Conserving Energy May Have Powerful Rewards, WME

01 Nov 2003Archived News Energetics in the News

A new program launched by the New Zealand Government is helping business push towards sustainable energy usage.

Forecast shortages in New Zealand's energy supply have started to raise the bar for businesses keen to achieve sustainable energy efficiency. The NZ Government's Energy Efficiency Conservation Authority (EECA) has already moved to develop partnerships with businesses to implement sustainable energy management practices that will boost profits.

The traditional approach to energy management within business has been to conduct energy audits. The EECA's experience through its EnergyWise Business program is that audits generally identify a number of savings opportunities but implementation of the findings and energy management guidelines has been haphazard.

If energy savings opportunities are not supported by other management practices, energy costs rise again when the focus moves off energy, until another audit is conducted and the cycle is repeated. Some of the reasons for this cyclical process include a low level of awareness about business energy use and costs, the limited involvement of operations staff who use most of the energy, and the fact that audits primarily focus on energy cost benefits without adequately considering other business drivers.

EECA wanted to assist businesses implement the technical projects and put in place energy management practices that would ensure the savings were sustained. To be effective, the EECA had to improve its understanding of the needs of each business, determine their priorities and provide each business with a tailored solution. The result is the recently launched Emprove program, which provides customers with individual solutions.

A key component of the program is an energy management diagnostic software tool called Energy Achiever, developed by Energetics and customised for EECA. The diagnostic tool enables a business to evaluate its level of development in energy management and provides a pathway for improvement. At the same time it enables EECA to identify the needs of a business and to provide relevant services.

CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT
The key difference between this diagnostic tool and previous approaches is that it addresses energy as a business management issue rather than a technical engineering issue. It is applied in a self-assessment workshop facilitated by the EECA account manager and involving the senior management team in the business - typically the business, operations, finance, maintenance and engineering managers.

The diagnostic tool is designed to help provide a clearer picture of energy issues. This means understanding the business risk issues including cost, supply and quality, understanding the management of energy and building effective management systems to control energy resources.

The workshop session takes approximately 45 minutes. Once the team has completed this, the diagnostic tool gives a management report, which includes:

complete assessment of the energy management status;
identification of strengths and weaknesses in the current energy management practices;
prioritised actions for immediate improvement;
a planning module for gaining agreement and commitment on actions, responsibilities and time frames; and
links to appropriate EECA support tools and services for critical actions.
This diagnostic session is repeated on a regular basis (every 6-12 months) to enable the business to continue improving its energy management. On review of the diagnostic, a new set of critical actions is generated.

EARLY ADOPTERS
Since the program's launch three months ago, 25 large-energy-using businesses have joined. All have indicated they want to continue working with EECA, using the energy management diag-nostic approach to add value to their business.

Telecom New Zealand recently joined the program. "It opens the door for companies to be assessed on their energy management . . . elevates the issue into the line of sight," said Tom Ludlow, contract manager to Telecom.

Another leading business to join the program was the Ravensdown Fertiliser Cooperative in Christchurch. Process engineer Cameron Ward saw the program as a "good way of breaking down the issues and evaluating progress. Simple and fairly objective, a hard combination to get".

Tim Newman, senior business solutions manager for New Zealand Post, said the program "allows focused discussion, then simple action-oriented feedback".

EECA is now offering the Emprove energy management program to New Zealand businesses that spend more than $500,000 per annum on energy. Energetics expects SEDA will be refining its Energy Smart Business program in the near future with a similar offering for NSW businesses.

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