Energy efficiency can provide an alternative way of looking at a business, generating new ideas and improvements in addition to cutting costs.  Patrick Crittenden, Project Manager of the Leadership and Change for Energy Efficiency Project at UTS discusses a program that explores the importance of arming accountants with an understanding of energy efficiency.

"For the past ten years or so I have found myself working alongside engineers on energy efficiency. With a management background, my role has often been to translate technical information on energy use into language that influential stakeholders within an organisation are more familiar with. It can be a challenge, helping operators, middle managers and senior managers to see value from proposed changes. The guiding principle throughout my work has been to consider who can influence an energy efficiency outcome and then to ask ‘why should they care about it’?

Now, the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) Leadership and Change for Energy Efficiency Program is sharing approaches that bring energy efficiency onto the radar for accountancy professionals and students. Funded by the NSW government Office of Environment & Heritage, this collaborative project brings together the UTS Business School with Ernst & Young and the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants. To date, the team has developed and run interactive seminars, a webinar for senior managers, and a two-day professional development course for senior accountants. We’ve also integrated energy efficiency into various topics within the undergraduate and postgraduate accounting courses at UTS.

So far, we are taken aback by just how interested accountants and managers are in energy efficiency. Many were a little startled to discover that energy efficiency has historically been treated as a fixed cost in Australian businesses, even as energy prices have increased rapidly. One thing we’ve had to do is counter the argument that energy is only a small proportion of overhead cost. While developing new training materials, we have included data on non-energy benefits such as productivity improvements which make a real difference for business operations.

For accountants, it is becoming clear that these non-energy benefits often outweigh energy cost savings which make them more compelling and highlight that energy efficiency can provide an alternative way of looking at a business, generating new ideas and improvements.

Accountants have a key role in helping to bring energy and non-energy data together and taking it to middle and senior managers. In our experience they have found themselves a critical role in packaging up the data and information associated with energy use in ways that create a compelling business case. One big part they play is simply matching the language of internal decision-makers with external funders. We are finding accountants and managers can be an important resource and ally for energy efficiency practitioners.

Do you work with the accountants and managers in your organisation that can influence investment decision on energy efficiency projects? Have they been exposed to training on energy efficiency? How have you used data to get them interested and has their involvement helped drive further investment in energy efficiency?"

Patrick Crittenden is very interested in hearing from individuals and companies on their experiences of incorporating energy efficiency into their accountancy practises. His details are available on his website

The UTS Teaching Modules from the project can be found here