Start with your energy culture first! - Why so many energy saving initiatives do not deliver the predicted results

Phil Warren, Managing Director

I have over twenty-five years of experience leading the delivery of a wide range of energy efficiency programmes and strategies.  Whilst many organisations already have well-established Energy Management Systems (EnMS) or are proactively engaged in improving energy efficiency through new technologies or behavioural change measures, huge savings are often missed when energy culture does not align with an organisations’ sustainability objectives.

The full potential of energy saving initiatives can only be realised if the workforce is fully engaged and knowledgeable of how their actions and behaviours can impact overall efficiency.  Therefore, outstanding performance and continual improvement can only be achieved when there is a significant cultural swing in an organisation, so that energy saving initiatives are fully embraced by everyone.

Every sector and industry has their own challenges in managing energy consumption, but no matter what project or scheme we work on, our approach remains the same.  Our first step is identification and assessment of the current energy culture of an organisation; this involves reviewing the current energy policy and company sustainability objectives before delving into the detail of energy performance improvements.  In doing this, we gain clarity of what is realistically achievable for the client within the given timescales and budgets.

Many organisations often benefit from initially introducing new policies and procedures that outline to the workforce, best working practices that contribute to reducing energy consumption.  Focusing on low-cost solutions to begin with, enables the client to achieve savings that can then be re-invested into other project or schemes.  This leads me onto my second point – review your energy data!

Transparent measurement and verification procedures are central to ensuring that an energy saving initiative, not only successfully delivers the savings projected, but also sets the foundation for continual improvement. Therefore, we implement IPMVP techniques and employ Certified Measurement and Verification Professionals (CMVP) to review and analyse energy data; this ensures that savings predicted or achieved are transparent and accurate for the client.

It’s fair to say that there have been many entrants to the energy management market over the years, with many products and consultants over stating the return on investment (ROI) to the client which has soured the market.  Similarly, Energy Saving Companies (ESCO) or Energy Service Contracts can hold enormous promises but there are also real risks if it’s not done properly.  To ensure an energy saving initiative delivers the intended results, you must:

In the years of my energy management career and the technologies I have trialled, embraced, deployed and rejected, I firmly believe that we are now in one of the most exciting phases to date.  Disruptive technologies have given rise to new and innovative ways to manage energy consumption.  We can now retrieve energy data from buildings in real-time, enabling us to be descriptive, predictive and prescriptive.  Whilst all this energy data is easily accessible now, the trick is knowing how to interpret the ‘useful information’ and having the experience and engineering knowledge to know what outcomes are possible.  Our Technical Energy Centre (TEC) team discusses this in more detail here.

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