Facility managers in states with strong energy efficiency programs are more likely to install energy efficient lighting and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment, according to a new survey from DNV GL.
Although the potential for cost-effective savings for commercial customers is a 20-30 percent reduction of current use levels, utility energy efficiency programs are finding it difficult to achieve their stated energy savings goals. With this in mind, DNV GL undertook the Commercial Facility Pulse Survey of nearly 500 commercial facility managers across the U.S. The goal of the survey was to characterize the attitudes of commercial facility managers toward energy efficiency and to use these insights to identify strategies to increase program participation in that segment. The comprehensive survey analyzed the current patterns of energy management and efficiency investments in large- and mid-sized commercial facilities.
The survey probed facility owners’ and managers’ attitudes about energy efficiency and the activities they participate in to increase energy efficiency in their facility and characterized three areas of business operations related to energy use: policies and resources, practices and investment, and the perception of the benefits of energy efficiency.
DNV GL’s findings on customer practices highlight the importance of three strategies to motivate commercial customers to implement energy efficient technologies and behaviors:
- An activated trade ally network that works closely with utility energy efficiency programs.
- Targeted outreach to commercial facilities that promotes the general business benefits of energy efficiency.
- Individual facilities can capture more energy savings through improved operations and maintenance practices and investments in lighting and HVAC technologies.
Energy Efficiency As Proven Investment Strategy
A majority (53 percent) of managers and business leaders in mid-to large-sized commercial facilities view energy efficiency as a proven operating and investment strategy, according to DNV GL. Eighty-four percent of survey respondents who reported having taken steps to save energy reported at least one positive business benefit, such as lower operating costs or higher worker productivity.
“We have faced a series of budget cuts over the past few years, and reducing our energy costs has been one important and strategic component of staying within our budget guidelines,” remarked a supervisor in the facility management department of an office in Florida.
Executive leadership is a key driver to both setting policy and achieving energy management goals within commercial facilities, according to the survey. This was true independent of facility type and size: Energy management practices and efficient technologies were more likely to be adopted in facilities where the decision to adopt these practices were made at the executive level. DNV GL found that 65 percent of mid-sized and large commercial and industrial (C&I) facilities set energy management goals, and 50 percent assign personnel to achieve them. However, larger facilities were more likely to have set energy management goals than small or mid-sized facilities.
But management at smaller facilities are committed to reducing energy use. “We strongly believe that energy is just going to become a bigger and bigger expense, and finding new ways to cut costs in that area are key to future success,” reported an assistant manager in a retail facility in Massachusetts.
Another finding of the study was directly related to the impact of strong energy efficiency programs. In those states where utilities are required to run energy efficiency programs, facilities were 12 percent more likely to install LED lighting and 21 percent more likely to install high-efficiency HVAC. The study found that strong energy efficiency programs are helping to accelerate the adoption of energy efficiency practices and technologies by guiding customers to emerging technologies, supporting vendors in developing products and sales efforts, and reducing the risks of large investments by providing incentives.
The survey also indicated that nearly half — 52 percent — of commercial facility managers relied heavily on equipment and service vendors for advice on energy efficiency projects. They also looked for assistance from publicly funded programs, including federal, local, or state government programs as well as utility energy efficiency programs.
Commercial and industrial facilities consume nearly 50 percent of the total energy consumption in the U.S. Gaining an understanding of how facility managers approach energy efficiency can provide strategies to improve energy management in this important sector.
“The survey revealed that a significant segment of the market has not adopted energy management and related capital improvement practices,” noted DNV GL project director Mitch Rosenberg. “Moreover, even among facilities that pursue energy efficiency, many opportunities to increase reduce energy use remain, particularly through improved operation and maintenance practices.”