Recent PhD Projects

This page summarises recent PhD projects completed with CEEM.

Baran Yildiz

Forecasting of individual household electricity loads for energy management systems (2019)

Baran's thesis researches the forecasting of individual household electricity loads, which has been identified as a major challenge for forecasting models, due to the high volatility of household loads. To address the reporting and methodological inconsistencies found in previous household load forecast studies, a coherent analysis framework is developed and applied throughout the thesis. The performance of state-of-the-art machine learning, regression and baseline models are investigated using smart meter and weather data. Various forecasting parameters such as forecast horizon, temporal data resolution, and data transformation techniques are examined. The analysis shows that the forecast challenge grows with increasing forecast horizon and volatility of the household load profiles. To improve the forecast performance, daily consumption patterns are investigated using clustering and classification techniques. This analysis is later incorporated in a forecasting framework: Cluster-Classify-Forecast (CCF), where similar approaches in larger scale load forecasting such as at substation or network level have previously given promising results. The CCF method improves the understanding of habitual consumption patterns of households and delivers a significant improvement in forecast performance in comparison to simpler forecasting methods. Most previous home energy management studies have avoided the use of load forecasting due to its challenges. In order to demonstrate the usefulness of load forecasts in the home energy management context, a smart switch control tool is developed for electric hot water heating. The tool uses the CCF forecast framework with single time-step-ahead forecasts and identifies the optimal periods during the day to use excess rooftop-PV power for heating water. The applied CCF improves the self-consumption of PV and reduces the amount of electricity bought from the grid for water heating. As a result, households benefit from a reduced electricity bill and a lower carbon foot-print. Future research can extend the use of this tool on the aggregate residential level and investigate further potential benefits for network operators and utilities.

Kanyawee Keeratimahat

Characterising short-term variability, uncertainty and controllability of utility photovoltaics and their implications for integrating high renewables penetrations (2021)

The thesis uses high-resolution generation data from operating utility-scale PV plants to characterise short-term variability, uncertainty and controllability. The study is based on the context of the Australian National Electricity Market (NEM). The high transparency of NEM data permits an analysis of PV operation with links to electricity market operation and a close investigation of PV controls following dispatch instructions. The current market arrangement is found to have a significant impact on PV generation uncertainty with PV exhibiting the highest uncertainty in dispatch generation compared to other generators. To overcome the limitation of data availability, this thesis also proposes a method to synthetically generate 4-second PV timeseries. The method is used to model high-resolution aggregated variability of 26.7 GW PV penetration, the 2040 penetration estimated by AEMO. The thesis finally discusses the potential participation of PV in FCAS markets, considering the very short-term variability and forecast errors. 

Navid Haghdadi

Data-driven Assessment of Aggregate Distributed Photovoltaic Generation and its Impacts on Electricity Network Planning (2013 to 2017)

Distributed PV systems have significant implications for electricity network planning and operation. Assessing the aggregate impact of distributed PV systems is challenging due to their inherently variable and somewhat unpredictable operational characteristics, and the wide range of installation conditions found on residential, commercial or industrial rooftops. In this PhD project, a set of techniques is proposed to improve the quality of data and metadata from these PV systems, and to estimate their aggregate generation. These techniques are applied to the historical output data of some five thousand distributed PV systems, and used to assess the impact of distributed PV in Australia’s transmission and distribution networks. A new method to estimate or correct missing or invalid metadata (location and orientation) of the PV systems is introduced. The operational performance of distributed PV systems is then evaluated and compared to the publicly available estimates for PV generation in Australia. A model for upscaling the output of a limited number of monitored PV systems to estimate the output of all PV systems in a region is also proposed. This method is applied to assess the impact of current and potential higher penetrations of PV systems in different zone substations of a large distribution network, and zone substation load profiles are clustered based on the availability of the PV in their peak times as a means to characterise the inter-annual and spatial variability of this impact in different distribution feeders. Finally, the impact of current and higher penetrations of distributed PV on peak demand and the time of the peak in the different regions of Australia’s National Energy Market (NEM) is evaluated, where it was shown that PV has reduced the peak demand in almost all regions of the NEM over the past three years with more room for peak reduction at higher PV penetration. 

