A comprehensive energy-efficiency assessment will do two useful things:

  • help you understand your company’s energy hotspots
  • reveal ways to reduce costs.

What makes a successful energy-efficiency assessment?

Successful energy assessments are well planned, adequately resourced and effectively communicated.

Some companies assess the whole business at once, others take a staggered approach. Either way, an assessment will include the input of key internal stakeholders. A cross-silo approach usually works best—look for employees with influence over capital or operating budgets, or those with the authority to make changes to processes and procedures. If you don’t have the skills within the business to run your own assessment, many external experts or energy services companies will do all or part of it for you.

How to understand your company’s energy use

Start by figuring out what high-level usage data is easily available

If existing invoice data isn’t detailed enough, ask your energy retailer for more information. While the answers may not be specific enough on their own, the data should uncover gaps or identify some of your company’s higher-energy use processes. It may also be worth hiring a temporary meter (for short-term use), or installing your own meters to capture specific operating periods. When analysing the results, daily, monthly or seasonal variations may need to be examined.

Then, combine usage data with other variables

While usage data is important, it’s essential to collect information on variables beyond that to get a true picture of your company’s energy use. For example, energy use per unit of production may differ according to production volumes, while changes in environmental conditions may impact energy use.

Next, analyse your energy baseline

This baseline will help you clarify the relationship between energy use and business activity, and link energy costs to business output. Common analysis techniques include:

  • graphs of energy use over time to determine energy use patterns (consider seasonal, monthly, weekly, daily or hourly usage)
  • X-Y plots of energy use versus production or other parameters like production
  • benchmarking energy performance to reveal whether a process, facility or business unit is operating at optimum performance level, or to draw comparisons between sites.

Where to make improvements

While the data will help pinpoint where improvements in energy use can be made, so can people. Consider holding a workshop or brainstorming session among stakeholders to discuss challenges and solutions.

Tracking: don’t forget to close the loop

Analysis and implementation are vital, but so is monitoring. By tracking your progress and any improvements to it, you’ll be ready to build support from senior management for savings initiatives.

Standards for energy audits

Energy audits determine how efficiently energy is consumed, identify cost-saving opportunities, and highlight potential improvements in building services and occupant comfort. Three energy audit standards are available from Standards Australia:

The Energy Efficiency Council (EEC) provides the Best Practice Guide to Measurement and Verification of Energy Savings, detailing measurement practices for investigating energy use or verifying the energy savings of an implemented project.

Additional energy-efficiency assessment resources

Australian resources

  • Energy Savings Measurement Guide 2013 (Opens in a new window)
    • Department of Industry
    • PDF

    This guide provides detailed and best practice guidance on how to estimate, measure, evaluate and track energy efficiency opportunities. It provides in-depth information on capturing energy data, establishing an energy baseline, developing an energy mass balance, analysing potential energy efficiency opportunities and monitoring the performance of implemented energy efficiency initiatives. The resource was developed for large energy-using organisations, but the tools can be applied across multiple sectors and organisation sizes.

  • A Whole Systems Approach to Energy Efficiency in New and Existing Systems 2007 (Opens in a new window)

    This document is part of an online textbook to educate engineers on the process of energy efficiency assessments entitled Energy Transformed: Sustainable Energy Solutions for Climate Change Mitigation.   Lecture 1.4 of this textbook provides the reader with useful descriptions of the stages of the energy assessment, and techniques that can be employed throughout. This resource will be useful to personnel responsible for executing an energy assessment and is relevant to all organisation types.

  • AS 3596-1992 Energy management programs – Guidelines for definition and analysis of energy and cost savings 1992
    • Standards Australia

    These guidelines are intended to advise the user on the financial and energy data requirements to develop a business case for energy saving proposals. The intent is to provide a framework which standardises the projections and forecasts which are used to evaluate energy projects. This can be used by all organisation types and is aimed at personnel responsible for developing energy efficiency business cases.

    Note: There is a cost for downloading this resource

  • A Best Practice Guide to Energy Performance Contracts 2000 (Opens in a new window)

    This best practice guide from the Energy Efficiency Council provides an overview of energy performance contracting and guidance on whether EPCs are the most appropriate financing tool for your business, how to source an energy service company and put relevant contracts in place.

International resources

  • Guiding Principles for Successfully Implementing Industrial Energy Assessment Recommendations 2011 (Opens in a new window)
    • U.S. Department of Energy

    Drawing upon the advice of companies that have conducted successful energy assessments with tangible business outcomes, this document provides 11 “implementation principles” that aim to integrate project implementation into the energy assessment process. The document is designed to be used as an ‘at-a-glance’ guidebook which can be quickly referenced as needed. A wide range of useful checklists, templates and scorecards are included as an appendix.

  • Better Business Guide to Energy Saving 2013 (Opens in a new window)

    This guide can help you to conduct an initial walk-through assessment of your organisation to see what sort of energy use practices are in place. It can be a good way to start gaining a better understanding of how energy is being used and could help to identify energy saving opportunities with little or no cost. It is a resource that is best applied at the facility level.

    Note: Free registration is required to gain access to this document on the UK Carbon Trust website.

  • Saving Energy: Staff Awareness and Motivation 2009 (Opens in a new window)

    This fact sheet suggests ways to involve staff in an energy management system and for the purpose of conducting energy efficiency assessments. It provides advice on: setting up an energy team, researching current attitudes and behaviors, planning, as well as implementation, evaluation and review and maintenance of an energy management system. It is aimed at personnel responsible for energy managers in a medium-to-large organisation.

  • Saving energy in business: involving staff 2010 (Opens in a new window)
    • New Zealand Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority
    • PDF 211 KB

    This fact sheet offers advice on how to keep employees interested in an energy efficiency program, with a strong focus on employee ownership of the program. This resource is briefer that the ‘Saving energy with people power’ resource, and is more suitable for small-to-medium organisations.

  • Stanford Energy Lectures 2007 (Opens in a new window)
    • Rocky Mountain Institute

    Lecture series (videos with PDF transcripts) consisting of five lectures where Amory Lovins discusses energy efficiency. Each video is approximately 1.5 hours long.  The topics are buildings, industry, transportation, implementation and implications.