Change Leadership for Energy Efficiency:
Reconsidering the Role of Policy Makers and Practitioners
Behavior, Energy and Climate Change Conference, Sacramento CA.
Wednesday 20 November, 2013
Much energy efficiency research has focused on developing an ever-expanding list of reasons why investment in seemingly profitable energy efficiency projects doesn’t happen. Other research considers the successful practices that firms can apply to accelerate energy efficiency improvement while assuming that the same strategies will work in all organisations. What is missing is a comprehensive account of the dynamic process by which energy management practices change within firms and across industry. This approach can provide important insights into the role of policy makers and practitioners in driving energy efficiency improvement.
The research described in this paper examines three important questions and fills a critical gap in the energy efficiency literature. The questions are:
How and why do energy management practices change over time in business organisations?
What does this tell us about how successful energy management practices can be shared and developed?
What does it mean in practice for policy makers and practitioners to adopt a change leadership role
The three-year research project described in this paper draws on data from three sources: public presentations made by fifty energy efficiency practitioners at annual workshops hosted by the Australian government in 2011 and 2012; industry case studies, research and capacity building material published between 2006 and 2012 in Australia; and fifteen in-depth interviews undertaken in 2013 with successful energy efficiency practitioners in Australia.
A case study is developed to describe and analyse how and why energy management practices in Australia have changed between 2006 and 2012.
The theoretical framework for the study is based on contemporary perspectives in institutional entrepreneurship theory. A multi-level empirical model is developed to enable the examination the drivers for and challenges associated with new energy management practices at industry, firm and individual project level. This approach highlights the interactions between people, management systems and technology in the pursuit of energy efficiency improvement.
The research findings highlight the change leadership strategies that effective energy management practitioners have used to drive energy efficiency improvement and the barriers that these strategies have helped to overcome. The findings also demonstrate how a shift in three widely-held beliefs, or ‘institutional logic’, helped to challenge widely-held assumptions about institutionalized energy management practices. The first shift identifies was a transition from viewing energy efficiency as a cost reduction initiative towards acknowledging the wider business benefits that a focus on energy efficiency can deliver. The second shift reflects an acknowledgement of the need to work across professional and functional boundaries within firms rather than relying on the actions and capability of technical staff and external consultants. The third shift reflects an approach that is more characterized as continuous improvement with a focus on day-to-day operational practices rather than a focus on episodic energy audit processes.
Recommendations from the research include suggested improvements to diagnostic analysis of organisational readiness, appropriate matching of change leadership strategies to organisational culture and the practical change leadership actions that both policy makers and practitioners can take to drive energy efficiency improvement in firms.