Mike Roberts

The value of co-operation: Opportunities for deployment of rooftop photovoltaics on Australian apartment buildings (2019)

Photovoltaic (PV) generation is emerging as a significant technology in the global energy transition. However, while rapid urbanisation is driving increasing housing density, PV uptake in multioccupancy housing has been limited by comparison with stand-alone housing in many jurisdictions, including in Australia, despite its world-leading 22% residential PV penetration. This thesis presents a multidisciplinary analysis of the opportunities and challenges for, and costs and benefits of, rooftop PV deployment on Australian apartment buildings. A novel geospatial analysis was used to assess the opportunity for solar on Australian apartment rooftops. Statistical and cluster-based analysis was used to characterise individual and aggregated apartment load profiles. Reviews of the academic literature and Australian regulatory arrangements, together with a series of stakeholder interviews, were undertaken to identify potential implementation arrangements for, and barriers to, deployment of apartment PV. Modelling of PV generation, energy and financial flows was used to compare outcomes for diverse buildings under different PV configurations. The size and diversity of the dataset and the variety of arrangements modelled represents a significant contribution to the literature. The thesis identifies potential PV capacity of 2.9GW – 4.0GW on Australian apartment buildings and describes significant differences between load profiles of apartments and houses. Applying PV generation to aggregated building loads is shown to increase self-sufficiency and PV selfconsumption compared to separate systems supplying common property or individual apartments, and can sometimes generate financial benefits for customers. While embedded networks can enable access to beneficial retail arrangements, behind the meter solutions may reduce regulatory complexity and cost. Optimum solutions depend on building characteristics and financial settings. Adding battery energy storage systems (BESS) can further increase self-sufficiency and decrease peak demand but the economic case is not compelling with current capital costs. Barriers including building stock diversity, demographic factors and knowledge issues, as well as specific Australian regulatory arrangements concerning governance of apartment buildings, regulation of the energy market, and electricity tariff policies, impact on the options available to apartment residents to act co-operatively in accessing renewable energy. This research identifies possible emerging business models and policy approaches to support increased apartment PV deployment.

Ben Elliston

Operational and economic feasibility of 100% renewable electricity scenarios for Australia (2014)

This thesis examines scenarios for 100% renewable electricity (RE100) in the Australian National Electricity Market (NEM). If Australia is to achieve its target of reducing carbon emissions to 80% below 2000 levels by 2050, one of the scenarios considered in this thesis may become reality. In this work, simulations of RE100 based on conservative assumptions have been developed that meet actual hourly electricity demand in the NEM geographic area in 2010. The system is based on commercially available technologies: concentrating solar thermal (CST) with thermal storage, wind, photovoltaics, existing hydro and biofuelled gas turbines. Estimates of renewable generation are derived from satellite observations, weather stations, and actual wind farm outputs. A genetic algorithm is used to find the lowest cost scenarios using technology costs for 2030projected by the Australian Government in 2012. Constraints ensure that reliability is maintained with existing hydroelectricity generation and limited bioenergy consumption.A range of RE100 systems are found to meet the NEM reliability standard. The principal challenge is meeting peak demand on winter evenings following overcast days when CST storage is only partially charged and wind speeds are low. The lowest cost scenarios are dominated by wind power, with smaller contributions from photovoltaics and dispatchable generation: CST, hydro and gas turbines. The annual cost of RE100 is compared with the projected costs in 2030 of four fossil fuel scenarios. The four scenarios, based on the least cost mix of technologies to meet 2010 demand, are: (i) a high-carbon scenario based on efficient use of coal; (ii) a medium-carbon scenario utilising gas-fired combined cycle gas turbines (CCGTs) and open cycle gas turbines (OCGTs); (iii) coal with carbon capture and storage (CCS) plus OCGT; and (iv) CCGT with CCS plus OCGT. Sensitivity analysis of the results to carbon prices, gas prices, and projected CO2 transportation and injection costs shows that only under a few combinations of costs can any of the low- or medium-carbon fossil fuel scenarios compete economically with RE100 in a carbon constrained world.It appears possible to reliably supply the NEM using very high penetrations of available renewable energy (RE) technologies with the RE resources of Australia. Furthermore, RE100 is not necessarily more expensive than other low- or medium- carbon options to achieve deep cuts in electricity sector emissions, and offers a lower risk pathway.

