Before Accepting an Energy Manager Position
Hopefully, you have already read "What Does an Energy Manager Do." The employer will probably ask you some probing questions. What will you ask them? Here's what I suggest:
1. What are the organization’s reasons for wanting energy management?
Does top management perceive energy as a resource or as a cost of doing business? Do they want to save money, improve productivity, or create a green market image? These are all good reasons, but each option represents a completely different strategy. Each option has different implications for using time and money. You have your vision, management has theirs—you may have to meet in the middle.
2. What does the organization expect energy management to entail?
What does the term “energy management” mean to the person in front of you? Is it shopping for the best electricity price? Or does it mean reminding staff to turn off applications not in use? Is it a preventative maintenance discipline? Or is it a series of capital projects for adopting new and improved technologies? Energy management is not one of these things, but all of them, orchestrated by a business plan. Part of your job is to educate your colleagues and agree on the right mix of these activities over time.
3. To what department will you belong?
Your job effectiveness depends in part on where you reside in the organization. Energy is most closely related to a Facilities, Maintenance, or Engineering department. If you are not being hired by one of these departments, then where? Does Facilities know that an energy manager is being hired? If you are not with Facilities, then what authority or recourse will you have to influence Facilities’ priorities, budgets, or staff allocations?
4. Will you have a staff and a budget?
What resources will be specifically at your disposal? If you have no resources, then you will have to influence other people to do what you want. Will other managers be responsive to your efforts? How will top management support you in this endeavor?
5. What tools are at your disposal?
Energy management depends on data. Data comes from metering systems and special-purpose sensors, probes, scopes, data loggers, and other devices. Data handling requires software. You can get by for a while with a spreadsheet. But if you multiple utility accounts, or if you anticipate using information technologies for real-time performance monitoring, you’ll need special-purpose energy software. If you are looking at replacing or upgrading assets, you’ll need engineering help, either internally or from a consultant. You’ll need to extract information from the data and present your findings to people who are not always technical. This requires additional software and presentation equipment.
6. What protocols does the organization have for managing change?
Energy improvements are the result of changes in habits, procedures, budget priorities, and asset management. Half of the energy manager’s job is to manage change as it impacts the balance of the organization. Changes will impact other managers who have no interest in energy. How does the organization manage change? Does it employ six sigma, kaizen, or other continuous improvement disciplines? If there are no change management protocols, the energy manager will be inventing these on the spot.
7. Against what departmental budgets will costs and savings be applied?
The budget question is two-sided. On one hand, it will cost money to make improvements. From which director’s budget will the money come? The flip side: to which department’s budget will the energy savings accrue? The organization needs to have some preliminary answers to these questions before putting an energy manager to work.
8. Will you have visible support from at or near the very top of the organization?
All the utility and government energy programs advise you to get top management support for energy management. In principle, I agree. The trick is to flag them down. Chances are they won’t be interested, at least at first. You can get started by engaging middle managers and working your way up and down the chain of command. There’s nothing like some early victories to boost your credibility and expand your influence.
9. If there are multiple sites to be managed, how does the energy manager’s authority apply?
As you know, people can be VERY territorial about their jobs. What will be the scope of your activities? What are the existing management relationships that provide access to multiple sites? Are there localized energy management efforts already in existence? How will you integrate these?
10. Were there any earlier attempts to manage energy?
If so, what happened?
Maybe they have tried energy management before. How successful was it? What changes were made, and of those, how many remain in place? Has anyone measured progress since then?
This is a conversation about money, business planning, goals and targets. The hands-on technical issues are still important. However, technology does not implement itself. Goals are met because organizations learn to adapt and change. Change happens when people expect some benefit as a result. The energy manager’s job is to manage expectations as well as therms and kilowatt-hours.