Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Energy Management: Move Forward or Fall Behind

Notice that in the title of this article, there are only two choices: move forward, or fall behind. When it comes to energy management, there is no “idle” setting. Failing to take action has its costs, too. This is the implicit choice of companies that choose to continually resist their pursuit of energy cost control.

If you choose to “do nothing,” it costs nothing, right? Let’s think about it: you may have already obtained an energy audit, but that by itself accomplishes nothing. All savings from an energy audit remain forfeited until you actually implement the recommended improvements. Many good proposals languish while the concept must be “sold” to a variety of decision-makers within the organization who may or may not understand the proposal’s technical aspects. This internal “sales” process can take months, because it has to find a place on a series of meeting calendars. The longer it takes to ponder energy improvements, greater is the chance that capital will be diverted to some emergency repair item that inevitably arises. No wonder the “do nothing” approach is so enduring.

Here’s how you can fall behind by simply standing still: the nominal efficiency of energy-consuming machinery inevitably erodes over time as heat and friction take their toll. Maintenance expertise similarly erodes with staff attrition and turn-over. If best-practice procedures are not documented, people scramble to reinvent knowledge that should have been part of standard operating procedure to begin with. In the meantime, new best practices and technologies are appearing all the time. Is anyone scouting for these opportunities? Does it still make sense to do things “the way we’ve always done them?”

The good news is that energy management does not have to happen all at once. Successful programs start out in first gear, seeking early victories to give the organization confidence in what they can do. Momentum pushes their efforts into the second and third gears, as decision-makers become comfortable not just with hardware changes, but with team-based decision-making. They’ve reached full speed when energy-saving initiatives become part of standard operating procedure. Then—and only then—does the organization occupy the driver’s seat when comes to moving forward with energy cost control.



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