Sunday, December 16, 2007

Energy Advice for Facility Managers

The facility manager for a precision-tool manufacturer in Maryland had a simple energy strategy: shop for the lowest-priced fuel available. To do this, he gladly enlisted the help of an independent energy advisor.

In early 2007, this advisor encouraged him to pursue a business plan for energy improvement. Beginning with an energy audit, this plan would inventory the “gap” between current energy use and the optimal consumption that would be made possible by changes in technologies, behaviors and procedures. The facility manager refused an energy audit unless it was provided for free. As a result, we have a facility with an annual energy expenditure of $10 million. The manager forfeits the opportunity to identify $1-2 million in potential savings, simply because he wants to avoid spending $10,000 on an energy audit. Why? Because this guy doesn’t want to miss the opportunity to pick up a $500 bonus for coming in under budget for the year.

In mid-2007, the trade press announced that this facility was purchased by a holding company. The advisor contacted the facility manager again, pointing out that new ownership signaled a time for staff to be on their toes. After all, new owners usually bring with them an agenda for change. The energy business plan concept was suggested again to the facility manager as a way to demonstrate to the new owners his vision and preparedness for his accountabilities. And again, he refused the idea. Energy audits and planning were apparently not worth paying for.

The latest news about the facility manager surfaced at a holiday party last week. He had been laid off, and was calling around about new employment possibilities. Was there direct causality between his lay-off and his refusal to get serious about energy management? We don’t know. Hopefully, he will be employed soon. Maybe next time, his approach will be somewhat different.



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