Rock and Hardplace – RET and DAP predictions

Let us now predict: Soon after the RET review the fossil fuel generators will celebrate with a short-term price relief. It is a two edged sword, as they will discover the relief may be temporary. Partly because large-scale renewables facilities are likely to continue to experience cost reductions, and the Federal government’s Direct Action Plan may further dampen electricity demand – not a good outlook for coal fired generation known for its baseload dependability to be profitable.

It is scheduled for the Australian government’s Direct Action Plan (DAP) to release its white paper -Emissions Reduction Fund, this month April 2014. Also scheduled for mid-2014, the Government’s Renewable Energy Target (RET) Review expert panel will report to the Prime Minister. We might even guesstimate that the PM will find DAP will be unlikely to be a benefit or too expensive for the resources sector, and simply drop it. It could be easier than you think, why because it is not yet funded!

Apart from funding, the Governments’ own wording suggests the final design of the government’s Direct Action Plan will be critical for coal generators, and their survival, with potential for emissions baselines and penalties to curb potential growth prospects. Add to this that individual states do more and encourage energy efficiency, and other large-scale efforts to improve energy efficiency via the Emissions Reduction Fund will be a terrible place for coal fired generators to be if the predicted demand for electricity continues to decline. This will put significant pressure on profit margins of these generators.

CO2Land org feels the PM is in a rock and hard place, by his own doing. Come July he will have no choice but to continue with the threat to repeal the Carbon Price Mechanism (which he refers to as the Carbon Tax) – Which results in a short term gain for coal fired generation. Even if RET is reduced or halved, the long term trend for coal output is still dependent on the price effectiveness of that form of supply – it might even need a ‘subsidy’ to continue supply.

That said, if energy security is the stated reason for a subsidy, it is likely the penetration of renewable energy will continue because it will continue to be subject to falling prices to its advantage, and those prices are dropping because of efficiencies in the way it can deliver. Let us not forget – business too will be more efficient, and in order to survive will factor in the need to reduce energy demands, or at least be more efficient in the use of energy.

Lastly, if the PM were thinking of killing off the Direct Action Plan (DAP) it would be unwise. It is the only mechanism the government has to show they care, or are earth aware. Even South Africa has come to recognize a price on carbon + Renewable Energy + Energy Efficiency + Land use change = business success. We don’t want to appear dumb do we!




Renewables require less incentive money – because

Having read a good news story that renewables require less incentive money because they are very successful, it is then you will notice other media is displaying it as a negative. We suspect the matter will always be reported ‘on balance’ – code for a licence to adjust for the audience. So which story do you want to hear? Is your glass half empty or half full?

Example one: “Global investment in renewables fell by 14% during 2013, but the percentage of electricity generated by renewable sources still grew, a report shows. It said investment fell for the second year in a row because of cheaper technology, but also as a result of uncertainty surrounding energy policy. However, falling costs meant renewables accounted for 8.5% of the global electricity mix, up from 7.8% in 2012. Renewables accounted for 43.6% of newly installed generation capacity in 2013.”

Unfortunately the above is reported as a negative, and actually was a good news story. The good news is – renewables have continued to get cheaper and the industry built more Gigawatt capacity with less dollars. If you continue to research you would notice:
Globally, renewables – excluding large hydro -accounted for 43.6 per cent of newly installed generating capacity in 2013.

Also the costs of generating electricity via onshore wind turbines and crystalline silicon PV systems have fallen by some 15% and 53% respectively since the third quarter of 2009. This means increasingly, the competitiveness of wind and solar compared to conventional options for generation of energy – such as coal-fired power stations, gas or diesel generators, or nuclear reactors. Other evidence is also supplied by the NSW Government that this is a fact. Globally, an increasing number of wind and solar projects are being built without any subsidy support. Especially noted is Latin America, the Middle East and Africa.

Example two: ”The global power utility market is currently undergoing an increase in capital expenditures. Increasing power demands, aging infrastructure, new energy sources and regulatory pressures are contributing to this growth in capital spending and projects.”

Coupling these factors with the staffing constraints of many utilities often results in difficultly completing this increase in workload. However, with these challenges come opportunities to evaluate and create more efficient project delivery models.

The report – Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2014 – was produced by the United Nations Environment Programme (Unep) and Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The assessment said the US $214.4bn (£129.2bn) worldwide investment in the renewable sector during 2013 was 23% below the 2011 record. One of the report’s lead editors, UN energy expert Eric Usher, described 2013 as a “mixed year” for global renewable energy. Identifying the reasons behind the fall in investment, he explained: “One of the major factors was the fall in the cost of equipment. “Another negative factor was a touch of policy uncertainty, which saw investors delay spending their money.” He told BBC News that the fall in the cost of the clean energy technologies – particularly solar – had “left some governments thinking that they had been paying too much and reviewed their subsidies”.

