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Stream: Sustainability and Social Issues in Management
Competitive Session
Systemic and institutional barriers to core sus...
Systemic and institutional barriers to core sustainability: Tackling the elephant
in the room.
ABSTRACT: The electricity i...
to collectively tackle sustainability issues, given the central need for a basic shared understanding
from which to begin....
[Insert Table 1 here]
The evolution of discourse on ‘sustainability’ in science began with defining ‘unsustainability’
a p...
finite world (Hopwood et al, 2005), thus environmental scholars have long debated contradictions and
contestation inherent...
Keynes (1936) whose ideas made way for the Bretton-Woods Accord, IMF2
and GATT3
. The latter
was subsequently dismantled b...
and oil as back-ups, to offset peaks and cater to dispersed (regional) load requisites (Lenzen, 2010).
Whilst internationa...
Findings from the pilot study and reviewed literature indicate this failure may be due to paradoxes (see
Table 1) and cons...
In 2010-11 Victoria’s total consumption of electricity was four times that of Tasmania however, the
former generated a sur...
markets, sell both non-renewables (coal and gas) and renewables, but are themselves coal-fired
electricity generators, sup...
one third more revenue than Hydro Tasmania, but performed 20% to 30% less well in respect to
utilising its assets to gener...
DISCUSSION - SOME STEPPING STONES
We initially raised paradoxes and terminological issues as they represent a limitation t...
integration allows cost control via ‘cherry-picking’ one’s own supply chain (promoting ‘skimming’)
and horizontal integrat...
either co-opting or denuding governance and disempowering consumers. Governments, charged with
developing and enforcing le...
TABLE 1: Notional Semiotic Comparison of Generic and Specialised Terms and Concepts in “Sustainability” in Science and Bus...
Term/Concept Business characterisation/definition Science characterisation/definition Sustainability definition should…
Ad...
Economic Growth
EnvironmentalFocus
Low
Low
High
Global RegionalScale Emphasis
HighFIGURE 1: IPCC Special Report on Emissio...
FIGURE 2: Evolution of Environmental Sustainability Models cited in the Literature
Adapted from: Multiple sources in gener...
Generation
Victoria - La Trobe Valley Power stations (% generated for VIC1 & % ownership
67% foreign owned
· 24% - Loy Yan...
REFERENCES
AGL Energy (2012a). AGL Energy Corporate Website. Retrieved October 30, 2012, from http://www
.agl.com .au/
AGL...
Australian Energy Market Commission (2011). Possible Future Retail Electricity Price Movements: 1
July 2011 to 30 June 201...
Dunphy, D., Griffiths, A., & Benn, S. (2007). Organizational change for corporate sustainability: A
guide for leaders and ...
Hodgson, G. M. (2007). The revival of Veblenian institutional economics. Journal of Economic
Issues, 41, 325-340.
Hopwood,...
Malthus, T. R (1798). An essay on the principle of population, as it affects the future improvement of
society with remark...
Skringar, E. R. & Stevens, T. (2008). Driving change and developing organisations. Prahran,
Victoria: Tilde University Pre...
United Energy (2012a). United Energy Corporate Website. Retrieved October 30, 2012, from
http://www .unitedenergy.com.au/
...
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Skringar et al 2013 - Systemic and institutional barriers to core sustainability - Tackling the elephant in the room Slide 1 Skringar et al 2013 - Systemic and institutional barriers to core sustainability - Tackling the elephant in the room Slide 2 Skringar et al 2013 - Systemic and institutional barriers to core sustainability - Tackling the elephant in the room Slide 3 Skringar et al 2013 - Systemic and institutional barriers to core sustainability - Tackling the elephant in the room Slide 4 Skringar et al 2013 - Systemic and institutional barriers to core sustainability - Tackling the elephant in the room Slide 5 Skringar et al 2013 - Systemic and institutional barriers to core sustainability - Tackling the elephant in the room Slide 6 Skringar et al 2013 - Systemic and institutional barriers to core sustainability - Tackling the elephant in the room Slide 7 Skringar et al 2013 - Systemic and institutional barriers to core sustainability - Tackling the elephant in the room Slide 8 Skringar et al 2013 - Systemic and institutional barriers to core sustainability - Tackling the elephant in the room Slide 9 Skringar et al 2013 - Systemic and institutional barriers to core sustainability - Tackling the elephant in the room Slide 10 Skringar et al 2013 - Systemic and institutional barriers to core sustainability - Tackling the elephant in the room Slide 11 Skringar et al 2013 - Systemic and institutional barriers to core sustainability - Tackling the elephant in the room Slide 12 Skringar et al 2013 - Systemic and institutional barriers to core sustainability - Tackling the elephant in the room Slide 13 Skringar et al 2013 - Systemic and institutional barriers to core sustainability - Tackling the elephant in the room Slide 14 Skringar et al 2013 - Systemic and institutional barriers to core sustainability - Tackling the elephant in the room Slide 15 Skringar et al 2013 - Systemic and institutional barriers to core sustainability - Tackling the elephant in the room Slide 16 Skringar et al 2013 - Systemic and institutional barriers to core sustainability - Tackling the elephant in the room Slide 17 Skringar et al 2013 - Systemic and institutional barriers to core sustainability - Tackling the elephant in the room Slide 18 Skringar et al 2013 - Systemic and institutional barriers to core sustainability - Tackling the elephant in the room Slide 19 Skringar et al 2013 - Systemic and institutional barriers to core sustainability - Tackling the elephant in the room Slide 20 Skringar et al 2013 - Systemic and institutional barriers to core sustainability - Tackling the elephant in the room Slide 21 Skringar et al 2013 - Systemic and institutional barriers to core sustainability - Tackling the elephant in the room Slide 22 Skringar et al 2013 - Systemic and institutional barriers to core sustainability - Tackling the elephant in the room Slide 23 Skringar et al 2013 - Systemic and institutional barriers to core sustainability - Tackling the elephant in the room Slide 24 Skringar et al 2013 - Systemic and institutional barriers to core sustainability - Tackling the elephant in the room Slide 25 Skringar et al 2013 - Systemic and institutional barriers to core sustainability - Tackling the elephant in the room Slide 26
