Managing your company's energy performance is a critical component of a successful business. Getting beyond the ideological barriers that impede creative ways of achieving desired energy cost savings means acknowledging that a comprehensive energy management plan is not a luxury, but rather a way of strategically managing your business operations. This is particularly true if you are in the process of investing in new buildings and/or upgrading systems.
Plant and Office Energy
Most companies are actively seeking ways to improve energy efficiency as a means to remain competitive by decreasing the amount of energy needed to produce a unit of product. This way of thinking often frames the issue as one within the confines of the operating plant and leaves the rest of the facility out of the energy management plan. What can be missed are relatively inexpensive office improvements that can result in decreasing the overall energy demand needed to run the business. Therefore, actively managing energy should include realizing the potential for savings in the office environment and not just the shop floor.
Benchmarking is a productive way to assess your company's energy management activities in relation to similar industries. Applied across a company's energy portfolio, benchmarking provides the foundation for fundamental property management decisions, ranging from identifying top performers, which exemplify best practices, to prioritizing the best upgrade investment candidates. There are a variety of tools and methods to scientifically study energy usage data. However, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency through its Energy StarR program has created the standard on which many companies rely. Energy Star benchmarking is one of the standard methods available for evaluating office energy efficiency and is changing industry's perception of energy performance. Through Energy Star, companies are provided with an easy way to obtain a meaningful comparison of their buildings' energy performance to that of similar buildings throughout the U.S. Keep in mind, Energy Star focuses mainly on the office environment as opposed to the shop floor.
For commercial buildings, Energy Star is designed to rate performance on a 1-to-100 scale, where a score of 50 signifies energy performance better than 50% of similar buildings. Energy Star criteria are a reflection of the distribution of energy performance in the commercial buildings market, derived from data contained in the Energy Information Agency's (U.S. Department of Energy - DOE) Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS). CBECS is a national, statistically based survey that includes building features, energy consumption and expenditure analysis in commercial buildings. The primary drivers of building energy consumption and their relative impact were identified using CBECS data through a process commonly known as a step-wise linear regression. For each identified driver, or variable, the regression calculated the mean value (e.g., the average value for the driver) and the coefficient (e.g., the magnitude of the driver). These values were combined to form the benchmarking algorithm that takes user-defined actual values for a given building to compute a customized energy performance level representative of the performance of the top 25%, which is the Energy Star target.
A Potential Goal in 2002
A company achieving the Energy Star target is awarded an Energy Star label plaque to affix to their buildings. EPA also places buildings that obtain the label in the Registry of Energy Star Labeled Buildings on their web site. Achieving the label does not create a formal relationship of organizational recognition by EPA or DOE, although recipients of the label are encouraged to communicate their achievement as an Energy Star labeled building to their management, employees, customers, tenants, potential tenants, investors and the public.
According to the EPA, approximately 25% of all commercial buildings already qualify for the Energy Star label. It has been estimated that buildings of average energy performance could qualify by reducing energy use by 30 to 35% through economically justified upgrades.
In addition to cost savings and recognition, companies engage something much more valuable - employee awareness and a commitment to energy saving goals. Nurtured and managed correctly, inherit benefits could result in an empowered workforce that is driven to find better ways of reducing energy. These types of initiatives combined with smart energy expenditures can have a compounding effect, which results in competitive pricing and strategic alliance advantages.
For more information about Energy Star, go to www.energystar.gov.