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Meeting room vs plant room, where do you start energy efficiency?

Being able to identify and quantify energy efficiency opportunities requires good technical knowledge. And technicians may be much more comfortable in the plant room than in the meeting room. But is that the best place to start energy efficiency?

The case for the plant room.

Actual energy savings opportunities are identified in the plant room. Sure, you may be able to upgrade the lighting or the HVAC controls in the meeting room, but those savings will probably be small compared with the opportunities in the plant room. And I’m actually referring to the meeting room as a place where you are having a meeting with different people on the site, rather than as a room being assessed for savings opportunities.

The plant room can be a place to identify some quick wins, such as tweaking start and stop times of equipment, changing settings such as the dead band in the HVAC system and programming public holidays into the controls. Such quick wins will often generate savings that can be seen on energy bills, and don’t require much financial investment.

Quick wins are important, and many of the sites that I have worked with to achieve large savings over time used early quick wins to secure organisational support for the energy efficiency program.

In the plant room you might also identify some opportunities to get large savings through equipment upgrades.

The case for the meeting room

Achieving large energy savings in a facility is typically a multi-year effort requiring fairly large investements of time and money. There is often a good return on investment, but a non-trivial investment needs to be made.

Decisions to invest time and money require organisational support, and you win this support in the meeting room and with conversations. Top level management needs to be behind it. Organisations that are effective in reducing their energy use get support from across the organisation, and operating in an energy efficient way, whilst continually looking for opportunities to cut energy use, becomes part of business as usual.

Logistics/trucking company Linfox, with wide commitment across the organisation, achieved very substantial savings with this approach. This video shows how they did it:

How much do you think Linfox cut their carbon footprint per km by? Respond in the comment box below, and I’ll post the answer soon 🙂

Another reason for the meeting room is that those who operate the facilty may have some great ideas for reducing energy, and by opening up the conversation and engaging with them you’ll probably come up with some opportunities you wouldn’t have identified otherwise.

So where do you start? Plant room or meeting room?

My preference is the meeting room. With senior managers present. Then, probably bouncing between the plant room and the meeting room, talking with those who undertand the facility well and who operate it, discussing different ideas and figuring out what the quick wins are.

Then back to the senior managers to get support to implement the quick win opportunities immediately. Working with Solomon Islands Port Authority, following this senior management meeting, the key quick win was implemented the very same day, leading to a 20% reduction in electricity use.

Then, with the quick win implemented, going back to the senior managers a couple of months later to show them the savings achieved – preferably by showing the big reduction on the energy bill compared with the previous month, and the same month a year ago – and putting the case forward for more investement to save even more, but, most importantly, getting senior management believing in energy efficiency and willing to now look at how to make energy efficiency part of business as usual.

Interested in learning how to get some quick wins?

On 4 December I’ll be running training focused on quick wins. Click here to learn more.

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