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Skringar et al 2013 - Systemic and institutional barriers to core sustainability - Tackling the elephant in the room

  1. 1. Stream: Sustainability and Social Issues in Management Competitive Session Systemic and institutional barriers to core sustainability: Tackling the elephant in the room. Ms Elizabeth R. Skringar School of Management, Faculty of Business University of Tasmania, Launceston, Australia Email: Liz.Skringar@utas.edu.au Mr Peri Makris School of Geography & Environmental Studies, Faculty of Science, Engineering & Technology University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia Email: makrisp@postoffice.utas.edu.au Dr Stewart Williams School of Geography & Environmental Studies, Faculty of Science, Engineering & Technology University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia Email: Stewart.Williams@utas.edu.au
  2. 2. Systemic and institutional barriers to core sustainability: Tackling the elephant in the room. ABSTRACT: The electricity industry has at its core a non-renewable resource (coal) germane to the industrial revolution, but still used globally as a primary fuel source to provide energy for fabricating consumer goods and a medium for their consumption. Economic (dis-)incentives are not hastening change, suggesting inefficiencies can no longer be driven out of the system, noting fiscal controls only work if competition prevails. A pilot case study shows free market dynamics, operating in one part of the system, can dictate directionality and set priorities for the entire system, in the process either co- opting or denuding governance, rendering regulators powerless and annulling market contestability thereby disempowering consumers whilst delaying adoption of alternative forms of energy. Keywords: Sustainability, managing for the common good, cross-discipline, codes of conduct, ethics, corruption. We present preliminary findings of a pilot study, as part of an ongoing, interdisciplinary collaboration between business and environmental science, investigating systemic barriers to fossil fuel replacement in the Australian electricity generation and supply industry. This seminal ‘essential’ service industry has at its core a non-renewable resource viz., coal - germane to the industrial revolution, but still used globally as a primary fuel source to generate energy. It is now recognised as the greatest contributor, by far, to anthropogenic carbon emissions, associated with global warming and unprecedented extreme weather events characteristic of climate change. The states of Victoria and Tasmania were selected for the pilot study to test the methodology for ensuing and more comprehensive Australia-wide investigation. Each state offers unique characterises for investigation such as different market forms (unregulated and regulated) and interactional dynamics, extremes of non-renewable and renewable fuel use (brown coal in Victoria and hydro in Tasmania) and unique economies of varying size and scale (consumer and company populations). The paper begins by defining the parameters of sustainability and juxtaposing incomplete and/or divergent terms and concepts used variously in the discreet domains of business and environmental science. We thereby raise attention to some inherent, apparently irreconcilable paradoxes that otherwise thwart any joint pursuit of sustainability, including creating compatible and effective tools
  3. 3. to collectively tackle sustainability issues, given the central need for a basic shared understanding from which to begin. Fundamental principles in business and environmental management praxis are called into question and emergent themes are discussed. For example, in the former, complex market dynamics and extolled tenets of competitive strategy conspiring to form systemic barriers to timely operationalisation of sustainability mandates (irrespective of market structure). Likewise, in the latter, adaptive instruments and mitigation strategies not often appropriately scaled nor adequately targeted for optimum environmental outcomes. Following a critique utilising preliminary findings from the industry case study, we make suggestions towards a tentative and pragmatic convergence in the pursuit of sustainability by actors in business and environmental management. The analytic tools and methods used in the pilot will be redeployed in a subsequent larger study and so any limitations are duly recognised with a view to refinement. SUSTAINABILITY’S ‘TOWER OF BABEL’ Metaphors, mimetics and memes only assist in transferring concepts from unfamiliar to familiar domains if they are not stretched so as to pervert original intent and do not create paradoxes. Both science and business use such heuristic and co-optation devices. However, so as to achieve relevance and fit, terms are interchanged and syllables recombined; semantics are altered, important theoretical premises and modelled semiotics are skipped; and, etymology, original intent and historical evolution are overlooked. Transmogrified concepts are then re-translated and built upon, potentially compounding the aforementioned problems whilst providing false comfort of deep understanding. Examples in business include Hannan and Freeman’s (1977) Population Ecology model from Darwin’s Theory of Evolution and Romanelli and Tushman’s (1994) Punctuated Equilibrium model from Palaeobiology’s exposition of the fossil record (Gould & Eldredge, 1977). Science coined the term ‘Natural Capitalism’ (Hawken et al, 1999; 2010) - an extension of ‘capital’ redefined and prefixed with ‘natural’, incorporating the environment and people. Evidence of failure in conceptual transference is business’ self-selecting, piecemeal adoption of only one of four principles initially proposed by Hawken et al (Moscardo et al, 2013) as shown in Table 1. Herein contrasts are made in use of terms and concepts pertaining to sustainability across disciplines together with convergent alternatives which seek to avoid paradoxes and create a basis for a much needed Lingua Franca.
