Energy management – it’s not rocket science
All too often, energy costs are only known in their bulk categories – gas, oil and electricity – and rarely are bills checked for changes in consumption. Monitoring, analysing and reporting energy usage are three essential elements of an effective energy management strategy. But without management support and a range of strategies to ensure buy-in by all staff there will still be energy wastage.
What is energy management?
The terms energy management, energy efficiency and energy conservation seem to be used interchangeably. They are not strictly the same. Energy management encompasses all these areas:
- energy efficiency – using the most efficient technology to achieve a specific task (e.g. changing to more efficient lighting)
- energy conservation – taking actions to reduce consumption (e.g. switching off a light), and
- energy type selection – using the most economical energy source for your operation (e.g. LPG for your car fleet).
A successful energy management strategy will include all of these elements.
Why energy management?
Energy management makes good business sense too. Reducing energy costs can increase profits. The Australian business community can benefit significantly from energy management practices. Audits suggest that most businesses can save between 10 and 25 percent on energy costs annually. The potential savings in commercial and industrial sectors alone are more than $7 billion per year Australiawide1. This means that improvements in the way a business uses energy can reduce operating costs and improve profitability. Energy management can play a major role in establishing a company’s competitive edge.
Energy management can also become part of an overall quality control strategy2 – part of cleaner production and asset management. If it becomes integrated into the company core programs, it is more likely to become part of the organisational culture.
Increasingly, businesses are joining in with a commitment to saving resources for the sake of the environment. Staff are more likely to respond to an appeal to save energy for the environment than to improve a company’s profits. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a critical and responsible step to take.
Barriers to effective management
* energy prices are relatively low
* inefficient energy use is not viewed as a waste product issue
* energy costs often form only a small part of total costs – labour costs are much higher than fuel costs
* monitoring of energy is restricted to billing meters only
* energy is treated as an overhead cost rather than a raw material cost
* building designers do not pay energy bills – designers are often required to produce the least-cost design, and the services installed and the building fabric may not be optimal for energy-efficient operation
* budgets for operating costs are invariably from a different source to capital or building budgets
* most building occupants are only interested in their own comfort and not the energy costs
* energy-efficient organisation cultures are rare, and
* complex operating systems (e.g. BMS) may not be properly set up or staff trained correctly in their use – environmentally designed buildings may need up to two years for commissioning to ensure correct operation.
Ingredients for success
So, if your business is thinking of introducing energy management as a means to save energy, sort out the roadblocks in the list above and consider the following as vital to its success:
* full commitment from all staff in the organisation ranging from senior management to production staff
* an effective reporting system with accountability of line managers for energy used
* an effective training program, and
* staff motivation to save energy.
If you don’t think that you have the time or expertise to identify the many possibilities for saving energy, specialist contractors can be employed to identify these opportunities – which often have realistic payback periods. The financial gain from reduced operating costs is shared between the contractor and the client in a partnering agreement – essentially a performance contract. These are most successful when there is commitment to the scheme from all levels of the organisation and an energy baseline is set up against which to measure results.3
Energy management can be a process of continual improvement geared to quality control. Business cannot be reliant on cheap energy – energy prices have gone through some rapid increases owing to oil shortages – and are likely to increase again. Energy wastage can be reduced by as much as 20 percent by simple good housekeeping measures4, having an energy saving culture (e.g. encouraging occupants to switch off lights) and improving maintenance practices (e.g. changing air filters on ducted ventilation systems at correct intervals to ensure efficient fan operation). A whole range of simple measures can have a big impact on saving energy – and on the environment.
- See www.energysmart.com.au/sedatoolbox/emg.asp
- Gregor Henze (2001) ‘Building energy management as continuous quality control process’, Journal of Architectural Engineering, 7(4)
- Hilary Davies and Eric KS Chan (2001) ‘Experience of energy performance contracting in Hong Kong Facilities’, 19 (7/8)
- ‘Aspects of energy management’ (1995) General Information/Report 12, Department of the Environment, UK
Dr Hilary Davies is a senior lecturer in Facilities Management at Deakin University, School of Architecture and the Built Environment. She is a Fellow of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and deputy program leader of the double degree in Construction Management and Facilities Management.
Deakin University (FM courses) www.deakin.edu.au/scitech/a+b/courses/conmgt-facmgt.php