This article started with a cold cup of tea.
I was in the middle of a power cut, and the teabag floated despondently in a sad, mottled brew. In the confusion, I’d allowed the beverage to cool for far too long. All of that precious energy transferred to raise the temperature of the kettle to boiling point, gone to waste, and there was nothing I could do about it.
This is an example of poor energy management on my part.
As I sulked over the absence of my morning brew, it did get me thinking, would society ever face these kinds of energy management problems, like I easily had?
Some of you may have already experienced, say, aggravating waits in lines for gasoline, or your pocketbooks taking a punch from inflation. But, energy problems – like a cold cup of tea – are not only personal, they permeate into society and our economy.
80% of U.S. energy comes from fossil fuels. According to BP’s Statistical Review of World Energy, we have 115 years of coal and roughly 50 years of oil and natural gas remaining. To compound this, we also need to leave ~80% of current fossil fuel reserves untouched if we stand a chance of meeting IPCC 1.5°C (34.7°F) warming targets.
In this Process Street article, you’ll learn about best practices for energy management, how you can successfully manage energy in your business (and beyond), as well as how to adopt best energy management practices using a handy free checklist to help you save time and money.
Don’t cry over cold tea. Learn how to manage energy properly, for a healthier business and a healthier planet. Click on the relevant subheader below, or continue reading as you please:
- What is energy management?
- Energy management: Improve energy efficiency
- Energy management: Conserve energy
- Energy management: Renewable energy
- Quarterly Energy Management Plan Template
What is energy management?
Energy management is a framework combining management and technology to develop a proactive and integrated plan with the intention to better an organization’s energy performance. By energy performance, I mean reducing energy demands, energy wastage, and the need for finite energy sources for sustainable, continuous power.
By taking control of an organization’s energy use, to lower dependence on finite fossil fuels, energy management is a key component of carbon management. Similarly, carbon management is a key aspect of an organization’s overall environmental management system. All three are vitally important management processes for businesses today, each helping organizations navigate the pressures of our energy crisis, but this article focuses on energy management.
Energy management is a broad discipline, enveloping 3 separate concepts, namely:
- 💡 Energy efficiency : Less energy is used to perform the same function. That is, the output is the same, but the energy input is less. For instance, the use of light-emitting diodes (LED) requires 75% less energy than traditional incandescent light bulbs, but the output (light) remains the same.
- 🔋 Energy conservation : The behavior that causes less energy to be used. The aim is to sustain energy-levels in a system. For instance, turning the lights off when leaving the room. According to the Department of Energy leaving an incandescent light bulb on for 8 hours could use an extra 120 kWh in a year, costing ~$13 more. This is per bulb, if you have say 100 bulbs in a building, you can see how costs and energy use mounts up if not conserved.
- ☀️ Renewable energy: The energy that occurs naturally and repeatably in the environment, and therefore encourages the cyclic exchange of energy between nature and society. This includes energy from waves, the sun, or wind. Unlike fossil fuels, renewable energy will not run out.
Keep reading as we explore the above separate concepts of energy management, giving you easy tips and tricks on how to improve on each. Each concept works to target our energy problem from the root, for healthier businesses and a healthier planet.
How to improve energy efficiency with energy management
As already mentioned, energy efficiency is doing more (or the same) using less energy.
The best way to maximize energy efficiency in your team or organization is by:
Why improving energy efficiency is important
Improving energy efficiency is not an easy problem to solve; it requires innovative thinking and leveraging of advanced technology. Despite the potential barriers and bottlenecks, energy efficiency savings implemented at scale have the potential to yield gross energy savings worth more than $1.2 trillion for the U.S. economy, reducing energy demand by 23%.
Such reductions to energy demand are a by-product of improved energy efficiency, and such approaches work to mitigate the potential of a compounding, global energy crisis.
This has very real business implications. For example, a packaging company in this study invested $12,900 to make energy efficiency improvements. In the first year, the organization saved $38,700, with a payback of 3 months.
Due to the connectedness of energy management with carbon management – energy efficiency being a part of energy management – energy-efficient improvements also help organizations meet government C02 regulations.
