Behavioral and Culture Change Is a Must for Energy Management

A recent report reveals that good management practices in energy-intense environments have a spillover effect to that positively impacts energy efficiency. However, the authors also state that good management practices with non-energy specific targets are correlated with energy inefficiencies.

The important takeaway is that an organization can be operating very efficiently from a management perspective, but at the same time be very energy inefficient. We are seeing this in variety of industries across the U.S. The culture of “cheap energy” or “it’s just overhead” is persistent in the mindset of upper management. These mental models will take time to reshape, and no one should expect it to happen overnight.

The oil crisis in the 1970s led some countries such as Brazil to react on fundamental issues to make themselves more energy efficient. Why do we need a crisis to act properly? Why can’t industry do the right things because they are the right things to do?

These questions are not easy to answer. Companies exist to make a profit for their shareholders. The most important aspect of a business is perceived as making widgets or providing a service, and not how much energy usage goes into these activities. However, as sustainability encroaches on all aspects of business, managers are realizing the harm from the wasted energy usage. This includes excess costs, harmful emissions, lower-quality products or services, and numerous things that have a negative impact on business.

Energy is an irreplaceable resource. The need for culture change starts with a personal understanding of the bigger picture, and allowing oneself to lead by example.

Traditional ISO management standards such as ISO 9001 for quality and ISO 14001 for environment have been successful mechanisms to bring about cultural shifts in organizations. The PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act) model has allowed organizations to proactively manage for quality and environmental issues. The oversight brought on by third-party certification has also “upped” the stakes for all stakeholders. Today, many organizations follow the core fundamental requirements of these management systems and millions of organizations have opted to become certified.

Two years ago in June, ISO 50001 Energy Management Systems standard was released by the ISO organization. This new standard calls for companies to show for energy performance improvement. With the same structure of the other international management system standards, ISO 50001 specifically focuses on energy issues and brings energy to the attention of top level management by requiring a specific policy for energy.

When management shows commitment, we can see great results from this new ISO management system. Some of the most obvious benefits are cost reduction, emission reduction, waste reduction, and improvement of products and services.

Energy management cannot rely on the energy champion at a facility. Energy management must be incorporated into the daily lives of all involved in the design, engineering, production, and service areas of companies. Collectively, under a management system companies can reap the benefits of becoming a lean operator using the optimal level of energy to produce or deliver a service — not a kilowatt more!

 

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