Graham Mills

Charging infrastructure and management arrangements for enhancing electricity industry value from electric vehicle integration (2016)
The recent emergence of Plug in Battery Electric Vehicles (BEV) represents a process of historic significance which seems likely, over coming decades, to see electricity replace gasoline for a significant proportion of the private light-duty vehicle fleet. The challenge for the electricity industry will be to implement a set of arrangements that facilitates integration of this new source of demand in a manner which advances the broader objectives of the industry. This thesis makes a contribution towards addressing this challenge. BEV integration is inherently a multi-industry challenge which will require consideration of transport along with electricity industry objectives. In addition, integration is anticipated over a multi-decade time horizon during which the electricity industry seems likely to transition to far greater renewable energy penetrations. This thesis takes an electricity industry perspective of this multi-industry, multi-decade challenge by considering outcomes across a set institutional, technical, economic, and environmental industry objectives. This is achieved with a focus on the manner in which integration interface arrangements (including available charging infrastructure and coordinated charging management) lead to different outcomes for the industry. The Australian east coast electricity industry (Australian NEM) is used as a case study throughout. This thesis identifies a set of themes so as to guide policy making and inform future studies in respect of BEV integration. These themes include: That there is both risk and opportunity in BEV integration for the electricity industry; BEV integration cannot be considered by the electricity industry in isolation; Policymakers will need to consider how best facilitate inter-industry transport-electricity decision-making; Appropriate BEV charging coordination is essential in achieving industry benefits; Daytime BEV charging needs to be seriously considered given the potential for high future solar energy penetrations in electricity industries around the world; In the longer term, non-residential charging infrastructure investments will be critical in achieving benefits from utilizing solar generation for transport purposes.

Simon Heslop

Facilitating the Technical Network Integration of Distributed PV Generation (2016)

Whilst the existing electricity grid can accommodate distributed PV generation, higher penetration levels may have a number of adverse impacts requiring management. The thesis focuses on two of these issues; voltage variability and voltage rise, with contributions to the successful technical integration of distributed PV generation made in three areas. Firstly, the thesis examines the characterisation of PV generation variability. Comprehensive characterisation of PV generation variability is necessary for network service providers to plan appropriately for high penetration distributed PV. The thesis contributes to this area by demonstrating a comprehensive characterisation which describes the behaviour of PV generation variability over the course of the day and over the course of the year. The second is the development of a method for estimating the amount of PV generation a low voltage feeder can accommodate without exceeding upper voltage limits. A novel method is developed through the examination of the relationship between voltage rise, PV generation levels and distribution feeder characteristics. The method is implemented in a simple software tool through which network operators can quickly and easily determine approximate values of maximum PV generation for their distribution feeders. The third thesis contribution is an investigation into methods for integrating PV systems, controllable loads and other devices such as electrical storage, to manage distribution voltage levels. A review of the literature in this area found a focus on methods for minimising excessive voltage rise due to PV generation. The work presented in this thesis contributes to this area by presenting an argument for a more balanced approach to distributed voltage management, one which investigates minimising voltage excursion as a whole, not just voltage rise caused by PV generation. Also presented is an original distributed voltage control method using residential PV systems and controllable loads to ensure voltage levels, upper and lower, are maintained within regulation limits. The method requires no new communication infrastructure and is shown to be more efficient and equitable than similar methods currently proposed in the literature.

James Hazelton

Reducing Risks and Maximising Benefits for PV Hybrid Mini-grid deployment: Lessons from the Asia Pacific (2017)

Photovoltaic Hybrid Mini-grid Systems (PVHMS) are expected to play a key role in the UnitedNations’ goal to achieve universal energy access by the year 2030. Mini-grids require much largerinvestments than solar home systems, but are not large enough to access conventional publicfinance due to transaction costs and diseconomies of scale in assessing such projects. Ruralelectrification and renewable energy are both considered high risk propositions. Perceived risk isfurther increased because, despite a number of pilot PVHMS, the technology has achieved onlylimited deployment success and there remains a lack of data and published experience fromoperating projects.The aim of this thesis is to improve the understanding and management of the benefits and risksassociated with PVHMS, based on experiences in the Asia-Pacific region. The thesis proposesfirst a preliminary risk management framework that considers intersecting spheres ofPerformance risk, Commercial risk and Programmatic risk. The framework is applied to two casestudies of PVHMS deployment, including low penetration PV retrofits into existing diesel minigridsin Northern Territory, Australia, as well as the high penetration PVHMS providing newenergy access in Sabah, Malaysia.The research demonstrates that while energy services are being effectively delivered, there aredeficiencies in monitoring and asset management capabilities that hamper the ability to effectivelyoperate the systems and realise the intended operating cost reductions. Commercially, dependenceon contractors that have minimal stake in ongoing performance presents significant exposure foroperators and end users, but this could be addressed using alternative ownership structures.Programmatically, a lack of regulation and standardisation to effectively govern and control thedeployment of these systems is problematic, while tariff settings make it impossible to recovercosts, such that ongoing support is subject to political will. Better metrics to predict and assessthe performance of PVHMS, and improvements in and verification of software modellingtechniques present practical opportunities to reduce risk, and are explored in detail in the thesis.The recommendations could help optimise and improve the deployment of PVHMS, a seriousalternative to traditional diesel mini-grids and central grid extension in the NT, Borneo andbeyond.

