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Strategic energy management: The power of real-world stories

May 21, 2018
Aiming high with your energy management goals? Peter Garforth says show where others are succeeding.

It’s increasingly common for today’s corporate and institutional energy management plans to set goals that can be described only as transformational. It’s no longer unusual to hear of targets that aim for energy productivity gains of 50% or more in less than a decade. The list of major corporations committing to 100% renewable power grows by the month. Companies, institutions, and communities setting climate goals of “near-net-zero” greenhouse gas emissions are proliferating. Equally challenging goals are being set for energy reliability; these are aimed at maintaining near-full operation through catastrophic weather events. 

The first kind of story presents a real-life look at a company that has accrued benefits and avoided risks in and after meeting its goals. This brings into focus a clear view of desirability of the end game without the negative noise from short-term challenges. If other companies have already committed to or achieved outcomes similar to what your organization seeks, telling their stories can be a powerful tool in helping to move a plan forward.

Another kind of story can address questions about whether the goals are achievable. In a recent college energy plan, we were able to make credible comparisons that showed campuses in other parts of the world operating today at energy intensities well under half that of the client. The stories of these real-world benchmarks helped reduce the natural skepticism around setting 60% efficiency goals for the college.

Transformational results are typically delivered by companies that initially focus on upgrading skills, organizational capacity, and policies in parallel with prioritizing specific subprojects. This often flies in the face of an approach that tries to make small changes to “test the water” before making a broader commitment. Describing the experiences of comparable organizations that took the transformational road rather than the incremental one can be enlightening and reassuring.

The storytelling that best supports a transformational plan will paint a clear view of the future state, validate the achievability of breakthrough goals, and clarify the immediate priorities in moving the plan into action.

As energy and climate plans aim more often now to affect deep change for organizations, the energy manager’s skills will increasingly include being a well-informed and effective energy storyteller.

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