Westpac Banking Corporation

Energy Conservation: Westpac Banking Corporation


Courtesy of Westpac Banking Corporation

The concerted effort of employees was the key to the success of Westpac’s energy conservation program which, in 1994, reduced electricity bills by $2.54 million, more than recouping the initial outlay of $1.8 million in only the first year. In 1995, the bank outlayed another $1.1 million but saved an additional $1.5 million, increasing recurrent annual savings to $4 million. The program revolved around simple, good housekeeping measures: such as switching off unused lights and computers, setting appropriate room temperatures and centralising electricity payment procedures.

In addition to the benefits derived by the bank, the environment has also benefitted from the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by up to 23,000 tonnes per year.


In March 1993 Westpac set up an Energy Unit with the aim of reducing the company's energy consumption and costs. Energy use within Westpac's properties and branches, comprising 1,200 buildings, totalled approximately $23 million per annum.

The Energy Unit's three-year plan aims to raise staff awareness, ensure all Westpac branches are on the lowest possible electricity tariff, and implement the newest energy management technology in systems design. The initial focus of the project was in Sydney, since 70% of the bank's 40 major commercial properties are located in the city.

The process

Energy usage in the office had not been studied in detail previously and so Westpac put on four staff in the Energy Unit, of whom two worked full-time on energy savings. The other two share responsibilities in the management and maintenance of Building Management Systems (BMS). An energy consultant was also engaged to put an energy reduction plan together, making submissions to the Board, and carrying out energy reviews. They meet with the Energy Unit on a regular basis.

The average energy cost of operating a Westpac branch is $10,000 per annum. Of this, the Energy Unit estimates that staff have direct control of approximately 40% of a branch's energy consumption per year, amounting to around $200 per person annually.

While staff were given control of most of their office equipment, Westpac's Energy Unit recognised that 60% of energy usage came from central equipment. In high-energy use branches, external lighting, air conditioning and hot water systems are controlled by the newly-installed, centralised BMS. These control systems provide early warning of operating problems which can be fixed before they cause any work disruption or discomfort to staff or clients.

Cleaner production initiatives
Energy conservation

Staff are expected to keep energy consumption down by turning off lighting, computers, photocopiers, air conditioners and other office equipment. Since the introduction of staff awareness programs, the monitoring of electricity invoices has shown that energy consumption for selected medium to smaller size branches has decreased between 10% and 30%.

In high-energy use branches, some of the measures employed by the computerised BMS control systems include:

  • maintaining a set, appropriate room temperature;
  • installing a separate gas hot water storage tank, allowing the BMS to intercept power to the boiler when heating is not required;
  • installing light switches (so staff can turn lights on and off), movement detectors and time clocks; and
  • bulk buying of electricity at cheaper tariff rates.

After trialling, BMS control systems have achieved an annual average saving of 25%, and within a payback period of 18 months. 72 BMS systems were installed in 1994. By the end of the three year program, approximately 300 branches are expected to have BMS control systems. Installation of the systems will continue until all branches are reviewed. A standard procedures manual is being prepared for distribution to all branches, outlining fitting procedures, such as splitting air conditioning, taking into account ambient light, and installing light switches.

Energy billing and payment procedures have been centralised. As a result of consolidated metering of the bank's 40 major properties, $1 million in savings was generated first-up, reducing their energy bill from $11 million per year to $10 million per year on an ongoing basis.

Tariff reviews are undertaken to provide early information about operating problems, which are then investigated through energy audits. Where tariff reviews lead to a branch moving onto an optimal tariff structure, the average annual savings are estimated at 2% to 3% on operating costs per annum.

Energy audits are conducted among the bank's major properties. These properties’ concentrated use of energy makes individual energy audits cost-effective. Following audits, lighting and air conditioning control improvements have been initiated in most major properties. Payback times are based on two year estimates, with the exception of major control systems, such as BMS, which have a four year payback.

A review of energy efficiency is being built into the design of new premises and the refurbishment of existing buildings. It has been estimated that energy efficient designs will save 25% of energy costs compared with standard designs.

Water conservation

As part of the Powerpac program, staff are requested to identify water wastage from leaking taps, urinals, toilets and leaking hot water relief valves. A water conservation audit of the top four properties has found higher than average usage of water. Two of the properties have replaced automatic urinals with push-button ones, placed restrictors on tap flow, and repaired leaks associated with air conditioning towers. Payback time is estimated at less than 12 months.

  • At 77 King Street, water usage has reduced from 130 kilolitres per day to 55 kilolitres per day, a cost saving of $30,000 per annum.
  • At 130 Phillip Street, water usage has reduced from 67 kilolitres per day to 35 kilolitres per day, a cost saving of $18,000 per annum.

Advantages of the process

In the first year, Westpac spent $1.8 million, but reduced energy costs by $2.54 million, recouping all the initial outlay costs. In the second year, Westpac has outlayed $1.1 million for an additional, expected saving of $1.5 million, bringing annual savings on operating costs to a total of $4 million per annum. By 1996 the company expects to have saved $11 million for an outlay of $4 million over three years, including $6 million in recurrent savings. This will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 23,000 tonnes per year.

A total of $120,000 was spent on the staff awareness program through developing and distributing 5,000 Powerpacs to all Westpac branches. Payback was estimated at three months.

Having benefitted from the savings brought in by simple conservation measures, Westpac has began to gradually integrate energy measures into all areas of operations, from purchasing to information technology. For instance, the bank has begun looking at purchasing more energy-efficient ATM equipment.

Cleaner production has also spread, with the Westpac Environment Task Force having introduced paper recycling in major commercial properties. In NSW alone, 20 tonnes is recycled each month which equates to 380 trees and 95 cubic metres of landfill saved per month. The paper recycling program is due to spread to all NSW metropolitan branches in early 1995, with the balance of branches following later in the year.

Cleaner production incentives

The overriding motivation for introducing energy conservation measures was the ever-increasing power bills, which reached $23 million in 1993. Recognising the potential contribution of the bank’s thousands of employees, Westpac opted for a move that closely involves employees in simple, practical conservation measures.

Focus on water conservation came later in the program, due mainly to financial concerns over the change in water metering from land value to the amount used.


Many of the cost savings identified had to be carried out by staff. Staff awareness was thus a key part of the program and so an energy consultant produced 'Powerpac', a manual that encourages simple housekeeping measures to conserve energy such as switching off unused lights, computer screens and electrical equipment. Powerpac contains information dispelling some of the common energy myths and recommending particular energy saving measures. Revolving around a cartoon character who urges staff to 'Keep me in the dark,' the Powerpac kit includes posters, stickers, a video and an information brief for managers. The stickers have been designed for fixing onto Westpac branch office equipment under staff control, reminding them to turn off the equipment whenever possible. Westpac's Energy Unit has distributed the Powerpac to all branches.

'You can put in any technology you like to save energy, but there's no way you're going to be successful if staff aren't behind you,' says Mr John Annas, Westpac’s Project Manager - Energy

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