Energy efficiency- succeed and benefit

Energy is neither created nor destroyed; it is only transformed. This being the law of conservation of energy, and given that the process of transforming energy is inefficient resulting in loss of usable energy in the process of transforming one form of energy into another form, Energy Efficiency finds a home.
Talking of Energy efficiency, think of how much useful energy can be obtained from a system or a particular technology. It is also about the use of technology that requires a lesser amount of energy to carry out the same task.

Energy efficiency is the responsibility of both demand side and supply side. Supply-side energy efficiency refers to a set of actions taken to ensure efficiency through the electricity supply chain. Supply side efficiency measures are about efficiency in electricity generation; be it operation and maintenance of existing equipment or upgrading existing equipment with state-of-the-art energy-efficient generating equipment.

The demand side energy efficiency on the other hand refers to the actions taken to use less/demand less energy. Think of less energy usage in relation to improvement of energy efficiency in buildings, solar water heaters, energy efficient lighting systems such as Compact Fluorescent Lamps, conducting energy audits to identify potential energy saving opportunities, efficient water heating systems and the list is endless.

Success of energy efficiency is a win ? win to YOU-ME-US – the energy consumers, to THEM the energy producers and suppliers and to our precious ENVIRONMENT.
Gain to energy suppliers: – Less energy usage and better energy usage patterns among consumers consequently reduces the customer load which reduces losses on the supply side. Less energy loss creates capacity on the system to serve more customers.

Gain to you-me-us: – Less energy usage and better energy usage patterns Benefits the customer through reduced Electricity bills / $ savings through lower bills.

Benefits to the environment: – Usage of less energy reduces use of fossil fuels, hence reduction in GHG emissions hence conserving our environment. Companies look at means to make rational use of their least efficient generating equipment. The objective is to improve the operation and maintenance of existing equipment or upgrade it with state-of-the-art energy-efficient technologies. Some companies have on-site electricity generation alternatives and thus tend to consider the supply side in addition to demand-side energy efficiency.

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How To Get Started with your IT Compliance Efforts for SOX

There’s no question about it. For many of you top executives in the corporate world, all roads leading to a brighter future have to go through SOX compliance. And because the business processes that contribute to financial reporting (the crux of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act) are now highly reliant on IT systems, it is important to focus a good part of your attention there.

It is a long and arduous path to IT compliance, so if you don’t want your company to fall by the wayside due to inefficient utilisation of resources, it is important to set out with a plan on hand. What we have here are some vital information that will guide you in putting together a sound plan for SOX compliance of your company?s IT systems.

Why focus on IT systems for SOX compliance?

We’ll get to that. But first, let’s take up the specific portions of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act that affect information technology. These portions can be found in Section 302 and Section 404 of the act.

In simplified form, Section 302 grants the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) authority to come up with rules requiring you, CEOs and CFOs, to certify in each annual or quarterly financial report the following:

  • that you have reviewed the report;
  • that based on your knowledge, the report does not contain anything or leave out anything that would render it misleading;
  • that based on your knowledge, all financial information in the report fairly represent the financial conditions of the company;
  • that you are responsible for establishing internal controls over financial reporting; and
  • that you have assessed the effectiveness of the internal controls.

Similarly, Section 404, stated in simplified form, allows the SEC to come up with rules requiring you, CEOs and CFOs, to add an internal control report to each annual financial report stating that you are responsible for establishing internal controls over financial reporting.

You are also required to assess the effectiveness of those controls and to have a public accounting firm to attest to your assessment based upon standards adopted by the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB).

While there is no mention of IT systems, IT systems now play a significant role in financial reporting. Practically all of the data you need for your financial reports are stored, retrieved and processed on IT systems, so you really have to include them in your SOX compliance initiatives and establish controls on them.

Now that that’s settled, your next question could very well be: How do you know what controls to install and whether those controls are already sufficient to achieve compliance?

Finding a suitable guide for IT compliance

The two bodies responsible for setting rules and standards dealing with SOX, SEC and PCAOB, point to a well-established control framework for guidance – COSO. This framework was drafted by the Committee of Sponsoring Organisations of the Treadway Commission (COSO) and is the most widely accepted control framework in the business world.

However, while COSO is a tested and proven framework, it is more suitable for general controls. What we recommend is a widely-used control framework that aligns well with COSO but also caters to the more technical features and issues that come with IT systems.

Taking into consideration those qualifiers, we recommend COBIT. COBIT features a well thought out collection of IT-related control objectives grouped into four domains: Plan and Organise (PO), Acquire and Implement (AI), Deliver and Support (DS), and Monitor and Evaluate (ME). The document also includes maturity models, performance goals and metrics, and activity goals.

