CSIRO has adopted government policy to reduce its emissions by five per cent by the end of June 2020 (compared to 1999–2000 levels). This aggressive carbon emission reduction target represents a 20 per cent reduction, measured against business-as-usual projections.

Emission reductions will be achieved through six focus areas:

  • sustainable buildings
  • sustainable laboratories
  • low-emission collaboration
  • low-emission energy technologies
  • sustainable procurement
  • site consolidation and greater use of facilities to meet future research and enterprise needs.

Energy consumption (electricity and gas) decreased by one per cent compared with 2015–16. The reduction has been achieved despite the addition of new sites to the CSIRO portfolio related to the integration of NICTA. Electricity consumption fell by five per cent, while gas consumption rose by five per cent compared to the previous year. CSIRO’s energy consumption continues to trend downward over the longer term, falling by seven per cent over the last five years (see Figure 3.3).

Other factors that have influenced electricity and gas consumption in the last year include:

  • increased use of the Newcastle cogeneration plant, increasing gas consumption and decreasing grid-fed electricity consumption
  • building improvement projects, such as early fault detection and remediation (see Sustainable facilities page 87) and other energy efficiency projects.

CSIRO’s carbon emissions continued to fall, reducing by five per cent compared to the previous year and 14 per cent over the last five years (see Figure 3.3). Electricity-related emissions fell by six per cent in the last 12 months, partially due to changes in emission factors offsetting an increase of five per cent in gas-related emissions.

Although mains water usage has decreased by four per cent over the last five years, consumption has increased in the last two years, including an increase of five per cent compared to last year. Across the CSIRO portfolio, consumption reductions across a number of sites (e.g. Highett, Clayton, Geelong-AAHL, Pullenvale) have partially offset increases across other sites (e.g. Black Mountain, Hobart, Bribie Island, Floreat, Kensington). CSIRO continues to monitor and investigate the reasons for the additional water consumption.

Figure 3.3: CSIRO Energy and water consumption, and Greenhouse gas emissions (electricity and gas only)

Energy consumption (electricity and gas, terajoules)

  • 2012-13 687
  • 2013-14 658
  • 2014-15 657
  • 2015-16 645
  • 2016-17 636

Water consumption (megalitres)

  • 2012-13 372
  • 2013-14 374
  • 2014-15 340
  • 2015-16 341
  • 2016-17 357

Greenhouse gas emissions (kilotonnes CO2e)

  • 2012-13 129
  • 2013-14 122
  • 2014-15 122
  • 2015-16 117
  • 2016-17 111

CSIRO Energy and water consumption, and Greenhouse gas emissions (electricity and gas only).

Air travel has continued to trend down slightly, decreasing by seven per cent on the previous year and six per cent over the last five years. In 2016–17, 44 per cent of air travel was within Australia and 56 per cent internationally. Preliminary calculations indicate that domestic flights generated more carbon emissions than international trips due to factors such as the short to medium haul nature of domestic travel. Air travel contributes less than seven per cent of CSIRO’s total carbon footprint.

Table 3.3: CSIRO energy, air travel and water intensities
PERFORMANCE MEASURE INDICATOR(S) 2012–13 2013–14 2014–15 2015–16 2016–17


Purchased energy (electricity and gas) consumed per employee (GJ/FTE)1






Air travel

Million air kilometres travelled (km)






Air travel per employee (km/FTE)






Relative mains water use

Amount of total water use per employee (kilolitres/FTE)






Vehicle fleet

CSIRO added 10 all-electric Nissan Leaf vehicles to its vehicle fleet at seven locations across Australia. A 30 kilowatt (kW) photovoltaic solar array has been installed at CSIRO’s Black Mountain site to offset the emissions from the grid-fed electricity used to charge the vehicles.

Electric vehicles contribute to a fuel efficient vehicle fleet, with electric/petrol hybrid vehicles comprising 25 per cent of CSIRO’s passenger vehicle fleet and 15 per cent of our total vehicle fleet (excluding farm machinery and other specialist vehicles). We are also consolidating the vehicle fleet by disposing of excess vehicles and trialling alternative modes of transport e.g. Flexicars at CSIRO’s Waurn Ponds site in Victoria.

