Energy roadmap for business gets an upgrade 15 July 2019

Last Thursday the Energy Efficiency Council launched the second edition of our energy briefing for business at a lunchtime forum with Alan Kohler AM.

Designed for directors and senior executives, Navigating a dynamic energy landscape: a briefing for Australian businesses is a practical, approachable briefing on the drivers for transformation in Australia’s energy markets, how those drivers play out in business energy bills, and the options businesses have to take control of their energy position.

It’s great to have the refreshed briefing out, so that businesses across the country have access to up-to-date energy market information, delivered in plain English.

But as I said at the launch, we’ve always seen the energy briefing as the starting point for a conversation. The event last Thursday was an opportunity to kick along that conversation with a broad range of business leaders that are grappling with a more dynamic energy landscape.

Keynote address from Alan Kohler AM

Alan gave a rousing address that picked up on some of the key themes of the briefing. 

He noted that businesses are reliant on "people, capital and energy." Yet while businesses have sophisticated approaches to managing people and capital, energy management is often an afterthought.

Alan made the point that when gas and electricity were cheap, it made some sense for business to focus on energy as a procurement issue. However, with cheap energy no longer the norm, businesses can stay competitive by making strategic investments in energy efficiency, demand management and renewables.

He was particularly forthright on the need for business to get across demand response: "If you can't make good money from demand response, then you're not trying, and your competitors will."

Panel session with Visy, Coles and ClimateWorks

After Alan’s keynote I facilitated a panel with Alan and David Abela, Executive General Manager at Visy Global Procurement, Dr Vikas Ahuja, Head of Energy at Coles, and Anna Skarbek, CEO of ClimateWorks. We looked at how business is responding to a transforming energy market, and the strategies that they are employing to take control. 

Anna opened the discussion by reminding us that "energy efficiency is the first fuel" because it is the cheapest way to reduce energy bills. She pointed out that it’s crucial we deploy energy efficiency alongside renewable energy to ensure Australia’s energy transition is affordable.

David noted that Visy has elevated the prominence of energy as a strategic issue by establishing a senior Energy Committee, made up of executives from across the organisation, to oversee energy management investments. The task of David's team is to "simplify the data" and explain the value proposition so that the Energy Committee can easily make investment decisions.

In turn, Vikas highlighted that Coles, as a large energy user, has a high level of executive engagement because "energy management delivers results". He made the point that he always frames investment through the lens of Coles' core business, looking at energy savings opportunities in comparison to how much product Coles would need to sell to have a similar impact on the bottom line.

Vikas also emphasised that energy management isn't just for large companies with big energy teams, pointing to smaller businesses that have worked with energy services professionals to make inroads into their energy spend.

It was a great conversation, and another milestone in our efforts to support business through this major economic transition.

The journey continues

Navigating a dynamic energy landscape has filled a gap in the market, between breathless newspaper commentary and dense reports from energy market bodies. It gives business leaders the background they need on what is going on in our energy system, but more importantly, what they can do about it.

But we know that sticking a PDF on a website doesn't achieve anything, so over the past year we have taken it on the road.

We've done a CEDA LUNCH in Melbourne and an AICD event in Albury-Wodonga. We've briefed ANZ institutional investors at Pitt Street and met with executives from a food processor in Korumburra. We've even broadcast a live briefing session from Ai Group’s studio to their members across the nation.

So we’ve done it all. But there has been a theme running through all of these sessions: there is a huge appetite from businesses to get in a room and have a conversation with colleagues about what is going on with our energy system, and what they can do to take some control.

With this new edition of the briefing out, we're raring to get back on the road. But we can't sit in a room with every business in Australia. Which means we need to activate our network to ensure this information gets to the people that need it.

So as I always say, share early and often. And if you have thoughts on how we can get this information out there, let me know. It's no silver bullet, but it's one part of putting Australia in the best possible position to work through this energy transition.

Luke Menzel is Chief Executive Officer of the Energy Efficiency Council, Australia’s peak body for energy efficiency, energy management and demand response.