Carbon price needed for software sales

Although many in the IT industry are interested in the government's policies on the National Broadband Network or e-health, the some software vendors only have eyes for the main parties' carbon policies.

Although many in the IT industry are interested in the government's policies on the National Broadband Network or e-health, some software vendors only have eyes for the main parties' environmental policies.

(GD*5684718 image by thewritingzone, CC BY-SA 2.0)

Sustainability is a big issue in the election this year, but neither of the main parties are keen for an immediate introduction of a carbon pricing scheme.

The Liberals have committed to reducing emissions, but not to a carbon tax. Labor would like to bring in a pricing scheme, but with a delayed start.

Until a price is put on carbon in Australia, carbon reporting will continue to be carried out on spreadsheets, according to CarbonSystems CEO David Solsky.

"There's just so much uncertainty," he told ZDNet Australia. "In the absence of certainty people just stop making decisions."

Over the last six months, there had been a "horrible drop-off" in decision making of large entities, he said. This is despite figures quoted by the company from a Verdantix report that show the industry is booming globally, with carbon management software sales set to rise from US$120 million in 2011 to US$250 million in 2012.

Over the last 12 months or so, CarbonSystems has added a number of customers, including AGL Energy, Canon, Colliers International, CSIRO, Domino's, Deloitte, Elders, Fuji Xerox, Investec, Metcash, Macquarie University, Microsoft, Novartis, Spotless and Village Roadshow.

However, with Australia dithering on a carbon price, there may not be enough of an imperative for more businesses to move, meaning that Australia could miss out on much of the growth predicted by Verdantix.

Although it's mandatory for many large companies to report following legislation brought in by the Howard Government in 2007, this reporting is often done on spreadsheets, according to Solsky.

It gets the jobs done, but the reporting isn't robust, he said. He believes that if there were a financial incentive for getting it right, dictated by a carbon price, the systems would start flying out the door.

"If you have to make hardcore financial decisions, then the quality of the underlying data becomes more of an imperative," he said.

Managing director of competitor CarbonView, Fadi Geha, agreed that a carbon price will give even heavy emitters an understanding that they need reporting software.

CarbonView has won Avaya Communication, Macquarie Bank, Mitchell Shire Council, Peabody Energy, Shaw Stockbroking, Symbion Health, Ventura Bus Lines and the Westin Hotel over to the company's reporting software in the last 12 months.

Half of the companies buying the software do it because they want to be responsible, Fadi said. The other half do it because they are over the size threshold and have to report. The rest need a push. "The business wants a direction," he said.

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