Sustainable facilities

This year, we continued our focus on improving the sustainability of existing buildings through a number of energy efficiency projects, including improvements to building management, sub-metering, lighting and fume cupboard upgrades.

CSIRO participated in an industry trial of Fault Detection and Diagnostic (FDD) tools that enable the early detection and rectification of building plant and control system issues. Deployment of the FDD tool resulted in significant energy and cost savings at the Phytotron building at the Black Mountain Science Innovation Precinct in Canberra. The resultant annual energy saving was 660 Megawatt hours (MWh), 630 tonnes in carbon emissions (tCO2e) and reduced energy-related costs of $90,000. Savings were confirmed through robust data from extensive sub-metering installed in the building. Sub-metering has proven crucial to validate savings identified in the trial. We commenced a broader sub-metering program in October 2016 that will see installation of more than 500 sub-meters across 10 priority sites.

CSIRO has continued its upgrade to energy-efficient LED lights at several sites, including Pullenvale and Black Mountain, reducing energy savings by 176 MWh and emissions by 167 tonnes CO2e, while reducing the costs related to energy and maintenance savings by $40,000. The direct energy savings will be confirmed through submeter data after monitoring is complete.

The optimisation of fridges and freezers in CSIRO laboratories has also delivered energy and efficiency savings. Staff at the Kintore Avenue site in Adelaide consolidated and decommissioned a number of laboratory fridges and freezers through a site-wide clean up. Their efforts have saved approximately $60,000 in avoided purchases, $6,000 in ongoing operating costs and 44 MWh in energy consumed per year. This is equivalent to powering nearly seven average Australian homes for a year, representing an annual saving of 25 tCO2e.

CSIRO also successfully improved the energy efficiency of several older constant air volume laboratory fume cupboards at the Black Mountain site by upgrading the electronic controls, saving over 70 MWh and over 70 tCO2. Building on the success of the trial, conversion of constant fume cupboards has been investigated at other sites and will form part of future energy efficiency programs.

On-site renewable generation

CSIRO continued to expand its investment in renewable energy with the installation of a 30 kW photovoltaic (PV) system at its Black Mountain site and a new solar façade at its Energy Centre in Newcastle.

The new façade of our Energy Centre generates enough energy to power five Australian homes.

The new façade at the Energy Centre consists of 222 thin film solar panels, a leading advancement in solar cell technology. Twenty-four kilowatts of PV was installed, which generates the equivalent energy as consumed by five Australian homes. The façade faces west to allow the peak output of the solar panels to be later in the day and align to the peak air-conditioning requirements of the site.

CSIRO is progressing towards its five megawatt target of on-site renewable energy generation by 2020. To this end, a 300 kW PV system is being installed at the Werribee site in Victoria. This is our first large-scale PV installation in Victoria and complements existing on-grid systems at Black Mountain, Newcastle and Kensington.

Waste and Recycling

Improved oversight of waste and recycling practices across our sites under the CSIRO National Waste and Recycling Services Contract highlights the benefits of a nationally coordinated approach to waste and recycling, with the added bonus of a national dataset. We continue to actively manage 30 waste and recycling categories.

CSIRO diverted 10,640 cubic metres (weighing 3,767 tonnes) of waste from landfill, equating to a 40 per cent diversion rate by volume or 69 per cent by weight. Diverting waste from landfill has resulted in avoided emissions of 985 tCO2-e in the period June 2016 to May 2017. As part of its waste diversion, CSIRO continues its signatory status with FluoroCycle, committing to recycling all lighting containing Mercury on sites where CSIRO has operational control of the facility.

Environmental Management and Heritage

Heritage management

CSIRO recognises its responsibility to protect and conserve the Commonwealth and national heritage values of the places it owns or controls. We manage these values in accordance with the requirements of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 . CSIRO has prepared a Heritage Strategy for CSIRO Land and Buildings 2016–20263 that outlines the objectives and responsibilities for the management of heritage values. The strategy has been endorsed by the Australian Heritage Commission.

This year, CSIRO updated the Heritage Management Plans for the CSIRO Yarralumla and Black Mountain sites. These documents will be submitted to the Australian Heritage Council for endorsement in the next few months.

