The Next Wave of Energy Efficiency is Here
Strategic Energy Management (SEM) can transform your company by generating an ongoing pipeline of energy savings that turns energy into a cost you can manage.
SEM represents a collaborative effort between plant operators, energy managers, corporate leadership, as well as third-party contributors. Everyone works together to weave energy management practices into all aspects of a company’s organization and operations.
The SEM Difference
Effective SEM programs can drive impressive results: 10-15% savings, over three years, through operations and maintenance (O&M) actions and an incremental 15% through capital improvements.
But energy and cost savings aren’t the only benefits. Companies also garner plenty of non-energy advantages including increased production efficiency, improvements in quality, and even greater employee satisfaction. For example, a sawmill embarking on a SEM program was in the process of installing a variable frequency drive (VFD). In doing so, they discovered a greater ability to control their logs which resulted in reduced maintenance costs in addition to energy savings. While the energy savings from the VFD installation was welcome, it was the positive effect on maintenance that gave the employees of this company a boost in their sense of empowerment and ownership.
Moving Beyond a Fragmented Approach to Energy Efficiency
For many companies, energy efficiency projects tend to be one-off efforts that focus on a single system or component. A strong SEM program takes a holistic approach to energy efficiency with particular concentration on three key areas:
• The strategic elements of program management including communication, organizational structure, vision, goals, accountability, employee engagement, and training.
• The company’s existing infrastructure including energy tracking and reporting tools, progress tracking, benchmarking, and improving employee awareness of system performance.
• The tactical elements that drive energy savings such as identifying opportunities, executing O&M or capital projects, managing energy costs, and maintaining efficiency gains.
Every company is unique and there is no one-size-fits-all formula for SEM. However, all programs should strive to strike a balance between the strategic, tactical, and the company infrastructure. Most SEM programs should include:
• Assessment of current practices
• Development of an energy policy
• Formation of an energy team lead by a designated energy champion
• Development of energy performance metrics
• Rollout of a plan to engage employees
• Identification and implementation of energy savings opportunities
• Creation of a three-year plan
• On-going reporting to all facility personnel
Collaboration Breeds Success
SEM succeeds when everyone in the company works together, from a company’s top management to the engineers and operators running the facility floor. Most companies will already be well-acquainted with this approach based on familiarity with other process improvement initiatives such as lean manufacturing, Six Sigma, or Total Quality Management.
Company executives focus on building strategic approaches to energy management that will help the company overcome real-world challenges including:
• Publicly acknowledging the value of managing energy and strategic energy planning.
• Supporting the formation of high-performance energy teams.
• Reviewing best practices and case studies to learn from past failures and success.
• Developing a plan for critical communications and reporting.
• Building employee engagement through consistent and persistent messaging.
Facility operators learn how to optimize their systems and become better equipped to identify efficiency opportunities and maintain facility performance.
Energy management is a journey
There is no single starting point for launching a SEM program and, with a focus on continual improvement; there is no true end point. Through SEM, the reservoir of energy efficiency opportunities is virtually bottomless. The process of assessing, planning, implementing changes, and then evaluating success will yield significant long-term results that deliver savings year after year.