UNSW Announces Further Fossil Fuel Divestment

UNSW fossil fuel divestment

UNSW Sydney is further distancing itself from fossil fuels by dumping more of its related investments.

Last year UNSW ditched fossil fuel investments worth over $13 million – out of a total long-term investment portfolio of $29.5 million at the time – after a 5-year student-led campaign by the UNSW community.

Yesterday the University announced it was divesting from direct ownership and any commingled funds that include public equities and corporate bonds of companies whose primary business is the ownership and exploitation of fossil fuel reserves. According to a 350.org press release, this means “companies that generate 20% or more of their income from fossil fuels”. This divestment action will occur by 2025.

UNSW President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Jacobs commented:

“Our divestment decision is a clear statement of UNSW’s responsible investment intent and the continuation of our long and impressive journey on climate action – it is worth remembering that more than 30 years ago, the solar cell technology which powers 50% of solar panels around the world was developed right here at UNSW.”

UNSW A Solar Research Rock Star

On that note – I think the technology Professor Jacobs is referring to is PERC (Passivated Emitter and Rear Contact – or Cell), which was co-developed by the “father of photovoltaics”, Professor Martin Green. You can read more on the history of PERC technology here.

Among other stars in UNSW’s solar research stable responsible for a number of important PV innovations was Professor Stuart Wenham, who studied under Professor Green and at one point led the ARC Photovoltaics Centre of Excellence at UNSW. Another notable name is Dr. Shi Zhengrong who worked with both Professors Green and Wenham at UNSW and went on to found Suntech.

The University continues to be heavily involved in solar research and development, as well as various areas of climate research. UNSW said it recognises there is a clear expectation from its community that the University also assumes a leadership role on climate change.

“We owe it to UNSW’s pioneering researchers to carry on their fine legacy,” said Professor Jacobs.

As well as being an incubator of important new solar technologies and as part of its own carbon reduction efforts, UNSW will expand its use of solar energy to power its facilities. In early 2018, it inked a deal to source the equivalent of 100% of its electricity from Sunraysia Solar Farm, which is comprised of more than 755,000 solar panels. The facility was meant to be operational last year, but ran into problems that appear to be persisting.

UNSW has also been installing solar panels at its various campuses, with installations dating back to 2005. UNSW’s Sustainability Plan 2019-21 mentions a goal of expanding onsite solar energy generation to 1.2MW capacity by 2022.

About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.

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