Finding the Energy to Save Energy
Bob Bittner, Partnership Development at Dude Solutions, shares tips on how to get started with energy efficiency projects at your organization. Bob discusses a series of topics, including: why we don’t start energy efficiency projects, energy efficiency basics, why starting with utility bill data is crucial, how saving energy translates into saving money, and encourages everyone not to hesitate to ask for help with getting started.
Good afternoon. I’m Bob Bittner with Dude Solutions, out of Cary, North Carolina and I’m happy to be here in the Urjanet offices in Atlanta, Georgia today. We wanted to talk about a special topic that I’m really passionate about, about energy and studying energy and tracking energy. I find oftentimes that there’s a big stumbling block out there right off the bat with people, and that is really to finding the energy to save energy.
Why we don’t start energy efficiency projects
We just seem to have so many things that get in the way of being able to really get into it. We know that we should do, we know it’s important, but we find a lot of hesitations of doing just that. Some of those is that I just don’t know where to start, it just seems too complicated. I look at this big elephant and I really don’t know how to go about starting to eat this thing. We look at it it’s just too complicated.
Then I also find that a lot of times we just say, “Well, you know, they’re not going to turn the lights off. They’re going to do some other things, they’re going to cut some other things, but I know they’re going to pay the utility bill,” so it’s really not that high of a priority for me because I know that finance is going to pay for it. Even though I might get yelled at, I’m really going to get yelled at more if I don’t have the building cooled or heated or if I don’t have the snow cleared up out front. There’s just so many other things that I’m going to get yelled at before I’ve overspent my utility budget. Those are the things that I’m really working on, and so I just find that I don’t really have the time.
Then we get into things like I really don’t know what all these things mean. I hear all these terms, like BTUs, kBTUs, cost per therm, kilowatt, kilowatt-hours. What’s the difference between kilowatt and kilowatt hours? I don’t understand all this stuff. I have to keep googling it, looking it up, and then I forget it. It just seems way too complicated to me. It just seems like way too much work. Then those things like peak demand, on demand, of demand. Where is that all going to end? I just have so many other more important things to do because my boss is yelling at me and I just don’t have the energy to do all this stuff.
The last thing then I just say to myself, “What’s in it for me,” because if I save the company a bunch of money, they’re probably just going to cut it from my budget anyhow and I’m not going to benefit from it. I know that I’m not going to get called up in front of a large group of people and say look at me. I’ve spent all this time and all this effort and I’ve saved all this money for the company, for the school system, for the county, for the town, for the hospital, for the TV station, whatever it is, and I’m really probably not going to get any recognition, I’m not really going to get any reward out of it, my budget is going to be cut by the amount that I’ve saved, and so really what is it in it for me?
I would just venture to say there’s a lot in it for you. There really are things that we need to do. You know that it’s the right thing to do. I know it’s the right thing to do. It’s just about how do we go about putting all this together, how do I line that elephant up and how do I start nibbling away at it, how do I start working at it.
Energy efficiency basics
I’d like today just to work through some very simple steps of where do I start, just where do I start with this whole project. I always say let’s keep it simple. There’s the old saying, the KISS principle, keep it simple stupid. We don’t say that in front of the grandkids, now do we, that word, but we do, we are going to use it here. Let’s just KISS and keep it simple and just start with some of the basics.
You don’t have to have a grandiose plan to start with. You’re going to hear lots of people out there today talking about lots of different things about energy. We hear words of green and we hear terms of lead and we hear terms of sustainability. All great things and all important things, but sometimes we just need to come back to the basics and say, where do I start.
I like to advise our clients and the people that I work with let’s start with something that everybody understands. That’s dollars, dollars and cents, because when it really comes down to it at the end of the day people are going to say how much money did we save, how much did it cost and how much can we contribute back to the bottom line by saving money on energy.
Start with utility bill data
I say let’s start with the basics, let’s look at the utility bill, let’s look at the things that we can control. Then there is so much technology today that’s available to us at a very reasonable and very small cost point to get a lot of the things done that you want to do.
So why should I put a lot of time and energy into creating an Excel spreadsheet into some Access database that just seems to be overwhelming and by and large a big drain on my time? I don’t know where to start with that. I really don’t even know how to use Excel. So where do I go from there? How do I get all that stuff done?
