Energy Management- Bigger Picture

For a business to remain competitive, strategic prioritization of investment decision is key. Energy efficiency is among the key tools that has the ability to position businesses in a more competitive position globally by lowering energy bills, reducing down times and equipment maintenance costs, as well as increasing the asset value of the facility.

The money saved from implementation of energy saving measures proposed during energy audits can be reinvested and this leads to business growth, creation of new jobs and improved economy of the country.

In a bigger-picture, energy management can be considered as the “first fuel” in addition to other energy sources like solar.

What is Energy Management Training?

Energy management training refers to the process of improving the performance and increasing the awareness of the individuals (technical and non-technical) responsible for energy use in a facility. It is an integral component of any effective energy management strategy – and is a key energy management best practice recommended by Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (EPRA) of Kenya.

Components of Energy Management Training

In general, energy management training involves three components:

  1. Technical training (i.e. Machines, Equipment, Process and Related utilities)
  2. Organizational training (i.e. Management systems)
  3. Behavioral training (i.e. People’s actions)

Direct beneficiaries of Energy Management Training

  • People who are directly responsible for managing energy in an organization;
  • These are facility and property managers, building operators and maintenance technicians (including electricians, steam engineers, and heating, ventilating and air conditioning [HVAC] and control technicians).
  • Contractors, service providers and energy consultants
  • General employees and managers may also take part in training

Venue Format of Energy Management Training

Energy management training can be carried out in many venues and formats, including:

  • Conferences and industry events
  • Classroom settings
  • Workshops can be held in-house (during lunch-hour information sessions, for example),
  • Online, via webinars
  • At centralized location hosted by the client.
  • Less formally through staff meetings, peer-to-peer training or publications.

Benefits of Energy Management Training

Specifically, energy management training plays a key role in:

1. Enhancing skills and raising awareness

Energy management training provides participants with the broad base of knowledge and skills they need to effectively manage and monitor the organization’s energy use, identify opportunities to implement additional energy-saving actions, and select and operate appropriate new energy-efficient equipment and technologies. Energy-saving technology does not run itself. To effect energy savings over time, a trained and skilled workforce is required to ensure that the technology operates as intended.

2. Facilitating energy and cost savings.

Training can help organizations manage their bottom line and remain competitive in the face of rising energy costs. Better technologies, better heating and cooling controls, and better and more efficient lighting all help reduce an organization’s energy consumption. When staff have the know-how to effectively deliver those energy savings, organizations benefit from even greater utility and maintenance cost reductions. Employee salaries are likely one of any organization’s greatest expenses – but if viewed as an investment, the benefits of energy management training are clear. Greater access to energy management training programs increases the staff’s ability to save the organization money, which, in turn, increases the return on investment of salaries. As a result, with properly educated and skilled professionals, an organization is better positioned to improve its bottom line.

3. Promoting employee engagement and a culture of energy efficiency

Energy management training does more than save organizations money and ensure that their facilities operate more efficiently. The benefits to the organization’s culture, while less tangible than financial benefits, are no less valuable. These include:

  • Making staff feel valued because you invested in their training.
  • Creating a culture where staff can share ideas.
  • Promoting good resource stewardship within the organization.
  • Building the organization’s relationship with the greater community by providing concrete example of how the organization is working to reduce its environmental
  • Offering staff opportunities to network and share ideas with like-minded individuals.

4. Other benefits

Other Benefits include:

  • Offers opportunity for employees to participate in professional development activities, and it can even contribute to their professional certification requirements.
  • By reducing the amount of energy used, organizations see a reduction in the environmental impact of their operations, particularly in terms of greenhouse gas emissions.
  • If an organization has committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions – either by law or voluntarily-energy management training can help to identify opportunities to use less energy, thereby reducing the cost of purchasing carbon offsets.

Key Barriers to Investing in Training

Despite the obvious benefits of energy management training, it can sometimes be difficult to get a training program off the ground. The key barriers we have identified are:

1. Securing funding for training

Budget concerns are often cited as the primary barrier to energy management training, particularly because there are often competing values within an organization. A common misconception among senior managers is that energy management costs money rather than saves money. As a result, other issues are prioritized over energy management training.

2. Getting buy-in from senior management and other key personnel

Energy management training requires buy-in from senior management and key personnel, but if they view training as a cost rather than an investment, it becomes much more difficult to secure funding or get approval for staff to take time off to attend training. In every organization, there are competing demands for money; without buy-in from the right people, it is easy for energy management to slip down the priority hierarchy.

3. Monitoring and verifying training-related savings

Part of the challenge of gaining support from all levels of management is that the measurement and verification of energy savings from training is difficult to assess. Compared to the installation of a new boiler or lighting system, it can be challenging to quantify the energy savings resulting from a day-long (or multi-day) training session. Furthermore, training can produce different outcomes, and there is no guarantee that the ideas and opportunities originating from training will actually be implemented once the training is complete.

4. Getting buy-in from staff

Managers and leaders are not the only ones who need to support training. Staff may not see the value of energy management training and may resist making changes to their work routines. Some operators, particularly those who have been in the industry for a while, may feel that they do not need any training and that having to attend training means management does not respect their skills and expertise. Staff in more specialized industries may also be concerned that the training will be too general to apply to their work.

5. Finding the time required for staff to attend and organize training

Some organizations have found it difficult to get the right people to attend their training sessions. People in key positions are often busy, with their tasks so critical that they cannot be left unattended for the duration of the training. Energy management training also takes time to organize – something energy managers and facilities managers may not have because of their busy schedules.

6. Short-term investment barriers

In addition to the six barriers mentioned previously, energy management training that happens on a one-time or sporadic basis creates particular challenges. Because it is not a regular part of the organization’s procedures, one-time energy management training may be seen as a “flash in the pan” initiative, heightening the difficulty in generating buy-in and interest. Because it is not a part of the organization’s normal processes, there may also be concerns from management about the long-term benefits and employees’ retention of what they have learned.

7. Long-term investment barriers

Long-term training programs – that is, energy management training programs that are integrated into an organization’s day-to-day operations – also bring about a unique set of challenges. Changes over time to the management team may bring on new members who have not yet embraced energy management as a priority, meaning securing funding and staff time may become more difficult. In addition, both staff and management may question the need to continue or repeat training, feeling that the benefits have already been gained.

What is Energy Bench-marking?

Energy bench-marking is the ongoing review of your building’s energy consumption to see how its performance compares to its own past performance, other buildings in your portfolio, or its peers nationwide. Conducting regular energy bench-marking as part of your routine practices enables you to:

  • Identify poorly performing sections.
  • Establish a baseline for measuring improvement in energy consumption.
  • Enhance and create competition through comparison with like facilities.
  • Participate in green building certification programs and other environmental initiatives.

Why is it important?

Energy bench-marking provides a quantifiable means of determining the potential for improvement and how a building compares with its peers. It is a best practice that provides the road map for setting goals and improving the bottom line as well as increasing asset value. The benefits of energy bench-marking include:

  • Providing objective, reliable information on energy use.
  • Highlighting poorly performing facilities so your improvement efforts can be prioritized appropriately.
  • Identifying best practices so they can be replicated throughout your portfolio.
  • Supporting the business case for a comprehensive energy management plan, including training and retrofits.