Everyone is talking about energy, whether it’s the rise in costs, the climate impact it creates or the reliability of our infrastructure.
The fact is we need energy to properly run our facilities. The problem is we cannot continue to watch our energy operating costs skyrocket and continue to rely solely on conventional energy sources that are detrimental to the bottom line and the environment.
It’s time for all of us to create an Energy Master Plan (EMP) that will help to create a sustainable business environment.
An EMP is a well-thought-out action plan for management to assess its current energy consumption, forecast future needs and to develop strategies to meet those needs while reducing the overall consumption of the facility. There should be a designated person, department or agency to lead the organization through the EMP process. The process will require input from personnel throughout the entire organization, but the lead should follow the process all the way through.
The first step in creating an EMP is to develop baseline energy consumption that will be used to evaluate energy conservation goals. Baseline data is typically gathered from utility bills. The data has to be organized and evaluated in conjunction with business operations during the baseline period.
Compare like utility bills over several years to determine whether consumption has increased or decreased and whether the change coincides with operations.
For example, if operations have remained somewhat stable and energy use has dramatically increased it could indicate a repair is required to keep machinery operating at peak efficiency. It is critical to have a handle on current consumption and operating performance, as this is the basis used to develop management’s energy efficiency goals.
Once baseline data is established and understood, the facility should be benchmarked to other similar facilities. The easiest way to benchmark the facility is to undergo an energy audit. The energy audit will allow management to identify potential energy efficiency projects, determine implementation timelines and prioritize action items.
Often times an energy consultant is retained to assist with this process. There are consultants in New Jersey that can assist an authority with benchmarking its energy consumption with similar organizations. Benchmarking is a useful tool to assist management in developing short- and long-term efficiency goals.
Planning implementation to meet efficiency goals is the next objective in the EMP process. Some initiatives will be relatively inexpensive and simple to implement. Some will be more complex and costly and could require financing.
It is recommended to implement the plans with the greatest benefit first and those that can demonstrate short-term success to develop support for the overall plan. Some efficiency projects require little or no up front costs and create enthusiasm from the organization to prioritize energy efficiency. Other projects will be capital-intensive and need strong management commitment to implement.
Often times annual energy savings for major efficiency improvements and upgrades will more than repay debt service requirements and generate an annual savings for the organization. A cost-benefit analysis for any implementation strategies should be analyzed to determine whether the pay back period is reasonable.
Where energy efficiency leaves off, consider supplementing conventional energy sources with renewable energy sources. New technology is emerging regularly and existing technology is becoming more affordable. Every organization has their own unique renewable energy sources that may be able to be tapped for energy production.
The EMP should be updated as projects are implemented, monitored and evaluated for effectiveness. The plan should have a series of short, medium and long-term goals that can be easily measured and reported to management, employees and the public. Share results and let taxpayers know that the EMP has saved money and that your organization is thinking long-term about the sustainability of the organization and the environment.
Get an EMP. It will do your business good.