"What advice would you give to an energy manager on his or her first day?"
We asked this question to five EnergyCAP users, each from a different organization.
Let's see what advice they would give to an energy manager on the first day.
From: Kathleen Slusher
Director of Procurement and Utility Regulatory Affairs
The State University of New York
"I’d tell her/him that no one can know everything about the energy markets, and if you ever think you do they will surely change it all. Take notes and understand that the amount of information necessary to do the job may seem overwhelming, but you can handle it. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, because all of them have been made before so we know how to fix them."
From: Denis George
Corporate Manager - Energy
The Kroger Company
"Don’t panic – to be successful, energy management is part of a corporate culture so the race is a marathon, not a sprint as it takes time to change a culture (if needed).
"Figure out how much your company spends on utilities, where you spend it, and how you spend it, and who you pay for it. You can’t manage it unless you can measure it.
"Make appointments with the following people:
- Engineering VP – (presumably your boss) - to understand existing projects and best practices undertaken before today, how much work is performed internally vs. via third-party, and where the challenges have been that keep projects from getting done and keeps sites from adhering to best practices, and what degree of input (if any) you can have in site design
- CIO – to understand what resources and systems exist that may be able to help you
- CFO – to understand how the organization invests money into operations (including the required IRR) as you need to invest to reduce usage
- Sourcing/Procurement VP - to secure vendor contacts, learn how your organization sources products, and define how the prganization manages price volatility in products and services (may be the CFO who answers this)
- Corporate Controller – to understand the budgeting cycle, and your role (if any) in it
- Operations VP – to understand how much Associate awareness is possible/available to you
- Public Relations VP – to understand the value, if any, they place on renewable energy, sustainability and similar concepts
- Site personnel including maintenance personnel – to understand how things really work
Armed with this information, you can start formulating a comprehensive energy management plan that pays long-term dividends with clearly stated goals, deadlines, and approaches. Good Luck."
From: Britney Thompson
University of Kentucky – Campus Physical Plant
"Spend a great deal of time listening to people, including your peers and the customers (such as faculty, staff, students in a collegiate setting). It is important to understand what the organization is already doing well and what information is available. There will undoubtedly be many biases against an energy management program, and you want to be sure not to reinforce them and shoot yourself in the foot by acting quickly or without properly understanding the conditions. Every place will have different challenges, and it will take time and patience to turn the tide."
From: Joyce Mihalik
"An energy manager will need to work with diverse teams in order to carry out their mission. You will need to begin taking inventory of people, equipment and systems that touch the energy spend. I suggest beginning with people and identifying who has accountability for energy bill payment and engineering in the past, or any new coworkers that are passionate about this subject. You are going to need allies, so start organizing movement on your teams right away."
Vice President of Design Services
Forest City Enterprises
From: Heidi Mechtenberg
Colorado State University
"Get to know your people and their tasks as they have been performing them recently. Expect some resistance to changing what these people do if they have been getting along fine for a while – should you want to head that direction.
"Get to know what data you have available to you – and in what forms. How is this data currently being used? Are there gaps in the data? What would need to be done to fix those gaps for the work you would like to perform?
"Get to know your utility suppliers and their rates and conservation rebates.
"Understand your funding resources and the philosophy of your direct managers and higher level managers. Consider these questions:
- What is the current mindset of the organization regarding energy management?
- What kind of deliverables are you going to be responsible for and to whom? Determine how best to present those deliverables to your audience.
- What barriers might be there to make it difficult to provide those deliverables?
"That’s a tall order for the very first day, so it’s more like a month of learning to get your feet on the ground. Some organizations are able to move fast and adopt new ideas and technology quickly, but most likely, if it’s a large organization, the wheels move slowly. Someone with an idealistic notion of what they can accomplish can get frustrated by how slow some things work, but with diligence and creative thinking, the inertia can be overcome."
Thank you to our panel of experts for weighing in on this question. They've each had their own first days at energy management. If there's a question you'd like us to ask a panel, just let us know.
Chris is the VP of Marketing for EnergyCAP, Inc., which helps organizations get value from their utility bills through energy management software. He's also the company chaplain, where he writes for www.PrayerAtWork.com and has published, Made To Pray.