Mr Usher added that while some nations, such as Germany, had been able to adapt very quickly, “other nations have not handled it quite so well, causing nervousness among investors”. He explained that for a number of years, there was overcapacity in the sector and supply was greater than demand, making it difficult for firms to record a profit. But lower costs, improved efficiencies and market consolidation had allowed companies to return to profitability. Mr Usher observed that there were a number of positive signs during 2013, including the fact that the renewable energy sectors in a number of nations, particularly in Latin America, were able to grow completely free of government subsidies. He added: “For the first time in 2013, China installed more new generation capacity using renewables than fossil fuels. “So it is a good sign for the sector that the world’s largest emerging economy is taking the sector very seriously indeed.” Responding to the assessment, Unep executive director Achim Steiner said: “A long-term shift in investment over the next few decades towards a cleaner energy portfolio is needed to avoid dangerous climate change, with the energy sector accounting for around two-thirds of total greenhouse gas emissions. “The fact that renewable energy is gaining a bigger share of overall generation globally is encouraging. To support this further, we must re-evaluate investment priorities, shift incentives, build capacity and improve governance structures.” The report’s findings are being presented to a Future of Energy Summit in New York, US, which runs until Wednesday – article attributed to Mark Kinver (BBC News), 7th April, 2014.

For more on the article please visit

If you take the time to read this report you will notice it is a good news story, equipment prices are falling, and therefore not a much is needed to be spent to implement. So investment needed was 23% lower in 2013 compared to 2011. In example 1 the story said prices have fallen by as much as 53% for solar equipment. This can be construed by the shrewd to askew what ever story you want. Enough to sit you ‘Bolt’ upright hey Andrew?

RET designs – Abbotititis or Rudasinus.

Do you have Abbotititis or Rudasinus. Bored with the election being in your face yet not meaning a thing.  Then there is ‘real’ again – It just means it will be reviewed and in the mean time your asset is at risk of being stranded because of the ‘Election’. You are told any decisions will need to be taken with a view of caretaker convention and then we will wait until the ‘dust settles’ and the view of the incoming Government is known.  Can you understand the frustration? Promises are being made yet we are told they are real until after the election!

Now lets look at the promised policy positions:

The Coalition talks of ‘real’ abatement in terms of energy efficiency. The flagstone is the Direct Action Plan. This plan will or may impact your business. We say this because the White Paper consultative process that the Coalition will initiate will only be known should they win office. Yes the ‘real’ is it will be a consultative process expressed as the opportunity for your business to provide input into the design of this ‘potential’ new policy framework. In more simple terms it means the details are not yet developed. However, the Renewable Energy Target (RET) has a commitment from the Coalition to retain a 5% to 25% reduction of emissions by 2020 compared with 2000 levels, but will review this commitment in 2015 (then other statements say 2014). That said they intend to wind back many of the provisions of the Clean Energy Future Plan including abolishing the carbon price and disbanding the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, the Climate Change Authority, the Climate Commission and the Energy Security Fund. Then we should note the Coalition intends to expand the existing Emissions Reduction Fund to introduce a buyback, and also plans to expand the Carbon Farming Initiative to achieve emissions reductions in the absence of an explicit carbon price – but the reductions must be ‘real’ against baselines ‘to be advised’.

It is most likely the Coalition’s plans to meet emissions commitments will be more disruptive to electricity supply industries and their downstream industries than labor’s.

Labor (why is it called Labor?) – Reported is among other things, this name makes it easier to distinguish references to the Party from the labour movement in general. Source(s):…

Maybe that is ‘unreal’!


Labor has two major policies for abatement changes. Continuing of the Clean Energy Future Plan, and the review of the Renewable Energy Target (RET).  The current RET compels large energy users to invest in renewable energy. This is to the benefit of industries such as wind and, up to an including hydro-electricity. The RET purpose is to introduce more capacity into electricity markets and push down wholesale electricity prices. Therefore the RET is challenging for fossil fuel electricity generators, and the changes will affect them directly and the upstream industries, including oil and gas extraction, brown coal mining and black coal mining, indirectly.


That said, Labor is committed to a 5% to 25% reduction of emissions by 2020 compared with 2000 levels, and an 80% reduction on 2000 levels by 2050. Labor has also taken the position and made an announcement of an early transition from the carbon tax to an emissions trading scheme in July 2014, bringing it forward from the previous announcement of 2015. Under the scheme the carbon dioxide equivalent would have a floating price linked to the prices of the EU’s emissions trading scheme. Under this policy, the price per tonne for carbon dioxide is likely to be discounted. The impact uncertainty is what will be the effect on the industry assistance packages included within the Clean Energy Future Plan.

