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Drop the Clichés and Make Your Energy-Awareness Campaign Hit Home

If your organization wants to save energy, it's important that your staff become aware of the energy consumption that they are responsible for. Simple changes in people's behaviour can quickly lead to significant energy savings, but such changes will only happen if the people are aware of the energy consumption that they have the power to control.

If you can guide and encourage them appropriately, your staff can probably achieve huge cuts in your organization's energy consumption. Everyone knows that saving energy is a good thing, but most people will only be motivated when you can demonstrate just how much energy they are wasting, and just how much potential there is for them to improve.

Essentially you need to raise the energy awareness of your staff. And for this, you need an energy-awareness campaign.

Now, typical preparation for an energy-awareness campaign might begin with a hunt for generic poster facts and figures, and generic pictures of light switches, children hugging trees, and polar bears on melting ice caps etc... But the problem with that approach is that most people have seen it all many times before, and consequently they rarely stop to think about the underlying message...

And, more importantly, there's actually a much better way to encourage the occupants of your building to take action to reduce their energy consumption...

The usual array of clichéd poster facts and figures are not nearly as effective as targeted facts and figures that are specific to your organization, and that you can easily come up with yourself!

Because the more you can make your energy-awareness message directly relevant to your building, the more that your building's occupants will understand and appreciate it.

Though, just to be clear, we're not suggesting that your campaign shouldn't include polar bears at all...

Our take on polar-bear-style energy awareness

Anyway... In this article we're not going to presume to tell you how many posters your energy-awareness campaign needs, or how often you should email your staff, or how long your rousing presentations on energy saving should be...

But what we will do is explain how highly-targeted facts and figures are the ideal way to drive an energy-awareness campaign, and we'll show you just how easy it is to come up with such facts and figures yourself.

And if that's not enough, there might just be another polar-bear picture too...

But before anything else, there's an important question to answer:

What exactly is energy awareness?

For a general definition, we think it would be reasonable to say that energy awareness is about understanding:

However, although that might be appropriate for a textbook definition of energy awareness, it sounds a lot like we're talking about the energy awareness of the human race as a whole. Not that there's anything wrong with a definition that talks about the human race as a whole, but thinking of energy awareness in that way is not ideal when you're trying to come up with an energy-awareness campaign that will reduce energy consumption at your organization...

Because, unless you happen to work for Energy Star or the Carbon Trust, most people in your organization will have other priorities, and getting them to understand the big picture of energy consumption will be something of a monumental challenge...

So here's the secret:

You don't need your building's occupants to gain a holistic awareness of energy consumption, you just need them to understand enough to stop wasting so much energy themselves!

And, since your mission is to save energy in your building, it's what the occupants do when they're at work that matters.

(Incidentally, if you're interested in the bigger picture of energy awareness, Chuck Wright's article is an excellent starting point. The rest of this article is focused on raising energy awareness specifically within your organization.)

A definition that's more appropriate for your campaign

Energy awareness is about understanding that:

On the surface, this isn't so different from our first definition of energy awareness. But the critical point is that this definition is much more local – it's all about people saving energy in your building. In other words, it's much closer to home.

By bringing your definition of energy awareness closer to the building that you want to save energy in, you'll make it easier for people to understand that their actions matter, and that they really do have the power to make an immediate difference to your building's energy consumption...

When your concept of energy awareness is closer to home, your campaign will naturally use messages, facts, and figures that are closer to home too. Such messages, facts, and figures will naturally resonate better with the people they're intended for, and this should have a significant impact on the savings that your campaign will achieve...

Using targeted facts and figures to bring your campaign closer to home

The more you can relate your facts and figures to the day-to-day actions of your staff, the more likely they will be to take action. So, instead of using global statistics, or national statistics, or city-level statistics in your campaign, use statistics that are directly relevant to energy consumption at your organization...

Or, even better, use statistics that are directly relevant to energy consumption in your building...

Or, even better still, use statistics that are directly relevant to energy consumption on your floor of the building, or in your particular department.

The more that Bob in Accounts can see that his wasteful habits make a difference, the more that Bob in Accounts will feel inclined to do something about it.

How to get the figures you need to make your staff aware of their energy consumption

First, you need to build your own understanding of the building's energy consumption: how much energy it uses, what uses it, and when. Armed with this knowledge, your task of raising energy awareness amongst staff will be much easier, as you will be able to highlight the wastage that they are responsible for, and encourage them with evidence of the savings that they have made.