How to make energy efficiency improvements in business
Reducing energy wasted is a good starting point for maximizing energy efficiency. Conduct physical site inspections in unification with proactive Metering, Monitoring, and Targeting (MM&T).
“To measure is to know. If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it” – Lord Kelvin (William Thomson)
Impressive, but to be completely honest with you, this statistic didn’t surprise me.
You see, my housemates and I recently purchased a Geo Minim Energy Monitor. A smart meter that allows us to track our energy consumption (in £, C02 of kWh), actual power, C02 emissions, and room temperature. In essence, our Geo Minim Energy Monitor was our small-scale MM&T system. We could see times of day where we were using excessive amounts of energy and when/where our energy was wasted. We made investments to improve energy efficiency in our home, such as replacing the window seals to reduce draft. By tightening our control on energy consumption we pocketed monetary savings while also feeling good knowing we were taking an extra step for our planet. 🌍
Obviously, in an organizational setting applying the MM&T system for energy waste reduction is more complicated than our Minim delight, due to multiple energy inputs and outputs.
Below is a generic technology model. As you can see, the core of an MM&T system will be a software package – this could be a simple spreadsheet. The data input can come from a variety of sources, but a fixed meter (like our Geo Minim Energy Monitor) is the most common. An effective MM&T balances the practicality and cost of metering with the control and/or savings it may help deliver.
|Meters||Server & software||Shop floor|
|Data loggers||Office staff|
|Building energy management system||Finance|
|Electronic data interchange||System operators, energy manager(s), energy champions, maintenance||Senior management|
|Manual entry||Identifying actions to be taken, the individuals who will perform the actions, the right time to act, and the way to act.|
When analyzing energy usage it is important to look out for:
- Abnormal consumption
- Seasonal changes in consumption
- Anomalous results
By measuring your energy usage, you can start to identify when and where energy is being wasted. From this, you can invest and apply new green tech solutions for a smarter and more efficient flow of energy through your business. For instance:
- Consider swapping to LED lighting.
- Activate energy-saving features on all devices.
- Switch to a green web host.
- Utilize more on cloud solutions to remove the paperwork.
- Purchase ENERGY STAR equipment and machines – this includes efficient computers, monitors, scanners, etc. These devices automatically power down when they are not used for extended periods.
- Use loT devices and sensors to control lighting.
- Look to retrofit heating, venting, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems in buildings e.g. adding insulation, add temperature sensors and look to integrate HVAC control with other aspects of the building.
- Incorporate renewable energy technology (discussed further on in this article, so keep reading).
- Manage office space, to reduce energy use per total square foot, e.g. by hot-desking and using shared office spaces.
- Recycle in facilities to maximize heating and cooling. For example, recycle water used to cool computer servers as a hot water source.
- Recycle everything – plastics, cans, electronics. Use marked recycling bins.
- Reduce travel footprint – provide employees with electric vehicle charging points and offer bike storage and showering.
- Educate your team about green initiatives and how to be more energy efficient in their day-to-day.
- Continuously keep track of your energy use, using a Metering, Monitoring, and Targeting system.
Improving energy efficiency in practice – Albertson’s Inc example
The California-based grocery store, Albertson Inc, was leading the way before the majority of companies jumped on the energy efficiency bandwagon. Off to a grand start, in 2006 the company announced savings of 1 billion kW in energy by reducing wasted energy and applying green tech solutions.
Technological upgrades included more efficient walk-in food coolers, variable-speed HVAC, and LED lighting throughout stores worldwide.
5,000 separate upgrade projects were completed. Using effective energy management procedures, Albertson’s Inc took full reigns in improving the company’s energy efficiency.
How to conserve energy with energy management
Energy conservation describes actions and behaviors that ensure energy is continuously available in a system. In essence, it is about changing behavior to use less energy altering the output.
For instance, I limit the amount of time I turn on the heating in my home to save energy. Energy is conserved at the expense of the output – my house is a little bit colder.
Another example would be when I head out for a long-distance run. To conserve my energy, I pace myself, cutting back on speed meaning I have enough energy to complete the run. Compare this to running efficiently, which requires good running technique (whereas the efficiency of my technique is dubious 🏃♀️).
