Energy and Operations in Concert

Energy has come to the forefront of our everyday society and facilities objectives. Primarily from a cost control & selling of the facility as an energy conscious and sustainable entity. Many times, this effort is done in a one-off format with little consideration of how this affects the facility operations program and responsibilities. Additionally, the journey to creating beautiful music requires an approach that looks at both energy and operations working in concert.

Where do you start? The first thing is to know that operational energy savings are worth as much as technological added solutions. Data-driven information will provide insight. A blended approach maximizes it. Professional expertise orchestrated enhances results.

  1. Is an infrastructure MEP [mechanical, electrical, plumbing] re-investment taking place on a planned annual basis? Or, is the existing capital budget unable to address this effort. If one approach is capitalizing through operations to address issues, the inclusion of this with overall end goals in mind need thought process.
  2. When was the last time your facility primary equipment was balanced in both the areas within the primary plant generation HVAC & out in the space?  Balancing existing equipment & keeping old equipment running, while synchronizing the impact of installing new more efficient equipment, for energy strategy is recommended to avoid systems “fighting” each other.
  3. Plant reliability requires building automation system controls.  Advancement of this technology has hampered dated controls performance. Nothing like losing control.

These are a tiny sample of items needing consideration. What begs to be asked is where does the current plant operations and maintenance trade staff fall with overall capabilities and understanding of what they are operating & technologies available. Do they have the overall knowledge level & staffing mix to identify the issues and provide preventive, corrective and repair solutions? Recently, it was observed that natural gas microturbines were added to a new facility to reduce electrical expense. In this, no consideration of the ongoing operations and maintenance requirements and staff capability were considered. The result - the need to add an expensive 10-year maintenance agreement due to the specialized equipment type.

Staffing, training, and inclusion in the overall strategy, planning, and implementation is a lost art. Staff right-sizing has further complicated the picture and pushes facility leadership to make corrections in a one-off approach due to circumstances. Again, adding to the complexity.

Society is driving us toward being responsible parties to the environment with efficiency. Creating a high-level plan for energy and operations to work in concert will provide the song to lower cost and beautiful music to the people we serve.