2020 was a challenging year for everyone. But we’ve been inspired to see our colleagues and clients rise to meet unexpected hurdles with new solutions. We worked with dozens of companies who chose energy efficiency as a way to improve operations and lower costs while facing unusual decisions throughout this year.
The following takeaways primarily arise from our own experience working with these large commercial/industrial companies across the US. Every industry and business is facing their own difficulties particular to 2020. However, amid these challenges, we remain hopeful by identifying where energy efficiency measures continue to have a positive impact.
1. Lowering operational costs remains a high priority
Decreasing annual energy expenditure is important to companies across industries. From corporate campuses facing empty buildings to the hand sanitizer manufacturers working harder than ever, businesses have good reasons for lowering these costs. Efficiency projects of all types decrease energy use by industry and corresponding financial spend.
2. Incentives have never been better in support of efficiency retrofit projects
Certain parts of the country – in particular, the Northeast – are home to some strong incentive programs by local utilities. The programs can vary greatly state to state, but we’re encouraged by the continued support by utilities for effective efficiency solutions. These incentives can sometimes cover 60-75% of project cost. For many of our clients, these programs were the factor that made their projects a reality.
3. Comprehensive projects deliver better savings – and better incentives
Partly because of utility incentive programs, and partly because of the increased annual savings, we’re seeing more comprehensive projects. Comprehensive efficiency projects mean a project scope that tackles multiple savings measures. This often includes an LED lighting retrofit and some HVAC and/or controls system upgrades.
While a comprehensive project is often the more expensive choice, the project payback timeframe can be low, sometimes shorter than a single project because of how utility incentives value comprehensive work and the breadth of energy savings a project like this can deliver.
4. Remote building access and automated systems are no longer just “nice to have”
Many of our 2020 clients manage buildings and facilities that emptied out this year. Universities, some manufacturing plants, biotech facilities and data centers, certainly office spaces and corporate campuses saw this change. The buildings, however, remain, with the need to manage them under new usage demands.
There are, therefore, two big reasons for remote management: (1) if the facilities staff is not onsite, they can retain control over select systems, and (2) with the new changes in onsite personnel, building management can change scheduling, security and more to accommodate for new occupancy levels (or lack thereof).
Tackling building automation with efficiency in mind can deliver important operational gains alongside sustainability and financial benefits.
5. HVAC systems are a critical part of reopening facilities
Proper ventilation with controlled air changes per hour are top of mind for many facility managers. HVAC optimization can include installing better system controls and adding sensors to monitor use. Buildings that remain empty require a clear strategy for existing HVAC function as well. Regardless of use, facilities today need an HVAC energy strategy to keep up equipment maintenance, meet changing schedules and provide the best ventilation available for a building.
Lots of work ahead in 2021
Returning to the office. Replacing old equipment. Lowering energy costs. Better corporate sustainability. There are multiple reasons for taking on energy projects and we’ve seen several of these rise to the top of the list over the past year. Looking ahead, energy efficiency continues to be a priority for companies committed to investing in their own infrastructure and looking for the financial benefits these projects deliver.
We’re proud of the energy savings made possible for FES clients this year. Over 25.4M kWh, equating about $3,300,000 in annual savings, resulted just from the projects we initiated in 2020. In a period of difficulty for almost all businesses, the savings these companies are able to achieve on an annual basis from investing in their energy systems show a strong sense of forward-thinking, an effort to take advantage of empty office spaces and facilities and create energy savings for years to come.
I’ve been inspired by the success and savings our 2020 clients are achieving. From grocery stores to data centers, I’ve seen the real impact of decreased energy use on a company’s bottom line. Identifying the efficiency opportunities in your building is a smart way to start investing in your own infrastructure – and impacting your own costs. Learn more with the information provided by our no-cost energy audit.