  4. 4. [Insert Table 1 here] The evolution of discourse on ‘sustainability’ in science began with defining ‘unsustainability’ a priori. The concept was later introduced into business as ‘sustainability’ a posteriori. However, where science defined the object of sustainability falsifiably, business has not, thus embracing sustainability as a process - a means to an end and an adjective, rather than an end in itself and a verb or noun. It must be noted though that some environmental scholars have shared this stance in their critique of sustainability’s limited, instrumental use in the pursuit of ‘business as usual’ (Raffaelle et al, 2010; Davidson, 2000). Similarly business scholars have cautioned against over-extension of bio- mimetics on the grounds that a biological organism cannot determine its own existence, divest ‘bits of itself’ nor merge select parts with other organisms like organisations, social and economic systems and technology can (Donaldson, 1995). Such mixing of ‘socially-constructed’ concepts with concrete physical reality is further illustrated in business literature by the convention of including the environment alongside political, legal and technological elements, to elucidate open systems interaction within an organisation’s macro-environment (Skringar & Stevens, 2008). Science’s caveat here reflects the laws of thermodynamics: excepting solar radiation, the planet is essentially a closed system - there is no net loss nor gain - matter and energy are just transformed from one state to another in a cyclical fashion. Thus, if an adult today were atomised to their chemical elements “they…would probably…[be]… made up of bits of the Black Sea, extinct fish, mountain ranges and the exhalations of Jesus and Buddha…[not meaning]…twenty centuries from now, our…descendants will…be built from pieces of polystyrene cups…[I-tech devices]…, and Reebok cross-trainers…these goods do not naturally recycle” (Hawken et al, 2010: 49) rather they accumulate as waste replacing nature. It is accepted fact in science natural resource use has exceeded its rate of regeneration such that global humanity’s collective rate of consumption now requires us to have access to an additional 1.5 Earth’s and in the vicinity of 4.51 if all humanity lived the same manner as a middle-class US or UAE citizen (Ewing et al, 2010). ‘Sustainable Growth’ in business infers long-term viability (Springett, 2003) but in the scientific vernacular this is oxymoronic as continual growth cannot happen in a closed system or 1 The equivalent to 4 Earth’s would be required to support a global population consuming at the same rate as Australians (SGV, 2013).
  5. 5. finite world (Hopwood et al, 2005), thus environmental scholars have long debated contradictions and contestation inherent in this notion (Raffaelle et al, 2010; Jacobs, 1999) LOOKING BACK TO SEE THE WAY FORWARD Historical reinterpretation is blessed with the wisdom of hindsight wherein the deeds of individuals alternate from infamy to admiration - Adam Smith is one such individual. Smith (1776), a moral sentimentalist philosopher, inspired by French physiocrats (Yefimov, 2013; Boutillier, 2011), penned ‘An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations’ prompted by the oppressive, inequitably socially stratified society around him. He fundamentally argued everyone should be entitled to ‘ownership’, paid a reasonable wage for their labours and/or compete freely for an income. Historical exemplars of ‘unsustainable’ human activity rarely need reinterpretation as history is awash with them from collapse of empires to famine and spread of disease (Hugé, 2012). ‘Sustainability’ as a discrete concept was not formally recognised until such publications as, conservationist and marine biologist Carson’s (1962) ‘The Silent Spring’ chronicled the pathogenic consequences of pesticides (DDT) and, ecologist, Hardin’s (1968) ‘Tragedy of the Commons’ on individual self-interest usurping common resources to the detriment of individuals themselves (Tuazon et al, 2013; Hugé, 2012; Du Pisani, 2006). Themes in these books encapsulated pre-industrial, industrial revolution (circa 1760 - 1840) and post-industrial thinking (Tuazon et al, 2013; Waas et al, 2011; Hugé, 2012; Du Pisani, 2006). Malthus (1798) wrote on exponential population growth outstripping linear food production capacity. Later Jevons (1865), a UK-based physical scientist, invoking Malthus (1798) and citing German-based, thermodynamics founder Clausius, argued the unsustainability of coal and need to find alternative energy sources (i.e. wind/water/tidal mills to power ‘magneto-electric machines’). Despite gaining full knowledge of non-renewable resource exhaustibility, the issue still remains irresolute. Extending Adam Smith’s (1776) sentiments Veblen (1899) wrote of ‘conspicuous consumption’ amongst the leisure classes, revisited by Galbraith (1958) reflecting on US affluence. Veblen (1904) also theorised about the formation of business enterprise - latterly recognised as evolutionary institutional economics (Potts, 2007; Wray, 2007; Hodgson, 2007) aligning him with the views of
  6. 6. Keynes (1936) whose ideas made way for the Bretton-Woods Accord, IMF2 and GATT3 . The latter was subsequently dismantled by global, pro-Smith liberal democracy commencing in 1979 (Skringar & Stevens, 2008), concomitant with Porter’s (1980) writings on the competitive diamond strategy model followed by ‘The Competitive Advantage of Nations’ (1990) in which he asserted wealth is created by choice not national endowments (i.e. raw resources and other factors) thus debunking Smith (1776). Ironically, these machinations, ruled rather by the ‘invisible hand’ than by fate, are illustrated in 2002 where a count of the 100 largest global economies, revealed the majority (51%) were corporations, not nation states (Hertz, 2002). Forbes’ (2013) ranked list of the largest global public corporations, calculated using 4 composite metrics ($ value of sales, profit, assets and market value) shows of the top 25 companies, 36% are banks, 44% involve fossil fuel either as a producer (32%) or downstream electrical/automotive products supplier (12%) and 16% are non-material service organisations (ITC, non-banking services). In 1972 ‘sustainability’ was ratified in the UN4 ’s agenda as it appeared in the Stockholm Declaration (Hugé, 2012; Waas et al, 2011) setting a politico-social