Broadening the Acceptance of Energy Efficiency

June 13, 2016 By Carl Weinschenk

energy efficiencyThe good news is that energy executives increasingly are welcomed to the boardroom table. The bad news is that all of them are not accepting the invitation.

The acceptance of energy as a core corporate value is being pushed by the increasing recognition that energy management is important, the growth of renewables, more flexible energy infrastructure, the development of innovative financing structures and the emergence of powerful tools to help meter energy usage and generally make energy management more doable.

The trend is not universal, however. The question remains: How can more organizations finally be persuaded to take the leap and fully address energy efficiency? A recently released white paper from PwC (also known as PricewaterhouseCoopers), EnerNoc and Winston EcoStrategies offers a guide to integrating and expanding energy efficiency efforts.

Last week, Energy Manager Today posted a blog highlighting the fact that the people tasked with efficiency concerns finally are getting a seat at the corporate table.

The firms point to four high level goals that organizations must aim at to cut energy spending. They say that energy must become a core of the company’s mission instead of a peripheral notion. This includes integrating energy into the fabric of their company, using energy intelligence to elevate business performance, capitalizing on related new technologies and market choice and promoting the resulting efforts and celebrating successes.

At this point, the biggest challenge is not making the core case for energy efficiency and proper energy management. Most companies “get it” at the highest level or, at least, their corporate communications departments do. But — just as almost everyone acknowledges the benefits of going to the gym but much fewer actually go – there is a gap between understanding the positives and actually putting a plan into action.

Inertia is very hard to overcome. But it is not impossible to overcome. “The most powerful argument is that you can positively impact your cost structure,” said George Favaloro, a managing director in PwC’s Sustainable Business Solutions Practice and co-author of the white paper

The sense is that actually demonstrating success in easy win projects perhaps is the best way to turn the organization toward a more comprehensive and holistic energy policy – and one that actually is implemented.

The good news is that some of these low hanging fruit-category projects can generate impressive gains relatively easily.  “There are basic things that you can do that reap the benefits,” Favaloro said. “For example, there is the end of day shut down. That can gain a quick 10 to 15 percent gain in efficiency. That kind of thing that gets the pump primed. If you do three, four or five of these things suddenly savings adds up.”

It also is important to develop allies at the C-level. “We recommend that first of you need to set up an accountability structure with an executive sponsor,” Favaloro said. “It has to have a high level focus. What we recommend someone in C-suite who owns the issue. If the company has not thought comprehensively about business practices around gaps and opportunities in energy management, that really is where to start.”

The bottom line is that energy managers are at an inflection point: “I think that it is a really interesting time in energy management for a couple of reasons,” Favaloro said. “The first is the sustainability angle. Expectations are rising and companies want to do their part. They want to manage their energy well. The standard operating procedure is such that you can get business benefits from doing that. It is a very strong imperative. It can pay off if you do it.”

The other side of the inflection point is that much can be done with little investment with readily known procedures. “There are companies that have figured this out and know how to get the benefits,” Favaloro said. “You do not have to like rely on a staff of PhD’s or new inventions.”

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