By Clark A. Reed, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Managing energy demand successfully means not only reaching your goal, but staying there over time. Yet too often, organizations using traditional approaches slip into an ever-repeating cycle: high energy costs trigger an audit — implement the easy actions — net some savings — forget about energy until costs rise again. Sound familiar? Without an on-going, integrated, and systematic approach to energy management, energy expenses will rebound again and again.
Breaking the cycle can dramatically reduce your annual energy costs. Instead of periodic cost savings of 5%, organizations that adopt a systemic approach can achieve and maintain cost savings approaching 35%. While there are many different forms and examples of successful approaches to energy management, the U.S. EPA's ENERGY STAR program has identified seven essential elements for a high-performance energy management strategy (See Diagram 1). The best performing organizations make these steps part of an on-going management process. How does your current strategy compare?
Top-level commitment and leadership are critical to superior energy management; adopting an Energy Policy and appointing an Energy Director is the best way to show it. An Energy Policy sets the stage for a successful energy strategy by formalizing senior management's support. It also highlights your hospital's commitment to energy efficiency and pollution prevention to employees, patients, and the community. Some organizations use their partnership with ENERGY STAR as a basis for their energy policy.
Establishing an Energy Director is also critical to elevating energy management. Whether independent or part of another position, Energy Directors must understand and communicate how energy management can help the organization achieve its goals. Their role is to define energy management as a core value throughout the organization.
Would you plan a new hospital without knowing your current capacity and demand? It's no different than trying to find energy savings without knowing your energy use today. Establishing a baseline for energy performance enables you to create performance goals, calculate cost savings from efficiency efforts, and identify trends for future efforts.
Measurable energy performance goals are essential for tracking and determining success. Use them to create milestones and timeframes for achieving specific purposes and to objectively evaluate staff performance.
The Action Plan is the document that establishes how the goals and objectives will be achieved. It specifies project milestones and completion dates as well as responsible parties, budget requirements, and a methodology for prioritizing energy performance opportunities. In short, the Action Plan ensures there is a systematic approach in place to implement continuous energy management activities.
Action plans focused on a whole-building approach can save twice as much as the typical technology-based approach, prevent over-sizing, and minimize equipment costs. How? Building system interactions. Use your knowledge of how different systems influence energy demand (such as how inefficient, heat producing, lighting causes HVAC systems to work harder) to your advantage. The ENERGY STAR staged approach synthesizes these interactions into a systematic method for planning upgrades that enables you to maximize energy savings. The stages are:
Reaching targets and goals ultimately depends on the motivation and capability of people who implement the Action Plan. Training helps staff understand the importance of energy performance, provides them with the knowledge and information necessary to make informed decisions, and demonstrates the commitment of senior management.
Do the numbers. Did you achieve the desired results? The insight you get will tell you where your organization's strengths and weaknesses lie and suggest ways to improve performance.
Work closely with your Public Relations department to publicize your results and distinguish your hospital as an environmental steward. For many organizations, ENERGY STAR provides a platform for communicating energy efficiency accomplishments. An effective communications effort will help you leverage the momentum of early successes, making it easier to implement future energy management activities.
Sustained energy performance requires a commitment to an on-going, integrated, and systematic approach to energy management. Use the seven elements above to your competitive advantage. You will improve efficiency, enhance profits, and improve the quality of our air. And that looks good to people everywhere.
Clark Reed is the National Healthcare Manager for ENERGY STAR at the U.S. EPA. Last year alone, we helped businesses and consumers save more than $5 billion in energy costs while reducing greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those of 10 million cars. To join, visit www.energystar.gov. or contact the author at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency - MC 6202J, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, D.C. 20460. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Phone: 202-564-9146.