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Identifying and Overcoming Barriers to Energy Efficiency

Jun 13

Written by:
6/13/2013 12:32 PM  RssIcon

What is the most difficult barrier to energy efficiency within your organization?

In their 2012 paper, “The Virtuous Cycle of Organizational Energy Efficiency: A Fresh Approach to Dismantling Barriers,” the Environmental Defense Fund’s Climate Corps identified five organizational barriers to energy efficiency:

  1. Available attention – attention at CEO and executive level, facility manager level, and employee level
  2. Dedicated financing – stable source of annual energy efficiency (EE) funding
  3. Available capability – appropriate personnel and tools to identify and implement EE projects
  4. Available opportunities – knowledge of technologies and potential EE projects
  5. Available bandwidth – ability to track, analyze and share success of EE projects

The Climate Corps paper does not include an answer to the question of the most difficult barrier. However, since I am constantly on the phone with facility managers talking about these issues, I am willing to go out on a limb and say that the most common response would be dedicated financing.

The Climate Corps paper does share some information about a poll of 45 executives at medium to large organizations. In spite of the fact that most executives know dedicated financing is a key to any large initiative, 35 of 45 respondents said they do not have dedicated funding for energy efficiency projects.

Surprised? I bet you’re not!

Few organizations have established annual funding in their budget or green revolving funds for EE projects. But is that the reason organizations are not implementing cost-effective EE projects? Or is it a symptom of a more fundamental problem?

If you look at the list of barriers again, you will notice that each item can severely inhibit the item below. For example, a lack of financing can restrict hiring talented employees, which can reduce the awareness of potential EE projects, and lead to a lack of sharing project results.

So if the process appears to stop because of a lack dedicated financing, the real problem is a lack of available attention.

Conflicting priorities, busy schedules, job security, and a status-quo mentality all contribute to reduce the amount of attention executives, facility managers, and other employees give to energy efficiency in their buildings.

So how can you, as a facility manager, overcome the lack of attention within your own department and throughout your organization? Try some of these strategies:

  • Set a specific goal for EE – annually or as part of a 3-5 year plan.
  • Create a database of potential EE projects, and encourage employees to add their ideas.
  • Set up a committee to evaluate and recommend EE projects.
  • Establish incentives or rewards for managers and employees to identify and implement EE projects.
  • Track the results of every EE project, no matter how small, and make them visible to executives, employees, and other stakeholders.
  • Reinvest savings from successful EE projects into new projects – create a green revolving fund.
  • Be persistent! Gaining attention takes time and effort.

The authors of the Climate Corps paper wrote, “The premise of the virtuous cycle is that the actions of individuals within the company serve to reinforce one another over time. “ As a facility manager, you and your employees can work to create a virtuous cycle within your own department, and take on a leadership role in spreading the cycle throughout your organization.

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