Why conserving energy is important
By conserving energy, less energy is used, and therefore energy conservation – like energy efficiency improvements – serves to:
- Give monetary reward
- Help organizations meet C02 regulations
- Reduce energy demand to mitigate our global energy crisis
Coming back to this final point – reduces energy demand to mitigate our global energy crisis – conserving energy inspires a societal paradigm shift in terms of how we view and use energy.
For instance, if you think about the term more is more – a catchphrase from a consumerist society with unimaginable plenty – where do you propose this dictum came from? Is it credited mainly to the post-modern architect Robert Venturis? Or fashion designer Gianfranco Ferre? Or the queen of blitz Dolly Parton?
Today, energy is demanded on a whim. Cold? – Turn up the dial. Hungry? – Grab something from the fridge. Want an adventure? – Jump in a car, or on a plane.
The metabolism of society seems to be out-of-sync with what our planet can support. We are starving our planet of finite energy resources, sapping up reserves like hyenas to a carcass.
More-is-more, more-is-better, more-is-success – it is this societal conviction that feeds our energy-crisis monster.
But what if less was more?
Energy conservation looks at changing behavior in a system to demand less energy, meaning less-is-more. A behavioral change and a shift in societal value addresses, and mitigates our energy crisis from the core. As such, energy conservation is vital for successful energy management, whether we are thinking on a global scale or at an organizational scale.
How to make energy conservation improvements in business
Simple ways you can conserve energy in the workplace include:
- Promote workplace sustainability: Help employees understand how they could benefit from adopting a sustainable approach. Provide your team with educational resources (like our Green Guide for a Lower Environmental Footprint Checklist, given below) and have them set targets to change their behavior and reduce the energy demands of your workforce as a whole. Look to apply a change management model to manage this organizational change.
- Turn off devices: This includes lights, computers, and heating when not in use.
- Take advantage of natural daylight: Turn off or dim electric lighting when adequate sunlight is available.
- Change and clear air filters regulary: Help reduce maintenance costs for air conditioning units.
- Consider efficiency of electronic tools: For motor tools, install variable speed drives (VSDs).
- Consider office energy management: In winter, set the office thermostat between 65-68°F during the day and 60-65 during unoccupied hours. In the summer months, the thermostat should be adjusted between 78-80°F during the day and above 80 during unoccupied hours.
- Designate a responsible party: This helps to promote good energy practices for the organization and/or facility.
Energy conservation focuses on changing individualistic behavior. In an organizational setting, to conserve energy means to take responsibility for educating and promoting positive, sustainable behaviors in your team.
To help you do this, Process Street has created a Green Guides checklist. By following this checklist, your employees can access the environmental footprint for their energy use. They can track their activities, and set habits to better their sustainability performance. The aim is to reduce your team’s energy consumption to lower than 8 tonnes, in line with 2050 goals.
Energy conservation in practice – ALS Environmental example
Before Process Street, I worked for the environmental testing laboratory ALS Environmental. The laboratory consistently looked for ways to reduce energy demand and conserve energy.
Communication in terms of making energy efficiency improvements and conserving energy was celebrated. For instance, the implementation of a SMART thermostat controlled the office room’s temperature. But, employees were allowed to adjust the temperature if they were feeling uncomfortable – i.e. during a particularly cold spell.
The winter of 2018 saw snow-blizzards and negative temperatures. Yet, rather than switch up the dial, because employees were taught the importance of energy conservation, we all decided to wear extra clothing to keep warm instead. Granted, this did result in me typing in a pair of gloves, but I knew conserving energy was important and I was happy to play my part.
A renewable framework for energy management
Renewable energy sources include solar, wind, hydropower, geothermal, and biomass energy.
Renewable energy sources are finite. They lie in fine-tuning with the Earth’s natural energy cycles. In comparison, fossil fuels short-circuit an otherwise natural rhythm. To extract, we tap into carbon stores that would otherwise take millions of years to expel as atmospheric CO2 via volcanic activity.
Powering our economies in this way has caused significant rises in greenhouse gases Carbon Dioxide, Methane, and Nitrous Oxide. And the projected consequences aren’t looking good.
