It's a simple question: How many of America's top cities and counties have an energy manager on staff?
I couldn't find an answer on Google, so I took the matter into my own hands. In order to answer that question, I called more than 100 of the most populous cities and counties and asked.
What I discovered amazed me.
Remember, these are some of the largest cities and counties in the United States. They have annual utility budgets in the millions, or even tens of millions. But if you thought that all these organizations were pursuing aggressive energy management tactics to help reduce their expenses, think again.
My admittedly unscientific call survey of more than 100 of America’s largest city and county governments suggested that one in ten don’t have a dedicated energy manager. A similar number are still trying to track energy use and cost with free online tools or a basic spreadsheet software application.
The survey also revealed common struggles with a decentralized bill pay process that created obstacles for energy stakeholders seeking a comprehensive picture of government energy consumption and cost. In some cases, departmental audits were “supposed” to happen, but with little or no guidance or oversight, the process was unable to ensure adequate accountability for energy use.
Several of the cities and counties surveyed were tracking only a portion of their building portfolio and/or a subset of the organization’s utility bills.
Reasons for the lack of progress on energy management issues varied from organization to organization, and included:
- decentralized utility bill processing
- lack of funds or authority
- lack of administrative interest
- long-term contracts with third-party vendors providing less-than-complete solutions
- ignorance of energy management options
- inefficient and/or labor-intensive processes
The survey results suggest that many city and county governments could benefit financially from investments in an energy tracking infrastructure, including dedicated staff and appropriate tracking tools. But change could be slow in coming for cash-strapped regional governments with competing priorities.
That's the bad news. But you can read some good news about one city/county government anticipating savings of $2 million per year just on electricity.