“The interesting thing for Asia is the sheer scale of Australia,” Octopus Investments CIO Jonathan Digges tells me as we sit down in the studio to film.
We’re recording following Digges’ recent trips to Asia, where he fills us in on the appetite for ESG investing he’s seen and the firm’s work in the region.
One area with potential, according to Digges, is large-scale renewables-driven hydrogen processing plants in Australia, which has a lot of land, that can then be exported up to Japan and Korea as a fuel source for the future.
“The technology in much of hydrogen exists,” he says. “Part of the problem is it’s actually very inefficient. So the amount of wasted electricity in terms of conversion of what you get in hydrogen is pretty low. But in a world where the sun is producing a limitless amount of electricity, maybe that works.”
In transitioning Australia away from coal, the conversation naturally turns to the subject of human rights.
“Our team work very closely with the Indigenous Peoples of Australia and we have effectively a joint venture, an organisation called Desert Springs Octopus, which is a collaboration between us and a representative body of northern Australian Indigenous communities who have rights to the vast tracts of land,” Digges says.
“We’re trying to find a way to work with them that builds value for those communities, not in the way that comes in, bungs a renewable plant down and pays a lease for the land, but actually helps generate proper infrastructure that people are working on, creates community ownership, and perhaps tries to develop renewables alongside other social infrastructure like health care and education.
“That’s a project we’ve been working on for probably 18 months, maybe two years. It’s slow to emerge, but its potential is enormous if we can find a model that works for everyone and is sensitive to the way the Indigenous communities look at interacting with the financial services sector.”