Fostering Successful Energy Programs through Direct Utility Client Engagement

Steven Miller


As an Energy Consultant for a utility program working with national accounts and regional chains, I help facility directors identify and implement energy savings projects and capture associated utility incentives. I’m constantly exposed to the challenges and frustrations that accompany the part of a facility director’s job that involves managing energy use, which is tied up in many other components of managing a facility.

Facility directors, and others with similar responsibilities, must incorporate multiple disciplines to ensure buildings function optimally. They must integrate people, place, process, and technology in their decision making. For national chains facilities this process can be complex and time-consuming, since many different stakeholders and competing priorities are involved.

I’ve found that a key to unlocking energy savings projects with national accounts’ facility directors is what I informally call a people-to-people, or P2P, approach.

The foundation for this approach is that each facility director has a distinct set of issues and constraints. I need to understand these before I can effectively make energy efficiency projects an integrated part of the overall facility solution. A blanket approach has been proven not very effective.

I generally find that there are two types of national account facility managers—those with energy plans in place and those operating without plans. Facility managers with plans tend to have projects lined up through an annual capital planning process and may know on a month-by-month basis when and where pre-determined energy savings projects are slated to occur. Most likely, they have corporate support for planning their company’s energy future. In contrast, facility managers operating without plans can be continually working in a reactionary mode, troubleshooting thousands of sites nationwide.

I’ve been able to work successfully with facility managers using a P2P approach. Based on dependable P2P connections—and supported by software and Ecova teams—I can help even the busiest of facility managers catalyze energy savings projects without jeopardizing all the other goals they have to pursue.

Facility managers with plans in place

For this group, with a list of projects that are already scoped for the year, we can help verify project energy savings calculations, ensure all technologies are ENERGY STAR® certified (or similar), and review contractor bids. Additionally, we can help reprioritize project activities to take advantage of utilities with the best incentive options and propose measures to realize untapped incentives offered by utilities.

For example, I work with the corporate facility manager for several big box retail locations. The company is implementing a nationwide efficiency program targeting select energy use areas (lighting/HVAC). We help review energy calculations and confirm scope/intent, obtain contractor bids if required, prepare pre-approval incentive applications, and track the project through installation. The post project tasks include site inspections and incentive processing.

Some key values I provide to facility managers in this position is making sure they get the highest incentives possible as soon as possible, with very little effort on their part, and bring other technologies to their attention so they can continue to build their energy plan.

Facility managers operating without plans

In working with this group, my job (and theirs) is a bit more daunting. The challenges reside in helping these facility managers find a balance in measures that can both meet the company’s economic thresholds and maximize the energy savings potential for a facility. By using a mix of remote analytics, in-house staff and local contractor talent—and drawing on our own extensive experience—we can develop a high-level opportunity analysis for facility managers.

This evaluation allows me to have a conversation with the customer about the opportunities at their facilities without the need to develop a fully-engineered solution. With my help, the facility manager can sell this opportunity to corporate approvers. Then, once approved, I can bring in trusted, local contractors to fully engineer and implement the project. Standard retrofit opportunities in national-account facilities include LED lighting, lighting controls, and EMS and RTU measures.

An example of this scenario recently played out with a small box retail chain, where the facility manager did not have bandwidth to address the needs of the specific sites in the utility footprint. I audited and prepared an overview of the opportunities and ultimately implemented an LED lighting retrofit project in several locations. A follow up plan is also in place to implement potential behavioral measures at the sites.

In all cases, Ecova program staff members are responsible for all utility incentive processing and approvals and for making sure that the customer receives the maximum incentive.

Facility managers have demanding positions and competing priorities. Our goal is to be of service to facility managers in every situation and help guide their thought processes in presenting energy efficiency as a key component for a successful—and profitable—operation. The best way to begin on this path is to understand their key pain points and opportunities before delivering a solution.

Related content:

No comments yet.

Comment on this post