Get Your Energy Saving Projects Approved

Published on Monday, 8 September 2014 11:47:53    Written by Marc
If you are working in a company or organizations and are responsible for getting your energy saving projects approved, you have already experienced the frustration. The frustration that comes from working for weeks (when not months) to find energy saving measures, then evaluate them and finally put together a compelling business case only to get your project delayed, or worse, rejected completely. Now, this can be very frustrating. I know that feeling very well, having lived it repeatedly for the past 20 years.

Get your energy saving projects approvedYet, when I look back at why some of my projects were not approved or were delayed, I can see a pattern emerge. Over time, regardless of the type of company or organization, some tendencies do become apparent more than others do.

First, let us look at projects that simply are delayed. These projects end up being approved post-planning. It may seem like a minor detail, but we need to consider how long they are delayed and why. If there is only a month or two delay, welcome to business world. This is not a delay, its normal business. A delay, by definition, is six months or more.

If your project is been delayed the approval you need by more than six months, you probably need to find out why, which may not be the same "why" as you are initially told. If your project is good for the company or organization, chances are it will still be good in a few months. After all, we are talking energy savings. If your company will continue to use energy next year, there are good chances that your project will provide the same energy savings if you do your project next year than if you do it this year. If your project is delayed, it could be for a number of reasons:

Budget related reasons. For example, there may not be enough funds in the current budget for your project and it will need to be properly budgeted for next year.

Internal politic reasons. This can be that someone has a personal agenda (friends to do the project, or they want to appropriate the idea for themselves)

Upper management reasons. Management not convinced of the benefits or the manager might be thinking that they can achieve better payback elsewhere, such as buy the new production gizmo XL6000G that they are looking to acquire

Strategic reasons. The company might be thinking of shutting down the business unit (where your energy project is proposed to be) as part of a rationalization decision

The reasons above are only some examples, from a potentially long list, that can produce delays in getting your energy saving project approved. Before jumping up and down in protest, you need try to learn the real reason. You might not get the exact answer, but it never hurts to try.

I once tried to get a great project approved in mid-1996, only to finally get the green light in….early 2004, almost eight years later. Each year I would go back to our executive management and present the same project, adding some details to it and each year they would tell me that they did not have the funds for that project. I found out that because we were landlords and the energy savings would need to be passed on to our tenants, there was little interest on such a project. Even after it was agreed that we would be recharging the entire cost of the project (plus interests) to our tenants before they saw any energy savings, there was still little excitement. Until the cost of energy increased and our tenants started to either leave the shopping center or question our management competency in actually doing something to reduce the costs. Then, after almost eight years, I got a call one day asking me more info on the project and I got it approved relatively fast afterwards. In addition, it was a successful project, to this date the building is still reaping substantial (well over $500,000 a year) energy savings, way past its payback period.

Sometimes a project is simply delayed. While it is never fun to hear that your project is delayed, at least you know that it is still alive and will have its chance, given the proper timing or situation.

However, what happens if your project is rejected?

Technically, that should never happen, if you have done your homework right.

Okay, so maybe not "never," but hopefully not often. After all, if the project is not approved, then you have worked for nothing and nobody likes to do that right?

The reason your energy saving projects should never be refused is that if you have done your homework before submitting your energy saving project proposal, you would get a good feeling as to if your project is going to be approved, delayed, or refused before even submitting your business case.

So, how do you this?

You presell it.

Energy saving projects should never be done in silos. From the beginning if you involve stakeholders at different level, you should be able to know continuously where your project stands. For example, if your project happens to be for a building retrofit in a business unit of a large company, surely you will get the key people at the business unit level involved in the project. This can be by either getting their blessing before you start, setting the expectations with them, understanding the company policies about getting energy saving projects approved, and discussing with the managers of the business case about timing and other items that could delay or block your project.

Depending on the nature and size of your project, you might consider engaging other people in the organization, like at division or sector level. Depending on your company and the type and size of your project, it might even need to be reviewed by the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) or the Board of Directors. Regardless of who will need to be involved, if your job is to get the energy saving project approved, then you need to learn the company requirements, who you need to get involved (what does each one want to know about your project), and you will need to speak their language.

If the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) needs some information, it probably will not be the same info as the head of production in the business unit. The CFO might want to see the financials only, while the head of production might need to know what kind of disruption your project could cause to his/her operations. You might get questions from internal people or departments you did not even think would be involved in your project (such as Research and Development (R&D) or Legal). It is up to inquire and get to know who to involve, why and what each one might need or want to know. They constitute your project stakeholders one way or another.

Once you have a good grasp on your stakeholders and you keep them informed about your progress on your energy saving project proposal, then your project should, in theory, come as no surprise to anyone the day you submit it for approval. In fact, if you pre-sold your project enough, they should be waiting for it and already have a good idea of everything that is in your business case (at least the parts that interests them or course).

One year in early 2000’s, I had a chance to tour some sites with our CEO in the morning of our annual budget review. Knowing this in advance, I had prepared for talking about all the energy saving projects I wanted to do, with sketches and info for each of the buildings we were touring. Since we were touring relatively fast each building and were with a group of other people, I knew my time was short, so at each site we came to I managed to give a few words to our CEO and hand him a sketch. He was amused at first but then since I was the only one doing this, he came to like these small overviews about the building and what I wanted to do, after a few tours he came to request my documents the moment we went back into the van so he could have more time to study my proposals.

When the tour ended and we headed back to head office for budget review, I had no problem getting my projects approved because our CEO was already aware and sold on the ideas. Unfortunately I did not have the chance to do this each year, since this was not a ritual (I wish I could), but that year proved for be great to getting my energy saving projects approved at lightning speed.

Bottom line, if you can work in parallel to pre-sell your energy saving project to your stakeholders while you are assembling your information, you can drastically reduce your chances of getting your project rejected. It may be delayed for some reasons beyond your control, but if you keep on pushing and promoting your project, keep in mind that if it is a good project today, chances are it will still be a good project in a few months.