Co2Land org said Labor supports the current 20% RET. This still holds true, as the responsible Department (name too long to mention) and advised work on the review of RET is suspended until further notice, and Labor has made a commitment to not review the target until 2016.

Labor’s changes to the Clean Energy Future Plan will create new winners and losers across energy-intensive industries. Labor’s changes maintain a pricing mechanism as a strategy to reduce carbon dioxide equivalent emissions.


Co2Land org has noted IBISWorld’s August 2013 Report has a more detailed outline of the positions taken by the Labor and Coalition parties on major issues impacting Australian industry including workplace reform, energy, resources, broadband network, transport infrastructure, manufacturing and education. They write:

“The 2013 Federal Government election will be dominated by concerns about the economy. The end of the mining investment boom and the continued decline of the manufacturing sector have set a pessimistic tone among Australian businesses.

The Labor Government has taken a ‘glass half full’ approach, pointing out Australia’s strong economic position relative to other advanced economies and successful economic guidance during the global financial crisis.

In contrast, the Coalition points out a widening Federal Budget deficit, a declining economic growth rate, low business confidence and a weak economic performance relative to neighbouring countries.

The winner of the election will have to balance the government’s role to provide fiscal stimulus and counter-cyclical spending with budget responsibility and a plan to reduce government debt.

The Productivity Commission has estimated that there are $12 billion worth of cost-cutting and efficiency savings available to the Federal Government.

The Coalition has backed away from providing a date for a return to surplus, but asserts it will be sooner than a Labor surplus.

Labor forecasts a return to budget surplus in 2016-17, driven by savings made during 2015-16 and 2016-17 when the economy is expected to be in a healthier state than it is presently.”


Wait a minute, recently the coalition did say they aim to save $31B – now we are confused – will the ‘real’ number please stand?

Please note: No Green was hurt in this discussion.

Deciding to be or not to be – agricultural production

In a rural neck of the woods trouble is brewing, land values are going too high! A farmer was willing to participate in CFI, albeit for a modest return. In light of stock holdings being low in the district the idea of leasing the neighbours land was attractive. Until someone decided the Internet was a good place to advertise an enthusiastically priced land sale.

Why is this important? Because everyone then develops higher wealth expectations and the issue is the inputs become higher and the price consumers are willing to pay for the agricultural and livestock remains low.

If we accept this will happen regardless, we need to re-evaluate the purpose and future in terms of commitment to incentives. But first we need to determine the price that could be and what the market will withstand. Beef and Central ( ran an excellent story on: What value is a fair market price to pay for rural land? Written by Michael J. Vail, Tre Ponte Corporate, Brisbane 26 Oct 2012. Verbatum “Capital Budgeting for Investment, using the Discounted Cash-Flow (DCF) Method, and Net Present Value (NPV)”

Quoting: “It is important to understand the methods used by sophisticated and experienced business-people in the world of finance and economics, both here in Australia and overseas, when making large-scale capital expenditure budgeting decisions; whether it be for investments below one million dollars or up to several hundred million dollars.

One excellent method which is technically sound, and is supported by courts when deciding cases, is the Expected Net Present Value of a Future Expected Cash-Flow Income-Stream, also called Discounted Cash-Flow (DCF) Analysis.

When finance and economic analysis is in

progress, the concept of ‘flows’ is used, to show where the money goes. Money flows ‘in’ or ‘out’, with Net Cash-Flow available to pay dividends to owners of capital.

The basic premise is as follows, you:

1. Understand a business’ past cash-flows (both in and out),

2. Understand the nature of the income cycle,

3. Understand the cost structure of the business,

4. Understand what influences (both internal and external) the business model is sensitive towards,

5. Understand the accounting and economic break-even points, for sales dollars and sales quantity,

6. Understand supply and demand issues, at the micro and macro level, for this type of business, and

7. Have a view of the future, and for the business.

8. Make assumptions (which are documented), for each line of the cash-flow.

9. Project the cash-flow forward in time for three years, using zero-based budgeting; with the balance of the current year, plus one full year, shown month-by-month, and then two further years shown on an annual basis.

10. Identify and understand the risks of the project, and, whilst mitigating where you may, come to a conclusion whether the business is more or less risky than the market (using a proxy company where you can).

