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Energy Efficiency – It’s More Than Just Understanding Energy

To be successful in getting your energy efficiency projects approved you need to invest the time into communicating the bottom-line benefits of your projects.

I recently taught a very diverse group of professionals through the Introduction to Energy Management Course which is sponsored by NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH). Halfway through the course, it became apparent that a majority of the students were after more than just a technical understanding of energy efficiency.  The students in question wanted to know how best to communicate energy efficiency issues in a simple, clear and concise way to stakeholders such as senior management, and drive them to take energy management actions to improve energy efficiency at the workplace.

This was by no means a big Aha moment for me as I had spent a significant part of the last decade and a half trying to get senior management on board with energy efficiency and emission reduction programs – with mixed results.

As with anything that needs a senior executive to buy-in, the way you communicate it can mean a huge difference between getting your project up or getting lost in the massive sea of other projects and competing priorities.

4 Steps To Achieving Management Buy-In For Energy Efficiency Projects

After some debates and taking time to reflect on how to gain buy-in on energy efficiency projects, I recommend four key steps that can aid energy professionals to communicate energy efficiency effectively to senior management to gain buy-in.

1: Energy data is critical. 

Use quality data to communicate energy efficiency issues. How much does energy cost you per day, per year, etc.? What is your energy intensity? For example, if you manufacture chairs and consume energy in the process, try and find out how much energy it costs to make one unit or kilogram of a chair. If you have a large office space, how much energy do you use per square meter or per employee and what is the cost implication?

2:  Simplify energy data using graphs.

Show your audience energy costs trends. Use energy cost data to prompt your senior executive to say that the energy cost for making a chair three years ago was $4.00 and it is now costing $8.00. What sustainability impact does it have to the business? How many more chairs do we need to make and sell to cover the extra energy costs?

3: Celebrate success.

Endeavour to report any traction gained to your senior management. If you have a good win make sure the business knows about it. This will help to gain their trust for future projects.

4: Communicate the impacts of doing nothing. 

So you have done your analysis of energy efficiency projects and want to present this to your boss and maybe executive committee for approval. One thing that I found worked really well was to calculate the costs of doing nothing. One successful project that I was responsible for was upgrading 115 high bay warehouse lights to LEDs. Huge costs savings were made even better with the NSW Energy Saver Scheme. The investment was around $16,000 and it took me over two months to get approval. The payback period was 58 days or $275 per day. That was without calculating the reduced maintenance and the added savings of getting the KVA (distribution) charges reduced by the network. Had I explained that every day we delay would cost us $275, I would have probably gotten approval within a week! 

Trust me, the second LED upgrade project that I put forward got approved within 24 hours because I used all four elements above in liaising with senior management.

To be successful in your energy efficiency projects you need to invest time into how you communicate your projects. Time spent on crafting your message and simplifying your energy data is a good investment and one that will help you succeed in a timely manner without the added stress and hassle associated with communicating energy issues in a complex way.

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