Sharon Young

Residential tariff design to improve the technical and economic integration of distributed energy options in the electricity industry (2018)

Australia, having one of the highest penetrations of household PV in the world and rapidly increasing installations of household battery storage, is a leading example of the transition to a more decentralised electricity industry. This household-driven decentralisation of the electricity industry raises many uncertainties for the future of the wider electricity industry, some of which this thesis aims to address.The implications of household distributed generation and storage for the industry depend on patterns and levels of deployment, and how they are operated. Both of these factors hinge critically on residential electricity tariffs. This thesis aims to investigate the contribution of household demand to system demand, assess the implications of different tariff design for consumers with and without distributed energy, explore how households might operate storage under different tariffs, and then estimate the commercial and economic consequences for networks and the wholesale electricity market. The method uses modelling of future distributed energy penetration scenarios, including tariff-driven operation of storage, and sensitivity analyses to assess the economic and commercial impacts of household PV and storage, and their associate uncertainties. The use of a large set of empirical residential interval meter data from the Smart Grid Smart City project allows consideration of the implications of household demand diversity across several thousand households. When coupled with corresponding PV generation data and wholesale market outcomes, the effects of household distributed energy options can be scaled and tested from distribution network through to power system wide levels. The results suggest that among PV size, storage capacity and operation strategy, it is PV system capacity that dominates the effect of household distributed energy actions on all electricity industry stakeholders. However, while a small difference in the private benefits to households was found when battery operation was driven by different tariffs, household PV exports were found to be dependent on battery operation, and the effects on the wider industry were heavily dependent on these exports. PV and storage operated under time-based tariffs delivered similar savings to households as under flat tariffs, but created a more volatile daily profile. This suggests that future tariff reform should consider the impacts on demand profiles of increasing numbers of consumers with distributed energy that responds actively to price signals.

Rolando Madriz-Vargas

Sustainability of community renewable energy initiatives in Central America (2018)

Community Renewable Energy (CRE) projects promise to play a pivotal role for achieving universal energy access and sustainable development for off-grid communities in developing countries (DCs). When community-based organisations own and operate Renewable Energy (RE) systems, some of the problems associated with private or utility rural electrification models can be diminished, controlled, or solved locally including lack of investment, social integration of RE technologies, local capabilities and on-going maintenance. However, despite the benefits, specific challenges for CRE reported in the literature indicate that sustainability after commissioning of such projects remains a major issue hindering wider adoption.A better understanding of community capabilities, appropriate project design, and enabling external environments can support future sustainable CRE projects. In this thesis, the Central America sub region is studied to provide insights for further deployment of CRE in DCs. Field investigation conducted over eight months allowed comparative analysis of relevant cases across Panama, Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Sustainability assessment of selected cases included techno-economic analysis of RE power systems and qualitative social research.Three new CRE case studies were developed: Boca de Lura, Aprodelbo, and Coopeguanacaste. Findings highlight that critical needs and barriers for CRE in Central America relate more to legal, organisational and political aspects; rather than social, technical or environmental ones. There are opportunities for strategic design and policy to support new CRE initiatives, particularly given the growing political interest and increasing availability of modern rural electrification technologies, e.g. solar PV, mini-hydro and hybrid minigrids.Beyond the case studies, the construction of a multi-criteria capability-based framework for sustainability assessment of CRE projects stands as the main contribution from this research. This framework can be used as a planning tool for new projects and programs, as well as a monitoring and evaluation approach for existing ones. Fieldwork results, the assessment framework, and proposed policy recommendations can together assist decision-making by CRE stakeholders, support policy-making and regulation, allow practical knowledge exchange in DCs, and create bridges for future research in the CRE field.