For this, you need good data

First things first: unless you have good quality energy data, you will struggle to get really useful figures. Weekly or monthly meter readings will never be able to tell you how much energy your building is using at different times throughout each day, and on the different days of the week – this level of detail really is necessary to calculate the focused, personalized figures that can have the biggest impact on the energy awareness of your staff.

Hopefully you will already have access to interval data such as 15-minute or half-hourly data – if not, you may want to look into getting smart metering fitted in your building.

The figures you need will come from analysis of your energy-consumption data. You might want to start by analyzing the last year's worth of energy data, although, if you don't have that much, just use what you can.

Figures to highlight energy waste that you want to target

The first thing to do is to look at your patterns of energy consumption to find energy waste. Once you have found energy waste, you should be able to quantify it in terms of how much energy is actually being wasted (remember that this is not an exact science – approximations are OK).

Start by estimating the wasted kWh, and then multiply those figures by cost-per-kWh and kg-CO2-per-kWh figures to get the equivalent cost and CO2 figures. Or, if you want to highlight waste as a percentage of some sort, simply look at the percentage differences between the kW or kWh figures from the appropriate time periods, buildings, floors, or departments that you want to compare.

Specific figures are generally best for raising energy awareness amongst staff. For example: "unnecessarily leaving equipment switched on when we go home is wasting x kWh, y pounds/dollars, and z kg CO2 on each night of the working week." Use your imagination a little – maybe look at energy consumption on weekends, or during lunch hours. If your building operates continuously every day, investigate the energy consumption of different shifts.

All of this information will be contained within your detailed interval energy data. You just need to extract it and present it in an accessible format.

At the very least you should be able to come up with figures like: "each working day we use x kWh of energy, which costs y pounds/dollars, and causes z kg CO2 emissions." However, the better you can link your figures to specific parts of people's routines (e.g. specific days, times, or shifts), the more effective your figures will be for motivating action.

You might also be able to narrow your figures down to specific areas of your building, or to specific end uses of energy (e.g. heating, lighting). Your ability to do this may depend on the number of meters you have, although it's often possible to make some clever extrapolations and estimates. The more you can relate your figures to people's day-to-day routines and activities, the greater the energy awareness you will be able to build, and the greater the savings you will be able to achieve.

Figures to demonstrate progress

Once you've found specific energy waste to target, quantified that waste, and encouraged staff to reduce that waste, you'll want to keep a close eye on changes in the energy performance of the days / times / areas / energy uses in question. Presenting staff with targeted figures that demonstrate the savings that they've achieved will be a great help in motivating them to continue making progress.

Our second take on polar-bear-style energy awareness

Bear from photo by René Ehrhardt

Typically you'd do this on a weekly or monthly basis – our article on monthly energy-performance tracking has important guidance that applies either way.

It's important that the figures you use to demonstrate energy savings tie in with the figures you used to highlight the energy waste that you were targeting in the first place. As the article linked to above explains, focused analysis is usually the only reliable way to track improvements anyway.

But, just as important, savings relating to specific days, times, and activities, are a lot more motivating...

For example, if the staff in a particular office in a large building have managed to cut their weekend energy consumption by 70%, publicizing that fact is going to be a lot more motivating than publicizing the smaller impact that their efforts have had on the building's total energy bill.

Software can help you with all of this

At the very least you'll want to use a spreadsheet like Excel to calculate your figures.

Though specialist software such as our Energy Lens package can make it a lot easier to calculate the sorts of figures that you need. Please feel free to download it and give it a go – it's designed specifically for this sort of work.

Energy Awareness Month can only do so much – ongoing effort is key

For most people, if they've heard of "energy awareness", it's probably because of Energy Awareness Week, or Energy Awareness Month. These observances are fantastic – they're putting energy awareness on people's radars. In fact, without Energy Awareness Month or Energy Awareness Week, you probably wouldn't even be reading this article, not least because we'd probably never have thought to write it.

But it's important to realize that only so much can be achieved in a day, a week, or a month, even when it comes around every year...

The best results by far will be achieved if you treat your energy-awareness campaign as an ongoing process. It doesn't have to be a full time job, but it will work a lot better if you make it part of your regular routine.

Hopefully this article will have given you some ideas on how you can start a once-weekly or a once-monthly routine of analyzing your organization's energy data to find waste and to track progress, and to turn what you find into facts and figures that you can use to motivate your staff to continue reducing your energy consumption as time goes on.

And if you can fit some polar bears into your campaign, all the better!

What next?

If you found this article useful, might you consider telling your colleagues or mentioning it on your website?

You might also be interested in our other articles on energy management / energy monitoring and targeting.

And you might like to take a look at our Energy Lens software – it makes it really easy to generate the sorts of figures that are described in this article:

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