I’m saying let’s use some technology. Look out there. There’s a lot of great solutions out there today to help us understand the value of this energy and how to track it and let it do a lot of the work for, let it do a lot of the stuff of on-peak off-peak, KW, BTU, all those calculations over here. Let the system work for you. We have a great solution at Dude Solutions that allows us to do that. We’re one provider. There are many out there that do that kind of thing. But look and understand the technology that’s out there.
Then go forward. When you do a system like that I would just say don’t try to do everything at once. Just start off and find those small solutions, the small success stories in all of this. Start out small, start tracking stuff. One of the things, particularly if you start with the utility bill, we have a great relationship with Urjanet and one of the stumbling blocks you might be thinking of, “How do I get that data from my energy company, from my water company, from my gas company, how do I get it into a tool, how do I utilize technology?” There’s technology there that allows us to do that. Automating utility bill data collection, normalization, and delivery is important as well.
Then I always say start with some historical data as well. You know where you’ve been and what you’re going to be able to save. Get a year or two of historical data to be able to look at. When you get through you can start looking at, are the things that I’m doing saving me some money?
Save energy, save money
Again, I would say let’s start small, let’s look at some of the things that everybody understands, and that’s dollars and cents, what’s it cost me per month, what did it cost me last year, am I saving, is it costing me more, am I saving, and then tracking it out over a year’s period of time and seeing really what you’re doing and if you’re making any improvements. Most of the systems and technology that you look at will provide you some very granular and very top level views of the data as well.
Then not only as you’re looking at dollars and cents, but you also want to look at really what energy intensity there is. You do need to start to learn how to understand kW, kWh and the things that really affect that, because there are going to be things that impact the cost over here and you need to be able to explain it. It’s not that difficult.
But what I would say is go ahead and start with some of the basics. I always like to say let’s start with electricity. That’s where people, that’s where a lot of the big dollars are, let’s start with electricity. Let’s then move to gas and water. I always encourage people to include water. I think water is one of the areas that we really need to be concerned about as a country, as a world, the quality and existence of good clean water. We ought to understand what we’re spending there. But again, it’s not rocket science. There’s a lot of technology, there’s a lot of stuff out there.
Don’t hesitate to ask for help
Then you say, “But Bob I still don’t have the time, I still don’t have the energy to do all this. It really would be nice if I could find some extra help.” I would venture to say that in most organizations today you can solicit a lot of good help. I would encourage you to go out into the organization, whatever kind of organization you have. You may find people out there that have a real passion for energy, they have a real passion for sustainability, they have a real passion for conserving our natural resources, and find within the organization some people to help you.
Don’t be threatened by that. Be excited and say, “Come on in and help me with this. I know this is important to the company. I know this really is important, but I need some extra help on that.” I’d ask for some free help. I’d also say, hey go to your local school system. If you are a school system you’ve probably got some people within the system that will help you.
If not, I’d go to your local school system, your local community college and go to the science teacher and say, “We’d like to do a project and we’d love to allow the students to be able to do this.” There’s probably some MBA students out there, some colleges and universities that love to do a study on you, your utility reps and your equipment suppliers, they too can provide you a lot of great information and insight into your utility bills.
Just get started
But again, I’d like to just say to you, get started somewhere, utilize technology so that the task doesn’t seem so daunting. Don’t spend all your time entering data and getting discouraged with that, trying to develop spreadsheets. Use things that are out there already and put those into practice, go ahead, look for some free help for you, and you might be able to hire a summer intern that you might have to pay a little bit of money to, but is very inexpensive, and can do a lot a great work for you and get started with it.
I just encourage you to just start eating the elephant one bite at a time, a little bit at a time, nibble it off, start at it and just start somewhere. Even if it’s not exact, even if it’s not precise at the very beginning you’ll get there and you’ll start seeing results.
Guess what? When you start saving money and you start showing that to your financial people, they’re going to recognize you and they’re going to allow you to have more support and more help to do even more, to harvest even more and to be more sustainable as a company.
Just in closing, the energy is there. You don’t have to do it all in a day. The old saying, “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” and maybe your energy savings program won’t be built in a day, but it certainly can be built in weeks and months and years to come as you look forward to saving energy.
Thank you. It was good to be with you today. If you’d like more information feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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