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Save money through strategic energy management

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How much does energy use cost your company? Think about the lights, the heat, the computers. Add in operational equipment, air conditioning, and electric signage. Even that coffee pot in the lunchroom is costing you something.

Yet often the potential for energy savings gets overlooked.

"Most organizations have plans to reduce costs everywhere in their operations, except energy," says Simon Vickers, manager of BC Hydro's commercial energy management program. "In other aspects of their business, they've figured out ways to streamline activities and reduce variable costs. But energy, they've dealt with as a fixed cost. And it's not."

Vickers works with energy managers in businesses, schools, universities and hospitals across B.C. Part of their role is to help companies create new energy management routines, through a process called an Energy Management Assessment (EMA). An EMA is a tool used to identify gaps in business practices that are not being applied to energy management; gaps that cost the company money. Then the next step is to develop a "SEMP."

The Strategic Energy Management Plan (SEMP)

"In the past, companies thought they were managing energy strategically simply by doing one off energy efficiency projects," says Vickers. "The trouble is, eventually you shoot yourself in the foot because there's no business case to move ahead with further projects. But you still may have significant energy savings you could realize."

Enter the Strategic Energy Management Plan (SEMP). A SEMP allows a company to see past results from energy efficient projects as well as understand what future energy consumption scenarios look like.

The SEMP's structure allows executives to understand how energy efficient a building could become, the up front costs of gaining that efficiency, and the return on investment.

The SEMP also examines the organization's buildings and operations. Energy use in buildings is benchmarked against industry norms. Energy performance data is normalized across the organization's full portfolio of buildings, so that the best opportunities for energy savings can be identified. Then a plan is put together to reduce energy waste.

Vickers says organizations that have developed a Strategic Energy Management Plan undertake twice as many energy efficiency projects as those that have no plan. "They're saving more money. Somebody's paying attention to all the opportunities and finding money and resources to make them happen."

Continuous improvement, ongoing savings

A SEMP typically bundles efficiency projects into a two- to three-year plan that is reviewed annually. "Technologies are changing all the time," says Vickers. "The SEMP helps you establish a routine around continually reviewing operations and options for energy solutions based on new efficient technologies that may have emerged."

However, it's the focus on ongoing performance, along with ensuring that employees are engaged that delivers the long-term value of the strategic energy management plan. Relying on individual technical fixes can deliver savings in one-off situations. But turning energy management into a central aspect of all business processes is the way to ensure sustainable savings.

"Organizations are often too busy putting out fires; they don't put enough time to stepping back and being strategic in their approach," says Vickers. "But everything we do involves some use of energy. A SEMP embeds energy conservation into the culture of the organization, its organizational process.

"Companies appreciate that structure; this is a value that Power Smart brings. Often as we're working with their management team, what we'll hear is, 'We should be doing this for other areas of our business as well.'"

To learn more about Energy Management Assessments and Strategic Energy Management Plans, contact your Key Account Manager.