11. Derive a Before-Tax, Discount Rate, which fully describes the expected risk in the project going forward over the life of the project (eg Opportunity Cost of Capital).

12. Do not use the Weighted Average Cost of Capital (WACC) method to derive the Discount Rate, unless there is an appropriate amount of equity ‘hurt-money’ on the table, and the owner’s residential property is not being used as collateral for any loans; as evidenced in the balance sheet. Otherwise use an Opportunity Cost of Capital proxy, such as the Borrowing Rate plus a Margin-of-Safety.

13. Insert the Discount Rate into the Present Value (PV) formula applicable to the circumstance, and derive a Multiple.

14. Apply this Multiple to the Earnings Before Interest and Taxes (EBIT) figure from the cash-flows above, bringing these future cash-flows back to a single number, as it would be in the present-day, discounting for time and risk.

15. A way to think about it is; if I was offered a dollar today, or a dollar in one year’s time, and the opportunity cost of not taking the dollar today is 10pc, which will I prefer? If I take the dollar today, and put it in the bank, where I can earn 10pc, I will have $1.10 in one year’s time. So, if I wait, I will be $0.10 out of pocket. Conversely, how much would I have to invest today to receive a dollar in one year’s time? The answer is $0.91 ($1.00 / 1.1). A rational person will choose to take the dollar today.

16. This is similar to what is termed a ‘perpetuity’; where an amount is “grossed-up” to what it might look like ‘at the end-of-time’.

17. Take one dollar and invest it ‘perpetually’ at 10pc per annum, and it becomes $10.00 ($1.00/ 0.1); however, when you calculate the number of years (n) to ‘perpetuity’ ($10 = $1 x (1.1)n), it is only 24-years and 58-days. Granted, this is a long period of time, though it is hardly what we imagine as perpetuity; whatever that means. However in our modelling, some assumptions are made.

18. Another example: If $1.00 @ 25pc in perpetuity equals $4.00, then the time to perpetuity equals 6.212567-years (n = log 4 / log 1.25), or 6-years and 78-days.

19. So we may observe that as perceived risk rises, the pay-off horizon shortens; or the PV shrinks. The converse is also true. This is an example of the risk/return trade-off; as there is an inverse relationship (and therefore a negative slope) between them.

20. This adjustment for interest income (or expense), is referred-to as the ‘time-value-of-money’.

21. Another concept to understand in relation to NPV analysis (where positive NPV projects are acceptable investments) is the question, what is the hurdle rate of return (IRR), or the maximum borrowing-rate (less a Margin-of-Safety), where NPV equals zero?

22. A rational investor will surely pay no more than the number this discount hurdle rate equates to under the assumptions given; yet if the long-term view of interest rates over the term of the project is less than this hurdle rate, one will see a higher NPV and is more likely to invest.

23. And if expected EBIT increases, due to better management or market conditions, then the NPV will also rise.

24. A positive side effect of a higher EBIT as a percentage of Revenue, is that perceived lending risk will also fall, leading to lower risk premiums being applied.

shall illustrate with an example.

If rural, pastoral and grazing land in the Blackall/Tambo Shire of Central Western Queensland, in large part, has an average carrying capacity for a cow-and-calf unit of 1:21-Acres, then the carrying capacity of the cow alone is 1:14.69-Acres (if weaning percentages are 80pc and bulls are joined at 3pc).

If a Margin-of-Safety of 10pc is added-on to this carrying capacity, then the number becomes 1:16.15-Acres per cow (Dry Unit Equivalent).

To arrive at a fair estimate of market value, for what this parcel of land is worth on a per-Acre basis (Walk-In, Walk-Out, including stock, plant and all things necessary for the continuing operation of a Going Concern enterprise), you should request trading and profit and loss statements from the vendor (under signed Confidentiality and Non-Disclosure Agreements) going back at least five years, and the lodged income tax returns which accompanied them. This is an important step as a part of the data verification process.

There may well be resistance to this request from the vendor, as this data is of a private and sensitive nature. However this level of disclosure, is what everyone else in the real world complies with, to ensure there is full-information on the table for a prospective purchaser to review.

The production of same gives the purchaser some higher level of comfort around the numbers, and therefore a lower level of risk premium will be applied in the NPV analysis. Also, where there is un-certainty beyond rationality, lenders will also put a higher risk premium on any funding requirements.

To continue with my example, I will assume the following inputs and equations:

1. A purchaser will not borrow more than one-half of the expected market value of the total adult cattle herd.

2. A purchaser will not borrow more than 20pc of the total Asset Value of the enterprise including all things necessary; including the land component.

