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What sustainability means to Octopus Australia – Closer to the Assets

Sam Reynolds, Managing Director, Octopus Australia

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Octopus Australia is the subsidiary of one of Europe’s largest renewable energy owner/operators, Octopus Investments which boasts a portfolio of over 270 utility scale assets representing AU$6bn of value. Sustainability is core to what we do and means a lot more to Octopus Australia than simply building clean energy assets. Established in 2018, Octopus Australia now has more than 16 full time employees dedicated to long-term investments in Australia’s clean energy infrastructure and has built and connected Australia’s largest solar farm, Darlington Point.

Our three pillars: People, Planet and Performance

At the heart of our strategy, we have built an ESG and impact approach that is focused around three pillars: People, Planet and Performance. Our core impact goal is to invest in a sustainable future that makes economic sense. We have embedded our ESG and impact approach into all three aspects of our business, including the investment process, the asset management and reporting. We believe, by doing this, we are able to improve risk adjusted returns for our clients, and that those returns are likely to be more sustainable and drive a greater level of impact when they consider the wider community.

Active participation in transitioning Australia to a clean energy future means building meaningful relationships with all the major stakeholders in a renewable energy site: the community where the site’s located, energy buyers with long dated power purchase agreements, and of course the investors/owners of those sites. Octopus’s approach to sustainability is to bring all of these constituencies closer to the assets with which they will have a long-term relationship.

In all Octopus’ energy markets across the globe when the interests of the community, energy buyers or owners are out of balance, long-term sustainability of not only a site’s performance but of the clean energy industry overall suffers. Being closer to the assets involves giving equitable consideration to the long-term interests of these core ‘customers’ of the renewable energy site.

Bringing ESG to Life in Australia

What brings ESG to life and what makes the Octopus team proud in Australia, is how we put this thinking to work on the ground. This can be illustrated by our Darlington Point Solar Farm (DPSF), the largest solar site ever built in Australia!

This 333MW, half a billion-dollar investment provides enough power for 115,000 Australian homes saving 154k tCO2 in emissions per annum.

While certainly a significant contribution towards displacing carbon intensive energy, our excitement about the project is in how we are bringing our three key constituencies closer to the site.

  • Firstly, construction of the site provided 600 jobs, with nearly 200 coming from the local Darlington Point community. With the site now constructed, the Octopus is ensuring that the site provides ongoing involvement with the township, through educational programmes in the local schools, sponsorship on community activities (annual harvest festival), through to local infrastructure enhancements (solar power street lights, and community centre upgrades).
  • Finally, Octopus’s investors benefit from the long-term stability of the asset. Our continued work on the site gives clear transparency to our investors on how the site is performing, assurance we are overseeing day-to-day operations and comfort that as the renewable energy industry evolves our relationships with the other stakeholders in the site will allow us to further enhance the site (such as site expansion or incorporation of supplemental technologies, like storage).

With DPSF we sought to implement our ESG and impact framework to focus heavily on the local community where the asset resides. This involved multiple initiatives within the local community, including local jobs fairs, employment of local workers as well as COVID care packages to those most vulnerable within the community. Octopus Australia are cognisant of the longevity these assets have within the community and the potential benefits they can bring to the local economies when these factors are considered. We therefore try to endorse these pillars in order to promote longevity within these communities.

Tailoring Our Approach

As a business, we are always looking to be at the forefront of implementation of our ESG and impact policy, in an effort to consistently challenge the way things are done, and to better the environmental and societal outcomes in the future. We therefore tailor our approach site by site, depending on their location, proximity to local communities and environment in which they preside. This way, we can ensure that we are always looking for the best ways to improve sustainability within the local regions, which leads to better outcomes for both investors and the multiple aspects of broader environment the assets touch, including the community. By looking at these guiding pillars as a central navigation point, in conjunction with how we bring our clients closer to the assets, we are sure to remain at the forefront of innovation in terms of sustainability and providing a platform for a cleaner and more environmentally focused Australia.

At Octopus Australia, all our staff are dedicated to bringing all of our clients closer to the assets and the implementation of the three pillars within our ESG and impact policy. Each member of the team are looking across their respective areas at ways we can implement new initiatives enhance outcomes for the three core customers of renewable energy assets (community, energy buyers, and owners). We believe by continually challenging the norm and implementing new initiatives to complement our clean energy assets, we are consistently seeking to find ways to promote sustainability within Australia and specifically the local communities.

 

Read more climate and sustainability articles on the UK in Australia COP26 page.

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