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DNV GL survey: energy efficiency as a proven investment strategy

DNV GL recently released findings from a comprehensive survey of nearly 500 commercial facility managers across the United States to analyze the current patterns of energy management and efficiency investments in large- and mid-sized commercial facilities. The potential for cost-effective savings for commercial customers is a 20-30% reduction of current use levels, but utility energy efficiency programs are finding it difficult to achieve their stated energy savings goals. DNV GL undertook the Commercial Facility Pulse Survey 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 survey probed the 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:

  1. An activated trade ally network that works closely with utility energy efficiency programs;
  2. Targeted outreach to commercial facilities that promotes the general business benefits of energy efficiency;
  3. Individual facilities can capture more energy savings through improved operations and maintenance practices and investments in lighting and HVAC technologies.

DNV GL found that 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. Eighty-four percent of the 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. One respondent said: “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.”

 

Direction and commitment from the top drive energy savings

The survey revealed that executive leadership is a key driver to both setting policy and achieving energy management goals within commercial facilities. 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. That said, even management at smaller facilities are committed to reducing energy use; an assistant manager reported that “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.”

 

Policy support and strong energy efficiency programs, crucial for energy efficiency investment

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 publically 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 US. Gaining an understanding of how facility managers approach energy efficiency can provide strategies to improve energy management in this important sector. However, as DNV GL project director Mitch Rosenberg noted, “The survey revealed that a significant segment of the market has not adopted energy management and related capital improvement practices. Moreover, even among facilities that pursue energy efficiency, many opportunities to increase reduce energy use remain, particularly through improved operation and maintenance practices.”

DNV GL’s Commercial Facility Manager Pulse Survey is designed as an annual study and the next wave was launched in December 2016.

 

About DNV GL

Driven by purpose of safeguarding life, property and the environment, DNV GL enables organizations to advance the safety and sustainability of their business. The company provides classification and technical assurance along with software and independent expert advisory services to the maritime, oil & gas and energy industries. DNV GL also provides certification services to customers across a wide range of industries. Operating in more than 100 countries, their professionals are dedicated to helping the customers make the world safer, smarter and greener.

DNV GL’s 2,500 energy experts support customers around the globe in delivering a safe, reliable, efficient, and sustainable energy supply. The company delivers world-renowned testing, certification and advisory services to the energy value chain including renewables and energy efficiency. The expertise spans onshore and offshore wind power, solar, conventional generation, transmission and distribution, smart grids, and sustainable energy use, as well as energy markets and regulations.

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