3. The parcel of land is around 36,000-Acres in size.

4. The average market value of the herd is $850.00 each. (It should be around $1300.00 per Head.)

5. The average adjusted EBIT, over the period covering the past five years, and expected over the next three years, is $450,000.

6. The carrying capacity, as calculated above, is 1:16.15-Acres (Dry Unit Equivalent).

7. That an appropriate regression equation to calculate a ‘Bare of Stock and Plant’ Price for comparison, may be:-

• Y = $770.00 x (X) -0.717,where ‘X’ equals Carrying Capacity expressed as ‘Acres per Beast’.

8. That an appropriate regression equation to calculate a ‘WIWO (Operating)’ Price for comparison, may be:-

• Y = $1,417.30 x (X) -0.86,where ‘X’ equals Carrying Capacity expressed as ‘Acres per Beast’.

9. That the average Opportunity Cost of Investment is 9.5 percent per annum (Compound).

10. That a purchase should be looked-at like a perpetual Bond, paying annuity income as a coupon, and with NPV at Zero (0), to find the ‘price you should pay no more than’; using a multiple of income, and a cost to buy (reflecting perceived risk).

11. The formula for this calculation may be:-

• NPV = (EBIT x (1 + (1/Opportunity Cost))) – Original Cost.

• Setting NPV to Zero (0), the equation changes to,

• (EBIT x (1 + (1/Opportunity Cost))) = Original Cost

12. A rational risk-averse investor, only invests in positive NPV projects; so where NPV equals zero(0), you are indifferent as to whether you will invest or not.

13. There is no ‘one-true-value’.

14. Equations which model what might happen, only model our expectations of future expected cash-flow and value, and are not accurate; as only actual outcomes are measurable and real.

15. The concept of ‘common-sense’ should be fastidiously applied, and in large doses.

Expected Value per Acre: To Buy

• Bare of Stock and Plant:

– Y = $770.00 x (21.0) -0.717  = $3.124M. (or $86.79 per Acre.)

– We use the higher carrying capacity of 1:21.0 -Acres because the place is a blank piece of paper, and may have many uses; however that is the long-term carrying capacity of the place, on the average.

• WIWO (as a Going Concern):-

– Y = $1,417.30 x (16.15) -0.86  = $4.664M. (or $129.55 per Acre.)

• Value to Pay No More Than (WIWO):

– NPV = (EBIT x (1 + (1/Opportunity Cost))) – Original Cost.

– Set NPV equal to Zero (0).

– Equation becomes:-

o (EBIT x (1 + (1/Opportunity Cost))) = Original Cost.

o ($450K. x (1 + (1/0.095))) = Original Cost.

– Original Cost = $5.1868M. (or $144.08 per Acre)

– Therefore, the break-even value per Acre above, is the maximum you should pay; if the EBIT is $450K. and the borrowing cost is 9.5pcpa.

– Of course, if either variable changes, then so will the answer.

• ‘True’ value for WIWO lies between $129.55 and $144.08 per Acre.

• As you can see, it is important to have a view of the future, to ensure you do not pay too much.

• As each case is different, please consult with your advisor; however, the above should give you food for thought.

• Of course, ‘value’ is in the eye of the beholder; price is what you pay, and value is what you get.

• Be aware that under this model, if all else remains constant under the WIWO example above, except if Item-2 changes to 30pc, then the value per Acre you are willing to pay may fall to $87.72. This is a big difference, and it indicates the higher level of perceived operating and financial risk, as Debt/Equity ratio moves from 20pc or 2/8 (25pc), to 30pc or 3/7 (43pc).

• Alternately, if the Expected Future Revenue looks set to jump (due to the signing of a long-term trade agreement with another country), then the Demand Curve for beef will shift quickly relative to the Supply Curve (which is fixed in the short-term), and of course you should expect to receive a higher capital payment if you are a seller; and conversely pay more if you are a buyer.

Expected Value per Acre: To Lease or for Agistment

If you did not want to buy through lack of access to capital, and merely required Agistment, or a Lease, on a per-Head-per-Week basis (as applied to adult cattle), and the expected yield was similar to the Opportunity Cost of Capital, then the following may apply:-

– ((Value / Acre) x (Opportunity Cost) x (Carrying Capacity / Acre)) / 52-Weeks.

– Or, our old friend, (Beast Area Valuation x Opportunity Cost) / 52-Weeks.

– Dry Cattle  = ($144.08 x 9.5pc x 16.15) / 52 = $4.25 per Head per Week, or

– Dry Cattle  = ($2,326.89 x 9.5pc) / 52-Weeks = $4.25 per Head per Week.

