Thanks in part to our government’s forward-thinking environment protection policies, Australian environmental software is leading the way internationally. Just this week Australian company CarbonSystems announced it has taken on the Microsoft Corporation as a major new client. CarbonSystems’s Enterprise Sustainability Platform (ESP) is a cloud application, providing a solution to the problem of hard-to-quantify sustainability reporting.
Australia is right at the forefront of the global trend towards the standardisation, capture and management of data related to energy, emissions, and other environmental metrics. We are probably two to three years ahead of the US in this type of reporting technology, according to Dan Gaffney from CarbonSystems. “We are the beneficiaries of Australia’s compulsory compliance and reporting requirements, which simply haven’t been imposed in the US.” Australian compulsory greenhouse gas reporting, through NGERS for example, and our voluntary reporting commitments under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) have meant Australians have had to find better sustainability reporting solutions. The market demanded a simpler, cohesive way in which to source and report on this data and software innovation is meeting this new market need.
CarbonSystems’ ESP* will be implemented in a single software platform across Microsoft’s global operations, which comprise over 600 facilities across 110 countries. Using CarbonSystems’ ESP application will allow Microsoft to capture, track and report key environmental metrics and performance across its portfolio of real estate and data-center assets. This will enable the company to accurately assess the impact and return on investment of its efficiency initiatives in the built environment.
Adopting ESP complements Microsoft’s goal of leveraging technology to reduce its energy use, emissions, and waste by harnessing data to make more informed decisions about the company’s resource use. More broadly, it shows commitment to measuring and minimising the carbon footprint of Microsoft’s operations.
It’s not only big business showing their commitment to green ITC projects – the Australian government is investing in Green IT too. NICTA (National ICT Australia Ltd) has also announced that it will be working on a multi-million dollar ICT-enabled geothermal energy initiative, funded under the Australian Government’s $126 million Emerging Renewables Program. NICTA’s robust research capabilities in machine learning, and in the increasingly significant area of big data analytics it will be used to locate Australia’s geothermal energy sources deep beneath the Earth’s surface.
Working closely with the School of Information Technologies at the University of Sydney as well as other academic and research institutions, NICTA will be to developing machine learning algorithms, applying this learning to methods of geothermal target characterisation and exploration. “Geothermal Energy is deep underground and this makes it difficult to find and access. But its virtually free of carbon dioxide and is an abundant and renewable energy source,” explains Gordon Group’s Peter Hooper. “As far as I know, it is the only renewable energy source which can provide long-term all-day base load power. Wind, solar and wave sources rely on particular environmental conditions and therefore are more limited in their use.” The NICTA team will provide geothermal sensor data sets and expertise to aid discovery and characterisation of Australian geothermal targets.
Being forced to find solutions to new problems is clearly bringing out the best in Australian innovators, both in the sustainability and environment sector and in technology. When these sectors overlap we see real progress.
*ESP is a cloud-based data management engine that allows global electronic data interchange (EDI) with internal systems and third party suppliers. It will deliver the following benefits to Microsoft: automating energy and sustainability data collection to support reporting; cutting the time and cost of managing corporate environmental information by automating the capture and tracking of energy, water and other environmental data from utilities and third party suppliers; providing up to date, auditable business and compliance reports via dashboards summarizing energy, emissions and other environmental data; informing efficiency and cost-saving decisions by providing a wide range of environmental performance analytics such as benchmarking, forecasting and marginal abatement cost analysis tools; as well as verifying the impacts, return on investment and payback from efficiency initiatives.
The anticipation of the Clean Energy Future legislation (Carbon Tax to most of us), which comes into effect on the 1st July later this year, has led to a burgeoning IT sub-sector – in cleantech and ‘green’ technology. Significant government funding will be spent on encouraging clean energy sources and their implementation, requiring a broad range of new green job skills, amongst them technological skills.
There are now numerous start-up businesses in the ‘green’ sector attempting to gain a foothold in this emerging market. These smaller companies offer employees the chance to gain experience across a broad range of areas and the potential upsides can be very tempting – with share option potential and the chance to work with a company set to become a genuine market leader. (Gordon Group Technology currently has a role for a Senior Software Developer in just such a company http://www.gordongroup.com.au/jobs/)
It’s not just start-ups looking to take advantage of the anticipated ‘green’ boom. The uncertainty, both political and economic, of last year meant that established companies holding off on technological development and R & D projects are now back in the game. Now that the Clean Energy Future package is underway, many of those projects have been given the green light. Renewable energy technologies such as solar, wind and tidal will be the major winners. The governments Clean Energy Finance corporation will make $13 Billion available for investment in these projects – with technology a critical aspect of these new projects.
Energy efficiency experts will find themselves in demand delivering specific advice to small and medium businesses supported by $40 million in grants for Energy Efficiency Information. Of course, this means demand for software and other tools, as information will need to be collected, measured, tracked and stored. In addition, $1.2 billion from the Clean Technology Program will help directly improve energy efficiency and R&D of low pollution technologies.
It’s the perfect storm – a growing ‘green’ sector, backed by millions of dollars of government support, coupled with exciting new technological developments. If you have experience in either sector the 2012 is your year!