Environmental management

Our ambition to apply the best of science and innovation to realise new benchmarks in sustainable urban development was advanced this year through planning for the future of CSIRO’s 701-hectare Ginninderra Field Station. Through real-world application of science and key collaborations, including with a future joint venture partner, we hope to raise the bar across social, economic and environmental outcomes. This year we developed a draft sustainability framework and progressed the selection of joint venture partners. We worked closely with many community volunteers, the Ginninderra Catchment Group and Landcare and Aboriginal groups to restore vegetation in the box gum grassy woodlands, identify and protect Indigenous heritage features and trial methods for restoring threatened grassland communities.

Contribution to ecologically sustainable development

CSIRO upholds the principles of ecologically sustainable development (ESD) outlined in the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 through its operations and research activities. Table 3.4 provides examples of how we support the principles.

To achieve its research goals, CSIRO operates numerous types of infrastructure, such as laboratories, glasshouses, farm properties and telescope facilities as well as managing plants and livestock. These activities require significant consumption of energy and water and produce waste.

Table 3.4: Examples of CSIRO’s contribution to ESD principles

Decision-making processes should effectively integrate both long-term and short-term economic, environmental, social and equitable considerations.

One of the CSIRO strategic objectives is to embed a rigorous impact and investment planning, monitoring and evaluation framework into our business and employ it to continually improve performance. CSIRO’s Strategy 2020 demands greater emphasis on delivering and providing evidence of triple-bottom-line impact and progress against planned milestones. This is now externally reportable as part of CSIRO’s performance framework.

If there are threats of serious or irreversible environmental damage, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing measures to prevent environmental degradation.

AAHL provides diagnostic, surveillance and response services for the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (DAWR). It also serves hundreds of customers through its quarantine-testing service. AAHL is an essential step in the emergency response of outbreaks such as white spot disease, and works closely with agencies to test samples, contain disease spread and manage a coordinated response. The national Aquatic Consultative Committee on Emergency Animal Diseases, of which CSIRO is a member, continues to meet regularly in response to the 2017 outbreak.

The principle of inter-generational equity—that the present generation should ensure that the health, diversity and productivity of the environment is maintained or enhanced for the benefit of future generations.

The Water Information Research and Development Alliance (WIRADA) partnership between CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology has developed a set of nationally consistent and regionally relevant water information products and services to support robust decision-making across national, state and local levels. The hydrological models in Australian Water Resources Assessment have been used for numerous applications including the ongoing and nationally significant large resource and impact assessments (Bioregional Assessment and Northern Australia Water Resource Assessment), and floodplain inundation modelling in the Murray-Darling to support Basin Plan implementation.

The water forecasting models have been applied to support water quality forecasting for the Great Barrier Reef and river forecasting for environmental watering in northern Victorian catchments. Overseas, the water forecasting methods are being used to support sustainable development projects in South Asia, collaborations with China and Singapore, and experimental forecasting programs in the US.

The conservation of biological diversity and ecological integrity should be a fundamental consideration in decision-making.

The National Research Collections of Australia (NRCA) hosted by CSIRO are a vital resource for conservation. NRCA’s biological collections contain more than 15 million specimens, representing a 240-year time series of data on the occurrence and distribution of native and introduced plants, terrestrial vertebrates, insects, fish, algae and tree seeds.

These collections are Australia’s most reliable set of nationally representative biological collections. They underpin research in agriculture, biosecurity, biodiversity and climate change and are used by researchers all over the world. The collections enable us to identify, quantify and explore Australia’s biodiversity over time, inform public policy decisions, support biosecurity and contribute to environmental management.

Improved valuation, pricing and incentive mechanisms should be promoted.

In partnership with Energy Networks Australia, CSIRO developed the Electricity Network Transformation Roadmap to help Australia transition its electricity network to a future grid that is energy secure, affordable and with significant reductions in emissions.

CSIRO provided briefings and responded to a number of direct information requests from Chief Scientist Alan Finkel, who headed the Independent Review into the Future Security of the National Electricity Market. The Review final report’s emphasis on demand management utilising customer distributed energy resources can, at least in part, be attributed to the Roadmap.


  1. GJ/FTE is gigajoules per full-time equivalent (staff). FTE refers to CSIRO Officers as at June 2017.
  2. Updated after new June 2015 data was received.
  3. The Heritage Strategy, along with a list of CSIRO land and buildings with Commonwealth heritage values can be found at: Heritage management.

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