A few examples of COBIt’s detailed control objectives are:

DS4.2 – IT Continuity Plans
DS4.9 – Offsite Backup Storage
DS5.4 – User Account Management
DS5.8 – Cryptographic Key Management
DS5.10 – Network Security
DS5.11 – Exchange of Sensitive Data

By those titles alone, you can see that the framework is specifically designed for IT. But the document is quite extensive and, chances are, you won’t need all of the items detailed there. Furthermore, don’t expect COBIT to specify a control solution controls for every control objective. For example, throughout the control objective DS4 (Ensure Continuous Service), you won’t find any mention of virtualisation, which is common in any modern business continuity solution.

Basically, COBIT will tell you what you need to attain in order to achieve effective governance, management and control, but you’ll have to pick the solution best suited to reach that level of attainment.

Articles highly relevant to the one you just read:

Month End Accounting The Way It Should Be Today
Spreadsheet Woes ? Burden in SOX Compliance and Other Regulations
Spreadsheet Woes ? Limited Features For Easy Adoption of a Control Framework
How Internal Auditors Can Win The War Against Spreadsheet Fraud

Green Business!

Carbon emissions reduction has evolved beyond simply good citizenship to being a business tool. Implementing ?green? initiatives is now a competitive weapon which defines real business opportunities and bottom line savings that can contribute significant financial value to the organisation while meeting demanding customer requirements for sustainable and low-carbon products.

Energy efficiency is a low cost resource for achieving carbon emissions reduction. Better energy efficiency simply translates to lesser carbon emissions and less energy usage which translates into saved costs.

Reduction of an organisations carbon footprint is each and everyone?s responsibility. Human activities are the key responsibility for the release of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. These include usage of electricity generated from fossil fuel, heating or driving.

At the corporate level, various measures can be instigated to increase energy efficiency. Some of these can be, having zone lighting with sensors to minimise unnecessary office lighting, timers on large IT equipment, promoting energy efficient behaviour in the office, asking staff to switch off and unplug appliances when not in use and minimising staff travel.
At the individual level; it is the small habits that count; cultivating the habit of switching off unnecessary lights, plugging out appliances that are not in use, using video conferencing or online chatting instead of having to travel to meetings, using public transport instead of taking a taxi/ personal car and using energy efficient cars.

All these initiatives assist organisations in their corporate social responsibility reports and play a role in sustainability rankings which is instrumental to customers who are increasingly considering sustainability rankings in investment decisions, while achieving the goal of cost reduction internally.

Computer Forensics

So you had a customer data security breach last weekend? Do you know you could be held liable in court for failing to implement required security procedures? That’s right. Due to the overwhelming surge in identity theft wherein nearly 20 million Americans have already been affected, most states have enacted laws to curtail this fast rising crime. Therefore, it is important to redefine how your company deals with customer data security.

  • First, you’ll want to know what your obligations are as dictated by law. Some places, for example, require the destruction or deletion of personal data through shredding, erasing, or by rendering them undecipherable.
  • Second, not only do you need to comply with the said requirements, you’ll also have to prove in court that you actually complied if ever a security breach does happen.
  • Third, you need to be aware of your post-breach duties to avoid being dealt additional penalties.

Obviously, such situations now call for individuals who are experts in both the legal and technical aspects regarding data security. Such individuals are practitioners of a relatively new discipline known as computer forensics.

Armed with our computer forensics specialists, we’ll be able to help you deal with the above concerns. As a result, you can be prevented from having to pay fines that can go up to hundreds of thousands of euros.

There are other equally important reasons why you would want to avail of computer forensics services. For example, you’ll need computer forensics specialists because you want to:

  • Catch a person involved in criminal activities such as child porn, stealing of personal data, and destroying intellectual property.
  • Investigate a computer, network, or even a mobile device for clues that may lead to the culprit.
  • Determine the extent and possible causes when you discover your digital data has been damaged.
  • Find and recover damaged, deleted or encrypted data regardless of whether the cause was intentional or not. If the data in question will be used as evidence in a legal action, there are certain procedures that need to be followed during recovery operations to retain the integrity of the data. Computer forensic specialists are highly qualified for such operations.
  • Implement security policies in your organisation. Such policies have to operate within legal bounds if you want to avoid possible sanctions in the future. These policies should also be designed such that future forensic operations can be conducted with a high likelihood of success.

That said, a company that integrates computer forensics into its IT security policies and practices will be better equipped to remedy the situation once data security has already been compromised than a company that doesn’t.

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