How USC developed their Carbon Management plan

Barbara was the main speaker at a TEFMA webinar focusing on the development of USC's Carbon Management Plan
Barbara Albert from 100% Renewables presenting at a webinar to TEFMA

This week, Barbara presented at a webinar run by TEFMA to Universities around Australia and New Zealand. The topic of the presentation was the Carbon Management Plan for the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC) developed with the University by 100% Renewables.

USC to become a carbon-neutral university

USC has a long track record of sustainability since its inception when several awards were received for design at its Sippy Downs campus. USC’s sustainability program encompasses the natural environment at the university, energy and water efficiency in design and operation, waste management, supply chain emissions, transport as well as a wide range of education and engagement activities for staff and students. Strong governance has seen the sustainability program thrive over several years.

Building on this track record, USC’s strategic plan commits that the ‘University will strengthen leadership in sustainability for the region and beyond’. One of the main initiatives to arise from this commitment was that USC should aim to be carbon neutral and should plan for this accordingly.

USC’s approach to developing a Carbon Management Plan (CMP)

A key priority for the CMP is that it be cost-effective through a program of actions over time that are similar in cost to or lower than the cost of not acting to reduce emissions. Initiatives that can drive this outcome were informed by a planned, systematic approach:

  • Carbon emissions data were analysed for all USC operations, and forecasts of future emissions developed based on known changes in facilities and expected growth in student numbers,
  • Extensive analysis of onsite energy efficiency and renewable energy opportunities was carried out,
  • A market-led proposal to develop a central thermal energy storage system and a large-scale onsite solar PV and storage project at the Sippy Downs campus was developed

The central element of the CMP development was the engagement with USC’s stakeholders, to present USC’s emissions forecasts, options for abatement, potential targets to aim for, and frameworks against which to measure and report on emissions. Workshops were held with key stakeholders from the USC executive, staff and student body to ensure a wide range of views and ideas were heard and considered.

USC’s recommended targets

The CMP development served to refine USC’s carbon neutral objective:

  • Carbon neutrality should be aligned to the National Carbon Offset Standard (NCOS)
  • Carbon neutrality should be achieved by 2025
  • A focus on in-house measures and renewable energy procurement is strongly preferred, with offsets purchased as a last step
  • USC should aim to make the Moreton campus carbon neutral from the beginning

The Carbon Management Plan (CMP)

The CMP will be underpinned by a robust emissions measurement methodology aligned with NCOS. This will develop over time as data management systems for small sites and some Scope 3 emissions are improved. The proposed data management approach is illustrated in Figure 1 below.

Figure 1: Staged inclusion for emission sources
Figure 1: Staged inclusion for emission sources

Initiatives to be implemented under the CMP were developed based on estimated future emissions for an extensive Scope 3 boundary for all campuses.

The CMP is divided into three themes:

  1. Management – management and governance of the CMP
  2. Carbon abatement – carbon reduction measures that form part of the journey to carbon neutrality
  3. Engagement – ensuring that both students and staff are engaged so that the actions of the CMP are supported

Based on assessed and recommended investments, marginal abatement cost (MAC) curves were developed to illustrate the cost-effectiveness of the planned CMP over time. Figure 2 below illustrates the MAC for the university’s plan at 2040, when most of the investments have paid for themselves and are returning a positive cashflow to USC.

Figure 2: Marginal Abatement Cost Curve for USC at 2040
Figure 2: Marginal Abatement Cost Curve for USC at 2040

The MAC curves illustrate that there are several highly cost-effective abatement measures that will pay for themselves within a few years. They also show that investment in rooftop solar – even at significant scale – is cheaper than offsetting emissions. The overall outcome in cost terms to USC will be cash positive.

If you would like to find out more about USC’s journey, please download our presentation here:

100% Renewables can help you with the development of your carbon management or carbon neutral strategy. For more information, please contact Barbara or Patrick.

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