Office for Environmental Programs - Theses
Now showing items 1-12 of 342
A changing electricity landscape: The trade-offs of household Solar PV, Battery Energy Storage Systems and Electric Vehicles to customers and the power sector in Greater Melbourne
The decarbonisation of the energy system is causing a dramatic shift in how the electricity market is structured, which in Australia has been traditionally dominated by large, centralised generators. This shift to decentralisation has been heightened by a significant increase in households installing solar panels and generating their own electricity over the past 10 years, making electricity customers active participants in the energy market. Along with the electrification of other services, such as transport, and the decreasing costs of household battery energy storage systems (BESS), further opportunities are being afforded to households to become increasingly self-reliant while reducing their energy bills and carbon emissions. This will create challenges for the power sector going forward, and one of the goals of this research is to understand the potential changes to the electricity landscape so that there are minimal roadblocks on the path to decarbonisation, while ensuring that the transition is equitable. This research uses an open sourced techno-economic model with real household energy data and driving profiles. The model has the objective of minimising a household’s annual energy bill in the Greater Melbourne region and is used to assess the impacts that distributed energy resources (DER) and electric vehicles (EVs) have on a household’s energy consumption patterns, their energy bills and emissions profiles over a one-year period. Time-of-use (TOU) and flat tariff structures are used with different combinations of solar PV, BESS and EVs with the aim to provide context to grid planners and policymakers on the potential trade-offs of a decentralised electricity landscape.
Subnational implementation of the Paris agreement : A case study from the Indian Himalayan state of Uttarakhand
The 2015 Paris Agreement received accord from 190+ nations as a global climate action plan to limit global warming and to protect vulnerable communities with limited resources. However, climate impacts over vulnerable communities in India, an eminent actor in the Paris Agreement, have significantly increased over the last decade. Success of the Paris Agreement depends on the fulfilment of nationally determined climate targets formulated by the central government which gives the government total control over climate governance and implementation of climate policies in India. However, barriers restrict global aid from reaching vulnerable communities. This research aims to investigate governance barriers to implementation of the Paris Agreement at sub-national level, using theories of polycentric governance, through a case study of Uttarakhand, a highly climate vulnerable Himalayan state in India. The national delegation from India in the Global Climate Regime represents a populace of more than 1.3 billion but the findings show that the central government has been highly insufficient in fulfilling its pledged targets at the sub-national level and has increased the gap between vulnerable communities and global resource aid. Limited involvement of non-government sub-national actors in climate action, dominance of the central government on climate policies in India and a lack of sub-nation climate action reporting framework at the global level were identified as key governance barriers to the subnational implementation of the Paris Agreement. Concludingly the report provides recommendations to increase involvement of local actors through community-based climate actions and to bridge the gap between sub-national climate action and the Global Climate Regime.
Holidaying in the ‘fire-scape’ : Examining absentee landholders’ sense of community, place-attachment, and preparedness in Halls Gap, Victoria
Fire is an integral feature of the landscape across much of south-eastern Australia, especially in Victoria one of the most fire-prone areas of the world. Changing local fire regimes and shifting socio-cultural fabrics of rural communities across Victoria has contributed to the increasing complexity of fire management across these landscapes. In recent decades, amenity-led in-migration has been a driver of social change. In Victoria, ‘difficult-to-engage’ absentee landholders have been identified by fire agencies as a barrier to “shared responsibility” for building communities' capacity to prepare for, respond to and recover from fire. Despite this emphasis on community-level resilience in emergency management, what is meant by 'community' and 'community resilience' remains contested in practice and theory. Further, little is known about how the values, knowledge, and attitudes of non-resident landholders in the context of bushfire influence social resilience at the community-level. Through a case study in Halls Gap, Victoria this research contributes knowledge of individual and community level resilience in the context of a rapidly changing rural landscape; characterised by high fire risk, amenity-led in-migration, and a high proportion of absentee and newer landholders. Twenty-nine semi-structured interviews were conducted with absentee landholders’ with the aim of eliciting their knowledge of bushfire, sense of community, place-attachment and responsibility for place and examining the influence of these social factors for fire preparedness and resilience at both the individual and community level. Thematic analysis of interview data contributes novel insights of the knowledge, values, and attitudes absentee landholders bring to the ‘fire-scape’, which present challenges and opportunities for building strong community resilience in Halls Gap. A key finding of this study is that there is significant interest in learning about fire risk and management among absentee landholders, who draw on varying place-attachment, sense of community, social capitals, and networks in making sense of risk, responsibility, and resilience in bushfire landscapes. If effectively channelled and linked with community-level capabilities, these individual characteristics can contribute to strong community resilience. An important implication of these findings in the context of changing rural communities is the importance of understanding how sense of community and place variably influence decision-making and engagement regarding bushfire preparedness and mitigation actions.
