Despite three decades of heavy marketing of energy efficiency by utility programs, service and product vendors, and government, large and mid-sized commercial facilities can still do more to reduce business costs and emissions. These facilities account for roughly ten percent of non-transportation energy use in the United States.
Recent engineering and economic studies consistently find that the typical large and mid-sized commercial facility could cut their energy consumption by twenty to thirty percent, through capital and operating improvements that satisfy most firms’ internal investment criteria. However, in many areas of the country, participation in energy efficiency programs by commercial facilities has begun to decline, threatening the achievement of state environmental goals.
Study Motivation and Objectives
For program delivery and analytic services in the energy efficiency industry, it’s important that both providers and their customers understand the energy efficiency-related actions and attitudes of commercial facilities decision makers. A recent, annual survey sought to explore the following questions:
In 2015, the survey focused on managers in a nationwide sample of five hundred commercial facilities, with more than one hundred employees. The sample was designed to be representative of the national population of such facilities, in terms of building type (principal use) and number of employees. The sample was administered online to a panel maintained by Survey Sampling International. Surveys were completed in December 2015 and December 2016.
Results of the 2015 and 2016 were similar. Using the 2015 study, results can be grouped into the following major themes:
Energy Management Policies and Practices
While the prevalence of basic energy management practices is encouraging, the findings indicate that roughly a third of large and mid-sized facilities have not adopted these practices. These facilities and their owners represent a prime target of opportunity for greater energy savings.
Managers were asked whether or not they regularly undertook six common energy-related O&M practices, including preventive maintenance of HVAC equipment, and testing of controls to verify settings and control sequences. Only thirty five percent of respondents reported implementing three or more of these practices. Another thirty five percent reported implementing one or none.
Forty-six percent of facilities undertook capital improvements valued higher than $50,000 over the two years prior to the survey. Energy efficiency was the major driver and component for these improvements.
Most sample managers believe that energy management and efficiency investments advance core business values, including customer and staff retention and improved profitability.
Rates of adoption of various measures and practices were compared between facilities in states among the top 13 for energy efficiency programs and policies (as rated by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy). Facilities in strong program areas had significantly higher levels of adoption (at the time) of advanced energy efficiency products such as LED lighting and high efficiency HVAC, as well as for energy-related O&M in general. However, equipment vendors have a higher influence on energy equipment purchases than utility or government programs.
Implications for Energy Efficiency Programs and Policies
The findings suggest two effective strategies to reach inactive customers.
Mitchell Rosenberg is a Director in the Sustainable Energy Use Services business unit of DNV GL. He has over 30 years of experience in market research and the design, delivery, and evaluation of energy efficiency programs. Rosenberg headed the Commercial Facility Pulse Survey to characterize the attitudes of commercial facility managers toward energy efficiency and to use these insights to identify strategies to increase program participation in that segment.
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