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New Perspectives on Institutional Change: The Case of Changing Energy Management Practices in Australia


UTS Business School
University of Technology, Sydney
Published May 2014

This thesis provides new perspectives on the dynamics of institutional change by examining the case of changing energy management practices in large energy consuming organisations in Australia between 2006–2012. Effective energy management practices can deliver cost savings, greenhouse gas reductions and a range of benefits to organisations and society more widely through energy efficiency improvements. However, there is evidence to suggest that there is a gap between the availability of profitable energy efficiency projects in organisations and the extent to which such projects are implemented. Researchers refer to this phenomenon as ‘the energy efficiency gap’.


The thesis builds on contemporary developments in the institutional entrepreneurship literature by developing a multi-level model to conduct the research. Due to the complexity of interrelated issues and events, case study method is applied to analyse and report on the dynamics of changing energy management practices over the study period. The primary research question is: How and why do energy management practices change?


The research finds that energy management practices evolved over the study period through a process of ‘collaborative co-creation’; that is, multiple organisations were involved in experimentation, negotiation and consensus-building processes. These disrupted previously established energy management practices and informed the development and maintenance of new and more effective practices. The thesis contributes to the institutional theory literature by offering original and empirically tested insights into the conditions that support institutional change as a dynamic process involving interactions between multiple organisations. These conditions are that stakeholders with varying degrees of attachment to established management practices are engaged in the change process, roles emerge for institutional entrepreneurs and collaboration is facilitated through the enactment of constructive social skills. Change is further reinforced through shifts in the underlying beliefs about the energy management practices that are considered to be legitimate within a community of corporate energy practitioners.


Based on the findings, it is concluded that energy efficiency policymakers can encourage the adoption of more effective energy management practices in organisations by developing and refining policies based on three key principles. First, energy efficiency policies should encourage a wide range of organisational stakeholders to engage in the process of energy efficiency improvement. Second, policies should be enduring in order to support learning and institutional change across business cycles. Third, policies should be flexible in order to align with the capability, needs and readiness of organisations in order to accelerate energy efficiency improvement.





Chapter summaries and individual chapter downloads are available here


The Table of Contents can be downloaded here


The complete thesis can be downloaded here


Patrick Crittenden presented his thesis in the UTS Three Minute Thesis Competition. The presentation can be viewed here


Throughout development of the thesis a number of conference papers and presentations were developed. For more information click on the links in the box below.




Related papers and presentations:


Presentation at the International Energy Agency's Industrial Productivity and Competitiveness Roundtable in Paris, France on January, 2014




Presentation at the Global Superior Energy Performance (GSEP) Energy Management Working Group (EMWG) webinar on the workforce training programs that facilitate greater energy management proficiency in industry and commercial buildings - January, 2014 




White Paper Launch and Keynote Presentation, City University of New York - 22 November, 2013




Presentation at the Behavior, Energy and Climate Change Conference, Sacramento, California - November, 2013




Seminar at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley California - 15 November, 2013




Inhouse seminar for the Sustainability team at the City of Sydney - October 2013




Public Talk at the City University of New York - 22 March 2013




Public Talk at the City University of New York - 20 March 2013




Conference presentation and paper at the European Council for an Energy Efficient Economy Industrial Summer Study, The Netherlands - September 2012



Conference presentation and paper at the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy Summer Study, California - August 2012




Conference presentation at the Behavior, Energy and Climate Change (BECC) Conference, Washington DC - December 2011




Conference presentation at the European Council for an Energy Efficient Economy 2011 Summer Study, France - July 2011

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