MONASH at COP24! Let's make Net Zero Carbon Footprint happen!

February 2019

Last year, Monash University sent a delegation to Katowice, Poland to showcase our interdisciplinary climate-related research, and won a Momentum for Change Lighthouse award under the Net Zero Initiative.

cop24-katowice 2018

Monash University first attended the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as an observer organisation at 2016’s COP22 and became a UN Sustainability Goals signatory the same year. In 2018, at COP24, countries had to agree on the Paris Agreement guidelines for a fair and equitable transition to a low carbon economy powered by renewable energy technologies. Monash was the first Australian university to commit to an energy reduction target net zero emissions by 2030, and was awarded the Momentum for Change award recognising our sustainability leadership status. With that initiative we are focusing on UN Sustainable Development Goal 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy), SDG11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities), SDG12 (Responsible Consumption and Production) and SDG13 (Climate Action).

MEMSI, ClimateWorks Australia, the Monash Sustainable Development Institute, and the Monash Climate Change Communication Research Hub sent specialists in energy technologies, environmental law, energy transitions, and climate change education and communication to Katowice, Poland for COP24. The Monash delegation saw the COP as an event to rekindle optimism amongst thousands of like-minded people doing great things in Climate and Energy. The hope is to see a big movement towards a low energy economy and for all countries to improve their emission abatement targets. With Australia lampooned with the ‘Fossil of the Day” award, the Monash delegation can certainly see plenty of ways for Australia to improve.

Monash’s Net Zero goal will be met by local innovation and a transformation of the way we use energy. With energy efficiency measures, a phase-out of natural gas use, renewable energy production and use, offsetting residual emissions and the construction of a sustainable microgrid, our Australian campuses will become living labs of the 100% renewable powered grid of the future. These actions will reduce our total emissions footprint, giving us a net zero carbon footprint by 2030, even in the face of growth in student enrolments and residential population on our campuses, growing number of offices, teaching facilities and on-campus retail.

For the over 75,000 enrolled students and 150 buildings across Monash, MEMSI is architecting one of the largest energy-focussed “living laboratories” in the world. At the Monash Clayton campus, researchers are already tracking energy use behaviours of various stakeholders, learning how to optimise energy use and further reduce energy consumption through new dynamic control technologies and real time distributed energy-use visualisation systems. Developed in strong partnership with industry, this integrated research and development environment will enable experimentation and training across all the elements that underpin a successful energy transformation.

Energy Innovation ecosystem

The implementation plan


It takes a lot of people-power to transition to a low carbon economy. Here-under some of their feedback.

COP24 - Monash University delegation - Ariel Liebman

Decarbonising the energy sector is a key component of climate change mitigation. Being part of the Monash University delegation at the COP24 allowed global collaborations opportunities and marked a major milestone for the Monash Microgrid. We needed several years of work to put together the Net Zero Initiative and the Monash Microgrid Initiative. Net Zero started in 2013 with Monash Building & Property Division. We decided to use our campuses as a teaching and learning laboratories to give students real-world experience on how to decarbonise the energy sector and work with industries to deploy new solutions locally. The Monash Microgrid has a dual objective: reduce the green gas emissions from our energy uses on our Australian campuses and connect our researchers and teaching activities to solve energy problems in partnership with industries, governments and the broader community. Going forward with the Microgrid Project, I’m particularly excited about the application of new IT technologies: optimisation, artificial intelligence, machine learning, cyber security and immersive human centred analytics, which can be used to integrate new technologies into the system and decarbonise it as rapidly as possible. ( Associate Professor Ariel Liebman , Deputy Director of MEMSI and Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of IT, Monash University)

COP24 - Monash University delegation - Peter Lusis

The Monash microgrid project is an opportunity to bridge the gap between research and industry. Industry partners can seek answers to specific problems using Monash facilities while financing its research. It is a win-win situation. My PhD is about finding the most cost-effective solution on how to accommodate more solar PV in residential areas while providing a safe network operation. The preliminary results show that, instead of undertaking expensive network upgrade, we can increase PV hosting capacity through coordinated control of power electronics. It means that more customers can install solar PV systems and facilitate the decarbonisation of electricity grid at little to no additional cost. COP24 had multiple events on energy systems, carbon emissions, and climate modelling. The main highlight for me was Al Gore’s speech. It requires guts for a politician to stand against some of the most entrenched and wealthy people related to fossil fuel industry. The COP was a great opportunity to step back for a moment and take a broader view of how the world with net zero emissions would look like and what role would solar energy play in it. ( Mr Peter Lusis , PhD student at Monash in Energy Systems Planning)

COP24 - Monash University delegation - Roger Dargaville

I’ve had a great COP, caught up with a lot of colleagues from around the world, from the International Energy Agency (IEA), from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), connected with Prof. Jeffrey Sachs from Columbia University who stated that it was vital to have engineers involved in COP24, I spoke on 2 panels and was interviewed by the Chinese television. The Global Electricity Interconnection Development Cooperation Organisation (GEIDCO), new initiative led out of China, invited me to their UNFCCC COP24 pavilion to discuss the implications of building high voltage direct current (HVDC) electricity connections around the world, with representatives of the OECD, IEA and REN21. The research demonstrates that, if Indonesia decided to have a 100% carbon emission abatement target, it would be more cost effective to source renewable electricity from Australia via HVDC. This is because northern Australian wind and solar resources are better quality than those found in regions closer to the equator that tend to have lower wind speeds and more clouds. The greater quality of the resources offsets the cost of the undersea transmission cables. Of course, there are many other challenges to address, especially the geopolitical issues around security of supply. ( Dr. Roger Dargaville , Senior Lecturer in Renewable Energy, Civil Engineering Department, Monash University)

COP24 - Monash University delegation - Susie Ho

While there is still much redress needed globally, it is important to recognise the innumerable people working redirecting our future. COP24 provided rich opportunity for researchers, educators and students from across different Faculties to collaborate further and explore all the dimensions of energy, whether these are social or technical. Rowena Cantley-Smith provided great insights about the policy and partnerships important in biofuels and bioenergy and the NetZero team showed us how the microgrid at Monash is used as a laboratory for communities and students. The group found ways to collaborate, through shared tours, panels and more. Students from MEMSI through to Science and Arts were represented at all levels, from high-level meetings to student-led activism. The importance of equipping students with interdisciplinary skills and leadership came through. Engineering and science students must fuse their deep expertise with the ability to communicate with diverse cultures, sectors and communities to make change. Education, Youth, this is what Climate Action is. (Dr. Susie Ho, Faculty of Science)

COP24 - Monash University delegation - Yasmina Dkhissi

I lead the strategy for Monash's Net Zero Initiative which was launched in December 2017. It received a United Nations Momentum for Change award at COP24. It was such a privilege to be recognised as part of this community of people and organisations around the world who are providing transformative and practical solutions to tackle climate change. As a University, what an amazing opportunity to be recognised as a leader in climate action, research and education on the global stage. Reflecting on the week at COP24, what strikes me the most is the PEOPLE and the contribution they can make to combat climate change. The Monash delegation was made up of brilliant people, educators, researchers, and students with their fields of expertise spanning across the various facets of the climate challenge, which presented unique partnership opportunities. Whether we are scientists, engineers, innovators, educators, entrepreneurs, human right protectors, activists, lawyers, policy makers, communicators, musicians or poets, we all have a role to play! (Dr. Yasmina Dkhissi, Strategy Manager for Monash University’s Net Zero Initiative)


For more information about the COP24 and our extended Monash delegation, please visit website.

For more information about the Net Zero Initiative, please visit website.

Monash was featured in a video narrated by Sir David Attenborough.