Guest Blog: Mervyn Bowden – Lack of energy discipline? OK, you’re fired!

We’ve tried self-regulation, we’ve tried awareness, persuasion, naming & shaming and many more methods to get organisations to improve their overall fuel efficiency in energy and transport areas. We’ve even […]

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By Priyanka Shrestha

We’ve tried self-regulation, we’ve tried awareness, persuasion, naming & shaming and many more methods to get organisations to improve their overall fuel efficiency in energy and transport areas. We’ve even incentivised those being good and green.

Let’s face it, this is a very serious financial and environmental area of most companies’ operations. Some compare it to health & safety compliance or perhaps it could also be tied to financial systems compliance.

Why then do we effectively turn a “blind eye” to flagrant breaches of company or organisation policy which result in serious energy/fuel wastage? Three key groups (there may be more, but for brevity’s sake) spring to mind: 1) Employees 2) Maintainers 3) Contractors.

Employees

We hear an awful lot about behavioural change and staff engagement in managing energy but having tried everything, what if it doesn’t improve? The word mandatory is perhaps over-used these days but rarely applied but what if there are willful breaches of policy?

Opening windows in air conditioned areas, leaving lights and equipment on overnight, altering control settings without authority. Should these actions be subject to disciplinary procedures? If they were health and safety related, they most likely would; if an employee willfully creates risk to others, they deserve to be disciplined – but why is wasting fuel/energy any different?

Those who benefit from the carrots should also perhaps suffer from the sticks and all have the good, the bad and the ugly written into their conditions of employment.

Maintainers?

Not just the people carrying out the programmes themselves, which can sometimes cause additional rather than reduced consumption – but the way these and other operatives behave in other peoples’ buildings. How often do organisations employ FM companies who carry out out-of-hours operations and need every light in the building on to do it – I’m thinking cleaners, carpet fitters, even security people who are afraid of the dark. It hasn’t been unheard of for them to turn the heating/cooling on as well and leave it on until the next working day begins.

Do their companies ever get charged for the additional consumption? Get marked down on contract KPIs? Contracts terminated for ongoing breaches? Probably not – but why not?

Contractors

Probably the biggest problem area in terms of new builds and refurbishments. Many people in the industry get excited about EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) ratings but how many buildings or refurbishments perform as they were designed to do, especially in the early days of operation? How many very expensively installed building management systems are ever set up to reflect client desires for optimised energy efficient operation?

We’ll leave aside the failure to include essential energy-saving systems and hardware within designs for “cost reasons”! Does it really make sense to save £1,000 on the upfront capital cost and then spend £10,000 more a year on energy and other running costs? This is daft accounting in anyone’s language.

There are penalty clauses in many contracts in this area but, for a range of reasons and excuses, they never seem to be applied. Similarly the culprits continue to be the suppliers of choice as though they’ve actually performed well.

Once again, do the culprits here ever get effectively charged for their culpable waste of energy through failure to follow best practices and even regulatory requirements? The answer is very rarely – were it to become a standard practice it would, in all areas highlighted, result in better outcomes for the building owners/operators, better awareness of the problems and how to reduce them on future projects (incorporate into PIRs – Post Implementation Reviews) and save everyone a lot of energy, reduce costs and consequential environmental impacts.

Transgressions such as these are bad enough in one building; multiply them across the many and varied estates portfolios of larger organisations and they become a significant problem with very high and totally unnecessary, wastage of resource and resulting costs.

To manage these areas, professional energy managers need to be in senior positions within organisations to ensure they can effectively deal with and influence such a vast range of scenarios which are often outside their direct control. And they need the right training & C-level support to do this.

What’s the point in spending major amounts of resource creating wonderful policies, strategies, designs and specifications if no-one applies them and there are no effective enforcement regimes (including punishments where needed)?

Mervyn Bowden is the MD of Intuitive Energy Solutions.