Planning for Energy Saving Projects

Published on Wednesday, 20 August 2014 06:08:09    Written by Marc
I wrote in this blog last week about planning for energy saving projects when leasing a new site. I mentioned that one of the benefits of doing energy saving measures or projects before your operations starts at a new site. This can be easier than doing the same projects once your operations ramp up, because once they do, then you often need to coordinate with maintenance and operations.

Planning for energy saving projectsThis morning I awoke to the short but incredibly annoying beeps coming from some of our smoke and fire detectors. They normally send a few noisy beeps to inform that we just lost power. Of course, being half-asleep it took me a few seconds to understand that we were actually missing power. A few minutes later, I called the utility company to inquire why we are missing electricity, and the automated message informs me that this was due to planned interruption for maintenance. So much for the planned side; I guess I did not get that memo…

Therefore, I take the generator out of the garage, fire it up, and start plugging the essentials, starting with the refrigerator, the freezer, and the coffee machine.

In our case, the generator does come in handy and our operations and only partially interrupted for a few hours. However, if you are planning your energy saving projects and it involves cutting the power for a period, remember to plan with all departments that could be impacted.

I remember a few years back, we were planning to install capacitor banks in a building we owned and occupied, and we had planned to do the work over the weekend so it would not interrupt our business. I had delegated the entire project to my people and they had carefully coordinated the work with our engineers, our contractors, and our department heads in our building to make sure that we none of them would be surprised by the power interruption on Saturday morning.

Saturday morning came and the contractor cut the power and started to install the capacitors. We had taken the opportunity to do a number of other retrofits, so all was working as planned.

Then at around eleven in the morning, I get a call from one of our engineers that said that our tenant was in panic. They had servers, their CPUs were now dead, and they were scrambling to get the power up. Our tenant? I was wondering, "What tenant?" We do not have tenants in this building, this is our building, we own it, and we occupy it all. What is our engineer even talking about? I even asked him if he was at the right address.

Then I got a flash. Wait a minute… I remember someone talking a few months ago that they had a small section of the building that they were not using and they were casually talking about what to do with that. I asked the engineer if the tenant of ours was located on the rear of the building, on the right side and he confirmed.

Then he asked me, "You guys did not know you had a tenant there? Those guys seem upset this morning; I will not even repeat on the phone what they told me when I informed them that this was planned."

I was listening to our engineer and thinking, how we got into such a mess. I had no idea that our colleagues had leased a small section of the building to a company, which used the site to host servers and a number of other things. Our building was good, well secured, and with lots of power. We even had two electrical entrances and fiber optic cable with two internet providers, a good site for an IT company.

By the time, we managed to get generators to the site the contractor was finishing his work to restore the power, so we barely had time to start connecting them when the power came back on. I hate to admit it, but the renting of the generators was more to try to calm our tenant than anything else. Although they had no legal recourse against us, they were, rightfully and clearly upset that we forgot them. The worst part of the story is that we had planned the event almost a month in advance. Our colleagues took for granted that we would advise the tenants, even though we did not even know that we had tenants in that building.

In retrospect, it may have seemed obvious to know that we had tenants in the building, but with hundreds of sites scattered across the country, many smaller sites in remote areas were often left to their local manager to try and optimize them. When some space became available, instead of relocating to a smaller site, many managers preferred to lease the extra space on short-term leases. After that event, each time we needed to interrupt power in any building, we carefully checked for any potential tenants, which we could have missed. This situation could easily have been planned with our tenant’s operations, just as it was with ours. By knowing of the interruption in advance, we would have had no problems at all and it would have saved a ton of embarrassment.

This morning when I hear the automated system informing me that the power interruption was planned, I cannot help but wonder how they advised their clients of this, or if this was only internally planned. Bottom line, when planning for energy projects, make sure all the stakeholders are aware, not only those that are obvious, but all people that might be impacted by your work. It will save you many headaches and avoid giving out apologies.