Clean Energy Law in Australia

Damien Lockie

Dr Damien Lockie practises as a barrister and mediator and is recognised as one of Australia's leading experts in emissions trading and Clean Energy laws.

Dual qualified in law and accounting, his experience practicing as a solicitor, accountant and advocate specialising in property and environmental laws and federal and state revenue laws is extensive. He is an Adjunct Professor of Law at Bond University. He teaches Climate and Clean Energy Law and Environmental Legal Issues, and he is the Director of Clean Energy Research, Centre for Law, Governance and Public Policy.


Clean Energy law expert, Dr.Damien Lockie speaks with LexisNexis about his passion for Clean Energy law, its challenges and his new book Clean Energy Law in Australia.

What is it that interests you about Clean Energy law?
A clean energy economy encourages a change in energy use (essentially, this means a change in behaviour by businesses and citizens). Government policies are aimed at the mix and pricing of fossil fuel energy production and consumption, and the reduction of emissions of greenhouse gases that adversely affect climate change and public health.

Clean Energy law is interesting because it covers many policy dimensions – the mandatory renewable energy target, energy efficiency measures, action on the land to incentivise land use change and the carbon pricing mechanism. Clean Energy law is also interesting because it is new regulation, and very much about affecting behaviour.

What are your research interests generally and how did you get involved in these areas of research?
Clean energy research encompasses a broad range of regulations (and incentives) instituted by the Australian government in order to create a clean energy economy. Within that broad canvass, my research interests are especially focused on emissions trading systems and market integrity.

I developed my research interests out of a concern for the natural environment and a passion to understand human systems to regulate our use of it. I've been involved in property and planning for most of my professional life as a commercial tax lawyer. In the 1990s I was involved in significant government infrastructure and privatisation projects, so when the Australian government released a series of discussion papers in the late 1990s discussing emissions trading, it was a natural progression for me to focus on markets for regulating access to the atmosphere.

How are these laws affecting Australian industry and the country as a whole? What impact will this have on the future?
Consumption of electricity, gases and fuels for transportation, and use of waste services, are integral to all business operations, and households, so the impact of the Clean Energy laws is economy wide. For entities facing liability under the various regulations and for others facing price rises on account of a price on carbon, the impact is immediate.

The regulatory impacts of the Clean Energy laws are also with us to stay, in my opinion, although I'm not a political commentator of course! The Government has budgeted in the coming years for major revenues from liable entities under the Clean Energy Act 2011 (Cth). Also, there are a range of institutional measures, such as the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Act 2007 (Cth) and the Energy Efficiency Opportunities Act 2006 (Cth), which will require entities to regularly report to government (on matters such as energy consumption and production, emissions of greenhouse gases and energy efficiency opportunities).

What do you see are some of the biggest challenges facing Australian industry in respect to clean energy laws?
I think the biggest challenges for Australian industry is to understand and comply with the new laws. The Clean Energy laws are self-assessment regimes. The rules are new and complex, and there are no safe-harbours. There are more than 20 Acts and Regulations and these will constantly change. The civil liability penalty for breach of some provisions of the laws is $1.1 million, and in some cases, the executive officer of a corporation may also be liable for a penalty. If the Clean Energy Regulator investigates, she will be motivated to protect the environment and to protect the revenue.

What challenges do practitioners in this area of law face?
Practitioners, as businesses, will be impacted but Clean Energy law is also a work opportunity. New services include strategic and compliance advice which includes; registration, measurement and reporting, liability under the Clean Energy Act 2011, involvement in clean energy and offset credit projects and other voluntary carbon mitigation initiatives. In time, there will also be work in administrative areas, such as handling audits and defending prosecution by the Clean Energy Regulator.

The challenge for practitioners is to synthesise all the new Acts and Regulations. The Clean Energy Law in Australia on-line subscription service is written by leading practitioners to offer guidance for legal, accounting and environmental practitioners, inhouse counsel and environmental managers and superintendents. The on-line service will be an up-to-date one-stop portal for all the Acts, Regulations and commentary. The commentary includes an introductory chapter that sets out the legal framework for the multiple dimensions of clean energy, an extensive directory and dictionary and many tables and checklists for simplifying compliance tasks.

Your book, Clean Energy Law in Australia has just been released, what prompted you to write the book and how long did it take you to write it?
The regulatory framework to support the Australian government's plans for our clean energy future is complex. The carbon pricing mechanism is new, having started 1 July 2012. LexisNexis and I saw the need for the book (and its companion on-line subscription service) as a timely, comprehensive and incisive commentary on the full suite of Federal laws and regulations for Australia's clean energy future.

The book (and its companion on-line subscription service) brings together in one source over 20 Acts and Regulations covering assessing and acquitting liability under Australia's carbon pricing mechanism, registration, measurement and reporting of greenhouse gas emissions, energy efficiency and renewable energy, action on the land, and carbon cost impacts for fuel tax and ozone protection. It's a big undertaking, and it's taken well over six months to produce. And then the on-line subscription service will be further updated every two-three months.

What does a typical day involve for you?
As well as being the Director for Clean Energy Research for the Centre for Law, Governance and Public Policy, I practise as a barrister and mediator at the Victorian Bar, and I teach. This year I'm teaching Clean Energy Law and Environmental Legal Issues, so my days are varied.

What are your hobbies?
I'm a keen sportsperson – cycling, running, snow-skiing, golf and tennis are my favourite activities.

What's next on the horizon for Damien Lockie – any new research projects, involvement with Australian industry?
A detailed report released by the Centre for Law, Governance and Public Policy for the Carbon Market Institute in March 2012, titled Carbon Market Integrity: A review of the Australian Carbon Pricing Mechanism, has been extremely well received and extensively downloaded. We'll monitor the performance of the Australian carbon market as part of our ongoing research.

Clean Energy Law in Australia is now available to purchase on the LexisNexis estore

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