Strategic Energy Management for Commercial Buildings: Lessons Learned

Diane Levin

Our recent blog post, Strategic Energy Management for Commercial Buildings: 5 Key Areas described Ecova’s Strategic Energy Management (SEM) program, as presented at the ACEEE Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings in August. In many ways, strategic energy management is the ultimate energy savings program, for businesses and utilities alike, driving persistent energy savings and ongoing collaboration around energy efficiency.

The Ecova Framework includes best practices in five keys areas:

  1. Data
  2. People
  3. Infrastructure
  4. Marketing and Reporting
  5. Continual Improvement

However, there’s no one-size-fits-all plan when it comes to creating a more energy-efficient and sustainable business. Every organization has its own operational particulars and cultural environment. In working with retail businesses and utilities, we’ve had a chance to observe what works well in different kinds of organizations.

The Ecova team presenting at the ACEEE Summer Conference shared some of the lessons learned in each of the keystone areas from strategic energy management initiatives implemented at two large businesses―an international hotel chain committed to aggressive energy savings and a North American restaurant chain facing rising energy costs.

blueprint_keystone_icons_dataDATA: Link reporting and commitment with accountability

With consistent reporting against goals across sites, you can link the cost of resources used to the job responsibilities of general managers and facility managers accountable for energy, water and waste services. If you make people accountable for results, be sure to also provide them with clear guidance into how to manage the resources.

PEOPLE: Focus training on high-impact employee groups

In the hotel chain, the day-to-day activities of facilities managers and housekeeping staff have a major impact on the company’s energy and sustainability goals. The hotel chain now provides these individuals with specialized training as well as tools to help them make better decisions (such as weather-dependent selections for how to set room thermostats.


INFRASTRUCTURE: Create a data-driven plan for capital expenditures

The restaurant chain shifted from replacing equipment only as needed to proactively managing capital equipment for energy returns. The company developed the data to clearly link these capital investments to ongoing profitability, which helped drive commitment from the boardroom to the individual restaurants.


MARKETING & REPORTING: Target employee communications

Work with communications and training teams to integrate sustainability guidance into the existing culture, processes and communications. For example, the hotel chain incorporated energy into the brand’s value statement and added energy to the agenda of site-focused meetings and communications.


CONTINUAL IMPROVEMENT: Follow up with performance reporting

Sharing performance results regularly with all employees helps to reinforce the message that energy performance is the result of every employee’s efforts, every day.



Both of the profiled businesses have realized substantial and ongoing savings from their strategic energy management efforts:

  1. The restaurant business projects annual energy savings of $5.5 million, with over $1 million coming from behavior-based changes alone.
  2. The hotel chain reduced its energy consumption by 6.5 percent in only 2 years.


Both of the profiled businesses have realized substantial and ongoing savings from their strategic energy management efforts:

  1. The consultative sales approach and longer timeline of SEM initiatives nurtures long-term customer relationships and ongoing opportunities.
  2. Successful SEM initiatives drive persistent energy savings, helping utilities and their customers achieve energy efficiency goals.
  3. From a brand management perspective, SEM initiatives reinforce business values of innovation and collaboration when working with customers and regulators.

For more on this topic, read the paper Strategic Energy Management: A Framework Approach. For a description of SEM within the restaurant industry, see the Arby’s Restaurant case study.

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