The Carbon Trust recently released data from an efficient energy survey conducted in the UK that offers some insight into the staggering lack of participation on the part of employees in enterprise energy reduction. But the data doesn’t go so far as to lay blame on the employees. Behavioral psychology has taught us better. We know from experience that merely telling employees how to conserve energy and demand they take action isn’t enough to garner the bottom-line conservation results enterprises are looking for.
Energy management is an enterprise-wide endeavor, and the onus for overall energy conservation and strategy starts at the top – typically in the boardroom. These are the people in charge of energy strategy and ensuring that energy is treated as a competitive asset and not just another expense. While the research conducted by the Carbon Trust points out rising energy costs are only somewhat of a concern (47 percent) for employees, for executives it’s a matter of deep concern that’s linked to long-term competitiveness.
However, incorporating any type of enterprise-wide conservation effort that involves employees requires knowing exactly where those efforts should be focused. Regardless of how many employees turn the lights off in empty rooms, these kinds of employee-level efforts are useless if there are larger issues that loom. So, while implementation of strategy and tactics typically starts at the top, the collection of data starts at the granular level – with enterprise-wide device-level monitoring and management.
Once this kind measuring is in place, it can be determined where and how to direct employee efforts. But, the direction employees receive must be clear, according to the Carbon Trust survey data. The data tells us that only 22% of employees claimed to know what needs to be done to save energy and a mere 16% were certain they even have the authority to take action.
This lack of understanding and direction makes energy data collection even more imperative. Once collected and analyzed, the energy data can be used as the foundation for purpose-driven programs that leave no doubt in the minds of employees as to the importance of these efforts – and of their responsibility to be a positive part of them.
Outside of employee awareness and participation, smart energy management technology is helping with the automation of conservation efforts – conserving power where it’s not needed and saving budget dollars in the process.
Simple Steps Can Lead to (And Already Are Leading to) Significant Reduction in Energy Costs
By combining granular data with behavioral psychology to support workplace energy conservation, it’s possible for managers and employers to see significant energy cost reductions. Even without factoring data and other management technologies, there’s good news coming from urban areas of the UK. Employees in London are taking more action and showing higher levels of conservation participation than those in more rural areas of the UK. 75% of Londoners think it’s important for them to take the appropriate action to save energy in the workplace as opposed to roughly 50% of workers in more rural areas.
If energy management technologies were to be implemented in more businesses and commercial buildings in urban areas, like London, it’s very likely that the benefits in these enterprises would be even greater – showing us that technology alone is a useful way to collect data and conserve, yet creating a comprehensive solution that involves employees makes even more sense. As outlined in the report, total of 96 percent of respondents claimed they were willing take action to save energy, yet when it comes down to simple actions like turning lights off in unused offices and other areas, only 52 percent admitted to doing so. This further proves that energy management technology must be implemented as part of any efforts. Leaving energy conservation to employees alone, with roughly a 50 percent participation rate, does not bode well for enterprises that are now seeing energy as a strategic resource that must be managed for long-term profitability.
The Way Forward Toward Greater Conservation
The data collected by the Carbon Trust shines a light on what’s going right for enterprise energy management and conservations – as well as what is not and where employers can implement changes that lead to real savings. Real change, however starts at the granular level. Through device-level energy management and reporting, companies are able to create and implement realistic sustainability and conservation goals and benchmarks. Data from these efforts, once collected and analyzed, should be used to develop awareness and conservation programs that involve employees across all areas of operations. Only when enough data has been collected, and appropriate strategies implemented, will enterprises see a shift in their energy expenses. Hopefully, these kinds of efforts will begin to show up with more frequency in future Carbon Trust surveys.
Jon Rabinowitz is Senior Director of Marketing at Panoramic Power, a leading provider of energy management solutions for retail business around the world. In this role he advocates on the use of sensor energy monitoring technology to make proactive operational decisions and reduce energy costs.