Bringing Back Bolin: Uncovering evidence for the flood history of the Birrarung from a particle size analysis and the geochemistry of the Bolin Bolin Billabong sediment core.
There is a growing interest in restoring the physical and natural environments of urban wetlands and waterways (Balaguer et al., 2014), however, there is a lack of historical references as to their preEuropean invasion condition to guide this rehabilitation work (Willis et al., 2010). Bolin Bolin Billabong, in Bulleen, represents an ideal candidate for the necessary palaeoecological study to produce such historical information. The site of Bolin Bolin has had an interesting role in the history of Aboriginal and European land use, sits on a major floodplain of the Birrarung (Yarra River), and is a relatively undisturbed waterbody compared to most other urban wetlands. A 494cm sediment core was extracted from Bolin Bolin Billabong in 2019. A laser diffraction analysis was performed to establish the particle size of sediment across layers of the core at a 2-centimetre resolution. An ITRAX core scanner was used to measure the metal geochemistry at a 1-millimetre resolution. The data produced from these analyses and presented in this research shows a decrease in particle size due to a loss of natural flooding of the Birrarung. River flow regulation through damming was far more impactful on Bolin Bolin’s physical environment than other environmental factors. However, the impact of past fires and recent urbanisation is also readily discernible in the core’s composition. From this research, a paleoenvironmental reconstruction and some baseline environmental information is presented for the history of Bolin Bolin. This research also lends support to changing how society views urban water catchments and their wetlands. The history of Bolin Bolin indicates the vital importance of natural flooding to floodplain health. Previous catchment management strategies that aim to eliminate flooding from the landscape need to be replaced with a dynamic stewardship of floodplains that allow flooding to occur and bring the related ecological benefits (Wolfenden et al., 2018).
The Road to FOGO: The Intentions and Realities of Municipal Organic Waste Management in Metropolitan Melbourne
A sustainability transition is currently observable in Melbourne, Australia: the universal implementation of residential food and garden organic (FOGO) waste collection programs by local governments. In the past five years (to 2021), a range of interrelated waste ‘crises’ triggered a change in the Zeitgeist, providing the impetus and favourable conditions for a number of local governments to implement a FOGO service. The transition is framed as one requiring ‘community-wide behaviour change’ by the Victorian State Government due to the need for resident participation and compliance in municipal waste collection. However, the accepted wisdom of ‘sustainable behaviour change’ with its focus on individual attitudes, behaviours and choices, has been widely questioned in terms of its ability to elicit sustained change. Using Binder’s (2012) Model of Recursive Cultural Adaptation (MORCA) as an analytical framework, this study identifies an expanded range of factors influencing how and why council employees design and implement FOGO systems. The study attests to the applicability of the MORCA to a study of step-wise change, examining specific instances where council employees defended and extended their practices in response to challenges and disruptions in their council context. Ten qualitative interviews with twelve employees from councils in Metropolitan Melbourne were undertaken, in which interviewees reflected on their experience of designing and implementing their councils’ FOGO program. Interview data was analysed in conjunction with a document analysis of two key documents published by a Victorian State Government body intended to guide councils’ implementation of FOGO. The study finds that Victoria State Government ‘best practice’ recommendations guided council employees’ design and implementation of FOGO, but they faced several challenges during implementation which were not adequately addressed in the two documents. The study revealed that design of FOGO systems is also influenced positively and negatively by the organisational and spatial layout of councils, the privileging of communications expertise and ‘behaviour change’ techniques, and a perceived risk of community resistance to FOGO. Implications and topics for further study are discussed.
