By Chris Kaiser
From the October 2023 Issue
Companies are increasingly setting their sights on ambitious sustainability goals. At the same time, organizations are facing the dual challenge of moving to a low-carbon energy future while simultaneously meeting the energy needs of their businesses today. As many industries pursue strategies to help mitigate their carbon footprint, there is a recognition that companies and individuals cannot do it alone. Facility managers can play an essential role in creating and moving forward a company’s net zero road map, employing short- and long-term energy solutions, and collaborating internally and externally to support a sustainable strategy.
Understanding Business Challenges
The push for net zero emissions has become an important goal worldwide, and facility managers are uniquely positioned to make changes within their organizations. However, as facility managers strive to balance the shift towards a low-carbon future with present energy needs, it is important to create a sustainable energy strategy that can help manage both emissions and costs.
No matter the scale of an organization, facility managers have the opportunity to create a plan that can make progress toward these goals.
The first step to crafting a viable strategy is establishing clear sustainability goals at an organizational and facility level, allowing for more informed decisions when exploring solutions. This assessment should consider what should be measured (emissions, energy savings, etc.) and how (i.e., the most effective ways to measure and record progress towards sustainability goals). For example, many organizations are transitioning from measuring megawatt hours to measuring carbon intensity to achieve accurate sustainability assessments.
It is important to note that smaller companies often face resource constraints, which may hinder the development of a robust net zero roadmap. However, no matter the scale of an organization, facility managers have the opportunity to create a plan that can make progress toward these goals; and should consider solutions big and small to make those goals achievable.
Creating A Roadmap
For some organizations, creating a decarbonization plan may be overwhelming. However, a sustainability strategy can start by implementing small changes. Facility managers can help drive short-term solutions no matter the stage of a facility’s journey. One of the most cost-effective ways to reduce energy consumption is to transition to more energy-efficient upgrades. By making changes on-site, a facility can save on net cost and energy use without making significant structural changes. Energy efficient upgrades to consider include:
- Switching to smart LED lighting. While lighting may not be top of mind when it comes to operations, switching to LED lighting significantly reduces energy use, especially when combined with intelligent systems to optimize the use of lights and lighting to save money and increase safety and worker productivity. These upgrades enable significant lifetime savings and can be applied to various facilities across industries, from warehouses to office buildings.
- Optimizing refrigeration systems. Refrigeration is a significant cost for operations in many industries. Implementing component and system upgrades in refrigeration units reduces energy consumption, balancing efficiency and environmental performance for operations.
- Enhancing HVAC and mechanical systems. Heating and cooling are critical considerations for nearly every facility. Businesses can enhance overall efficiency and save on cost by identifying and optimizing energy-intensive areas, like leveraging advanced sensors in HVAC systems.
For organizations considering a comprehensive long-term strategy, facility managers can assist by incorporating knowledge of processes and identifying opportunities to implement solutions. By integrating this information into a sustainability strategy, a facility can accelerate the process of decarbonization. Long-term solutions for facilities to consider include:
- Combining energy efficiency upgrades. Energy efficiency upgrades like LED lighting, refrigeration, and heating and cooling can all be implemented together for a cohesive and impactful approach across a facility. Facilities can achieve significant results by addressing multiple aspects of energy waste and cost management.
- On-site renewable energy generation. On-site renewable energy generation is a solution that can provide a supporting power supply to a facility while reducing a facility’s dependence on the power grid. By creating your own power grid with on-site energy, your facility can optimize costs and avoid price spikes during times of peak energy demand. Renewable power generation such as on-site solar also provides an opportunity for facility managers to drive additional revenue from the excess energy produced at their facility.
Communicating The Importance Of A Sustainable Strategy
While sustainability targets are an increasingly prominent topic for business owners, convincing others in your organization to see the importance of net zero planning may be challenging. However, collaboration and buy-in from management are the keys to implementing lasting change. For this reason, facility managers should consider tactics to internally communicate the need for a sustainability strategy, actionable steps for its implementation, and cost savings.
Sharing the potential benefits of your overall strategy, like how sustainable solutions can reduce costs and emissions, can play a critical role in winning over key decision-makers. Also, consider the potential value of government incentives for businesses to reduce emissions and energy use. Recently, government incentives have been gaining popularity in many cities and states as a strategy to encourage sustainable business practices. At the Federal level, the Inflation Reduction Act offers federal tax deductions for businesses that implement sustainable solutions, including renewable energy systems¹ and energy-efficiency upgrades. In fact, according to EnergyStar.gov², “Buildings that increase their energy efficiency by at least 25% will be able to claim this deduction, with bonuses for higher efficiency improvements.” Facility managers can explore potential opportunities like these at the federal, state, and local levels to look for savings for sustainability initiatives.
Collaboration As A Key To Success
LEED v5 O+M focuses on setting existing buildings on decarbonization path and addresses equity, health, ecosystems, and resilience. Read more…
Developing a net zero roadmap comes with its own unique set of challenges and opportunities, and navigating the energy landscape may be unfamiliar and intimidating for facility managers juggling other responsibilities crucial to operations. Collaborating with an energy partner can ease many of the stresses of building a net zero roadmap and realizing energy goals. By leaning on experts to streamline the process, facility managers can gain insights and support to facilitate organizational change.
Organizations are moving toward more sustainable practices; facility managers should remember the power they hold to implement significant changes that can deliver cost and energy savings for more efficient and sustainable businesses, whether your solutions be short-term, long-term, or both. Facility managers should encourage and embrace collaboration internally and externally and keep an open mind as they progress toward their organization’s goals.
Kaiser is the National Sales Manager for Shell Energy, and is responsible for guiding customers on their sustainability journey by creating a custom approach to meeting energy efficiency and decarbonization goals. He has 17-years’ experience assisting customers in developing energy reduction strategies and solutions that maximize the effectiveness of their infrastructure. He brings a strong understanding of energy efficiency programs, renewable energy technology and OPEX reduction initiatives.
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