Energy out west: A second life in sustainability


How do you get into energy auditing as a career? And how do you run an audit? Alan Benn’s experiences provide insights helpful to those looking to get into the field, and those wanting to audit themselves, or friends and family—or even their local school! By Robyn Deed.

As a semi-retired electronics engineer with a keen interest in sustainability (perhaps a common ReNew reader profile!), Alan Benn’s move into energy assessment work allowed him to combine his technical skills with his sustainable self.

Based in Perth, Alan’s career change began with a six-month energy auditing course in 2010/11, via a federally funded Green Skills course run by the WA Council of Social Services. Starting with the two-week Home Sustainability Assessment course, it moved to auditing of workplaces in the not-for-profit community sector. As well as hands-on training doing assessments, he learnt technical info, across energy, water and buildings—”that’s where I first learnt about window U-values,” he says.

Although the course was excellent, of 75 trainees (most retraining to start a new career), only three or four are now working in the field. He notes: “Running a business like this can be hard, and there’s little work in energy assessments, particularly residential assessments.” Alan has been a volunteer with Perth-based community association Environment House for over 10 years and most of his paid auditing work is on their auditing contracts with local councils. Some programs are targeted at low-income residents, but most are open to any ratepayers. He’s done assessments from “little retirement units to mansions using 80 kWh/ day of electricity”.

An exercise in understanding

A big part of an assessment, he’s found, is explaining energy and water bills: helping the resident to understand their usage, what the units charged for mean, how usage changes over the seasons, and what’s a reasonable level of usage for gas, electricity and water, depending on the appliances installed.

“So few people know about energy costs,” Alan says. He often asks how much petrol costs, which most people know, and then he asks: how much do electricity, gas and water cost? A few know electricity costs, but he’s never had anyone know the cost of gas or water.

Read the full article in ReNew 134.