The urban political ecology of access to solar PV: Energy justice and climate justice in the Darebin Solar Saver program
Certain groups within society, including the poor, the elderly, and those renting their homes are at risk of bearing disproportionate costs resulting from the transition to a low-carbon economy. These groups are particularly at risk of energy injustice and climate injustice related to being able to purchase sufficient energy or being able to adequately heat or cool their homes as the impacts of climate change continue. The Darebin Solar Saver program in the City of Darebin, Melbourne, Victoria is an attempt to address these issues. The program enables pensioners, low-income residents and renters (the target audience) in Darebin to install solar PV on their home with no upfront costs and with system costs repaid interest-free through their council rates over ten years. This research identified how well the program was successful in reaching its target audience and the extent to which it was successful in achieving climate justice and energy justice outcomes for participants in the years 2018 and 2019. During the years 2018-2019, the scheme was expanded to all Darebin residents to reach Darebin City Council’s goal to double solar generation capacity in Darebin from 19 to 38 MW. A survey was sent to program participants who received solar PV in 2018-2019, and four randomly selected survey respondents were interviewed: two Darebin City Councillors and one former Darebin Solar Saver staff member. Once the scheme was expanded in 2018-2019, demand by residents outpaced the council’s capacity to both deliver solar PV installs and actively focus recruitment efforts towards its target audience. Wealthier homeowners joined the scheme at the expense of those with lower incomes. The program failed to reach many renters, although this was one group within the target audience. Energy and climate justice was achieved for the 32.8% of low-income and pensioner residents who were reached through the program, and to a lesser extent for nearly half of other survey respondents. Schemes such as Darebin Solar Saver have the potential to achieve energy justice and climate justice outcomes for residents at risk of energy poverty and disproportionate climate impacts. However, this and other similar schemes must be actively targeted to achieve equity and justice goals.
The Impacts of the COVID-19 on Rural Poverty Alleviation in China
Under the circumstance of the widespread influence caused by the COVID-19 and the end year of China's long-term poverty alleviation program, this research aims to investigate how the pandemic impacts the rural poverty alleviation in China and the risks of returning to poverty caused by the COVID-19. The study chooses one poverty village, which was lifted out of poverty before the pandemic as the study area. Semi-structured interviews and qualitative analysis of poverty alleviation data are conducted to investigate the impact degrees. The key findings are the strict lockdown measures imposed to prevent the spread of the epidemic have decreased the poverty households' incomes. Meanwhile, many migrant workers were forbidden to return to the village, which caused mental stress among older people and children. As a result of such impacts, the risk of returning to poverty in the village has been increased. In addition, the research reveals that there are false figures and wrong numbers in the official poverty alleviation documents, which critically challenges the achievements of China's poverty alleviation program.
