The march towards net zero: how - and why - Australian businesses are reducing their emissions 20 May 2022
By Victoria Townsend
At the Energy Users Association of Australia (EUAA) annual conference held in Melbourne on 11-12 May, industry representatives, policy makers and experts came together to discuss the energy transition and market transformation happening in Australia and around the world. For the first time in several years, attendees saw speakers present in person on topics ranging from the infrastructure investments needed to increase grid and market reliability, global macroeconomic trends affecting energy prices in Australia, and the impact these choices will have on energy consumers. The closing panel on Thursday, 'Towards Net Zero', wrapped up the conference with a discussion of the importance of Australian businesses adopting net zero targets, and the role of energy efficiency, technological development, and renewable energy procurement to support that transition.
The panel kicked off with why we are seeing momentum towards net zero, with a presentation by Tennant Reed, Head of Climate Energy and Environmental Policy at the Australian Industry Group (AiG). He provided background on the role of emissions reductions in keeping global warming in line with global commitments of 1.5ºC. Despite an increase in pace of commitments from governments around the world, the current promises, even if implemented, still put us on track for over 2ºC of warming. This means that the private sector will need to implement its own emissions reduction pathways as well. He noted that the technical pathways outlined in the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s most recent assessment report provided guidance for decarbonsation of industry, though price impacts would vary across the sector, economy, and consumer-level.
EUAA Chief Executive Officer Andrew Richards then discussed the impact of the net zero transition on Australian energy users in the near and long-term. He noted that the energy transition is not going to be “easy and cheap”, and a just transition to net zero must ensure that the costs associated with it are not unfairly borne by consumers. He highlighted the importance of ensuring the most vulnerable members of society are not left behind by the transition by creating customer-focused policies and solutions.
To provide a perspective directly from a large industry user, session chair Bridgette Carter, Manager of Energy Development at BlueScope Steel, shared BlueScope’s experience in implementing emissions reductions and their pathway for achieving net zero. Given the difficulty in abating emissions in the steel industry, she noted that they are primarily focused on improving the energy efficiency of existing production equipment to decrease energy demand as much as possible. She noted the importance of a realistic, time-bound decarbonisation plan with interim targets for 2050 to provide certainty for business investment. She also outlined the need for collaboration across and between industries to conduct research on tackling the toughest technological and economic challenges of decarbonisation.
Finally, the audience heard from Chris Briggs, Technical Director at the Business Renewable Centre - Australia, on the role of renewable procurement to provide clean energy for businesses, noting that offsite renewables will continue to be a key element of net zero strategies. He outlined some of the challenges faced by corporations looking to engage in Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) including understanding their actual emissions reductions and environmental benefits.
A little bit of everything
The panel concluded with a discussion that the solution to net zero will not come from solely from policy, renewable procurement, technology and innovation, or offsets, but a combination of them. Though each of these components play a key role as outlined by the speakers, the solution to emissions reductions will come from businesses integrating net zero targets into their strategies for the long-term, which will help drive continued momentum for decarbonisation.
Victoria Townsend is a Senior Project Officer at the Energy Efficiency Council. She has a professional background in finance and business strategy, and currently works to help businesses learn how to take advantage of the opportunities of Australia’s energy transition and net zero transformation. She attended the EUAA conference in Melbourne on 11-12 May 2022.