Start Saving Energy Today

Published on Friday, 26 September 2014 10:58:51    Written by Marc
I was recently reading comments in an on-line business group, and people were questioning why energy-saving projects are not popular with companies given the immense benefits they provide. One seminar commenter explained that in an audience he recently had in front of him, about two-thirds of the corporate attendees claimed that they did not know where to start.

Save energy nowI kept thinking, "Two thirds. This sounds incredibly high…"

For a long time now, it has become common knowledge that everything related to energy-saving passes through education. Education is really the cornerstone. If people do not know what to do, if they do not understand the benefits that energy-saving projects can bring, or if they are not convinced of the monetary savings, they can achieve, then there is no energy project. However, the opposite is also true. The moment people understand how energy-saving projects work, what benefits they bring, and the low risk that is associated versus the Return on Investment (ROI); they start to change their mindset completely. This is why the education of people is the starting point of everything in this field.

We ask people if they are aware of the potential low-hanging fruit in their company and two-thirds reply no. Yet, it is fully understandable, considering the complexity of what is included in energy saving in general. Even basic energy-saving solutions can get complicated when you start to think about it.

Take lighting retrofit for example. This is probably one of the most popular energy-saving measures, and in all fairness, probably one of the most straightforward. Compared to a ton of other energy-saving measures possible, lighting retrofit is among the simplest measure available. Yet, even this measure can become complicated.

Let us take a scenario where a company had T12 lamps in a building, and then went to do a retrofit and changed all its lamps for T8. Then, a few years later the same company replaced those T8 Lamps for T5. Each time they did a retrofit; they estimated the potential savings and costs and decided that the payback made sense, so they implemented the measure. When we do these studies, we compare the energy savings and the cost of replacement. Since all these types of lamps had relatively the same lifespan, the cost of maintenance was not always considered and when it was, it was not a major financial driver.

Now, LEDs are coming along. Although LED has been in the market for a long time, it is only recently that it is being used for regular lighting where we can retrofit standard T8, T5, or other lamps with LED lamps. LED lamps have a very long life, but still cost substantially more than conventional lamps. In addition to this, they tend to have less lumens per watt. However, in real life trials, people have realized that the rendering is as good if not better than conventional lamps, even with less lumens. This can sometimes cause a problem if you are seeking grants and the grant providers are looking at providing grants based on the saved watts while demanding that the lumens level remain the same. In addition to this, since the LED lamps do last much longer than conventional lamps, you need to replace them less often, so there is a maintenance (labor) saving.

However, if you have full time employee's assigned to general maintenance, do you still consider the avoided lamp replacement time to be a real saving? After all, if they are not replacing lamps they will be paid their regular salary doing something else.

We can see, from a very simple example of an energy-saving measure, that there are a number of components to consider. Items like lifespan of the product, product cost, lighting intensity (lumens) grants, and maintenance cost are just a few. We have not even started to talk about financial calculations to assemble a project.

Bottom line, while energy-saving measures can provide tremendous on going and long-term benefits for companies, getting started is actually more complicated than one might initially think.

The good news is that there are products, which can help companies start the process, and help them understand and sort things out. We designed our software, EnExPlan for example, specifically for this. However, there are also consultants who can provide a number of services to help companies maximize their potential savings.

To get started, companies will need to learn about what is possible to achieve, find out what they should realistically expect in terms of savings (in order to see how much resources they should dedicate to a program). For example, if a company spends $10 million a year on energy, and find that 15% is a reasonable (and conservative) target for annual savings, that should give some indication as to how much resources they can allow to work on an energy-saving process or program.

Once the company has made the commitment and set a target, it can now start the process of finding energy savings. This normally gives way to building audits and estimations. While this is a long-term process, it is possible to start by finding quick savings (what we call low hanging fruit because they are both easy to implement and generally low costing). Since virtually every building has potential for energy savings, over time companies will find ways to find and implement a number of energy-saving measures and track their progress if only they do a little research.

In the meantime, companies that are not presently engaged in trying to maximize their energy savings should start one as soon as possible, because those that have initiated energy-saving processes or programs in their companies are already reaping the benefits of the provided energy savings, and that makes them more competitive and leaves them with more money in their hands.