Building Expertise and Systems Will Drive Energy Savings Now and in the Future

In many cases, the most cost-effective way to reduce energy consumption is to optimize the O&M of existing equipment and systems.In many cases, the most cost-effective way to reduce energy consumption is to optimize the O&M of existing equipment and systems.

Whether leased or owner-occupied, energy-efficient properties tend to have higher value than similar properties with lower efficiency. Part of the increased value is because of lower operating costs, but a potentially more interesting aspect is the perceived attractiveness of energy-efficient properties for tenants, employees and owners. All things being equal, many tenants will prefer to locate in a building that is energy efficient or may be willing to pay somewhat higher rent if they are confident that operating costs will be lower. Higher occupancy rates and/or higher rents translate into more income for a landlord and significantly higher property value. In the case of an owner-occupied building, energy efficiency demonstrates commitment to corporate social responsibility, which generally translates into benefits in terms of attracting and retaining employees and clients.

Part of the equation for energy efficiency is making intelligent choices about building design, materials and mechanical systems. Another part of the equation is getting building managers, occupants and other stakeholders involved in identifying and implementing opportunities for efficient operations. The following article explores what’s involved in a Continuous Energy Improvement (CEI) program and how to drive efficient operations over time.

Good Business Sense

For organizations ready to tackle energy management, a CEI program offers multiple benefits, including:

  • Creating a culture around teaching, doing, reporting and repeating energy-savings practices.
  • Lowering energy costs to increase competitive advantage.
  • Turning energy into a controllable cost so buildings, businesses or organizations become less vulnerable to fluctuations in energy prices.
  • Engaging, encouraging and enabling employees, tenants, building owners or other stakeholders in the process, so they take ownership over energy-saving actions and become accountable for success.
Identify an energy sponsor or upper-management resource, an energy champion/program project manager and the members of the energy team.

Identify an energy sponsor or upper-management resource, an energy champion/program project manager and the members of the energy team.

The CEI Program Process

The blueprint for successful energy management depends on the specific goals, structure and requirements of the organization or industry involved. There really is no one-size-fits-all approach. That means you can create a plan that suits your organization or facility’s unique needs. If you’re aware of, or have had experience with, process improvement programs, such as lean manufacturing or Six Sigma, that provide a framework for identifying challenges and removing barriers to success, then the CEI process will be familiar.

A typical CEI program includes most, if not all, of the following general processes:

  • Assessing current practices related to energy management.
  • Establishing a plan of action.
  • Developing an energy policy.
  • Forming an energy team and identifying an energy champion.
  • Determining energy performance tracking tools and metrics.
  • Engaging stakeholders at all levels of the organization.
  • Identifying energy-saving opportunities and implementing them on a regular basis.
  • Reporting results.

Assess and Discover

An energy assessment identifies strengths and opportunities in managing energy, relative to industry best practices. CEI starts with an assessment that takes into account critical management systems, current energy savings practices and existing tools. The assessment should give you a detailed overview of what’s working and where you can improve.

According to Peter Drucker, an influential thinker and writer about management theory and practice, “What gets measured, gets managed.” When it comes to CEI, this concept is particularly applicable because the more accurate your monitoring system, the better you’ll understand the things that impact energy consumption and the more effective you’ll be at identifying sources of inefficiency and driving solutions. The monitoring hardware and software you choose should quickly and easily establish a picture of your building’s true energy performance. It should help you decide what projects to tackle and track savings by gauging real-time effectiveness and quantifying progress toward cost-reduction goals.

About the Author

Martin Lott
Martin Lott is an energy performance manager for Portland, Ore.-based Cascade Energy, which has been providing energy-efficiency expertise to corporations and utilities for 20 years. Lott has led dozens of commercial and industrial customers through the implementation of Continuous Energy Improvement (CEI) programs, as well as developed innovative tools and approaches in the process.

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