Zoe Hungerford

The Value of Demand Response in Facilitating High Renewables Penetrations in Power Systems (2019)

Demand Side Management (DSM), and in particular demand response (DR), has considerable potential for facilitating renewables integration into the electricity industry. At present, most electrical loads are operated according to consumer preferences without taking into account the power system impact. However a number of key loads, including some individually small but widely deployed residential appliances, can potentially be managed to help integrate variable renewable energy (VRE) sources.A key challenge in estimating the potential of residential loads for DR is the present lack of data describing how they behave at an aggregated level in power systems. This thesis helps fill this gap by providing a detailed analysis of the current operating patterns of several prospective residential loads for DR in the Australian context: off peak hot water systems, washing machines, dryers, dishwashers and pool pumps. A novel application of clustering techniques is used to investigate time-based patterns in the availability of the loads, based on smart grid trial data.In order to better understand the value of DR in power systems, these profiles are applied to different dispatch models of the Australian National Electricity Market (NEM) in the PLEXOS(R) Integrated Energy Model. The analyses include a detailed exploration of the methodology for representing the demand side in a dispatch model, and a broad range of sensitivity analyses around the impact of DR, including, particularly, the penetration of VRE in the generation mix. Finally, the thesis provides a case study demonstrating the application of the methods for representing the demand side within a recently published planning model, showing how improvements in representation of the demand side within currently used planning tools can have a major impact on modelling study outcomes.This thesis contributes to a more detailed understanding of the characteristics of shiftable residential loads, their potential value in power systems, and particular value in facilitating the integration of VRE. The integration of residential end-use profiles into a dispatch model of the Australian NEM demonstrates the ability for flexible residential loads to provide operational and capacity savings, as well as mitigating increased ramping and renewables curtailment in high VRE scenarios.

Bhupendra Shakya

Improved Energy Service Delivery with Renewable Energy Microgrids (2020)
Microgrids for rural electrification are expected to play a key role in achieving global energy access goals by the year 2030. However, the high cost of stand-alone renewable energy microgrids intended to serve generally poor communities remains a key barrier to their deployment, while appropriate microgrid design and operation is a challenging task given the generally low diversity of loads and generators. High penetrations of variable renewable generation increase these challenges due to short term changes in output associated with the underlying resource and at times limited availability and predictability. Current practices for providing electricity access still often focus on the supply side with an emphasis on ensuring the reliability, affordability and security of supply to meet some energy user demand. This supply focus on electricity provision misses some key opportunities on the demand-side for providing low cost and reliable energy service delivery to users. The aim of the research is to better understand the opportunity to improve energy service delivery in renewable energy microgrids by managing the demand side in accordance with user priorities. The thesis proposes a novel characterisation framework for energy services based on their flexibility and users’ prioritisation. Detailed survey data from 225 households across five microgrids and, grid sites in Nepal is collected to test this framework, and in doing so provides insights on how households use and prioritise their energy services across different supply sources and the factors that influence their use, which can inform energy access planning and program design. Characterisation of load or service types using the framework allows identification of key opportunities for demand-side flexibility in the case study minigrids. A method for modelling and assessing the benefits of this flexibility and energy efficiency was developed using publicly available tools. Timeseries demand profiles were constructed from survey data using LoadProGen, and optimisations of MG components were conducted using HOMER Pro.The results of the research demonstrate that there are opportunities to reduce the design and operational costs and improve quality of energy services in both PV-Diesel and Hydro MG. The proposed method can be applied by energy access planners, microgrid designers and operators seeking to reduce costs and improve reliability when serving resource constrained rural communities.

Naomi Stringer

Navigating decentralisation: data driven analysis of distributed energy resources and a framework for their integration into the electricity industry (2020)

Decentralisation is changing the structure of electricity industries worldwide. Driven by Distributed Energy Resource (DER) deployment, this energy user-led transition poses new risks and opportunities. Despite its growing role, there remains limited understanding of DER behaviour in the field. An improved evidence base is required for DER integration that helps to achieve the energy trilemma of secure affordable and sustainable electricity.The aim of this thesis is therefore to better understand risks and opportunities for appropriate integration of DER in an increasingly decentralised electricity industry. Novel data driven and modelling techniques are developed for analysis of DER behaviour in the field. Australia is used as a case study given its high penetration of distributed photovoltaic systems (D-PV). Novel insights are gained through analysing high-resolution (30s to 5min) operational data from over 5,000 individual D-PV.Technical analysis of DER in the distribution network considers curtailment due to over-voltage tripping and finds that D-PV curtailment disproportionately impacts some energy users and may limit DER participation in the electricity industry. Security analysis focuses on DER behaviour during major power system disturbances that originate in the transmission network. Findings indicate that DER pose a growing risk to power system security yet can also act to support system security. Commercial analysis indicates both positive and negative impacts of DER behaviour for industry participants. Overall, DER behaviour is shown to be highly diverse, reflecting distribution network complexity, and highlighting the value of data driven analysis.Semi structured international interviews and engagement in policy making are undertaken to develop a framework. This framework ‘maps’ electricity industry decentralisation across technical, security, commercial, governance and social dimensions so that individual DER integration efforts can be understood within the broader transition landscape and key future work identified.It is concluded that data driven analysis offers valuable insights and that operational change is required to manage DER risk to power system security. Inverter performance standards are found to set a boundary around the role that DER can play, and appropriate DER integration may require strategic coherence across the electricity industry. Finally, social licence will likely impact the success of DER integration efforts.

