Editor’s Note: This article first appeared on the Environmental Defense Fund’s blog. We’re republishing it here as part of our Business & Sustainability series, highlighting examples where businesses partnered with organizations like EDF to achieve both business success and sustainability goals.
Energy management has evolved since we dispatched our first EDF Climate Corps fellows back in 2008 to jumpstart corporate energy efficiency programs in America.
As large organizations took more sophisticated approaches, significant advancements in energy management strategies have emerged. So in a new report, we decided to examine the efforts of more than 350 large organizations and the work of 600-plus Climate Corps fellows over eight years.
After careful analysis of more than 3,200 energy project recommendations, we identified five key trends.
1. Energy efficiency was just the beginning
Companies have become more strategic and sophisticated about energy management over the years. Equipment upgrades and retrofits have paved the way for higher-level energy analyses and plans, integration of clean energy technologies and more.
In 2015, our fellows worked on a broad range of energy projects, from data analysis, to employee engagement, to clean energy, whereas in 2008, energy-efficiency was their sole focus.
2. Organizations are turning one win into many
By scaling up energy efficiency projects to be multi-site and multi-facility, companies have clearly moved past the “pilot” or “one-off” stage and are now deploying efficiency measures at scale.
Last year, 40 facilities were covered by a single efficiency project on average, up from 22 in 2013.
3. Companies invest more, get greater returns
The days of the low-cost or no-cost energy efficiency improvement may be over: Average initial investment per project jumped from $77,000 to $300,000 over the past eight years.
Projects now require substantial upfront capital investments, but they also deliver more value.
4. Projects pack bigger environmental punch
As technologies have improved and companies have become more strategic about how they direct spending, investments in energy efficiency are providing significantly more greenhouse gas reductions per dollar spent.
In 2015, each project could reduce 530 metric tons annually on average, more than five times what they achieved in 2008.
5. Strategic energy management is still hard work
Despite progress made over the years, corporations, municipalities and other large institutions still face significant barriers to project implementation. Lack of executive or high-level support, staff expertise and funding are among such barriers.
More details and insights about leadership in energy management and how it’s changed over time are in our report, Scaling Success. It’s a story about how energy use became a strategic priority in eight short years.