When it comes to convincing a business’s decision makers and stakeholders that energy efficiency can contribute to a company’s success, the burden of proof may be somewhat daunting. An article by Smart Energy Decisions provides eight helpful steps in using and leveraging utility data to convince decision makers that a sustainability investment can provide a variety of benefits.
Here's a summary of the article:
Step 1: Use utility data to establish a baseline for energy usage
In order to demonstrate the impact energy efficiency initiatives can have on cost savings, energy consumption, carbon emissions, etc., it is crucial to establish a baseline as a reference point.
Utility bills will show where and in what ways a company is using energy. In order to have an accurate analysis, it’s important to obtain utility history data from 12 months prior (at a minimum) and focus on data from facilities within your organization that use the most energy.
Once you have sufficient data, you can use software (such as software provided by Energy Star) that will generate a visual model and analysis of the data, giving you a compelling edge to your presentation.
Step 2: Use the data to compare high- and low-efficiency facilities
Use the gathered utility data to guide and assist you in figuring out why high-efficiency facilities or departments are performing well—and why low-efficiency ones aren’t.
Categorize them into similarly performing groups and figure out the commonalities among them (including location, size, building age, revenue, etc.). This will highlight problem areas and demonstrate a concrete need for increased efficiency.
Step 3: Determine points of “peak demand”
It’s critical to evaluate “peak demand” (highest energy usage point in a range) and how it varies across departments within the same category.
You can use this knowledge to inform decision makers about these spikes in usage, along with any strategies you have to even out the peaks in energy demand by increasing energy efficiency.
Step 4: Use interval meter measurements to hone in on performance data
Interval meter data is when meter readings are taken at specific intervals throughout the day, or week, over a period of time. If this cannot be accomplished, sustainability managers can conduct building audits of facilities that are high or low performers.
It’s important to take into account that equipment design, volume of sales and other factors play a huge role in energy consumption. If these factors are not carefully analyzed, a sustainability proposal will be lacking in key data.
Step 5: Determine the cost of not taking action
Future projections can be a major motivator for decision makers. If action to reduce energy consumption is not taken, how will that affect the company in 5 or 10 years?
To find out, compare current data against future growth plans, potential government fines and regulations, as well as other future projections. This will enable you to roughly project costs and emissions in the future.
Step 6: Determine ROI for proposed energy projects using utility bill data
You should calculate the ROI for energy efficiency investments and focus primarily on initiatives for the lowest-performing categories, as these will likely have the best return.
Step 7: Dig further to discover auxiliary financial benefits of proposed initiatives
Energy efficiency programs can have a positive impact over a broad range of departments, including accounts payable, marketing, energy management, operations and sustainability. In addition, these improvements may also positively impact investors, employees and consumers.
The more benefits you can show, the more convincing your presentation will be!
Step 8: Diligently track, monitor and share results
If you have any sustainability programs already in place, share the results of those initiatives. Again, you can use utility data to show decreases in energy consumption and costs after changes in maintenance, modifications and facility/equipment upgrades.
Regardless of the scope of your proposed program or initiative, using data from utilities will help convince key decision makers that energy efficiency can play an important role in having a successful business.
Learn more about how sustainable businesses are leading in efficiency with our infographic: 8 things sustainable businesses care about.