Will the ERF benefit from infrastructure?
Can Australia rely on reduction in greenhouse gas emissions achieved through improvements in infrastructure design? Or, will the opportunity be declared ‘vapourware’ and disregarded?
Implementing the Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) as part of Direct Action provides another opportunity to re-think policies that might rein-in emissions.
With comments on the ERF Green Paper just closed, it seems the government is struggling with how to handle ‘new entrants’ without inadvertently creating a default carbon tax.
One opportunity is to use the ERF to incentivise better design of infrastructure. If designers can point to a potential financial reward, they may have better luck convincing decision makers to adopt innovations.
Inclusion of avoided future emissions in the ERF would have to rest on a robust comparison of standard industry practice with the less energy-intensive designs that are ultimately built.
ISCA’s Infrastructure Sustainability (IS) rating tool may offer a solution. The credits available in the energy and carbon category have verifiers scrutinise detailed ‘reference designs’ to compare against the detailed design and then the ‘as built’ asset.
The difference in emission performance between the reference design and the built facility arguably represents abatement that can be credited through the ERF.
If it sounds like a stretch, think about the alternative: no incentive leading to inefficient designs locking-in poor performance for years. After five years, a facility may be able to retrofit some improvements and claim a creditable reduction.
The ERF aims to direct government incentives to large-scale, low-cost abatement. Will infrastructure sustainability be seen as a road to nowhere or a road to reductions?