precedent of import for non- renewable resource industry participants and the onus for associated environmental damage. Prima facie undermining sovereignty of oil-producing nations (Scott, 2002), along with US withdrawal from the Bretton-Woods Accord in 1971 (changing oil currency to USD), contributed to the 1973 energy crisis spearheaded by OAPEC5 and OPEC6 members. The actions of these ‘cartels’ had significant future ramifications in suring up national energy security providing context to Porter’s model of competitive strategy and future renunciation of national endowments being the harbinger of wealth. Notably since the 1970’s, electricity doubled its share in the energy market whilst share of all other energy sources declined (barring nuclear energy), and now accounts for 17% of the total global energy market, marginally behind oil (Lenzen, 2010). In 2006 fossil fuels accounted for 67% of global electricity generation comprising coal (41%), gas (20%) and oil (6%) followed by nuclear fuel (15%), and renewables at 18%, led by hydro (16%) with coal and nuclear fuels used for base loading and gas 2 International Monetary Fund 3 General Agreement on Trade & Tariffs 4 United Nations 5 Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries 6 Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries
  7. 7. and oil as back-ups, to offset peaks and cater to dispersed (regional) load requisites (Lenzen, 2010). Whilst international support for nuclear R&D rose sharply between 1974 and 2002 (IPCC, 2007), fossil-fuel energy is expected to retain primacy until at least 2030 (Lenzen, 2010). The notion of sustainability that prevails today was enshrined in the World Conference in Environmental Development and specifically the Brundtland report that espoused its global agenda for change (WCED, 1987). It is committed to intergenerational equity and more explicitly sustainable development acknowledging “present state of technology…social organization” (WCED, 1987: 4) and poignantly biophysical capacity for renewal. The IPCC7 was formed in 1988 by UNEP8 and WMO9 . With members in 195 countries, it is a global suppository for climate knowledge volunteered by thousands of research scientists and publishes its assessments (now in their 5th iteration) in a transparent participatory process. Four base future scenarios have been formulated (IPCC, 2000) and expanded revolving around economic growth and environmental focus interpolated with scale emphasis (globalisation/regionalisation) (see Figure 1) yielding numerous extrapolations of ‘current’ trajectories coupled to future outcomes. Scenario B1 or B2 is favoured, resulting in decreasing anthropogenic GHG10 emissions - foremostly carbon released by burning fossil fuels such as coal. [Insert Figure 1 here] The IPCC scenarios are intended as a reference for discourse and metrics and wherein economics and the environment appear divergent, the scientific and environmental literature emphasises evolution towards conciliation (see Figure 2). [Insert Figure 2 here] Sustainable environmental management in various guises has had at its disposal three policy- drivers embodied in climate change mitigation instruments: 1) economic (subsidies, taxes including exemptions and credits); 2) regulatory (mandated targets, minimum performance standards, auto- exhaust emission control); and 3) consultative/voluntary processes (information dissemination, strategic planning, community/stakeholder consultation/volunteerism, (in-)formal agreements) (IPCC, 2007). Progression towards positive change using these three levers has not reached desirable targets. 7 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 8 United Nations Environment Programme 9 World Meteorological Organization 10 Greenhouse gas
  8. 8. Findings from the pilot study and reviewed literature indicate this failure may be due to paradoxes (see Table 1) and consequent misconstruals and miscommunications between business and science of their understandings and activities resulting in misaligned efforts. Not aiding the cause is adoption and reworking of past ideas conditional on their contemporary social re-constructability thus, in reality very few, if any environmental sustainability issues have been resolved than have been exacerbated. INDUSTRY CASE ANALYSIS Burning brown coal to generate electricity emits one third more GHG’s than black coal, three times more than natural gas (the lowest of all non-renewable fuels) and sixty two times more than current renewable fuels (Tarlo, 2002). In Australia domestic reliance on brown coal switched from black coal coinciding with the global energy crisis in 1973 (ABREE, 2012a). Driven by global energy (oil) insecurity and shifting demand, black coal became a high value commodity export which now accounts for 61% of Australian energy commodity exports, outstripping uranium (25%), natural gas (8%) and oil (7%) (ABREE, 2012b). Brown coal surpassed black coal for domestic use in 1986/87 and has remained unchallenged since (ABREE, 2012a). From 2007 to 2011 use of natural gas increased by 7% to 21%, offsetting a fall in coal of 10% to 56%, although coal still accounts for 78% of base load; of renewables, hydro fell by 3% to 16% and wind increased by 2.5% to 4% (AER, 2007; 2011). Coal-fired electricity generation trumps alternate energies as it is cheaper to generate and allows control in supply continuity, noting electricity storage technology does not yet exist (Trainer, 1995). Barriers to adopting alternative energies include the need and time lag involved in constructing and operationalising infrastructure mitigating against attaining equivalent economies of scale; problems with grid integration (wind); geographical mismatch (water catchments for hydro, carbon capture/storage, biomass variability); diminishing resources (uranium, water loss for hydro due to aridification); cost (photovoltaic, solar concentrating technologies); and, reliance on constant weather conditions, now in an increasing state of flux (Lenzen, 2010; Trainer, 1995). Victoria and South Australia are the only states using brown coal (accounting for 92% and 26% of generation respectively) (ABREE, 2012c) and are also the only states in which the industry is unregulated. Renewable hydro accounts for 82% of generation in Tasmania, which is fully regulated (AER, 2011). Generation from renewable fuels accounts for 5.4% in Victoria and 86% in Tasmania.
