This morning, a local Boston radio station broadcast a story about the projected 30-50% rise in electric prices this winter across New England. Because the price hike is due to structural issues including a lack of natural gas transmission capability (over 50% of electricity is generated by natural gas in New England), it is unlikely to be temporary, and has resulted in a dubious distinction: New England is likely to have the highest natural gas rates on earth, according to Taff Tschamler of energy supplier North American Power. Ouch.
While this isn’t a surprise to industry watchers – it’s been predicted for several years – it’s likely to hit home (or more to the point, hit the wallet) for New England consumers and businesses this winter. So what are energy intensive enterprises like multi-unit restaurant, convenience store, and retail chains to do to prepare for the inevitable pinch? Other than hoping for a warm winter or waiting for multi-billion dollar pipelines to be built, how can these businesses protect themselves from the worst bottom line effects of these astronomical price increases?
Our answer is pretty predictable, and it’s the same answer that most industry experts are advising: it’s time to manage energy use better. Energy efficiency can take many forms, but a strategic and intelligent approach will prevent wasting money on unimportant upgrades and allow businesses to make changes that will actually lower costs and deliver a quick payback. Recently, we heard from one of our Partners that even expert energy advisors suffer from a lack of insight into how electricity is being used in facilities. So before replacing equipment, we recommend installing a tool like SiteSage that is capable of offering real-time, equipment-level electricity consumption information and analysis. This kind of data is the only reliable way to determine what equipment is using the most energy and when, so that businesses can make informed decisions on what efficiency measures make sense.
The other important part of energy efficiency in restaurants, convenience stores, and retail stores is the human factor. Are your employees adhering to on/off schedules, or are lights left on all night? Particularly as the busy holiday season approaches and more staff is added (and experienced staff is exhausted!), there is a need for constant feedback to reinforce training and proper procedures. 24/7/365 monitoring with regular reporting creates accountability, and the ability to control key equipment remotely is crucial.
With the ability to make intelligent ROI decisions and monitor or control energy use remotely, multi-unit restaurant, convenience store, and retail chains will be well positioned to minimize the impact of energy price hikes, and won’t be left out in the cold this winter.
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