Chasing a 100% renewables super fund

Australian super funds are largely unwilling to give up on fossil fuel investments, leaving a great opportunity for a 100% renewables option.

With an estimated 80 per cent of fossil fuel reserves being unburnable carbon (if we want to keep global average temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celsius) legacy investments in fossil fuel assets run a very high risk of going bust.  

Investments in renewable energy, on the other hand, are surging around the world, surpassing the former and reaching a staggering $US244 billion in 2012. Investing in renewable energy makes good financial sense, not to mention being the only option if Australian's want to pass on a comfortable and habitable planet and lifestyle to our children and grandchildren.

A 100 per cent renewable energy super fund would match the ideals and aspirations of the many Australians who want a better future for themselves and their families.

Back in 2007, I floated the idea of pro-active super, that's super that is working in your interests instead of against them. And as an energy security campaigner backing a shift from fossil fuels to renewables, it was only natural that the starting point would be a renewable energy super fund.

Half of Australia's working population have investments with Industry Funds Management, it's the collection of mutually held (for the benefit of members) superannuation funds that invest money with all returns (less admin costs) going to build a bigger and better nest-egg for each and every one of its five million members. The Industry Funds umbrella includes household super funds such as Australian Super, HESTA, REST and CBUS to name a few.

Industry Funds now needs to move on from its initial model of benchmarking against the rest of the super industry, offering similar products that are easy to compare with similar returns, which from a competitive perspective has made sense so far, to a newer pro-active model.

My superannuation and those of many of my friends is with Australian Ethical Investments and the problem with them is not just that they're not a mutual fund, but that they are heavily weighted towards gas.  

The great fight for action on energy security and global warming in the next 10 years is whether we go to gas, including unconventional gas such as coal seam gas and shale gas, or whether we take a shortcut to renewables.  

Australian Ethical has backed a gas future, which doesn't just mean fossil gas but means greenhouse gas – and lots of it.

Recently I have partnered with Alejandro Rodriguez, a water engineer with a background in sustainable development and together we've been working with environmental, social and union groups to develop this project further.  We are now on the verge of getting a 100 per cent Renewable Super option up and running and need your help.  

If you'd like to complete this short two minute survey it will help us to demonstrate demand for the product.

With your help and a stabilisation of the politics around renewables after the election (preferably Rudd winning and subsequently removing the uncertainty of recent times or the Coalition committing to renewable certainty prior to the election), a 100 per cent renewable super option with benchmark investment returns will be on offer early in the new year.

Matthew Wright is Executive Director of energy and climate security think-tank Zero Emissions (http://zeroemissions.org.au).

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