Energy Master Planning Fosters Continuous Energy Improvements

Max Twogood for Zondits, August 19, 2015. Image credit: cocoparisienne

Traditionally, energy service companies (ESCOs) provide energy audits for customers who are looking for ways to save energy. Energy audits can vary in rigor, but they usually incorporate some level of facility benchmarking, followed by an investigation and assessment of existing energy end uses and recommended efficiency improvements. Energy audits are frequently subsidized by local utilities and are a great tool for companies to investigate energy improvement opportunities within their facility that will reduce their operating costs. However, traditional energy audits sometimes lack the dialogue and follow-up that help drive project implementation and fail to cover many critical components of company’s energy climate. Energy master planning (EMP) helps create an integrated team to champion holistic and continuous energy improvements, while identifying the key barriers to implementation. Figure 1 illustrates the EMP process.

Figure 1

The most distinguishing characteristics of an EMP are steps 1 and 2. These early project phases are set up to align company decision makers behind a vision that will ultimately be conveyed to the stakeholders of the project. This alignment phase is critical to understanding the company’s constraints and goals that will ultimately structure the EMP. Early engagement and alignment of executive management not only facilitates project implementation, but it empowers facility managers to pursue project developments that are in line with this vision. This vision is communicated and collaborated through a stakeholder meeting consisting of facility management, executive management, utility representatives, and energy consultants.

The intention of the stakeholder meeting is not only to communicate a vision, but to align and integrate a team that will champion the implementation of the EMP. The conversations held during a stakeholder meeting help to further identify the physical, financial, and political barriers to implementation. The knowledge and expertise of facility managers are leveraged to discuss the immediate energy goals within each facility and to develop a timeline for the project. This step opens all communication pathways to understand the constraints, goals, desires, and motivations behind all the stakeholders.

The facility managers will then work with their utility representatives and energy consultants to analyze the baseline conditions at each facility and identify opportunities for improvement. An EMP goes a step further than just identifying the possible opportunities and their economic impact. An EMP creates a road map for facilities to follow for continuous energy improvement. It identifies a planning window, strives to meet explicit reductions in energy and/or greenhouse gas emissions, examines both behavioral and engineered sources of energy waste, prioritizes projects based on their feasibility, identifies funding sources for implementation, and sets up strategies to continuously monitor and commission building performance.