Peerapat Vithayasrichareon

Portfolio-based decision-support tool for generation investment and planning in uncertain and low-carbon future electricity industries (2012)

Growing concerns over high and volatile fossil-fuel prices, energy security and climate change present significant sustainability challenges for electricity industries around the world. They have particular implications for generation investment and planning as decisions to build power plants represent major commitments with regard to future electricity industry costs, fuel dependencies, energy security outcomes, and greenhouse emissions. Increasing uncertainty about future fuel prices, plant construction costs, climate change policies and electricity demand adds to the challenges. In consequence, generation investment decision-making is transitioning from traditional cost minimisation approaches towards more complex assessments incorporating future uncertainties and a range of industry objectives.This thesis presents a novel generation investment and planning decision-support tool for assessing possible future generation portfolios within an electricity industry under uncertainty and multiple policy objectives. The tool extends conventional optimal generation mix concepts by using Monte Carlo simulation and portfolio analysis techniques to determine probability distributions of future expected generation costs and greenhouse emissions for a wide range of generation portfolios. The tool can incorporate complex and correlated probability distributions for future fossil-fuel prices, carbon prices, plant investment costs, and electricity demand including price elasticity impacts. It supports sophisticated risk assessments, including downside economic risks, for any generation portfolio. A post-processing analysis is also implemented to assess the potential operational dispatch constraints and costs associated with different portfolios in meeting time-varying demand.Applications of this tool are demonstrated through case studies of electricity industries with different generation options facing a range of future uncertainties. The results provide high-level insights into issues that will likely be key drivers of future industry performance such as the impact of different sources of uncertainty, the role of future demand changes in response to electricity prices, and the interaction between wind penetration and carbon pricing on the expected costs, cost risks, and emissions of different portfolios. The implications of nuclear power and the value of different technologies within generation portfolios are also explored. These results highlight the potential value of the tool in facilitating utility and policy decision-making in the challenging task of generation investment and planning for increasingly uncertain future electricity industries.

Peter Hunt

Business Case for Sustainable Development in the Australian Built Environment (2021)

This thesis explores the concept of sustainable development as it relates to the built environment. The interrelationships between the social, environmental, and economic attributes embodied within the concept of sustainable development are analysed to understand whether the Australian built environment functions to meet both appropriate sustainable development and desired business objectives. This research utilises a qualitative methodology incorporating a literature review of the evolution of sustainable development and determines an economic theoretical approach for sustainable development that is relevant to the contemporary built environment. The adopted economic approach is the ‘capital approach’ centred upon natural capital and the consequential relationships within human, manmade, and social capital. How these ‘capitals’ function, interrelate, and align with the concept of sustainable development and the attributes of the built environment, to collectively operate within boundaries to meet the needs of society. Financial capital in contemporary economics is analysed to understand the relevance of financial capital within the capital approach. The economic review examines the evolving neoliberal economic conditions that the Australian economy is operating under, to determine how effective practitioners within the Australian built environment function, to meet appropriate sustainable development and business performance outcomes. Interviews were conducted with property industry executives to gain an appreciation of the practitioners view of sustainable development and how as a concept it is incorporated into their business operations. One of the key reasons for this study, is to ascertain whether built environment practitioners have an appropriate level of awareness of the concept of sustainable development and a desire and capacity to shift their business activities towards achieving sustainable development solutions. What are the key influences upon the Australian property industry that are achieving effective sustainable development outcomes or is the built environment entrenched in a neoliberal approach to business, ignoring the concept of sustainable development? The long-term stature of the built environment corresponds with the enduring nature of sustainable development. The key findings of this research indicate that there is increasing awareness by Australian built environment practitioners of the need to shift toward sustainable development practices, that respects the natural environment and are conscious of society's needs. Those businesses that are embracing sustainable development are realising that the adoption of such an approach can provide a viable business alternative. A sustainable development approach is gaining industry acceptance as a necessary business component within the Australian built environment, but as we are operating in an increasingly constrained environment, the concept of sustainable development must be urgently embraced by all, to ensure a sustainable and prosperous future for all.

