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Strength in numbers

The greatest untapped resource that an energy manager has at his disposal is the company’s own employees. Andrew Carnegie, the great industrialist and philanthropist once said: ”Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision… It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.”


September 19, 2008
By Peter Rowles

Increasing energy awareness of employees and motivating them to work as a team can lead to reductions in energy consumption and save money. Savings estimates range in the order of five to 15 per cent. When implemented effectively, these savings can be realized quickly and cost effectively. More importantly, the increased awareness can also lead to increased productivity, improved employee morale, better working conditions, a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and an enhanced image of the company as a leader in environmental stewardship within the community.

Informed employees
Energy is used to create the environment in which these employees work. Employees (as equipment operators) also have control over the energy that is used to generate the company’s products or services. Many employees take energy for granted and do not understand or even consider its important role in their day-to-day lives both on the job and at home.

Providing employees with information about energy use and how they can control energy use within their own workspace is a key to success. Informed and committed employees are a real advantage in achieving the objectives of reduced energy costs and ensuring that these energy savings are sustained over time.

Since employees are generally protective of their work environment, it is understandable that changes may make them uncomfortable. It is important to inform employees on how these changes will affect them. By fostering a sense of pride and excitement about the many benefits of an energy efficient workplace, you may discover that you can save even more energy and money than you are expecting in areas where employee behaviour has a large impact.

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Putting up some posters and stickers or placing an article in the company newsletter is not an energy campaign. On their own, these initiatives are not effective. However, they can be useful components of a larger, more comprehensive strategy. Every corporate culture is different, so “off the shelf” campaigns are not very effective. Each campaign must be carefully crafted and tailored so that it is the company’s energy awareness program.

Eight steps to success
The following steps are key to creating and sustaining an effective energy awareness program.
1. Form an energy awareness team. Visible support and commitment from senior executives is essential to the success of the program. The energy awareness campaign should have its own leader. This person should be given the authority and resources to implement the energy efficiency program. The team should include representatives Administration, Operations, Finance, IT, Engineering and Public Relations. A person from each facility should be designated as an energy efficiency champion to communicate awareness initiatives at the facility level and report progress back to the working team.

2. Identify awareness program opportunities that employees can implement in their work areas. Focus on equipment and systems that the employees control manually such as lights, fans, exterior doors, equipment and appliances.

3. Establish objectives for the program based on identified opportunities. These targets should be presented in terms of quantity of energy to be reduced, annual cost savings and reduction in greenhouse gas emissions

4. Develop a communication plan. Assess existing lines of communication — energy committee, staff meetings, newsletters, bulletin boards, posters, email, intranet, paycheque notices, suggestion program training programs and performance appraisals

5. Implement your employee awareness program. Kick off the awareness program with a special event — including senior management, district managers and facility champions. An award or incentive program should also be announced at this time.

6. Track your company’s progress. Setting specific energy improvement goals at the beginning of the program provides a means of measuring the progress towards these goals. Employees should be informed of the progress made, including reductions in energy use, costs and environmental impacts on a regular basis.

7. Evaluate your employee awareness program. It is important to evaluate the impact of your program and use the findings to help guide future activities. You can choose to use ‘qualitative evaluations’ or ‘quantitative evaluations’, or a combination of both. It is a good idea to share the results of the evaluations with employees.

8. Follow through. For the benefits of improved energy efficiency to continue, it is recommended that the employee awareness program be more than a one-time event. It must continue to motivate employees to change and incorporate the information gleaned from the evaluations and company’s energy efficiency gains to date. As part of the follow-up, celebrate achievements and recognize the important role your awareness team and employees have played in the company’s energy efficiency program.

“There is strength in numbers, and if we all work together as a team, we can be unstoppable,” said Craig Kielburger, Member of the Order of Canada. Strength in numbers is the foundation of a successful energy awareness program. A successful program will facilitate the development, implementation and ultimate sustainability of all other energy efficiency initiatives. More on project development in the next issue.

Peter Rowles (peter.rowles@energyadvantage.com) is the vice-president of energy efficiency / environment with Energy Advantage, a Toronto-based provider of independent energy and environmental management services.
 


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