– Wet Cattle = ($144.08 x 9.5pc x 23.10) / 52 = $6.08 per Head per Week, or

– Wet Cattle = ($3,328.25 x 9.5pc) / 52-Weeks = $6.08 per Head per Week.

– Same income overall will eventuate, but able to carry less adult cattle; per the assumptions above.

– You will note BAV is different for Wet or Dry cattle. How can this be? It is exactly the same block of land! Therefore, BAV may be confusing, and should only be used as a rough guide when valuing agricultural land.


What I have tried to show here, in the above assumptions and calculations, is that a rational approach needs to be made to the valuation of any investment, no matter where, or what it is; else you run the risk of paying too much.

It may also mean having your banker/financier see the investment as more high-risk than it otherwise should be, and therefore self-justifying charging you a higher interest rate premium, as applied on borrowed funds, than necessary; which may have the unintended consequence of leading to a higher risk of bankruptcy in marginal investments; remember this type of business is usually asset-rich, but cash-poor (though it should not be); so always build into your calculations a Margin-of-Safety.

The Discounted Cash-Flow (DCF) Method and the calculation of the Net Present Value (NPV) of an income stream, is a very appropriate way to value an asset of this type, and is used by investors from all walks of life; whilst also being strongly supported by the Courts, as a valid and robust approach to valuing assets.

The ‘accounting equation’ (where Assets = Liabilities + Equity), like all good algebra, must stay in balance. When valuing a business using this Method, you are valuing the Assets which you need to operate the business; however, if you are buying the business’ legal structure (ie a Pty Ltd company, for example), then take out any Surplus Assets and remove any Liabilities you are not absorbing, to arrive at the Equity Value (where Assets minus Liabilities = Equity).

Look to the long-term patterns in the data for randomness, trend, cycle, and seasonality, etcetera, by using a 13-week Weighted Moving Average of Revenue (for example), only looking back to learn; however, have a view of the future, and remember, you value an asset with a view to the future expected income from it.

The past has a memory, which carries forward, though dissipating with the passage of time; usually exponentially, depending upon the accepted usage and effect. Remember the past is just a guide to the future, so only look back to learn.

Do not pay too much; as you make your profit when you buy, not when you sell.

I encourage debate, and am happy to be proved wrong.

Good Luck, and thank you for your time.” End quote. The analysis is part of a series to Beef and Central by Michael Vail, and is addressed to investors making capital budgeting decisions towards a long-term investment in the agricultural production industry. Co2Land org posts this not as advice but for information only.

CO2Land org only adds that these numbers will change as values change and if you recall sentiments over commitment periods for CFI, you may now consider insurance packages may be the new industry to protect the family – assuming families are still allowed to compete in agriculture.

Human Creativity – ideas and innovation

I long for where Human creativity meant ideas and opportunity will be captured and questioned and then crafted into a business. While lamenting, along came a story that human creativity has not changed, and the problem is we might be running out of big NEW companies. This leads to looking deeper into why this could happen.

A story from Alyson Shontell, 23 August 2012, ( ) in essence says the space is too crowded and starting a company used to be more difficult.

CO2Land org does agree starting a company is more easy, however funding is getting more difficult, banks have tighter lending rules, old (family) money has all but dried up or is invested in the minerals boom (particularly since 2007-08) and we are back to the time when only people with boatloads of money could afford to launch one (a start-up company) and see it to maturity. However, the difference to how it was before is marketing, this is more important and in particular we need to know how to use the changed practices in marketing to your advantage and this is more critical than being a engineering genius. That said we have to point out the improved technology, and social media can create something for a condition to start-up a company that is neither being novel or necessary. The condition for this is because – “Founders can scale consumer products relatively quickly too. Angel investor Chris Dixon called 10 million users the new one million.

CO2Land org then ponders: Is innovation of this type going to reach a ‘peak oil’ type of scenario and when, and what drives us to start-up a new company that is different especially where we might have products that are familiar, can use and understand, and have been around for the years. A good example might be how a director of an affiliate company said my PC was fine until Microsoft made it more complicated, so I changed to Apple and had to learn all over again! This is a very good example of how we did not want to change until it was forced on us, and the moral of the story is do it before it is done unto you! By that is meant things will change through human creativity and that creativity can at least be influenced by our ideas if we participate (is this not the correct way of a human touch?).

Back to the Alyson Shontell story: “The interesting innovation now is happening in [business-to-business] and infrastructure, which doesn’t seem as intellectually interesting but can have a large impact,” an investor told us. “[Business-to-consumer] might just be tapped out for the moment after a good 5+ year run.” It would seem the Alyson Shontell claim is an indicator of the shift in how we do business, and CO2Land org recently published a story on how branding perceptions has changed (Time for a real review). Both support the view the intellectual is less interesting and more important is systems based on hardware, enterprise software, infrastructure and bio-whatever.

