Budget: EECA wins award, gets funding cut

The Energy and Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) has scooped a top award for excellence in business support – hours after receiving an operating budget cut as part of wider measures to reduce government expenditure.Around 500 people, including Prime Minister John Key, attended a black-tie gala dinner in the Auckland Town Hall last night to celebrate the 2010 Vero Excellence in Business Support Awards, which saw first-time entrant EECA beat out the Inland Revenue Department, carboNZero, and Statistics NZ to claim the best government agency category.

The Energy and Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) has scooped a top award for excellence in business support – hours after receiving an operating budget cut as part of wider measures to reduce government expenditure.

Around 500 people, including Prime Minister John Key, attended a black-tie gala dinner in the Auckland Town Hall last night to celebrate the 2010 Vero Excellence in Business Support Awards, which saw first-time entrant EECA beat out the Inland Revenue Department, carboNZero, and Statistics NZ to claim the best government agency category.

Despite a lack of prize money, EECA chief executive Mike Underhill was delighted with the award and believed it reflected an increasing interest in better business practices.

"More and more businesses are waking up to the fact that good energy management improves their profitability and competitiveness, and strengthens their brand,” he said.

The EECA Business branch estimates around $2 billion a year could be saved across the economy through better energy management and increasing the use of cost effective renewable energy.

Good work but no extra dosh

EECA Business provides audit, technology, solar water heating and wood energy grants to businesses, along with low interest crown loans to fund energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.

Manager Murray Bell told NBR that EECA is careful to only promote energy efficiency measures that either have a payback period of around two years, or can be implemented by business at little to no cost.

“The majority of these grants show that these projects will pay for themselves,” he said.

A driver training programme provided by EECA to Downer EDI allowed the infrastructure company to increase fleet fuel efficiency by 10%, while an audit provided to Auckland International Airport identified energy savings of 20%.

Despite such high-profile success stories, EECA’s operating budget has been cut for the 2010/11 financial year.

“They’re saying tighten your belts, and that’s what we’re doing,” Mr Bell said, but stressed that funding for audit and technology grants would remain unchanged at around $2m a year.

“The level of service we provide to companies will experience very minimal change.”

Inland Revenue, a close finalist for the Vero government department award, received an extra $26.6m over four years in this year’s budget to help enforce property investment rules, up $12m on previous allocation for the same activity.