Every American business is now caught up in a global technology revolution. What business owner or CEO cannot name specific technologies that are reshaping how they sell a customer or save money?
This same tech revolution is hitting your business’ energy consumption. From smart buildings to autonomous electric delivery vans, a smart/clean tech revolution is creating new paths for saving money.
Doing an energy adult to access how to use smart/clean tech should be on every company’s “to do” list. But the question is how to select the right energy auditor?
Where to begin
Even if your company has a full time energy management team a first place to begin for finding innovations that lower energy costs is to retain a reputable energy audit company. Here are the qualities you should be investigating:
- Ask for customer references. Lowering costs through an energy audit is very measurable. Interview their customers to see if they can articulate specific cost savings actions surfaced by an audit. Ask about how the auditor surfaced smart/clean tech solutions. The better the answer, the better the energy auditing service.
- Define deliverables. It is now technologically feasible to turn an energy hog business or building into net zero energy consumption. The real questions are cost, timeline and business culture impacts entailed in going from hog to saint. Interview energy audit companies based on their ability to articulate a “good, better and best” energy plan. The good should be the process for gaining cost savings within 90 days. The better is achieving at least 2 times ROI on capital investments. And the best is a longer range plan for using net zero energy technologies to achieve competitive leadership.
- Search for tech pioneers. Technology is changing so fast that I added a new energy audit selection standard. It is the auditor’s smart/clean tech acumen. The olds days of focusing energy audits on high load applications like HVAC, lighting or refrigeration now misses the smart technology wave. For example, installing LED lighting will dramatically save money by reducing energy consumption. But the newest LED lighting technology can create a Wifi or ethernet network. This communication path can be used by smart apps to turn your building into a smart building. Just focusing on lighting would miss the opportunity to increase work associate productivity, win customers or control building costs in real time.
Where to focus
A Smart/clean tech audit offer two focus paths. The most immediate is reducing your electric bill. This is a process of solving for multiple equations around consumption patterns and complicated electric utility rate designs. A well qualified energy auditor will be able to review available utility tariffs to identify the least cost tariff applicable to your business. Their aptitude with smart technologies that deliver real time monitoring and controls over KW and kWh consumption are the types of value-added they should bring to an audit.
For example, I am developing a solar project for a medical office building to approximate a net zero electric bill. But the enabling technology is a smart load control system that limits the building from exceeding a targeted KW level without disrupting building comfort levels. Using this technology allowed the building to migrate from a very expensive tariff tied to a high KW charge to a less expensive tariff with a lower KW charge.
The second audit focus should be on business processes. For example, the pace of the smart/clean tech wave is about to make affordable Net Zero Energy (NZE) buildings a reality. NZE uses artificial intelligence, predictive software and the Internet of Things to achieve price arbitrage between self-supply using solar power and onsite batteries, purchasing from the utility, purchasing from other NZE buildings and energy efficiency. The net result is a smart building that has both higher electric reliability plus lower cost. Look for an auditor that has experience with NZE enabling technologies including relationships with pioneering tech suppliers.
The three parts of a successful energy audit
A successful smart/clean tech energy audit delivers these three values:
- Lower electric bills. The audit should identify specific tasks that achieve near term bill reductions. It should also outline smart/clean technologies that can lower electric bills through capital investments.
- Data enrichment. A successful audit is not an event. It should be the foundation for generating ongoing data accumulation, analysis and action. Smart tech has made creating this type of data enrichment very affordable. Using this rich data in Six Sigma like analysis will generate additional cost savings opportunities past the initial auditing process.
- Smart tech plan. A good audit identifies a tech horizon for qualifying and selecting smart technologies. Updating this tech horizon is the basis for future audits that refresh the business applications and financial returns for the ongoing fall in smart/clean tech prices.
Your bottom line is that choosing a qualified energy auditor is key to realizing the true potential that smart/clean tech now enables through a successful energy audit.
About the author
Bill Roth is a clean tech pioneer who led the team that launched the first hydrogen fueled Prius. He is a featured contributor on Triple Pundit and Latin Business Today. His book, The Secret Green Sauce, has been used by thousands of business people to implement proven green best practices that make money and a difference. Bill’s latest book, The Boomer Generation Diet, is his personal story on how to achieve sustained weight loss while still having fun and living more. The book’s ten customizable best practices are the sustainable solutions to our national weight crisis that threatens our health and medical cost bankruptcy.