Nourishing Modern Environmental Ethics with Confucian Philosophy
Environmental studies encompass a vast range of approaches to understand the causes of and to resolve environmental problems. Among these varieties, environmental ethics deals with indispensable considerations of human-nature relationship, the kind of value that humankind assigns to nature, the reason why humankind should conserve nature and so forth. Alongside Western schools of environmental ethics such as deep ecology and ecofeminism, this research project explores ideas from Confucianism for a non-Western perspective of environmental ethics. The Confucian cosmology, and the principle of harmony, justice, self-cultivation and humaneness provide insights into negotiating human-nature relationship and guiding pro-environmental dispositions which are comparable to post-humanism. Confucianism posits that humankind is an integral part of the universe and that human beings form a reciprocal relationship with non-human beings through continuous dynamic interactions. To maintain the livelihood of human beings and the vitality of nature, people should learn from nature to understand how the life-sustaining processes operate and hence to act in harmony with them for the benefit of both humankind and the whole environment system. Confucianism also encourages people to give universal love and care to all human and non-human others, and make their wills and actions just by avoiding excessiveness or extremes. This alludes to a symbiosis of humankind and natural environment whilst negates an exploitive attitude towards nature. These ideas are examined in the context of contemporary China for Confucianism’s long embeddedness in there as an indigenous philosophy. The reciprocal view on human-nature relationship and the principle of harmonising practices with natural patterns have manifested in China’s development policy. The goals of environmental education also resonate with Confucian view of being, learning and practice, and the commitment to social responsibility. However, in presence of competing ideologies such as neoliberalism within the country and across the globe, the application of Confucian ethics in guiding environmental protection is piecemeal. It is suggested that enacting Confucian principles as an alternative of environmental ethics in the contexts of education, politics, governance, economy, environmentalism and culture in an integrative way is required to align logics and practices at multiple scales and dimensions.
Current builders’ capacities to deliver zero energy buildings in China
To strengthen the global fight against climate change, China pledges to reach carbon neutrality by 2060. As one of the major energy consumption sectors in China, the building industry’s role in CO2 emission reductions is critical to the successful pursuit of the carbon neutrality goal. The concept of zero energy buildings (ZEBs) has gained increasing attention in China due to its effective efforts on energy saving and emission reduction. The objectives of this research are to understand the status quo of ZEB design and construction features in China, to investigate current builders’ capacities for delivering ZEBs in China, to explore the differences in design and construction capacities of conventional and ZEB builders in China and to assess the potentials of boosting Chinese builders' capacities for delivering ZEBs in the future. The research methods embrace several steps. Firstly, a literature review is provided to understand the status quo of ZEB development in China. Secondly, a checklist was developed based on the literature review to assess builders’ capacities to deliver ZEBs in China. Thirdly, relationships between different checklist questions were analyzed using association rule in software SPSS modeler. Fourthly, builders were clustered using TwoStep Cluster Analysis in software SPSS modeler. The findings of this research suggest that most Chinese builders, even ZEB builders have insufficient ZEB design and construction knowledge. ZEB demonstration projects are mainly developed in cooperation with foreign professional institutions. Moreover, conventional builders are less competitive than ZEB builders in passive design capacity, energy efficient building design capacity, renewable energy generation capacity and research capacity, which are the key skills that conventional builders are supposed to improve. Furthermore, one-third of conventional builders have NZEBs or ULEBs production experience. They have acquired related ZEB delivery capacities and they are the most likely ZEB builders in the future.
Implications of economic factors on TCFD scenario analysis
The Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) has recommended that corporations publish a number of disclosures designed to inform investors and other interested stakeholders of the corporation’s exposure to risks relating to climate change. One key recommendation is that corporations undertake scenario analysis against climate scenarios, including (at a minimum) a 2°C scenario. However, the TCFD has identified scenario analysis as the recommended disclosure with the lowest level of implementation by organisations (TCFD, 2018). This was supported by analysis undertaken by Market Forces (2019) which confirmed that of 72 corporations in the ASX100 that operate in key sectors identified by the TCFD, only ten had undertaken scenario analysis on either their entire business or significant segments of their operations. This research considers the publicly-available scenarios being utilised by these corporations, and examines the economic assumptions underpinning these scenarios to determine whether such assumptions are realistic and robust by comparing these assumptions against projections from mainstream economic forecasters. Ensuring that these scenarios are based on robust assumptions may support the usefulness of scenario analysis as a source of information for corporations and investors, as well as for other stakeholders. The results of this analysis show that the ten corporations identified by Market Forces use a wide variety of climate-related scenarios and targets, including legislated targets, scenarios published by the International Energy Agency, and the Representative Concentration Pathways. In several cases, corporations either combine multiple publicly-available scenarios into a single tailored scenario or modify underlying assumptions of a publicly-available scenario to better suit their assumptions and circumstances. Further, comparison of the economic assumptions underpinning these scenarios against long-term economic forecasts suggests that some publicly-available 1.5 and 2°C-aligned climate scenarios (particularly the Shared Socioeconomic Pathways) may overstate future economic growth rates over the short term (to 2030) and medium term (to 2040), which may negatively impact the robustness of these scenarios. Possible reasons for this difference include changed macroeconomic and geopolitical contexts since the scenarios and forecasts were first developed, and different consideration of the underlying state of the economy as an input into the scenario or forecast (for example, levels of debt following the global financial crisis in 2008 and 2009). It is also noteworthy that the potential impacts of climate change on the economy are explicitly excluded from most of the identified scenarios. These results are discussed in the context of the challenges for corporations and investors in undertaking scenario analysis, as well as in the broader context of the interrelationship between the environment and the economy.