  9. 9. In 2010-11 Victoria’s total consumption of electricity was four times that of Tasmania however, the former generated a surplus and the latter a deficit (ABREE, 2012d). Conventional coal-fired power stations in the La Trobe Valley (significantly containing 25% of global brown coal reserves) supply 67% of Victoria’s electricity exclusively from adjacent coal mines. To add context to scale, Loy Yang A, one of four power stations, uses 60,000 tonnes of coal extracted in 24 hour shifts, along with 1million litres of water per hour (Loy Yang Power, 2011). Figure 3, commencing with generation, summarises the industry supply chain for both Tasmania and Victoria, gleaned from systematic review of Governmental and regulatory bodies and annual company reports, topical to the following analysis. [Insert Figure 3 here] Competitive dynamics Around 60% of Victoria’s electricity industry is foreign-owned, albeit variously in generation (67%), transmission (100%), distribution (53%) and retail operations (25%). La Trobe Valley contains both the least and most efficient power stations, viz. foreign-owned Hazelwood (GDF Suez International UK) and Australian-owned Loy Yang A (AGL Ltd). Vertical and horizontal cross- ownership is evident in the supply chain. For example, CLP Holdings Hong Kong, an Asian-based electricity generator, transmitter and retailer, has 24% share of generation and 25% of retail operations. Temasek, a Singaporean based investment bank, holds 100% of transmission and a 33% stake in distribution (via 3 trading entities). It is “governed by the…Singapore Companies Act (Temasek, 2012b) and invests in “transforming economies…growing middle income populations…[in a portfolio of]…telecommunications, media, financial services, real estate, transportation, logistics, energy, resources, infrastructure, engineering, technology, bioscience, healthcare” (Temasek, 2012a). Underlying the structural layering and trading entities in Victoria (impacting Tasmania via Basslink) is horizontally integrated, foreign and non-foreign, cross-ownership concentration at crucial leverage points in the supply chain (i.e. transmission><distribution; generation><retail) and horizontally integrated cross-ownership in fuel types (i.e. non-renewable and renewable alternatives to brown coal). Retailing in multiple fuels is evident amongst 3 of 5 retailers, collectively holding 80% share of the voluminous residential and small business markets. However, two of these retailers (AGL Ltd and Australian Energy owned by CLP Holdings Hong Kong) who hold 50% share in these
  10. 10. markets, sell both non-renewables (coal and gas) and renewables, but are themselves coal-fired electricity generators, supplying over one third of coal-powered electricity in Victoria. Indeed, AGL Ltd owns the brown coal mine supplying various generators in the La Trobe Valley. Pricing The highest price increases across the supply chain in 2011-12 were recorded amongst distributors SP AusNet at 23.5% (51% owned by Temasek and 49% by private direct shareholders); Jemena at 10.5% (100% owned by SPI, in turn 100% owned by Temasek); then, United Energy at 9.6% (34% owned by Jemena which is 100% owned by SPI, in turn 100% owned by Temasek) (AER, 2011). Collectively these entities represent 61% of all distributors in Victoria whose customers are defined as ‘connections’, in turn serviced by retailers - the interface for consumers, who meter and bill customers adding their on-costs and margins - as such, there is a highly interdependent relationship between distributors and retailers but no direct relationship between distributors and consumers. Composition of residential electricity bills (AER, 2011; AEMC, 2011; United Energy, 2012b; Aurora, 2012a) shows the proportional contribution of wholesale electricity costs in Tasmania (hydro) is the same as Victoria (coal-powered) (34%) and Tasmania’s green costs (carbon emissions/ efficiency schemes) significantly exceed Victoria’s (11% cf. 3%). This is also the case for distribution cost contributions (48% cf. 36%) despite Victoria’s larger population size. Victoria’s retail cost contributions far exceed Tasmania’s (27% cf. 8%) due to its larger population size. Financial Performance/Investment Using revenue, profit and asset utilisation as indicators from annual company and other reports, a comparison between Victoria’s, AGL Ltd (generation/retail businesses) and Tasmania’s Aurora Energy (generation/transmission/ distribution/retail) and Hydro Tasmania (generation/minor other activity) shows AGL’s brown coal-powered generation activity alone recorded greater revenue in 2012 than did Aurora and Hydro Tasmania together ($3,2126M cf. $1,493M and $1,051M respectively). It is unsurprising given the difference in customer numbers. However, whilst Hydro Tasmania, with one sixth the asset base of AGL’s generation business performed twice better than AGL in capitalising its assets to create total revenue (even when paying 7 times more tax), AGL is actually five times more profitable overall and three times better at turning a profit from its coal-power assets. Aurora recorded
  11. 11. one third more revenue than Hydro Tasmania, but performed 20% to 30% less well in respect to utilising its assets to generate revenue and turn a profit. Government Initiatives/Activity In 2012 the New South Wales, Victorian and Federal Governments bought into the Victorian electricity market by launching hydro power from Snowy Mountain Hydro. Momentum (the trading arm of Hydro Tasmania) retained by the Tasmanian Government bought hydro into the Victorian and South Australian electricity markets retailing under purchased licence agreements. Although Hydro Tasmania (2012) does not explicate “direct operating expenses” in its annual financial reports, via a process of exclusion, it is assumed the figure of $101.9 M cited in a footnote is wholly or partly attributable to Momentum’s retail operations. During the 2011-12 financial year Aurora (Hydro Tasmania’s bill collector) reported a tenfold increase in hardship payments by customers from an almost zero base, costing $326K and impacting 2,451 customers (Aurora Energy, 2012a). In the same financial year, Aurora incurred no tax, its revenue and underlying profit reached a four year peak as did dividends paid to the Tasmanian Government, yet its capital expenditure was the lowest in four years. An initiative to convert brown coal into non-conventional crude oil to process into diesel, jet fuel and petroleum has been funded by the Federal Government. It comprises the Victorian Government, international parties from Japan, Australian companies in joint international venture, CSIRO, a university and CPL Holdings Hong Kong. The relative investment value of brown coal is thus poised to skyrocket from its current low base reflecting a shift in value based on desirability expecting to rival oil (Grant Thornton, 2010) guaranteeing an increase, not lessening in its use. Commitment to Sustainability Comparison across corporate statements allied to annual reports of reviewed operating entities in Victoria and Tasmania reveals complete omission by Temasek of any statement on the environment or sustainability - in lieu, complete focus on shareholder returns. Of all reports reviewed, Hydro Tasmania’s (2009) is outstanding as it goes beyond a statement (and platitudes) to an action plan and evaluation of it. Its commitment to the environment is fortified by its investment and activity of its consulting arm Entura (2010).
