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The New Role of Energy Managers

July 23, 2013 By Bob Zak

Bob Zak

We are entering a time when energy management is becoming immensely complex. Organizations are facing rising commodity prices, changing regulations, new consumer demands, climate changes and increased pressure from investors.

The role of energy mangers is also shifting in order to help organizations navigate these ever growing challenges. Energy managers must be able to drive energy cost reduction, be knowledgeable on a range of volatile risks and their effects on operations across multiple sites, and stay up-to-date on new and emerging technologies. They must be able to tie all this in to create programs that are grounded in data and engage people throughout the organization.

Three components specifically stand out in today’s energy manger role: cross-functionality, data driven decision making, and continuous improvement.

Cross functionality: Effective energy managers today must be able to connect cross-functional teams and engage disparate departments, including operations, finance, facilities and engineering, marketing and other industry-specific groups to execute energy programs. This is essential to a program’s success, as energy management is not just confined to one department but involves the collaboration and buy-in of many.

Securing executive support is another important factor of cross-functional engagement that is crucial to an energy manager’s success. A sustaining and effective energy management program needs the endorsement of the CEO and executive leadership team. Without top-down support, efforts will continually fall flat.

Additionally, energy managers must also be able to work across different resource areas. Whereas the traditional role focused solely on gas and electricity, today’s role often entails crossing into other resource areas such as water and carbon emissions.

Data driven: Data is at the foundation of any energy plan. For large companies with multiple locations, data holds the key to prioritizing energy operational improvements and identifying further initiatives. One size does not fit all, and effective analysis of unique site locations, trends, systems, weather and other factors can help companies maximize their return on energy management investments.

Data is needed not only to maximize the investment return but is needed to justify the investment in the first place. In today’s tough capital environment, it is required more now than ever that requests for investment is backed up by strong data-driven business cases.

Continuous improvement: Energy managers today must always strive for continuous improvement through constant evaluation. Energy management is not static, but an ongoing process that must meet the challenges and demands that organizations will face. It is important to establish ongoing reviews with cross-functional teams to evaluate and modify progress using Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to ensure continued support and success of your project.

Meet Brooke, today’s energy manager.

Brooke is an energy manager at Ecova, where she serves as an external trusted adviser for a variety of clients.  She works collaboratively with client contacts at all levels of the organization, from the COO down to the general manager of a specific site, to investigate outliers, provide specific and actionable recommendations to reduce consumption across the portfolio and report key performance indicators.

In her role, Brooke must creatively solve problems and turn challenges into opportunities using a wide range of skills and expertise. For some, she drives specific resource consumption (water, electricity, natural gas, etc.). For others, she helps organize implementation for capital projects, ensuring clients capture rebate opportunities and select the most efficient, best performing equipment available within their budget.

Brooke is leading a capital intensive energy program for Arby’s, which includes working closely with a cross-functional energy team. Before getting the project started, Brooke and her team made sure to have leadership buy-in and a solid understanding of Arby’s organization through ongoing executive meetings,  stakeholder interviews and data analysis. This approach helped Arby’s identify and prioritize energy projects, ensure broad organizational understanding of energy management priorities and guarantee operational and capital allocation to support program success.

Bob Zak is Senior Vice President of Facility Solutions at Ecova, a total energy and sustainability management company. Bob has more than 20 years of experience in the facility automation and energy management sectors, and he is responsible for helping Ecova’s clients gain the insight they need to make informed decisions about energy and utility usage across their entire portfolio.

 



5 comments on “The New Role of Energy Managers

  1. Very astute observation but these needs are more from a Energy / Utility Director than a Energy Manager with some level of staffing to accomplish all the points covered PLUS need a “Godfather” boss to break through the politics. A typical Energy Manager today in this decade is getting to be more of a implimentor than a manager.

  2. We found that one of the big problems with outside “Energy Managers” is that they lack the intimate understanding of how our processes/organizations work. Using “in-house” engineering expertise, coupled with maintenance talents and operations goals, we not only identify processes with energy savings but are able to prioritze energy savings with manufacturing efficiency upgrades resulting in the best of both worlds. That has worked best for us IE: 25% energy reductions in electricty and gas use since 2003.

  3. Good article Bob!

    To address some of the questions, I’ve seen the “credentials” of an energy manager vary widely. I’ve seen the engineering background, the construction/maintenance background, as well as the financial/accounting background. It depends on the focus of the “energy manager.” My experience is that in-house energy managers split their time between supply side(accounting/finance), demand side(engineering) and projects(engineering/construction).

    As to in-house versus outsource, while I agree that in-house managers have a much better perspective of brand, company issues, etc., outsourced have a focus. I believe a hybrid approach, of in-house managers utilizing outsourced specialists focused on specific subject matter is the best of all worlds. Today companies, as it has been for many many years, are applying minimal human resources towards energy. Not only is that unfortunate, it is leaving millions of dollars of savings on the table. Until corporations have a much higher sense of “controllability” around energy, my concern is the application of resources will stay artificially low.

  4. Thanks for the call-out, Paul. Great comments. We agree that using outsourced experts can help companies stay focused on resource efficiency without having to add headcount. Growing staff can be difficult to do, and outsourcing provides another option while also providing some outside perspective.

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