,” he said. “But in terms of emissions per floor area… we feel we’re probably somewhere between 10 and 12 per cent below where we were.”

The university is taking other steps to reduce carbon emissions, including installation of renewable energy infrastructure on campus.

University of Queensland has also made a major move in this direction.
The institution won $1.5 million from the Queensland government to create what is claimed will be the country’s largest and most powerful array of photovoltaic panels.

The university engaged climate change consultancy Energetics to create a tailored carbon strategy, which includes an executive-level carbon committee.

Physics professor and solar-power researcher Paul Meredith said the installation would play the dual role of providing a living laboratory for scientists while at the same time demonstrating the university’s commitment to making its operations more sustainable.

The university’s business school is developing “realistic and achievable” targets and taking into account a large building program over the next few years, he said. “Additionally, the Group of Eight universities are working through producing a joint statement on carbon reduction targets,” Professor Meredith said.
It was up to universities to lead not only in teaching and research, but also in operational terms, and it was challenging, he admitted.

“The dilemma for large Australian universities is to establish public carbon reduction targets while undertaking large building development programs,” Professor Meredith said. “It is really our duty as a major Australian university to lead organisational change.”

The University of Melbourne said it is on track to halve its carbon footprint by this year, based on 2006 levels, and by 100 per cent in 2030.

The university’s manager of sustainable infrastructure Mark Davies said carbon emissions from total energy consumption, including electricity, natural gas, steam and liquefied petroleum gas, had dropped by 16 per cent at the end of last year.

“We are on track to achieve our target of 20 per cent reduction by the end of 2010 against the 2006 baseline,” he said. “It should also be noted that the university has continued to grow and expand with the building gross external floor area increasing by 11.2 per cent from the 2006 baseline. Despite this significant growth we have still managed to exceed our energy reduction targets.”
The Australian National University has launched a series of new targets for reducing energy, waste and water use.

Bart Meehan, associate director of ANU’s business and site services, said the goal was to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 35 per cent by 2020 and total water use by 30 per cent by 2015. He said ANU wanted “ambitious but achievable targets”.

“With all respect to people who’ve gone for aspirational goals of carbon neutrality, what we wanted were things we could make a difference around and actually show people that what they are doing is actually working,” he said.

Monash’s solar push has involved the installation of panels on the main student services building at its Clayton campus.

The panels will generate about 100,000 kilowatts of electricity a year, or enough to power 25 average-sized homes. A large screen nearby generates real-time statistics of the amount of clean electricity being produced. The solar farm cost $400,000 to install.

“We’re anticipating saving somewhere between $7000 and $100,000 in power a year,” Mr Barton said.

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