  12. 12. DISCUSSION - SOME STEPPING STONES We initially raised paradoxes and terminological issues as they represent a limitation to interdisciplinary study, discourse and joint action on sustainability. After defining the concept we tangibly demonstrated tensions between fossil fuel’s menacing contribution to global climate change effects begging “nothing short of an energy revolution” (Lenzen, 2010: 475) and the reality of locked- in thinking and action, as palpable as the physical infrastructure to which it capitulates. Escalating global oil and gas prices will again place reliance on coal - anticipated to increase to 46% by 2030 (Lenzen, 2010) on top of a volumetrically expanding energy demand base11 . These forecasts, together with dominance of banks in the world’s top public companies and our preliminary findings suggest a very strong institutional economic agenda, as propagated by Veblen (1904) driving the sustainability mandate. It also portends the IPCC’s A1FI scenario as an increasing likely and persistent reality. That economic incentives are not hastening change suggests we may have reached the point where inefficiencies can no longer be driven out of the system (Galbraith, 1952) noting monetary controls only work if competition prevails. Capitalising on efficiency (per ‘Natural Capitalism’) is thus anathema if business feeds off and thrives on institutionalised inefficiency. Oligopolies operating at the root of the electricity supply chain around which multifarious supporting industries have formed and congealed, collectively lock out alternatives. Oligopolists maximise profit via price setting, significantly impacting others around them and downstream of the supply chain. A small number of players are a surety if entry barriers are dictated by economies of scale, viz. the ability to marshal sufficient capitalisation to acquire substantial assets and also withstand lengthy marginal cost pricing. Especially attractive is little or no product differentiation such that end-users cannot contest price on product quality nor ‘knowable’ costs (Redmond, 2013). Contestation is negated by gaps between consumers and cost leveragers (i.e. distributors) exacerbated by regulations sanctioning transfer of “costs to consumers and taxpayers” (Lenzen, 2010: 468) throughout the supply chain so cost apportionment is less transparent, counter-intuitively levelised or justified. History reveals at points in industry evolution characterised by acquisitions/mergers and/or significant mutual interdependencies that collusive behaviour naturally occurs engulfing entire supply chains (Redmond, 2013). Vertical 11 Energy demand in Australia is increasing at a rate of 2% per annum (Trainer, 2012).
  13. 13. integration allows cost control via ‘cherry-picking’ one’s own supply chain (promoting ‘skimming’) and horizontal integration allows ‘milking’ profit from existing (cash cow) business activities thus promoting control over profit-sapping change to alternatives. Collectively, this delays adoption of alternative forms of energy, annuls market contestability and renders regulators powerless to prove individual cases of anti-competitive conduct. Capitalisation to acquire and/or develop substantial essential service assets and infrastructure has doubtless attracted (and will attract) distinct prospective - in Australia’s case - foreign buyers buoyed by desirable conditions of scarcity and high demand. In this sense it is to be expected oligopolies will proliferate, perhaps globally, in essential services. The question is how does one regulate ‘imperfect’ oligopolistic competition - especially as the most capitalised entities in the world are, in fact, corporations and not nation states? ‘Perfect competition’ is non-collusive as Federal regulations target anti-competitive practices, but ‘imperfect competition’ (i.e. oligopolies) is not as clear. Whilst, uncompetitive behaviour arising between sellers is directly addressed, between sellers and buyers ‘contestability’ is implied by consumer choice, however such contestability naturally favours sellers as consumers rarely have information to wage a contest. Thus information (and informed choice) takes precedence which is embodied in fair trading legislation (usually at state-level) (Redmond, 2013). Competition between buyers (e.g. auctions), occurs on the basis of wants underpinned by aspirational affluence - the heart of the marketing function - which is not directly addressed in any legislation12 . Such competition has the potential to spur conspicuous over-consumption, especially of downstream products, sold by supporting industries which, in this instance, fuels energy demand and consumption. Clearly de- consumption, voluntary or otherwise, will not and cannot occur in this scenario if electricity costs increase - rather it may create an aspirational ‘luxury’ out of energy consumption (already the case amongst high per capita energy consuming nations). Competition inherently involves secrecy, capital-raising and monopolistic self-interest which, for government translates to lack of transparency, gouging tax payers to raise funds and sanctioning vertical/horizontal integration. The case study illustrated that free market dynamics, operating in one part of the system, can dictate directionality and set priorities for the entire system, in the process 12 Barring some pertaining to children
  14. 14. either co-opting or denuding governance and disempowering consumers. Governments, charged with developing and enforcing legislation are not primed to compete with the private sector, mandated in the Australian Constitution, but facilitated nonetheless by an overhaul in competition policy in 1993, spawning the ACCC13 and splitting administrative and government business activity, simultaneous to investiture of privatisation in Australia. It is now evident the ‘rule-makers’ have become players - or at least, part of the game - much the same as has occurred on a global scale. Presently reliance on de- railed/denuded governance remains unworkable. Findings of our pilot study involving two states in Australia revealed systemic barriers to fossil fuel replacement addressing the core of sustainability issues. Supported by interdisciplinary knowledge and collaborative scholarship we now embark on broader explorations with anticipation of unearthing national and international implications of import. 13 Australian Competition and Consumer Commission
