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The call for energy efficiency at work

Greg Baker, Engineering Manager -

As more and more Americans grow concerned about climate change, many are taking measures to reduce their own impact, so it is no surprise that they are starting to hold their employers to the same standard. In April more than 6,000 Amazon employees signed and published an open letter to CEO Jeff Bezos demanding the company adopt a climate plan to reduce the company’s environmental footprint.

A recent study by Efficiency Vermont, an energy efficiency utility administered by VEIC, echoed this movement. The quantitative study, which surveyed staff across multiple hospitals in Vermont, revealed that 90% of employees viewed energy efficiency in the workplace as moderately to very important. Not surprisingly, nearly all employees surveyed expressed interest in participating in energy efficiency programs at work.

Meeting demand for energy efficiency

So how do businesses address the rising demand for action? In many cases a shift to more sustainable energy use requires unique tools, significant resources, and expertise. At VEIC we have developed a comprehensive way of meeting businesses where they are, while addressing specific energy needs. Strategic Energy Management (SEM) goes beyond basic equipment improvements and efficient technology installations to consider the full picture. One important aspect of that full picture is people.

SEM drives lasting, positive change throughout an organization by making energy management an integral part of the culture. Two key components of the SEM approach that make this possible are Energy Treasure Hunts and Energy Toolkits. Both pieces focus on engaging employees across the organization, so they feel empowered to participate in identifying and implementing energy saving measures.

A tool for employee engagement

Energy Toolkits are a set of resources VEIC and Cascade Energy co-created to help organizations build engagement around energy use among staff. Each component of the toolkit is designed to create organization-wide behavior change by increasing awareness of energy use, encouraging employees to evaluate and offer new ideas for efficiency, and recognizing employees for their contributions. Some examples of the resources included in a toolkit are:

  • A step-by-step implementation guide that outlines how to best leverage each tool to make a lasting impact
  • A communication board that allows organizations to express ongoing goals and progress while also inviting and recognizing ideas from employees
  • Equipment stickers that act as a consistent visual reminder to turn energy producing machines off

Each Energy Toolkit is customized to align with the type of business putting them to use. While introduced through SEM, Energy Toolkits act as an ongoing instrument to raise and maintain conversations about energy conservation.

Connections help hunt for energy savings

Energy Treasure Hunts are a multi-day, cross-departmental event to identify savings opportunities and create strong connections across different sectors of an organization. VEIC provides experienced facilitators and knowledgeable energy experts to ensure that Treasure Hunts are well-organized, impactful, and fun. We bring a customized approach to each business, catering to their needs, and do the work up-front to uncover immediate opportunities for energy and cost savings.

Our energy consultants conduct a comprehensive analysis of a business’s energy usage before an Energy Treasure Hunt event to identify big-ticket items and low-cost opportunities for achieving savings. What sets an Energy Treasure Hunt apart from a standard energy audit is the involvement of a diverse group of employees. This level of engagement creates the added benefits of a foundation for long-term success, behavior change, and increased staff satisfaction. These events bring people out of their day-to-day routine to start thinking differently about a business and its operations. We’ve found that the varied perspectives of staff result in the most productive and creative ways to drive change. And when staff are engaged from the start, they are empowered to become champions for energy conservation, bringing their experience and learnings back to their departments and colleagues.

At the end of an Energy Treasure Hunt an organization has a more connected workforce, a detailed energy action plan, and resources, such as the Energy Toolkit and access to VEIC energy experts, to make sustainable practices a core element of their business.

A model of continuous improvement

Historically, when businesses thought about energy efficiency, they would think in terms of “projects” requiring an equipment upgrade or replacement and a substantial investment. While capital projects can deliver energy cost savings, cost effective projects may arise only sporadically. And once a project is completed, the organization’s focus may turn elsewhere and the momentum for effective energy management may be lost.

SEM goes beyond projects to leverage daily, weekly, and monthly actions by all staff to identify no- and low-cost savings opportunities. This can take the form of ensuring staff have adequate job training, continuously monitoring and optimizing key processes, standardizing operating procedures and turning off idle equipment, moving toward preventative rather than reactive maintenance practices. Engaging and empowering employees frequently and at all levels ensures energy efficiency becomes part of the organizational culture.

Change worth investing in

VEIC has provided SEM services to a wide array of businesses across Vermont, New York, and Hawaii and we’re continually finding new business-types that could benefit from this model of energy management. We can deliver energy savings with predictable reductions to operating costs and improvements to revenue. These benefits are expected and relatively easy to measure, but what we’ve seen to be a more compelling and unexpected benefit for our customers is the level at which employees become engaged in their business’s energy story.

“We are looking at energy differently and finding new perspectives to connect with more people. Now people are finally understanding the importance of energy and feeling empowered to help control costs.”

-Andy Geoghan, Electrical Engineer and Powerhouse Supervisor, Garlock

Connect with us to discuss how you can bring SEM to your business.

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