Australia’s energy future is the hottest topic in sustainability right now. CitySmart attended the Energy Productivity Summit in Sydney to learn more about what lies ahead.

What is energy productivity? Put simply, it’s doing more with less. While energy efficiency is about using less energy, energy productivity includes using that reduced amount of energy more productively. Energy productivity creates value.

That was the focus of the Energy Productivity Summit in Sydney in April this year, presented by The Australian Alliance for Energy Productivity.

Aligned to the event was the Alliance’s 2xEP initiative: an ambitious program working with industry, governments and research partners to double energy productivity in Australia by 2030 to help meet our international commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

In his opening speech, Benoit Lebot from the International Partnership for Energy Efficiency Cooperation (IPEEC) outlined the path to a low carbon society as having four elements:

  • Changing our practices and behavior
  • Energy efficiency
  • Renewable energy
  • Improved carbon sinks (planting trees and sequestering/capturing carbon)

CitySmart attended the summit and here are five things we learned:

1.  Other countries are showing the way on energy productivity

Speaker Benoit Lebot cited Germany as an example for other countries to follow, where there is serious national intent and massive funding ($40B). Interestingly the German government decided to accelerate its programs in this area as a replacement for the German nuclear power plants. He said that, in the same way, a similar strategy could be used to retire coal-fired power plants. The Germans have achieved change through a combination of carrots, sticks and public awareness.

2.  The amount of energy wasted in supply chains is surprising

Speaker Carmel Gillies from manufacturer Simplot cited examples of energy waste in supply chains, such as:

  • Transportation waste – transporting excess raw materials to point of manufacture when not needed and moving materials around factories or building sites unnecessarily
  • Over-production of items for customer orders
  • Over processing, i.e. creating products and services to a greater level than the customer is prepared to pay for.

The lesson is that if a business takes the opportunity to properly standardises its work practices and procedures, it can limit this wasted energy.

3.  If you want CEOs to embrace sustainable ideas, know what motivates them

One speaker cited a powerful example of how a company overcame its CEO’s initial resistance to an energy saving initiative.

The Sustainability Manager had identified $250,000 in annual energy savings across company properties. But he needed money spent on training staff in better energy use habits, so the initiative was rejected. Looking for a solution, the Sustainability Manager approached TAFE and proposed a competition among design students to develop the training materials. The winning group of students would be given a prize, and the job of rolling out the training materials to company staff. The CEO got on board and green lit the project, seeing it as a great opportunity to showcase the company’s innovation.

4.  Lots of little things can make a big difference to energy productivity

An initiative by Qantas was cited as an example of energy productivity improvements on a small scale.

Traditionally, Qantas pilots carried a large briefcase on board every flight that contained paper manuals for operation of the flight, emergency procedures and so on. Qantas was printing 18,000 pages of paper for flight operations per day. After securing approval from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, Qantas moved to lighter iPads which reduced paper use to 3,000 pages and allowed for a 20kg reduction in paper weight on board, reducing paper use and improving fuel efficiency.

5.  There is enormous scope for improving commercial building performance

Stefan Schwab, Executive General Manager of Building Technologies at Siemens, said that commercial buildings globally consume 42% of all electricity –and up to 50% of that energy is wasted. Siemen’s energy saving projects involve digitising buildings and using the data to drive savings. He cited the example of Museums Victoria, which reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 35% and electricity costs by 32%.


Most of the presentations from the Energy Productivity Summit are now online – visit their Presentations Page.