Yankun Zhao

Public participation in Renewable Energy Projects in the UK Joint (2019)

Renewable energy (RE) development and the promotion of public participation in environmental decision-making are two growing initiatives worldwide. However, ineffective public participation in decision-making on RE projects (REPs) contributes to strong public opposition to proposed REPs. This has become a particularly important issue in China. This thesis aims to provide suggestions for Chinese legal reform of public participation in decision-making on REPs by drawing from the English experience.Drawing insight from the English experience is novel to this thesis. England provides useful lessons on implementing public participation, but none of the existing literature systematically examines the legal framework for public participation in decision-making on REPs in England and in China. This thesis addresses this gap and examines the public’s right to participate in decision-making in these jurisdictions. The thesis identifies the role of public participation in decision-making on REPs and identifies the related legislative issues under the Aarhus Convention, a multinational treaty on public participation. It discusses a critical issue — ‘Green on Green’ tension — arising in RE development and reveals the underlying factors contributing to this tension. The thesis systematically analyses the relevant requirements in English law and Chinese law. It also reviews the implementation issues in practice through an examination of case studies. The analysis in this thesis shows that Chinese law has improved regarding public participation in decision-making with respect to REPs. However, the thesis also demonstrates that the current legal framework still does not adequately address all the problems that can lead to ineffective public participation. In particular, the law does not address the scope of public participation, who can participate in public participation, what methods should be used to inform the public, the time-frame for public participation, what methods of consultation should be adopted, and how to deal with the outcome of public participation. This thesis critiques Chinese public participation law against English law which serves as a valuable benchmark and reference. It identifies principles for best practice based on a literature review and proposes suggestions for Chinese legal reform in an effort to improve the effectiveness of public participation in decision-making on REPs.

Yolanda Tobing

Corporate responsibility of banks and climate change initiatives: Case studies of Australian & Indonesian Banks (2015)

To keep the global temperature increase below 2°C, additional investment in the energy supply sector alone is calculated to be between USD 190 up to USD 900 billion per annum through to 2050 but current investments from both public and private funds are only a fraction of these levels (the UNEP FI, 2014). In 2012 the Kyoto Protocol expired, meanwhile countries globally are negotiating a new intergovernmental treaty. The new global deal will not be agreed until 2015 and will not come into force until 2020. Although governments are seen as the main party responsible for taking action to climate change, Private Finance Institutions (PFIs) are in a unique position to either help or hinder the shift away from investing in the conventional fossil fuel extraction and fossil fuel-based power by directing the capital flow to climate-resilient economy.Earlier research focused on the greening initiatives of banks (Bowman, 2012) but not necessarily investigating whether these initiatives are integrated into their core business strategies. This research investigates how PFIs in Australia and Indonesia embed Environment Social Governance (ESG) principles into their core business and operations. Particularly, this thesis explores the current practices of banks in mitigating risks, anticipating opportunities and contributing solutions to the transition to a low carbon economy. This thesis also examines both enablers and barriers in integrating sustainability into the business decision making process and corporate culture. A qualitative research methodology is adopted, involving 46 field research semi-structured interviews with top executives and middle management of banks as well as key informants in both countries and global sphere. This was broken down into four steps: a scoping study of three PFIs, an international benchmark study of two PFIs and three international organisations, the expert commentaries, and the final structured interviews with 4 Australian PFIs and 4 Indonesian PFIs.The findings demonstrate that Indonesian Banks have not been proactive in driving change to support the achievement of national emission reduction commitments due to the ‘institutional silos’ among climate related stakeholders and limited awareness on emerging opportunities for the transition to a low carbon economy. Meanwhile, the Australian Banks were driven mainly by their internal enabling environment particularly engagement of the top management and the middle implementers in establishing corporate responsibility and leading from the future as it emerges (Scharmer & Kaufer 2013), despite uncertainties of external operating environments.

