Magazine article New Zealand Management

Energy Efficiency: Saving $Billions for NZ Business; the Energy Efficiency & Conservation Authority's Chief Executive Mike Underhill Explains the Potential Untapped Earnings for Most Businesses Locked in Energy Waste

Magazine article New Zealand Management

Energy Efficiency: Saving $Billions for NZ Business; the Energy Efficiency & Conservation Authority's Chief Executive Mike Underhill Explains the Potential Untapped Earnings for Most Businesses Locked in Energy Waste

Article excerpt

A few weeks ago the Government released its new Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy.

If you're like two thirds of New Zealand business managers, this is the point at which you'll switch off. Because energy isn't your core business -- it's a fixed cost, something you pay every month to make the fleet run and the photocopiers work, right?

Actually, your day-to-day energy waste is probably an untapped source of revenue.

In every business -- be it in financial services, manufacturing or tourism -- energy is a fundamental input cost. And if you're like most Kiwi businesses, one fifth of that monthly bill will go straight back into the coffers when you take steps to run more efficiently.

There are immense bottom line benefits to energy efficiency. We estimate a staggering $2 billion per annum in savings are achievable in time across the business sector, cost effectively.

Energy efficiency is also one of the cheapest ways to reduce business carbon emissions -- and the value of lowering our carbon footprint, particularly in export markets, can't be overstated.

All of this is why improving the energy intensity of New Zealand's business sector is one of the key planks in the Government's strategy -- a strategy that EECA is charged with helping deliver.

Renewable energy will play a vital part in creating a low carbon, secure energy future for New Zealand. The strategy emphasises our potential wealth in renewables, specifically using bioenergy and geothermal energy to provide business with the heat it needs. We're aiming for up to 9.5 additional petajoules of bioenergy or geothermal energy above 2005 levels, by 2015. That's the same amount of energy used every year by 250,000 homes.

With the bottom-line and environmental benefits being so clear, one might expect reducing business energy intensity to be a walk in the park. It isn't.

Our research shows that managers are most concerned with customer and supplier relationships, brand, reputation and business growth. Unsurprisingly, you're busy people focused on pressing priorities. Most managers haven't been convinced that energy efficiency is an enabler to help boost productivity and competitiveness, and strengthen business.

Helping make that case is EECA's job. We know the main barriers are time, knowledge and finance. So we're designing our programmes to tackle those barriers and make it as easy as possible for business decision-makers to improve energy use without having to become experts in kilowatt hours or energy use benchmarks.

A key part of our strategy involves working with New Zealand's growing base of energy service providers -- such as energy auditors -- who can come into your company and advise on where the savings opportunities are. Supporting a strong energy services sector is a key focus for EECA, and this will increase in the next few years.

We know where the biggest potential for business energy savings is. Transport fuel, process heat and motorised systems are the big industrial opportunities. A little-known fact is the amount of energy used by commercial buildings -- with the bulk of that in lighting and heating, ventilation and air conditioning. We'll be working on developing voluntary building performance ratings that enable tenants and owners to differentiate energy-conscious buildings from others. …

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