CO2Land org does fully agrees those in this B2B space are different and have their thoughts arranged in a way different to B2C and may have an easier time in start-up as they can be better, more predictable bets for investors.

Watch this space for more affiliate action – soon! And, Twitter, is becoming more and more important in watching this space.

Did not use your networks – why your bid failed!

One of the biggest letdowns is putting in a bid where you know you have a special rapport with the group calling the tender, a very competitive product and good reason to believe your price is well structured – then along comes the news – you are not successful.  What went wrong – you are told, nothing went wrong you did not meet the criteria!

So what is meeting the criteria? Short answer – depends on what drives the business activity being called for in the tender. So is a sound understanding of the required activity enough? Short answer – it depends on whether the activity is public or private. So is it the money? – Well it depends – so lets look at projects of government (Federal and or State) and about 30% found price the reason, 37% possibly, 33% not very likely. So is it the economic conditions? About 58% say yes, 37% very possible, 5% No reason to think this is the reason.

Compare this to carbon intervention programs: Initiatives based on economic drivers (47%), based on accounting functions (53%). It is therefore very possible when putting in a bid you could underestimate the impact of factors other than price (in other words external factors) by 11% (58% – 47%).

How can you factor in an 11% margin for the effect of external matters? Co2Land org is not going to try to answer that question. However, polling your networks might be very useful to narrow this margin. If you research through professional and social media you can quickly profile and assign a probability of the likelihood it will impact on your bid assessment. Think about it – how often do you find yourself thinking something should be done about that and next day it is news?   This is even more important when the assessment is weighted score (This is when each criteria is not equal in the marking).


Pure Gold Standard

On 28 June 2012, it was reported by the Australian Government, it “introduced the National Carbon Offset Standard (NCOS) on 1 July 2010 to provide national consistency and consumer confidence in the voluntary carbon market. The Government called for submissions into the standard, and received 34 submissions for the draft review of the standard.”

It is worth noting that NCOS serves two primary functions:

  • Provides guidance on what is a genuine voluntary offset, and
  • Sets minimum requirements for calculating, auditing and offsetting the carbon footprint of an organisation, product or event to achieve ‘carbon neutrality’.

Then on 25 July 2012, Choice said several of its members were put off because of a perceived lack of accountability and oversight in the industry, and needed more assurance before they considered offsetting their carbon emissions.

CO2Land org is now interested in what makes this such an issue especially when NCOS is set up to provide a means of ensuring the environmental integrity of the carbon offsets and carbon neutral products available in the Australian voluntary market. It is meant for consumers and businesses alike to make informed choices and be able to interpret carbon neutral claims. Business should find comfort in being able to determine their carbon footprint in line with consumer expectations etc.

Maybe a little Carbon standards 101 at this point:

The Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) is an international standard that ensures carbon reductions meet quality standards and are independently verified, numbered and listed in a central database.

The Gold Standard (GS), established by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), certifies offset projects that demonstrate greenhouse gas reductions and positively impact the economy, health, welfare and/or environment of the community where the project is located.

The Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI) is a voluntary Australian Government carbon offsets scheme that enables farmers and land managers to generate carbon credits by reducing agricultural emissions, such as nitrous oxide and methane, and sequestering carbon in vegetation and soils. These credits can then be sold to individuals and businesses wishing to offset their own greenhouse gas emissions.

The Government’s National Carbon Offset Standard (NCOS) verifies claims of carbon neutrality in Australia. To verify carbon neutral claims, the NCOS specifies that organisations must buy their offsets from projects verified under eligible schemes. These include credits issued under the CFI, VCS and GS, among others.

Now for a little more on the comfort factor:

CO2Land org on 16 August  2012 was told it still all feels good and Gold Standard (GS) is a rigorous standard with considerable credibility, there is a problem – nothing to do with creditability, but how and who is going to run the GS market in Australia. The issue today is NCOS clearly give GS the big tick and that is why we have watch this space and note that concerns over efficacy are being addressed through such a rigorous process for the regulation of the programs will ensure the money goes where it should. However, 2 years and counting is getting a little uncomfortable when you want to participate in the standards with confidence.

Lift the veil of corporate secrecy on public projects and save the taxpayer


The $1.4 billion cost blowout reported by the NBN Co last week has focused attention once again on the seemingly regular occurrence of large government infrastructure projects being delivered late and over budget.

