Creating an Energy Awareness Program

energy sustainabilityBy: Peter Rowles

The greatest untapped resource that an organization has at its disposal is its own employees. Andrew Carnegie, the great industrialist and philanthropist once said, “Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision…It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.”

Increasing energy awareness of employees and motivating them to work as a team can lead to reductions in energy consumption and save you money. Savings estimates range in the order of 5 to 15%. When implemented effectively these savings can be realized quickly and cost effectively. More importantly the increased awareness can also lead to:

  • Increased productivity;
  • Improved employee morale;
  • Better working conditions;
  • A reduction in greenhouse gas emissions; and
  • An enhanced image of the company as a leader in environmental stewardship within the community.

Energy is used to create the environment in which employees work. Employees (as equipment operators) also have control over the energy that is used to generate an organization’s products or services. Many employees take energy for granted and do not understand or even consider its important role in their day-to-day lives, both on the job and at home.

Providing employees with information about energy use and how they can control energy use within in their own workspace is a key element to success.  Informed and committed employees help organizations achieve objectives, such as, reduced energy costs and help ensure that energy savings are sustained over a period of time.

Since employees are generally protective of their work environment, it is understandable that changes may make them uncomfortable.  It is important to inform employees on how these changes will affect them.  By fostering a sense of pride and excitement about the many benefits of an energy efficient workplace, you may discover that you can save even more energy and money than you are expecting in areas where employee behaviour has a large impact.

Steps to Create an Energy Awareness Program

Putting up some posters and stickers or placing an article in the company newsletter is not an energy campaign. On their own these initiatives are not effective. However, they can be useful components of a larger more comprehensive strategy.

The following steps are essential to creating and sustaining an effective energy awareness program.

  1. Form an energy awareness team.
  2. Visible support and commitment from senior executives is essential to the success of the program. The energy awareness campaign should have a leader. This person should be given the authority and resources to implement the energy awareness program. The team should include representatives from administration, operations, finance, IT, engineering and public relations. A person from each department should be designated as an energy champion to communicate awareness initiatives at the department level and report progress back to the working team. 

  3. Identify awareness program opportunities that employees can implement in their work areas.

    Focus on equipment and systems that the employees control manually such as lights, fans, exterior doors, equipment and appliances.

  4. Establish objectives for the program based on identified opportunities.

    These targets should be presented in terms of quantity of energy to be reduced, annual cost savings and reduction in green house gas emissions.

  5. Develop a communication plan.

    Assess existing lines of communication – energy committee, staff meetings, newsletters, bulletin boards, posters, email, intranet, pay cheque notices, suggestion program training programs and performance appraisals.

  6. Implement your energy awareness program.

    Kick off the energy awareness program with a special event – including senior management, district managers and facility champions. An award or incentive program should also be announced at this time.

  7. Track your company’s progress.

    Setting specific energy improvement goals at the beginning of the program provides a means of measuring the progress towards these goals.  Employees should be informed of the progress made, including reductions in energy use, costs and environmental impacts on a regular basis.

  8. Evaluate your energy awareness program.

    It is important to evaluate the impact of your program and use the findings to help guide future activities. You can choose to use ‘qualitative evaluations’ or ‘quantitative evaluations’, or a combination of both.  It is a good idea to share the results of the evaluations with employees.

  9. Follow through.

    For the benefits of improved energy efficiency to continue, it is recommended that the energy awareness program be more than a one-time event.  It must continue to motivate employees to change and incorporate information gleaned from evaluations of the program.  As part of the follow-up, celebrate achievements and recognize the important role your awareness team and employees have played in your organizations overall energy management program.

“There is strength in numbers, and if we all work together as a team, we can be unstoppable.” Craig Kielburger, Member of the Order of Canada. Having strength in numbers is the foundation of a successful energy awareness program. A successful program will facilitate the development, implementation and ultimate energy sustainability of all other energy initiatives projects. In my next article I will discuss project development and implementation.

Peter is entrepreneurial energy engineer with over 20 years of experience in the energy industry. Peter is a principal at ICF Marbek.

2 thoughts on “Creating an Energy Awareness Program

  • great article Peter.

    It is interesting that such commons sense has not found it’s way into the boardroom yet for most companies.

    can’t understate the importance of follow through, as this will help maintain the alignment you have developed

  • Hi Peter,
    I’m writing an article about employee awareness programs. Do you have any specific details about how companies get their employees involved? Thanks!

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