Energy Management is a Great When Done Together

Published on Wednesday, 2 April 2014 07:36:09    Written by Marc
Energy management is a great innovation. First, it allows companies to save money, which often goes directly towards their bottom line. Second, because it has additional beneficial effects such as helping the environment. It is not surprising then that more and more companies have decided to work towards reducing their energy consumption. However, the first thing they often do is to mandate a person or a small group of people within the company to go after energy saving opportunities and implement them.

fusionThis is a big mistake. At the very least, it might not be the best way to go about it.

The problem with this concept is that while mandating a person or small group to lead a company-wide program of energy savings might be a good thing, it is only a small portion of what a company should do for any initiative like this to work.

Energy is everywhere.

Think about it. If your company operates a manufacturing site, you use energy just about everywhere. Cut off the energy sources (and the backup generators), and you might find that nothing works. It would be a total blackout.

Energy is virtually everywhere and powers just about everything.

So, if energy is omnipresent, does it make any sense to delegate all the work of trying to reduce energy to a single person or even a small group of people? It does not, in this author's humble opinion.

The energy saving need to include everyone. It needs to become a culture.

Yes, there is a need for some people to spearhead energy saving projects since they often require coordination with consultants and contractors, so someone must be responsible for this specific work. However, the ideas, the sources of the energy saving measures do not need to come from the same small group of people or even from their consultants (at least not all of them). Energy saving is not only about having efficient equipment, but also about how things are operated. Whether it is the Building Management System (BMS) or schedules of operation, it is also about how well things are maintained. In addition, for energy saving, as a whole, to be successful in a company, people need to work together.

For example, if an operational group is getting ready to purchase equipment, they should consult with the group of people in charge (sometimes referred to as energy champions) of spearheading energy saving initiatives to see if some components of the equipment can be optimized for energy efficiency. In turn, the energy champions should consult with finance to see if they can get some components with higher energy performance financed, and then consult with procurement to see if they can get better pricing from specific suppliers. They could also turn to someone in charge of research and development, or government relations to see if there are any available grants or tax credits for choosing one component over another one.

As we can see, a simple purchase can involve a number of departments in which each one can help a hand to improve the results. For smaller companies the same person can have a number of hats, but the idea is the same.

The important element here is that each department involved must bring added value to the process and not slow it down. For people initiating the demand for new equipment, the first reflex to this process will be that it will slow things down and that their time is more important (and costly) that the potential savings that other departments can bring to the table. This is a legitimate concern, especially for departments, which normally do not need to turn for advice or input.

In order to alleviate this, companies must make it clear that in contributing their input, the various departments should not slow down the process or else they need to pass on for a specific purchase. In time, this should appease departments such as operations and make them less weary of sharing information. However, the departments making the requests for new purchases should have to share information as early as possible in the process, something that can only come as a directive from upper management. Again, most departments, which never needed inputs from other departments, will not voluntary open up …at least not in the beginning.

In addition, not before they can see and understand the true value that working with multiple departments can bring. Once they see how much they can save by letting other departments in their purchase decision, they will be the ones calling on their colleagues for input. However, to get the wheel turning, it might require initial directive. Once that wheel starts to turn, it will accelerate and great savings will be found and not only in energy consumption.

The bottom line is that energy savings are great by definition, but it should not be done in silos. When numerous people come together, they can maximize the potential energy saving findings in way that no single person or small group can achieve. When setting out to create a company-wide energy saving program, companies should strive for maximum exposure across all departments from the beginning. It might take time for the program to become culture but it will be a start in the right direction.