FEATURE – What’s the least-understood aspect of energy efficiency?
April 9, 2013 - We began 2013 with tips from energy managers working in commercial and institutional settings across B.C. This month, we have the answers to the question, “What’s the least understood aspect of helping an organization shift to energy efficiency?”
April 9, 2013 By BC Hydro
Here’s what they told us. The least understood aspect of energy efficiency? People.
Nearly everyone who answered our question offered variations on one theme: “people and their behaviours are just as important as new technology”.
Some felt employees want to help save energy but don’t know how, or haven’t been given direction, or permission.
Others felt employees were often too busy to pay attention to their energy use.
Either way, getting people onside and changing their practices is key — and is sometimes overlooked when companies are developing energy conservation programs.
Said one energy manager, “If you can engage employees through behavioural programs or involve them in projects, you can make a lot more progress with not a lot more effort. It is a lot easier to think of and implement technology solutions.”
“We seem to forget that individuals need to take responsibility for their energy use and change their behaviour in order to lower energy consumption.”
Said another, “People need to know that they can (or are expected to) turn off a piece of equipment when they are going home at night, even if no one else ever does.”
Engaging employees in energy conservation has long been a component of Power Smart programming. To maximize the impact of your energy-efficiency program, read more about workplace conservation awareness.
Also a challenge: complexity
Another area that energy managers commented on was the complexity of systems they are working on. In larger systems, effective assessment and auditing is needed before it’s possible to understand energy usage and choose the best options for efficiency. (Such studies are often eligible for financial support from BC Hydro.)
For others, the challenge is more related to the organizational complexity of energy work: the need to ensure that energy analysis is well understood by executives, and that long-term financial benefits are made visible when investments in efficiency are considered.
In property management situations, complexity arises because of the “split incentive” effect present in energy efficiency investments. Landlords make investments, but tenants reap the benefits, leaving an uncertain path forward when costs are significant.
Yet there are large potential energy and cost savings to be had in commercial office and retail properties — opportunities BC Hydro has explored in its Advanced Energy Office project.
Thank you to all the energy managers who helped us answer this question.
By BC Hydro
With input from Fabian Biagetti, Peter Nilsen, Ron Sue, Joe Ciarniello, Jerry Wyshnowsky, Robert Greenwald, Gwendal Castellan, and Sam Thomas.
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