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Real Business : Autumn 2008
20 REAL BUSINESS AUTUMN 2008 Electricity. It's the life force of our modern world. Without it, my computer, and yours too, would be nothing but a big, expensive paperweight, the lamp in my office would be pointless, and my big-screen TV would just be a dust collector. But there's a catch. You see, every time one of us switches on a light or a TV it's like sticking a fork into the Earth. Our wired lives are hurting it. But it's not electricity, as such, that's the problem. No sir, it's the way it's produced that's the killer. Mostly we rely on electricity generated by coal-fired power stations to charge our iPods, and run our microwaves and fridges. Indeed, more than one-third of all greenhouse gas emissions in Australia are caused by energy generation. But at least one of Australia's energy providers is doing something about creating a more sustainable future. Origin Energy, one of Australia's major gas and electricity producers/retailers, is making use of alternative methods of energy production to feed our electricity-dependent lifestyles. According to Origin's head of finance Frank Calabria, Origin recognised early on that a carbon-constrained future was inevitable. "Origin has developed a range of products, such as Green energy and carbon offsets from Origin's carbon reduction scheme, to enable customers to make more informed choices," he explains. So successful has Origin been in its push into green energy products that its GreenEarth, Wind and Solar electricity BY ISAAC BOBER coMpANy profile: ORIgIN products have for the past three years been voted the country's best in reducing greenhouse gas emissions by Green Electricity Watch. And given Australians produce more greenhouse gas emissions per head than any other developed nation, every little bit helps. Origin is doing more than its fair share, too. It was recently voted Ethical Investor magazine's "sustainable company of the year". Origin claimed the title due to its focus on developing low-emission and renewable energy-generation technologies and its commercial relationships with community and sporting groups -- helping them to recognise climate change risks and how to do something about them. In announcing the award, last year's recipient, IAG's Lynette Thorstensen, said: "It [Origin] leads its industry in helping customers who can't pay their bills. It leads in Green energy, it leads in providing carbon offset services and it leads in investment in renewable energy alternatives". However, before going out and preaching to others about reducing their carbon footprints, POWERGAME CPAs PLAY A VITAL ROLE AT ORIGIN, WHERE THEY ARE HELPING TO SHAPE A CLEANER, GREENER FUTURE Origin looks at its own to ensure its carbon footprint is also being minimised. According to Calabria: "Origin offsets the emissions from the electricity used at Origin's generation plants, its Australian offices, shops, LPG terminals and SLIVER solar manufacturing plant, as well as employee business flights, and vehicles deemed 'tool of trade'." What really impresses is that Origin, together with other businesses such as BP, IAG, Visy, Westpac and Swiss Re, formed the Australian Business Roundtable on Climate Change, which advocated that significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions can be achieved at an affordable cost to the Australian economy. Origin has experienced staggering growth since 2000, when Boral shareholders approved the de-merger of the energy business from the building and construction materials business. In the years since, total revenue has grown from $1.4 billion (2000) to an impressive $6.5 billion (2007). Its share price has followed suit, rising from just over $1 per share in 2000 to close to $9 in early 2008. With more than three million customers and a business that includes energy generation, retail and oil and gas exploration and production, the opportunities for CPAs at Origin, where there are more than 200 people involved in finance, are diverse to say the least. "A management accountant working with the retail business that has several million customers is quite different to working with the construction of power plants," Calabria says. ➔ ALL OF ORIGIN'S GOOD INTENTIONS WOULD AMOUNT TO NOTHING WITHOUT THE BACKING OF A STRONG FINANCIAL TEAM L