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The 360 on Energy: Canada needs more energy management


September 30, 2019
By David Arkell

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Canada needs a national energy management strategy.

Every company or organization that has implemented a concerted, comprehensive energy management program has seen its productivity and operational performance improve. So, a national program, targeted to help all Canadian enterprises better manage their energy consumption, would do wonders for our economic prospects.

There are many reasons our business executives and government leaders have tended to deliver mediocre energy performance to date:

  • They do not believe energy is a controllable cost. “Just pay the bill” is a common refrain.
  • They do not understand energy markets and supply options.
  • They have been sold on technology as the only solution to their energy consumption issues, so government grants for new equipment have become the ‘quick fix.’
  • They frame energy management as simply an engineering issue.
  • Their utility data is inaccessible or, at least, difficult to upload, track and analyze.
  • They do not understand how energy management integrates every department and function, including procurement, supply management, operations, internal auditing, human resources (HR), training and accounting.

Canada is already a global leader in supplying energy; it is time we also became leaders in managing its use. This would enhance our competitiveness and demonstrate our ongoing leadership on energy issues around the world.

This summer, I had the privilege of discussing this topic with national leaders at a preparatory roundtable convened by the Ottawa-based Business Council of Canada’s new Task Force on Canada’s Economic Future, setting the stage for policy recommendations to follow. There is a massive opportunity for a national energy management initiative, but it will need to be driven by businesses. We have to stop thinking government or utilities can do it.

Support from top executives is critical because most companies do not pay attention to how much energy they use and at what cost. If they instead treated it as a controllable input cost and developed internal processes to conserve it, they could easily save at least 5% of their energy costs without any new capital expenditures. Nationally, this would represent more than $3 billion in annual savings over five years. That money could then be invested in productivity improvements and other priorities.

A national program for enterprise-level energy management could create the means for businesses across Canada to quickly and easily upload the energy and cost information from their utility bills into data analysis applications. They would thus be able to integrate energy data collection and reporting with corporate initiatives to achieve cost reductions.

This would enable them to become more competitive and innovative, enhance teamwork between departments, trim their environmental footprint and foster a corporate culture of continual improvement. While such a national program would be voluntary, it could match incentives and market mechanisms to actual, measurable energy-efficiency milestones.

We cannot afford to be complacent about our economic prospects. A national energy management program would enable our government and business leaders to responsibly manage our endowment of energy and water resources for growth and jobs within a smaller environmental footprint. Indeed, energy management can show the way forward.

David Arkell is CEO of 360 Energy, a management consulting firm that specializes in helping clients across North America strategically manage their energy. For further information, questions or comments on this article, please contact him toll-free at (877) 431-0332 or via email at david.arkell@360energy.net.