Sustainable transitions in cities: local transformation in an urbanising world
Cities are recognised globally as crucial sites for sustainable development. There is increasing uptake of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by city governments, but complexities remain in how these goals are applied to urban planning processes and how to maximise sustainable transitions locally. Addressing this premise, this paper aims to examine how various methods of engagement with the SDGs by city governments can drive the transition toward sustainable urban development. This research applies an urban governance framework from sustainable transitions theory (Transition Management) to assess various methods of city-level engagement with the SDGs across the Asia-Pacific – the most rapidly urbanising region in the world. Eight SDG reports published by cities were analysed, and six interviews were conducted with city actors engaging in an active SDG localisation project. Regional commonalities are analysed using the four spheres of Transition Management – strategic, tactical, operational, and reflexive – to understand how cities undergo transformative change and assesses whether local engagement with the SDGs has the potential to drive global change. The findings indicate that city-level engagement with the SDGs does have the potential to influence urban development outcomes. A city government’s capacity to engage with, and more importantly, measure the impact of localising the SDGs underpinned effective implementation. Widespread uptake of the goals proved challenging due to urban heterogeneity, but city-to-city peer learning was identified as a key enabler for local-level engagement. This study underlines the need for flexibility in the format and process of SDG engagement, while also providing for the critical need for relevant local data to support local policy setting. The outcomes suggest that a more focussed approach to SDG localisation is needed, to better define and measure the factors for success, and to help city governments identify those mechanisms that will generate tangible impact at a local and global level.
Flood management now and into the future: Evaluation of development plan and climate change adaptation plan towards blue-green infrastructure adoption in Jakarta, Indonesia
A more sustainable approach to flood risk reduction that uses nature-based systems is gaining traction across the globe. This approach that is known as Blue-Green Infrastructure (BGI) is critical to be implemented in flood-prone cities, such as Jakarta, as it can provide multiple advantages for the community and the environment, such as improved well-being, aesthetics and biodiversity. More significantly, BGI can offer benefits related to crucial climate change challenges, including land surface temperature reduction, carbon sequestration and sea level rise adaptation. Given these significant advantages, this study seeks to investigate whether and to what extent BGI interventions, benefits, barriers and drivers are acknowledged in Jakarta’s Mid-Term Development Plan (MTDP) and Climate Change Adaptation Plan (CCAP). The study combined qualitative and quantitative content analysis to evaluate these plans in terms of BGI interventions, benefits, barriers and drivers. It contributes to the preliminary research of current adoption of BGI and critique of the MTDP and CCAP of Jakarta. The findings show that BGI planning in Jakarta is still in its infancy demonstrated by the lack of varied BGI interventions and benefits that are acknowledged in the two plans. The barriers of BGI adoption are also less addressed in the plans for action compared to the drivers. It calls for a more rigorous BGI planning in Jakarta to enhance its uptake by varying BGI interventions, acknowledging climate change, environmental and health benefits and conducting a preliminary study to better address barriers and drivers in the plans. Suggested further research include analysing local agencies strategic plans, evaluating city program implementation and employing community interviews.