For the last 10 months I have been working on a research study which takes a snapshot of nine major industrial sectors of the Australian economy in terms of their significant energy efficiency measures.  It will characterise these measures according to type of modification, end use class, energy savings (in GJ and dollars), payback period and scope of impact.  It will also examine how organisational characteristics such as firm size, internationalism and exposure to the carbon price change these energy efficiency measures.

"An energy efficient bulb in a shop in Gaziantep, Turkey" by World Bank Photo Collection on Flickr
“An energy efficient bulb in a shop in Gaziantep, Turkey” by World Bank Photo Collection on Flickr

Energy efficiency is a concept that has held importance to sustainable development since the oil crisis of 1973.  The United Nations Industrial Development Organisation emphasises environmental benefits such as a reduced effect of energy emissions to air (including climate change and acid rain), water and land, mitigation of non-renewable resource depletion, landscape change and biodiversity (UNIDO, 2011).  Significant benefits are to be gained also from economic and social perspectives, making it an essential strategy of sustainable development (Hirst & Brown, 1990; UNIDO, 2011).

Australia is an important country to promote energy efficiency as its economy relies on high emissons intensity energy use (Garnaut, 2008).  Australian Governments have prioritised the topic throughout the last two decades, with various policy instruments: from the Enterprise Energy Audit Program of the programs for energy efficiency of the early-mid 1990’s to the current Energy Efficiency Opportunities program from 2006.  It has commissioned studies on the potential for energy efficiency: the Ministerial Council on Energy (2003) estimated a  20-30 per cent reduction in energy demand from business-as-usual energy efficiency measures, and the National Framework for Energy Efficiency estimates 5-10 per cent on business-as-usual savings alone (Collins, 2009).

This study is critical to addressing the information-related barriers for this gap.  By understanding the significant energy efficiency measures being identified in Australian industry and how these measures vary according to organisational and project characteristics, organisations will have more accessible and practical information on new energy efficiency measures which it could consider adopting.  The report aims to be a useful resource for benchmarking and generating new ideas.  It provides better quality information to structure and design its policies and campaigns, to further improve energy efficiency in Australian industry.

To do this, the dissertation collected the case studies of significant opportunities for energy efficiency from the Energy Efficiency Opportunities program during its first full cycle (2005-2012).  As a mandatory program for large energy-consuming firms in Australia for the last seven years, it is a large and representative dataset.  The dissertation classifies the energy efficiency measures and the companies that have identified them, and then analyses how energy efficiency identification changes according to those characteristics.  For example, what types of energy efficiency projects are manufacturing firms most likely to identify?  Or what types of energy efficiency measures are retail trade businesses mostly identifying?

"Steam production" by Sanofi Pasteur on Flickr
“Steam production” by Sanofi Pasteur on Flickr

While many academic publications exist on energy efficiency measures for industrial sectors in other countries, no such studies exist for Australia.  This thesis endeavours to make a foundational step for more specific and detailed research on energy efficiency in Australian industry.

The research objectives are:

  • To identify the measures taken by Australian industries to improve energy efficiency.
  • To determine the identification of energy efficiency measures according to organisational characteristics for selected industries.
  • To explore and suggest potential hypotheses behind these findings, and to propose various new directions for research.

If you are interested in this work, please contact me on darren (at] darrenwillman {dot) com.

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