  15. 15. TABLE 1: Notional Semiotic Comparison of Generic and Specialised Terms and Concepts in “Sustainability” in Science and Business Term/Concept Business characterisation/definition Science characterisation/definition Sustainability definition should… Scarcity A highly desirable state primed for investment - when coupled with demand it is a “perfect storm” to initiate business activity &/or for growth. A state of crisis - when coupled with demand a precursor of systemic collapse e.g. depletion of: water resources; minerals from soils (which food crops are reliant on), forests (vital to replenish oxygen and make medicines) etc. Default to science as exploiting scarcity (coupled with demand) will ultimately result in systemic collapse (e.g. overfishing). Establishing & monitoring thresholds & tipping points is vital. Exploiting or artificially creating scarcity presages social inequality & inequity in access (affordability of & access to water, food, medicines etc.). Renewable & Non- renewable Non-renewable resources/commodities (e.g. oil, coal) are finite thus implicitly hold most value due to monetisability, tradability (acquire/divest), transactionability (currency), commodifiability & bankruptability. Renewable resources/ commodities are in infinite supply & are less valued. Renewable resources (e.g. water) - used &/or extracted which may become commodities - hold most value as they are infinitely cycling and maintain biophysical equilibrium and feedbacks (recycling). Non-renewable (finite) resources hold less value. Default to science as depletion of non-renewable, finite resources causes biophysical disequilibrium and breaks ‘environmental value chains’ increasing potential for whole of system collapse. Pivotal to ‘environmental’ business activity (e.g. eco-tourism for protected areas) invokes value- ‘abilities’ (re. trade, commodification, bankruptcy etc). Shareholder Individual/entity that invests in a business enterprise who is entitled to a return (gain or loss) in direct proportion to their original investment based on the activities and output of the business. Not used in environmental science. Those reaping returns of environmental interventions and/or actions are placed in the same group (i.e. original land owners plus the community plus society plus the media plus the supply chain etc.). Default to business so that the “environment” and “people” are actually deemed shareholders along with those who directly invest capital - thus, securing environmental and social returns on investment - sharing in gains not just losses. Stakeholder A person/entity/group who has a vested interests in part or whole of business activities and outcomes and who stand to benefit (e.g. supply chain) or add leverage to the same (e.g. media, government via lobbying). Anyone party to the outcomes of environmental issues/initiatives (irrespective of positive or negative impact). Default to business so that escalation of the environmental “cause” can be achieved through leveraging (which serves to empower those who have a direct investment in outcomes, viz. the environment and those impacted (e.g. original land owners). Natural Capitalism Backfilling business operations/activities to attain cost-efficiencies, leverage productivity gains and increase profit margins (Dunphy et al 2007). Coined from ‘natural capital’ meaning “water, minerals, oil, trees, fish, soil, air…” Hawken et al (1999; 2010), it has 4 core principles - 1) same per business; 2) re-engineering production & extraction processes, re-using waste & by-products; 3) reinvest in nature & 4) producers & consumers benefit/profit from durable, quality and re-usable products. Default to science as business’ definition equates to ‘business as usual’ re. avoiding costs. Any ‘conservation measures’ will again be exhausted in future (i.e. if energy for a given output was decreased by one third per IPCC14 , 2007 targets, but output increased by 3% annually due to productivity and efficiency gains - in 14 years we’d be back to current consumption levels and dilemmas (Trainer, 1995). 14 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
  16. 16. Term/Concept Business characterisation/definition Science characterisation/definition Sustainability definition should… Adaption/ Adaptation Generic terms commonly employed in discussion of internal and external (macro- & operating environment) pressures for organisational change (e.g. Ansoff’s (1990) Turbulence model; Hannan & Freeman’s (1977) Population Ecology model; Greiner’s (1972) organisational life-cycle model; & dialectic/political process perspectives: Pugh, 1997; Benson, 1977; Weber, 1947a & 1947b). Barring Population Ecology, techniques can be employed by management assuring resilience/ fortification against destabilising change (challenging, driving, matching or embracing it via transformational or incremental interventions). Reflexive individual, inter- & intra-organisational & combinations are recognised as effective resilience- building measures (see Skringar & Stevens, 2008, p. 386; Argote & Ophir, 2005; Schulz, 2005; Ingram, 2005; Tainio et al, 2001; Antal et al, 2001; Child & Heavens, 2001; Senge, 1990; Argyris & Schon, 1978) . The process by which an organism &/or ecosystem attempts to achieve a better fit in the system/natural environment it is part of in the presence of long- standing biophysical change and/or disturbance for the sake of its survival. (Anthropogenically induced change poses an extra burden in addition to naturally occurring biophysical change) Default to science as, in reaction to anthropogenically caused change (i.e. practices not in harmony with the rate at which the planet is able to renew and thus regulate itself), the environment adapts in ways which are deleterious for human society. It is not and will not be possible for human society to adapt to escalating countervailing environmental threats (e.g. extreme weather events) and thus requires society to re- organise itself, as soon as possible, so as to align with the actual biophysical limits of the planet and its ecosystems for the survival of society. Resilience The ability of an organism to cope with induced biophysical change and/or disturbance to its natural environment - “the extent to which a system can absorb recurrent natural and human perturbations and continue to regenerate without slowly degrading or even unexpectedly flipping into undesirable states” (Folke et al, 2005, pp. 442-3). Default to science as resilience begins with accurate understanding of critical factors including tight feedbacks allowing detection of thresholds before they are crossed, in order to heighten reflexive learning and to better plan and adaptively manage the process which leads to better alignment of policy, structures, institutions and most importantly societal values to new realities.
