Many companies have different motivations for looking into energy reduction strategies. Whether it is higher energy costs, wild price swings or increasing stakeholder scrutiny to reduce your carbon footprint – achieving sustainable reductions in energy consumption can be extremely challenging.
Most organisations believe they can only improve energy efficiency by investing heavily in expensive capital equipment. However, these are not the first actions companies should consider. Laying the cultural groundwork must come first.
DuPont currently operates more than 150 production facilities in 90 different countries, and through this experience the company has found that capital will often be more effective and bring faster payback if ‘energy culture’ is optimised first.
Since 1990, the company has implemented cultural and capital programs to continuously reduce energy usage and related costs, and as a result, has:
- Saved $6 billion
- Reduced global greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent (while increasing production by 40 per cent over the same period).
Many companies’ biggest efficiency misstep is their failure to bring about corporate-wide acceptance and implementation of their energy management system.
If the right roles and responsibilities aren’t in place, or if all of the people involved in a company don’t fully understand the aims of its investment, energy efficiency projects may not realise their projected efficiency gains.
Five starting points for an effective energy management system include:
- 1. Senior leadership, commitment and oversight – so that energy efficiency is treated as important as production, quality and profitability
2. Identify an ‘energy champion’ to measure goals – this person doesn’t need to be an energy expert
3. Incentivise line management – to help management realise that energy efficiency directives are not arbitrary. Line management must be rewarded for meeting goals, with energy efficiency performance quickly becoming part of performance reviews, bonuses and incentive arrangements
4. Invest in training – staff development is critical to instituting culture change. Training will assist all levels of staff in understanding how their daily actions impact energy efficiency
5. Search deep – companies must create cultures where all staff are empowered to identify problems and bring them to the attention of others. In many cases, employees notice issues and discuss them informally. There needs to be opportunities for staff to raise these concerns.
These efforts can and should be initiated early in any energy efficiency effort, before any capital programs are undertaken, or at least in tandem as they are undertaken.
These five steps are easy to do, easy to get approved and add up to significant savings; they are synergistic and pave the way for any subsequent capital projects.
However, they are just a handful of the components to consider before getting a customised, comprehensive and well-integrated energy management system up and running. Like many cultural changes, they focus on using what you already have, but using it differently, as opposed to forking out more capital to bring in ‘something else’.
For companies where implementing an energy efficiency program has become increasingly urgent, they should first turn their attention to the cultural rather than capital aspects of the change.
Implementing cultural change will not only synergise future capital changes, it will help realise upwards of 40 per cent of the total energy efficiency opportunity, reducing the carbon footprint and generating immediate cash savings while positioning the organisation for ongoing success with sustainability.
With a future that promises distributed generation, convergence of smart grids, data integration, demand response incentives and other energy innovations, organisations with an integrated energy culture will be able to capitalise on these opportunities faster and more effectively than their competitors, for whom energy efficiency is merely an incidental interest, and not a true strategic directive.