Whether we look at the much touted Public Private Partnerships (PPP) frameworks championed by state and federal governments of all persuasions, or in the NBN Co. case, a government monopoly engaging with the private sector, the cost to the taxpayer invariably appears to be greater than first estimated.

Why might that be? Is it that we are systematically poor (in one direction) at estimating future costs? Or do political realities and parameters change? That there is a lot of risk and uncertainty in the world around us is certainly true, but why must it always be the case that the taxpayer is left with the “bill”?

Surely there must be something wrong with our government’s existing tendering and contracting processes that leads to this repeated occurrence. And there is. An alarmingly lack of both good governance and contract design, principles that we expect of the corporate sector, are only cursorily considered in the public sector.

Let’s deconstruct the problem a bit further. The most efficacious delivery of large infrastructure (and other government projects) will almost always involve some private sector engagement. The challenge is to garner that engagement on terms that create societal value.

The tendering guidelines that most public sector entities adopt recognise the value in harnessing competition. Recourse to elementary microeconomics suggests that competition amongst potential bidders “for the market” (that is, to win the right to have some monopoly power) will result in the same efficiency outcomes as competition “in the market”. The problem, in almost all real world contexts however, is what economists refer to as an “asymmetry of information”.  If one side of the market – in this case the bidders (or worse yet, only some bidders, so we don’t even get the real positive effects of competition) – have information about the likely outcomes (costs/benefits etc) and the other side (the government) doesn’t, then we would expect the informed party to appropriate more of the rents.

Which is exactly what we observe when cost blowouts occur.

So, how can we resolve this inherent and systemic problem? Firstly, competition for the market (that is the terms on which government tenders are constructed) needs to be much more transparent.

Potential bidders need to be able to have equal access to information and the “commercial in confidence” veil needs to be tempered for the public good. Simply having many bidders involved in a tender, if they are not privy to the requisite commercial information, will not yield competitive outcomes.

Too often, government tenders satisfy a very rudimentary definition of competition, without significant thought in the design of the tender to ensure real competition takes place. Efficient, well designed government tenders are about good governance.

Secondly, and more importantly, we need to be much better at contract design where there is a large deal of uncertainty about future outcomes. The way much of the government contracting currently takes place, despite the political rhetoric to the contrary, is that the residual or contingent risk always sits with the state.

This need not necessarily be the case. Getting the right balance of incentives that mitigate any cost over-runs, and ensure a viable commercial return to the private sector requires much more detailed tender and contract design than currently takes place. Payments for outcomes that capture risk and uncertainty are a staple of financial markets and business to business interactions.

Yet, government to business interactions seem to be devoid of the same detailed considerations. Not surprising, then, that time and time again, our political masters tell us that they have negotiated a great deal with the private sector, only to find that the realised costs are often way more!

The risky uncertain world in which governments attempt to deliver infrastructure and other social projects with private sector involvement necessitates a complete revamp of our tendering and contracting methods.

We need to design systems that harness competition by mitigating the risks of asymmetries of information, and contracts that allow for risk and uncertainty to be shared.

Unfortunately, to date, political expediency has trumped sound economic analysis and design. There is unlikely to be too much consternation from the private sector as a result of the latest cost blowout in a government tendering process, but an informed citizenry ought to be demanding much better from its political masters.

Because if we don’t we will continue to be left with the bill. And it will always be more than we were initially told it would be.

Now it is Co2Land org to have its say, if we look overseas we see that government (say UK) encourages business development and innovation is rewarded. So is the problem a fetish over branding?

Farm Post program.

Australia Post’s launched a pilot ‘paddock to plate’ venture is called Farmhouse Direct and combines things successfully with the other AusPost delivery network. The promise of the service is to connect “you directly to the best local produce” and make local farmers markets and “artisan” produce an everyday experience.

The pilot program is reported to have started out as a collaboration with the Victorian Farmers’ Markets Association and was successful enough to lead to a national roll-out involving 70 producers and 680 products. There is sufficient confidence that it will continue to grow and that confidence is shown by Australia Post having set up a website – at – where farmers set up shop for free and set their own prices. Quoted is that “Users can explore the website by region, product, produce and even by local farmers markets like the Flemington Farmers Market to order online. Farmers prepare the shipments, which are either picked up by Australia Post from the farmer or handed in to a depot, and Australia Post looks after the delivery.”

CO2Land org accepts that this is an interesting project that has the hallmarks of being a success. Not just a number improvement, but a innovation with a low risk and excellent opportunity for farmers to be better off in the market space. It is a genuine attempt to move with the times – without a huge price tag in setup costs. Keep you eye out for the official launch of the program not to far off, and expected sometime in 2012.