Energy Saving and Internal Politics

Published on Wednesday, 19 February 2014 06:15:48    Written by Marc
I often read some comments in forums here and there about companies doing energy saving projects (energy retrofits); however, most of the comments sadly limit themselves to the technical or the financial part of the project. As we know, in most companies, while important, both the technical and the financial parts are only a portion of the challenges that come when trying to get energy saving projects approved.

politics11The political part often plays a large role in the process, even if it is not always openly talked about and the bigger the company, the larger the political component seems to be. At least, it was in our experience. Regardless if you are in a specialized department, you cannot afford to work isolated. If you are in charge of energy management and have an idea for a great retrofit project, do not forget that your work is only one piece of the puzzle.

Trying to focus solely on your piece of the puzzle can lead to confusing results. For example, you might find in a building a great potential for energy savings and notice that upper management does not seem to care about your project. It may be that you did not properly sell your idea to management or that your energy saving project does not meet the basic requirements from a financial point of view to get approval. However, it may also be due to other factors such as management considering closing down the site in a few months (or weeks), consolidating it, or expanding it to make it larger in order to accommodate other equipment. It may be also that the company needs to keep more money for a special acquisition, which is still very confidential. It may also be something that can seem without any logic from your perspective. Keep in mind that people do have personal agendas. Somebody may have a personal interest in delaying a project in order to claim it for him/her later on (yes, people do that), or to allow personal contacts to come in and offer another solution. There are just about as many reasons, agendas in a company as there are people, and navigating through this can sometimes be confusing.

If you are the only person involved, it can sometimes lead to frustrating situations when in fact it should not. At least you should not take it personal. If management is planning something larger for the company, it does not mean that your idea or project is not a good one. It may simply be that the timing is not right, or that the project is good, but not for the company, perhaps for a next company coming along (suppose your company decided to sell the building or not renew the lease). Being connected with other departments will not guarantee you that you will be in the secrets of everything, but it will help. Moreover, sometimes if you carefully read between the lines of what management is trying to tell you, you can get an idea of why your project is not lifting from the ground, as you expect.

I was reading recently on some forums that energy saving projects should be selling like hot cakes, but was not. People speak about internal rates of return, about government grants and some technical aspects of projects; however, never about the politics. Interestingly enough over the past years I have managed to "sell," internally, almost every energy-saving project that I wanted to do. However, some projects did take more time than others did. Sometimes, the projects took a lot more time.

I remember one project that I proposed to the company I was working for back in mid-1996 and only got the green light to do it almost seven years later in 2003. I kept pushing the same project year after year until one-day management understood that it was a great idea and gave me the approval. While not all projects should take that long (hopefully), if you have a great energy saving project you need to keep trying to promote it, get internal backers and show the benefit for the company. Management in general understands that people will fight for good projects. Unless you are unlucky enough to promote an energy saving project for a building that is scheduled to be sold or for a site for which the lease will not be renewed, then you have a chance to promote your project, refine it if needed so that it meets the company’s criteria and get it approved.

The trick is to do your homework, cover all bases from a technical and financial side but also to keep your eyes and ears open to the politics going on. Oddly enough, many people do not take time to consider this, even if it is one of the most important elements to consider when trying getting your energy saving project approved.