Why renewable energy is important
Energy management via improving energy efficiency and conserving energy gives the technological and behavioral advancements needed to move into an alternative, greener future, supporting businesses, and our economy. These 2 concepts help mitigate our global energy crisis. Moving on, where does renewable energy come to play?
Building on this latter point, let’s think about the state of the U.S. today in terms of its primary energy consumption by energy source. In 2019, 37% of the economy was powered by petroleum, 32% by natural gas, and 11% by coal. These are all finite fossil fuel reserves, and it is this demand distribution that has put us in our current energy-mess.
Once more, by exacerbating climate change, fossil fuel use poses a substantial economic threat, with the impacts of climate change projected to cost the U.S. economy ~$23 trillion under the current trajectory of warming and extreme weather events.
In summary, renewable energy lends us an arm, to pull us from a torrent caused by malicious fossil fuel extraction. Fossil fuels are not a sustainable source of energy. The economic benefits they bring are short-term and a facade, as the damaging impacts of their use linger on the horizon.
On a smaller scale though, what are the direct benefits of renewable energy?
I have listed the top 4 ways businesses benefit from renewable energy use below:
- Cost savings: According to a new report by the International Renewable Energy Agency, unsubsidized renewable energy is now most frequently the cheapest source of energy generation. Once more, with the advancement of technology these costs will fall. in comparison, as fossil fuels become more scarce, energy from fossil fuel extraction is set to rise.
- Risk management and resilience: By producing renewable power, your reliance on the Grid diminishes. This means you are less susceptible to market fluctuations in Grid prices.
- Corporate social responsibility and positive public relations: In 2018, Unilever announced that its most sustainable brands grew 46% faster and delivered 70% of its turnover growth. This comes with reports that indicate 2/3‘s of consumers prefer sustainable brands.
- Improved employee engagement: Research from Harvard Business Review showed that companies with a strong culture of purpose can transform and innovate better while improving customer satisfaction. Investment in renewables gives such a purpose. A separate report by Brian and Company states that sustainable programs – such as investments into renewable energy – boost employee morale and keep companies an attractive place to work.
How to invest in renewable energy alternatives
You can directly use renewable energy sources by installing renewable energy technology for your business. However, not all organizations have the cash-flow to make this initial investment. Luckily there are less direct and cheaper ways organizations can install renewable energy for their business.
Second, you can buy shares in companies producing renewable energy power. However, as most renewable energy companies are not listed in the stock market, looking into investment trusts and investing in a portfolio of renewable energy shares is your best bet. Some popular renewable energy trusts include Aquila European Renewables Income Fund PLC; US Solar Fund; Foresight Solar Fund Limited and Greencoat UK Wind. Spend time to have a look around for an investment trust that’s right for you.
Renewable energy in practice – Carlsberg Group
One initiative used 8,000 solar panels at a site in China, which met up to 20% of the Brewery’s energy needs. By investing in renewable energy, Carlsburg is creating a self-sustaining organization, one that is protected from and separated from the impacts of our energy crisis.
Quarterly Energy Management Plan Template
An energy management plan is a broad-reaching document that serves as a long-term planning resource, to guide an organization towards securing a cost-effective and a sustainable energy future.
Run our Quarterly Energy Management Plan Template to continuously access your energy consumption: To reduce carbon emissions, to improve energy efficiency, to conserve energy, and to invest appropriately into renewables.
This checklist has been produced using the Carbon Trust’s Energy Management comprehensive guide.
By following this checklist, you can apply effective advice given by experts, to help your business or line of work take action and reduce energy demand and carbon emissions.
Let’s move into a sustainable future, for our businesses and our planet, with effective energy management
However, despair doesn’t inspire resolution. Energy management acts as a solution for a smooth transition into a more sustainable economy, and mitigates the impacts of energy-shortages and climate change. Once more, direct monetary benefits are given to help organizations thrive today.
Time is of the essence. Adapt to survive. Take control of your energy demands.
How do you manage energy in your business? Do you invest in renewable energy? How do you conserve energy? How do you improve energy efficiency? Please comment below as we would love to hear from you. Who knows, you may even get featured in an upcoming article!