Selecting a Commercial Energy Management System: 6 Key Questions You Should Ask

Share this post

In my role as sales leader, I travel quite a bit and meet with many customers and prospects who either have deployed or are thinking about deploying an Energy Management System (EMS) for their multi-site retail, restaurant or convenience store concept. Many of these companies have tried systems in the past that were either too expensive for a company rollout or just didn’t provide the payback expected. The good news is that the technology to monitor and control these assets has greatly improved at price points that allow for attractive payback timeframes.

But how does one get started and what do you look for when thinking about an EMS for your multiple site concept? The devil, as they say, is in the details. From my experience, here are a few questions you should consider as you get started with the planning and selection process.

1. What does senior management think?

The commitment of senior management can be the foundation of an effective energy management system. An EMS is an investment that must be planned and budgeted for and should not be merely ‘tacked on’ to existing operations.

An organization must develop energy performance objectives and allocate sufficient resources to implement and manage the system if it is to succeed. Communicating the commitment of senior management and the resources that have been assigned establishes energy management as an important priority at all levels of the organization, and telegraphs that the organization is willing to change business process as part of the new blueprint.

2. Do you have an energy policy that includes energy performance goals?

Developing and adhering to an energy policy is important. It demonstrates that an organization, including senior management, is committed to improving energy performance. This policy should clarify what the energy management objectives of the organization are and the timeframes within which they are expected to be achieved. It is often expressed as a concise statement that can be quickly and easily communicated throughout all levels of the organization.

Typically, an energy policy would state how energy management aligns with the organization’s broader improvement goals and would set out the target metric for improvement. clock-150x150.jpgFor example, in addition to including a reduction in the amount of energy used per location, and a specified timeframe within which the goal should be achieved, the energy policy may also explain how energy relates to broader sustainability objectives. And as with any business policy, the energy policy should be periodically updated and performance against the policy should be assessed and reported on an ongoing basis.

3. Can your EMS management align with existing processes?

Every company is unique, and it is important that an energy management program and EMS is aligned with existing business priorities and systems. It should be a key component of an organization’s continuous improvement efforts.

An energy management program can be implemented at different levels of an organization, depending on the size and structure of the business. As you think about your organization, at what level should the EMS be managed? In how many locations should it be deployed? In what timeframe should it be implemented? For example, companies with multiple brands that are each managed independently and have unique business systems often find it easier for each business unit to implement their own EMS.

An energy management program can include processes and procedures to ensure compliance with legal and contractual energy requirements, or can be adapted to integrate with existing compliance systems. Energy performance can also be incorporated into an organization’s design and procurement practices for new facilities and equipment. Another scoping consideration is the relevant time frame of energy management goals. Specifying time-bound objectives and activities over the short, medium or long term can affect many facets of the energy management program, such as resource allocation and decision-making criteria.

4. Who’s in charge?

For larger companies, an energy manager is typically responsible for overseeing the development and implementation of the EMS and acting as a conduit between senior management and the rest of the organization. But that may not be true for smaller companies or franchisees who do not have the resources to commit to a full time energy guru. In all cases though, success is dependent on someone calling the shots.

EmployeesHelp.pngIt will also require the involvement of staff from many different areas and functional roles across the organization. This may include personnel with specific technical and operational knowledge; staff from financial, IT and store or restaurant managers; and senior managers with the authority to make significant business decisions. An energy team facilitates participation and commitment, provides the energy manager with a resource base to draw upon, and ensures that all aspects of the business are taken into account during the formulation and evaluation of energy efficiency projects.

Implementing an EMS will also reveal where training, skills development, or resources may be required to deliver on the objectives set out by senior management.

5. What are you measuring and tracking?

An EMS may not improve energy performance on its own (unless it has significant built-in control capabilities). However, it can provide a structure for how the outcomes of an assessment can be evaluated and in which areas energy efficiency, including monitoring and control, should be pursued implemented. Based on lessons learned from monitoring and control, companies can set more specific energy performance goals and identify and evaluate performance on an ongoing basis. Through the EMS, energy efficiency assessments should be undertaken on a regular basis, and resources should be allocated to the areas where the most cost-effective energy performance improvements can be achieved. Automated reporting capabilities can be particularly helpful in this regard.

6. How will you communicate and report?

Frequent communication practices are a key factor in the successful operation of an EMS. Communication should permeate across all levels of the organization, from senior management to the location personnel. Continuous and consistent reporting provides transparency and accountability, and helps to maintain the support of senior management and staff.

The energy management program should specify the communication channels that will be used to disseminate findings and outcomes and include establishing reporting procedures at all levels, adding energy as a standing agenda item at regular management meetings, and establishing reporting templates which easily communicate key metrics to management and location staff.

There are undoubtedly many more questions to ask while you begin the journey to choosing an EMS that best fits your organization. But if you can begin to answer some of the questions above, you’ll be headed in the right direction with the right level of commitment and focus, and you’ll have begun to understand how an EMS will be effectively managed within your existing operations.

Interested in learning more about the SiteSage Commercial EMS?