How to Plan for Long-Term Energy Efficiency
Plan now to succeed later: A multi-year energy planning process allows for a wide range of “what-if” scenarios, establishing credibility for good outcomes.
Yogi Berra famously said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up someplace else.” That’s especially true when it comes to planning for long-term energy efficiency. Facility managers should tackle their future energy planning not as a series of ad hoc initiatives but instead aligning such planning with their organization’s other long-term goals. That requires establishing a baseline of “existing conditions” that can serve as context for long-term planning. And that long-term planning is most successful when all stakeholders recognize that reaching an organization’s goals likely requires an effort over several years.
While of course long-term energy efficiency planning is essential, it’s also true that you are managing assets and serving organizations in an environment of ever-accelerating change. You’re being asked to manage with greater forecasting certainty, limiting unwelcome surprises.
Planning for improved energy performance can easily fall into the trap of seeming mundane and even out-of-date. After all, facility managers have been focused on energy conservation since the energy crisis of the 1970s. For many, energy is old news, a requirement you checked off years ago. Energy Star scores, the gold standard of rating energy performance, generally been on an upward trajectory.
Energy standards and goals, and the pathways available to realize energy best practices, are evolving. Remaining static and relying upon past achievement to carry the day is misguided at best, and freighted with competitive risk in the extreme. A static approach to energy management risks an asset’s competitive position in an increasingly discerning marketplace, risks failing to meet occupants’ workplace aspirations, and creates asset value risk, even career risk.
Where does planning begin? Start by clearly articulating efforts to date. This includes achieved load and energy reductions from past projects, measured savings, benchmarked success, and the return on energy investment — strong credentials all. If efforts and results to date can’t be articulated, it’s challenging to give weight to plans driving future goals. Get the present cleared up first. Establish credibility through past success and measured performance, and then build from there. Measured energy efficiency success — project case studies are helpful — should be readily available to support future investment. Too often it isn’t.
But it’s never too late to start. Begin by listing the past five years’ projects that were installed with energy efficiency in mind: project description, area of energy reduction to be impacted, targeted kW or kWh, who performed the project, whether it can be checked for persistence of savings. From here it’s possible to develop a history of past energy-reduction projects and determine if they correlate to any measurable impact such as reduced energy use visible on a bill or utility-based tracking platform, or Portfolio Manager energy use intensity.