EnergyCAP, Inc. (ECI) recently surveyed large government and public institutions to determine what makes an Energy Management Information System (EMIS) successful over many years. Survey participants included a mix of city and county governments, federal agencies, and the largest U.S. higher education systems. The results provide interesting insights into the objectives for implementing an EMIS and the keys to long-term program success.
The survey showed that most organizations implement an EMIS to derive value from an improved energy management process and a more efficient utility bill accounting workflow. Survey respondents noted secondary objectives they planned to achieve after the initial EMIS implementation:
- Create public kiosks and displays to share energy conservation successes and motivate building occupants to save energy
- Carbon tracking and reporting to meet sustainability goals
- Measurement and verification (M&V) of energy projects to confirm effectiveness and document payback
Unfortunately, the survey revealed that, all too often, organizations fail to meet or postpone their secondary objectives for a variety of reasons. The primary reason cited was decentralization. One survey respondent stated, “Many departments were involved, some more engaged and supportive than others. [We] could only move as fast as the slowest participant.” The second most frequent reason for delayed EMIS implementation was disorganized data that took an unexpectedly long time to assemble, and a third reason was turnover in key project personnel.
And about the value of placing kiosks and flat screens in building lobbies to motivate conservation: Of the organizations that tried it, more than twice as many said the display was “ineffective and quickly ignored” as those who found value in it.
Five Keys to Success
On a positive note, we know from our nearly 40 years of industry experience that organizations can derive tremendous value from an EMIS that is properly implemented and supported. So, what are the keys to a successful EMIS-based program?
Key #1: Tie the EMIS into the utility bill accounts payable process. The direct link ensures better, more complete, and current data, and makes the EMIS a critical component in essential business processes.
Key #2: Centralize business processes and energy management. Decentralization creates a host of challenges with training, turnover, process standardization and quality control.
Key #3: Retain experience, or as an alternative, outsource essential functions so that turnover does not a critical impact. Turnover of key, trained people is the greatest foreseeable barrier to success.
Key #4: Don’t build your strategy around public display and kiosks. A flat screen in the lobby will not, on its own, lead to long-term savings. If you give it a try, start small and measure results.
Key #5: Educate your senior leaders. Utility bill management is not routine and simple. It requires a well-funded staff of stable, trained, highly-skilled professionals. And an EMIS with comprehensive, effective energy accounting functionality is essential for effective energy management, maximized cost reductions, and proper stewardship of resources.
To summarize, EMIS implementations are most successful when they are part of an energy conservation-focused culture. Such a culture requires leaders who are actively engaged and open to change, adequate funding for project and people, and feedback and accountability processes that measure and report meaningful results.
Visit our Resources page to read about and hear from organizations that have successfully implemented our EMIS—EnergyCAP—and continue to achieve long-term energy and cost savings.