Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Energy Management: What Do You REALLY Expect to Get?

Energy management is technically simple to accomplish. It can be, however, extremely difficult to get others in an organization to comply with an energy manager’s agenda. In all organizations, long-standing behaviors and priorities prevail. Changes suggested by an energy manager will often threaten many people’s range of authority. An energy manager will:

• Encourage alternative workplace habits that reduce energy use. Since energy is free to all occupants, any attempt to curb the use of space heaters, mini-refrigerators, or the simple convenience of leaving appliances “on” without thinking about it is perceived as a sacrifice of entitlements.

• Encourage facility managers to direct existing resources to the optimization of heating, cooling, ventilation, and lighting. Facility managers with limited resources are fully tasked to simply keep buildings and mechanical systems in good repair. A higher level of effort is required to continually optimize systems that are not “broken.” Facility managers struggle also to balance the sometimes conflicting comfort needs of different individuals in the same building.

• Advocate capital projects that upgrade buildings and their mechanical systems to higher efficiency standards. Energy performance is one of many different criteria that impact the design and construction of buildings. When faced with limited investment capital, construction features are often compromised through “value engineering.” By settling for cheaper, less efficient mechanical systems, the organization may become liable for higher operating costs.

The source and magnitude of energy savings will vary over time. This concept is summarized in this diagram:

(Click on image to enlarge)

In the short term (1-2 years), the majority of savings will come from occupants’ habits and choices applied to existing facilities and equipment. The magnitude, however, is small compared to what can be achieved through technology upgrades. Medium term improvements (2-5 years) are predominated by the maintenance optimization of current assets. In the long term (5+ years), the greatest volume of savings can be achieved from the installation of new, more efficient buildings and mechanical systems.

Fuels and power can be managed just like cash and currency. If you understand the concept of fiscal management, then you understand the meaning of energy management. All organizations have budgets, accounts, and fiscal reporting mechanisms that are administered on a continual basis. Information systems allow staff to record and monitor transactions. Management meetings routinely review budget-to-actual performance. Staff accountabilities and protocols are executed according to prescribed professional standards. All department heads are expected to know their current fiscal status and are responsible for addressing any problematic variances. Fiscal management is an ongoing process. It is not reduced to a series of isolated projects—imagine what would happen if it were! Corporate energy management theory reflects the same general approach.


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