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Windmill for electric power production, Burgos Province, Castilla Leon, Spain.

Zim Solo explains energy management and how companies can best benefit from continuous energy awareness.

In uncertain times more than ever an energy paradigm shift is required to make sure that companies do not miss the opportunity to embrace energy management, thereby ensuring resilience and increased profitability resulting in a huge competitive advantage by doing more with less.

In my experience, the single largest obstacle to companies seeing these opportunities is the lack of awareness, the second is an existing culture of complacency that is resistant to change. At CFE, we view both of these obstacles as opportunities and building blocks to help companies redefine their energy management landscape.

As energy comes in many forms, and as most of these are undetectable to the naked eye, it can be tricky to navigate the energy landscape effectively. This, coupled with intermittent private, federal and state government funding requirements and ever-changing technology, can make the energy landscape even trickier to navigate.

It can be like standing in the dark next to a pot of gold and not even realising it. Hence, it can be a loss if it goes unrecognised, or a win if you are aware of it. Many companies are standing right on top of real energy savings and not even realise it because the opportunities have not been identified, or even worse have been identified but are unable to quantify the risks, feasibility and actual losses.

Improving energy awareness is a simple yet continuous process, one where leaders need to drive energy performance requirements to be more highly valued by team leaders and applying methods to measured and recorded relevant energy usage characteristics as Energy Performance Indicators (EPIs). EPIs are a significant part of the profitability of your business and and should be a part of your overall Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) because, whether you know it or not, this is affecting your performance.

First you must be able to track, measure and audit the unique energy use characteristics of your business operations. Based on this information you can determine where the largest possible opportunities may exist for energy and cost-reduction benefits. It is also important to audit all existing waste streams as new technology is constantly becoming available that can convert waste into some form of energy or internal revenue.

However, none of this can be done without first having the leadership and willingness to allocate the necessary resources into energy management that will allow this awareness to grow. We have found companies that invest into their own continuous improvement process of becoming more energy efficient and effective gain a greater ROI than most other potential existing external revenue streams – with the added benefit and direct correlation of decreased energy use resulting into increased profit margins. There is no more simple way to say this – if structured correctly, your energy projects can be positively geared investments that return a lot more than they cost to implement.

In most cases, the best energy efficient opportunities are identified by the company’s own existing employees – the people on the shop floor who are up close and personal with the problems that your company faces. Of course these ideas still need to be fine-tuned, filtered and ranked according to benefit and feasibility.

However, we have seen there is generally a large disconnect between the coalface and the boardroom, and in our experience middle management tends to undervalue energy management or discount it all together. Hence, existing reporting structures may not be capturing relevant energy management indicators to ensure lower cost and higher yield operations. Most often, energy losses are buried as an accepted cost and not reported at all.

After energy awareness the biggest mistake we witness in energy management is the ad hoc implementation of change without adequate knowledge of the chain reaction of consequence, as one design solution does not suit all unique operations. It is important to gain objective independent professional input as technological advances are made every day in this field and it is simply too much to ask an existing employee to upskill to an adequate level to be across the broad spectrum of energy efficient technology, their interactive effects, and inherent design limitations. Not to mention energy billing structures and government policy shifts.

Ultimately, energy efficiency has a lot more to do with technological advances that may not become common knowledge for a long time – thus, energy efficiency is more of a technological issue than anything else. Therefore, it is economically beneficial to have an experienced set of eyes to independently audit your site with someone who is familiar with the scale of your operating environment and is able identify and quantify your most immediate opportunities.

However, significant energy savings can still be made via a simple cultural change within your organisation also. So build a culture of embracing positive change by rewarding the staff who identify the best energy saving opportunities, then consider having your premises independently audited every two to three years to ensure that you are keeping up-to-date with available funding and technology. Above all, build a culture of turning the power off as no energy efficiency alternative is better than this.

Zim HeadshotZim Solo (RPEQ, CPEng.Mech, CPEng.Med, MIEAust, ICEM, MAEE, CertIVPM) is a registered professional engineer with more than 15 years’ experience in energy management – delivering energy projects in the mega construction industry and executing projects across 11 countries worldwide.

Zim began his career improving efficiencies in the coal mining industry around the Bowen Basin and is currently the project director of Carbon Friendly Enterprises (CFE), specialising in the design and implementation of energy efficient systems.

He has also held other high-valued advisory positions including the head of the engineering department for Granicorp Oils Brisbane, principal project manager for infrastructure with the Queensland Government Department of Housing and Communities, and as project engineer for Incitec Pivot Ltd. www.carbonfriendlyenterprises.com.au

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