Yung Renard Siew

ESG disclosures and its impact on firm valuation (2014)

Sustainability reporting tools (SRTs) have proliferated in order to meet the demand of stakeholders for higher transparency on environmental and social issues. Despite the increasing reliance on SRTs in decision making, much is still unknown about their effectiveness. If SRTs prove to be ineffective, they may pose a serious obstacle to sustainable development as well as to the discourse associated with it. To address this gap, this thesis evaluates the impact of SRTs in the context of companies as well as the building/infrastructure sector, in order to enhance their impact.In evaluating the impact of SRTs, four investigations are conducted. First, the link between environmental, social and governance (ESG) and financial performance is analysed using univariate, multivariate and portfolio analysis. Data for the period 2008-2010 are used. Results show that there is a weak relationship between ESG and financial performance represented by a wide range of financial ratios and stock returns. The portfolio of ESG leaders does not outperform the ESG laggards. Although analysts’ forecast error is found to be negatively correlated to ESG, this observation is not significant. Second, the behaviour (price movement, index trend and trading volume) of the FTSE4Good Australia Index and its constituents are examined using a Markov chain analysis. Based on the results obtained, these company stocks do not seem to demonstrate superior performance. Third, an examination of building SRTs reveals that: variation in criteria scores and weights need to be accounted for; there is no large difference in occupants’ satisfaction levels between a sustainable building (ascertained by building SRTs) and a non-sustainable building; and criteria scores are inconsistent for buildings with similar sustainability awards. Fourth, the current state of sustainability reporting of publicly-listed Australian construction companies is investigated. Contrary to expectation, the state of sustainability reporting is found to be poor with high evidence of graph obfuscation. That is, there is a biased use of graphs to depict favourable criteria in sustainability reports. Corroborative evidence from all four investigations appears to suggest that the effectiveness of SRTs is questionable.To enhance the impact of SRTs, this thesis presents an alternative multi-criteria framework to assess sustainability performance of companies and building/infrastructure projects based on second order moment thinking. This framework is designed to overcome existing limitations and encompasses six different elements: (i) Criteria selection; (ii) Quantitative measurement scales for the criteria; (iii) Characterising each criterion by measures of central tendency and dispersion; (iv) The distinction of additionality; (v) Criteria weighting; and (vi) Combining criteria to give an overall sustainability score characterised by a measure of central tendency and a measure of dispersion. A tree form classification model of companies’ sustainability performance is proposed. This model is developed using a combination of agglomerative hierarchical clustering and classification and regression tree (CART) techniques. Extending this model, the link between different clusters of companies (‘Leader’, ‘Average’ and ‘Laggard’) and sustainability maturity levels is established. As well, the fuzzy-based approach is recommended as a way to measure project sustainability maturity levels.While the nature of return–risk efficient portfolio frontier has been discussed at length in the literature, it has not been extended to incorporate the analysis of sustainability issues, as done in this thesis. Leveraging on a few concepts such as the centre of gravity (COG) and Euclidean distances, the superiority of portfolios is differentiated by accounting for both return–risk and ESG–variance. These tools adopted are original contributions to help enhance stakeholders’ decision making process.


Sudipta Bose

An Empirical Investigation of the Quality of Corporate Voluntary Greenhouse Gas & Climate Change Disclosures: Evidence from Global 500 Companies (2014)

This thesis examines the capital market impact of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions disclosures. The effect of assurance of these disclosures, the type of assurance provider and GHG management performance is also examined. The sample consists of 2,734 firm-year observations covering the period 2006-2010 across 33 countries. A modified Ohlson (1995) model is applied to capture the effect on market value while the cost of equity capital analysis uses an average of measures used in prior literature (Hail and Leuz, 2006). After controlling for selection bias, this thesis finds a negative effect on market value for GHG emissions disclosures and that this effect is moderated if the emissions are assured, particularly when this assurance is provided by the accounting profession. Moreover, the negative effect is also moderated for firms that manage their GHG emissions, although no effect is found for firms that attain higher GHG management performance. A positive relationship is observed for the cost of equity capital, with this adverse effect reduced for firms that attain higher GHG management performance. This suggests that although investors view GHG emissions disclosures to be value reducing, firms are able to minimise such effects through obtaining assurance, and specifically from the accounting profession, as well as through GHG emissions management. This thesis contributes to the scant literature on the market value and cost of equity capital impact of GHG emissions disclosures. It also contributes to the literature addressing the capital market impact of voluntary assurance and voluntary management of environmental risks. The findings of this thesis have implications for a number of stakeholders. Given that GHG emissions disclosures are informative to investors, analysts should consider such non-financial information when making stock recommendations. Further, firms have an opportunity to reduce the negative impact on market value that results from disclosing GHG emissions through managing and assuring these emissions, and also by hiring higher quality assurers. In addition, regulators or policy makers across the world may find these findings useful as they deliberately embrace the recent trend of regulatory requirements to disclose GHG emissions in countries such as Australia, U.K. and U.S.