  17. 17. Economic Growth EnvironmentalFocus Low Low High Global RegionalScale Emphasis HighFIGURE 1: IPCC Special Report on Emission Scenarios (2000) - Four Base Scenarios Current to 4th Assessment (2007) & Modelled Impacts Modelled Impacts ~ Scenarios A1 & A2 ~ Eco-system adaptation capacity exceeded by 2100 + Freshwater systems compromised – water scarcity & inaccessibility + GHG emissions alter climate – increased temperatures & extreme weather events 20-30% species extinction once temperatures rise 2 o -3 o C above pre- industrial levels o Decreased cereal crop & pasture yields due to soil degradation & water depletion o Rapid increase in marine-life extinctions & significant biodiversity loss + Coastal erosion due to climate change induced, sea level rise & extreme weather events Increase in disease/change in disease vectors due to food scarcity/dietary shifts, weather events, water impurity & poor air quality Population migration/relocation from damaged/unhealthy areas + Infrastructure failure to cope with climate change & extreme weather (e.g. fire, floods) & escalating remediation costs ------------------ + Relevant currently to 2030 in Australia o Future indications for Australia Australia New Zealand Problem hotspots: S-West WA Northland Bay of Plenty Kakadu Eastern seaboard Tropical & S-East QLD Alpine zones Murray-Darling Basin A1 Scenario World: market-oriented; regional convergence Economy: fastest per capita growth; â regional differences in per capita growth Population: 2050 peak, then decline Governance: strong regional interactions; á cultural/social interactivity Energy Technology: sub-scenario groups - A1F1: fossil intensive (assumed 33% â by 2100) * A1T: non-fossil energy sources * A1B: balanced across sources * contingent on introduction of unknown technologies A2 Scenario World: differentiated; heterogenous & self-reliant Economy: regionally oriented/(low trade flows); Lowest per capita growth; sustained per capita income gap between industrialised & non- industrialised regions Population: continuously increasing Governance: self-reliance with preservation of local identities Energy Technology: slowest and most fragmented development B1 Scenario World: convergent (globalised) Economy: rapid growth due to economic restructuring; âmaterialism; á focus in service & information services; lower growth than A1 Population: same as A1 Governance: equitable global solutions to economic, social & environmental sustainability Energy Technology: clean & energy resource efficient B2 Scenario World: divergent (localised) Economy: intermediate growth Population: continuously increasing at lower rate than A2 Governance: equitable local & regional solutions to economic, social & environmental sustainability Energy Technology: more rapid than A2; less rapid, more diverse than A1/B1 Adapted from: IPCC (2007). Climate Change 2007: Impacts, adaptation and vulnerability. Working Group II, Fourth Assessment. Geneva, Switzerland. Extracted from: IPCC (2007). Climate Change 2007: Impacts, adaptation and vulnerability. Working Group II, Fourth Assessment. Geneva, Switzerland.
  18. 18. FIGURE 2: Evolution of Environmental Sustainability Models cited in the Literature Adapted from: Multiple sources in general literature. Present Environment EconomySociety Three Pillars Model (convergence represents ‘sustainability space’) Three Nested Ring Model (componential, ‘Russian Doll’ cored/anchored by economy) Nested Dependencies Model (ecologically-bounded hierarchy ordered) *Mickey Mouse Model (economic primacy flanked by ‘heeding’ offshoots) * Included for illustration purposes only.
  19. 19. Generation Victoria - La Trobe Valley Power stations (% generated for VIC1 & % ownership 67% foreign owned · 24% - Loy Yang A + mine - 100% AGL Ltd · 16 % - Yallourn - 100% ‘Australian Energy’ (100% CLP Holdings Hong Kong) · 17% - Hazelwood - 100% GDF Suez International U.K. · 11% - Loy Yang B - 92% GDF Suez International U.K. GDF Suez International U.K. - 43% (horizontally integrated generation) CLP Holdings Hong Kong - 24% (vertically integrated generation and retail) ___________ Tasmania - (% generated1 & % ownership) - 100% Government owned · 86% - Hydro Tasmania (hydro-powered) - 100% Tasmanian State Government · 14% - Aurora Energy (hydro + gas powered*) - 100% Tasmanian State Government *Tamar Valley powered by gas sourced from Victoria; Bell Bay is hydro Transmission Victoria - ( % ownership) 100% foreign owned · Basslink Interconnector (TAS + VIC) - 100% CitySpring Infrastructure Fund (28% Temasek Holdings Singapore + 72% Investors via Temasek portfolio) · SPI Power Net Pty Ltd (VIC network) - 100% SPI ‘Singapore Power International’ (100% Temasek Holdings Singapore) Temasek (direct & indirect) - 100% (vertically & horizontally integrated transmission & distribution) ___________ Tasmania - 100% Government owned · Aurora Energy - 100% Tasmanian State Government · Transend - 100% Tasmanian State Government Distribution Victoria - (% share of customer connections2, ‘trading name’ & % ownership) 53% foreign owned · 27% - ‘Powercor’ - 51% Cheung Kong Infrastructure/Power Asset Holdings + 49% Spark Infrastructure · 24% - ‘SP AusNet’ - 51% SPI (100% Temasek Holdings Singapore) + 49% Institutional, retail & high net worth individual investors · 25% - ‘United Energy’- 66% DUET Group + 34 % Jemena (100% SPI = 100% Temasek Holdings Singapore) · 12 % - ‘Citipower’ - 51% Cheung Kong Infrastructure/Power Asset Holdings + 49% Spark Infrastructure · 12% - ‘Jemena’ - 100% SPI = 100% Temasek Holdings Singapore Temasek - 33% (vertically & horizontally integrated transmission & distribution) Cheung Kong Infrastructure - 20% (horizontally integrated distribution) ___________ Tasmania - 100% Government owned · Aurora Energy - 100% Tasmanian State Government Retail Victoria - (% market share of residential & small business customers3 & % foreign ownership) 25% foreign owned · 25% - AGL Ltd (vertically integrated generation & retail; horizontally integrated electricity, gas & renewables) · 30% - Origin Energy (horizontally integrated electricity, and gas) · 25% - Australian Energy (100% CLP Holdings Hong Kong) (vertically integrated generation & retail; horizontally integrated electricity, gas & renewables) · 15% - Others (including Tasmania’s ‘Momentum’) · 5% - Victorian Government CLP Holdings Hong Kong - 25% (vertically integrated generation and retail) ___________ Tasmania - 100% Government owned · Aurora Energy - 100% Tasmanian State Government (fully vertically integrated; horizontally integrated electricity & gas+) · Momentum* - 100% Hydro Tasmania (100% Tasmanian State Government) (via Hydro Tasmania vertically integrated with hydro-electricity generation & renewables) + Competes with Tas Gas & LPG suppliers. * Retails hydro-powered energy to small-medium businesses and residents in Victoria. FIGURE 3: Industry Supply Chain (Victoria & Tasmania), November, 2012 Data sources: Company reports & websites (see references) Energy & Water Ombudsman Victoria (2012) 1 AER (2011) p. 103; Snowy Hydro Ltd (2013); AGL Ltd (2012a); GDF Suez Energy International, 2012 2 AER (2011) p. 56 3 AER (2011) p. 56
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