Todd Jarvis, President of Servidyne, and Ben Taube, Executive Director of the Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance discuss the importance of corporate sustainability, energy efficiency, and the conference within a conference that they are hosting at the Green Business Works EXPO on Oct. 27th in Atlanta, Georgia.
Ben Lack: Well, I’m here with Todd Jarvis, President of Servidyne, and Ben Taube, the executive director of the Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance. Thanks so much for giving us some of your time today. An upcoming conference that is happening in Atlanta, Georgia, Green Business Works Expo, happening at the end of the month. There’s an interesting part of the conference that I wanted to touch on first which was that some of the conference has conferences within a conference. So I wanted to get from you guys why you guys are participating in the conferences within a conference. Todd, we’ll start with you.
Todd Jarvis: We first approached Stephanie when we were participating in the Green Business Expo, and we had discussions that we felt like last year there was not enough focus on energy efficiency. We suggested that it could be a good idea to have a focus track or program around energy efficiency and Stephanie, she opened up to the idea, and we got Ben Taube involved with the SEA to participate. And what we’ve tried to do is bring some rifle-shot thoughts and people that are really doing well in energy efficiency out of the Southeast to come and tell their story.
Ben Lack: What’s the takeaway?
Todd Jarvis: The challenge to energy efficiency efforts to really move the needle is to try to place yourself where someone else is really affected change. And we think the best way to educate people is to share case studies, the success stories. And there’s a lot of examples of good success stories that are going on in the Southeast. We’ve participated in a lot of those and we’ve tried to recruit some of the people that we’ve worked with and reach out to other partners that are also in the marketplace and share their stories. That’s when we thought it would make a lot of sense with Ben and the organization that we participate in, the Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance, to bring Ben’s group in and pull in some other partners that are working with SEA as well.
Ben Lack: Cool.
Ben Taube: Yeah, that’s the value of this partnership is that working with Servidyne, we’ll have the real case examples, what’s happening out there at the commercial and industrial level. We’ll bring policy level discussions, the financing level discussions and the legal barriers that are out there in the marketplace and try to combine the real examples of what’s working and how to solve the solutions across the region.
Ben Lack: Somebody that’s in a company right now is watching the interview and they don’t know very much about energy efficiency. Where’s a good place for them to start? What do they need to do in order to establish energy efficiency programs within their own business? And, Ben, we’ll start with you.
Ben Taube: Well, businesses need to look at the bottom line. What are the spending on energy? Where are their expenses happening? And how is their technology and when’s the last time they looked at light, HVAC? How are their operation and maintenance plans? Are they place? Do they have such a thing? And then they need to look at process and procedures audits, opportunities to really drive in energy efficiency opportunities and working with companies like Servidyne to come in help them identify where these issues are occurring and how to solve those issues.
Ben Lack: So what are some of the things that you guys, as you’re working with clients, what are some of the common things are companies finding that they need to work on?
Todd Jarvis: Well, I want to first also answer the question that you were just asking Ben is awareness. Where are you? So everyone’s aware of what their utility bills are, but how do you actually cost allocate those into your business? Where are you actually using energy? What are you using it for? How efficient is it? And so how do you answer those questions? There are a lot of tools that are available that are free or a lot of tools that are available through groups like Servidyne and other partners that are out there to actually find out how efficient is my operation and how does that compare to someone else’s operation that may be very similar to what we’re doing.
There are a lot of benchmarking tools and that’s typically the first step. How do you benchmark where you are? And that actually provides the place that you can measure what the change may be.
Ben Lack: So it sounds like the roadmap is probably is step one because everybody’s roadmap is going to be different.
Todd Jarvis: You have to measure where you are and then lay out the plan on how you can actually affect change and implement energy efficiency in your operation.
Ben Lack: So let’s look at Georgia and this region as a whole. Give us your estimation on how companies in Georgia are doing. Are they implementing energy efficiency programs? Are you seeing the trend start to go that way? If not, why is that the case. If it is, how do we make it happen faster?
Todd Jarvis: In my opinion, I think the southeast, particularly here in Georgia, we’re in a place that’s different than other parts of the country. And what I mean by that is we have typically had very, very low cost to power. There has not been a lot of focus on the utility cost here, and the times are changing. Costs are going up for a number of different reasons, but costs are going up.
We don’t quite have the incentives. The utilities in the southeast do not have the pressures. They’re not quite in the dire circumstances that you see utilities in other parts of the country. So utilities here are not providing huge substantial financial incentives to drive change, but we are seeing, depending on the utility and depending on just which type of utility case we’re talking about, we’re seeing some significant annual increases in cost that are impacting your business’s bottom line. So that is really driving the change. How do I become more efficient? Because whenever you actually implement energy efficiency, those savings, after you pay for your investment, hit the bottom line. So it’s the true value that energy efficiency actually can provide is what’s making the movement effective here in the southeast. And it’s not necessarily financial incentives which have really been the drivers in other parts of the country
Ben Lack: Ben, is Georgia a leader in the southeast or are there other states that are leading the charge?
Ben Taube: There are other states that are leading the charge across the southeast when you look at energy efficiency programs at different levels, at different levels. You can look at the utility level. You can look at the state level. You can look at what the local governments are doing. Clearly, there are leaders across the region, and we can point and say where those leaders in each of those components.
Georgia is starting to track towards other states in the region. We’re seeing more implementation happening at the utility level. We’re seeing a little bit of stronger state policy perspective. And so when you combine these opportunities and these policies coming together, it is helping driving the market here.
Todd Jarvis: Companies can measure the effectiveness of energy efficiency projects (a) by just the financial benefit. It could be measured by the environmental benefit and in many cases, it could be measured, depending on the operation, perhaps, if you’re in the service business and the hospitality business, if you’re in the commercial office building business, it may be on the increased satisfaction of the occupants of that space if they’re tenants, employees or customers. And so there’s a lot of different ways that you can actually measure the benefits. And you can measure it through comparisons. Again, you have to establish a benchmark to start down the path, and you can just track the improvements that you’re making.
Ben Lack: Are the projects being initiated by senior level management and driving it down? Or are you guys finding that your clients are actually having it driven up from the employees themselves saying that this would actually help our business better if management was able to establish and initiate energy efficiency programs?
Todd Jarvis: We’re seeing projects driven from both sides of an operation. Actually, you’re seeing senior-level decisions that an organization needs to implement an energy change or an energy consumption change in their business. Or it could be environmental awareness in the business or a sustainability program or carbon analysis or carbon footprinting in the business. All of these things are different but they are all have a common thread among them.
And so you have to have support at the top level of an organization to really implement a lot of projects, but a lot of times projects happen down at the very lowest level of an organization. Energy efficiency, true change is not one big thing. Unfortunately, it’s not one big project you can just throw a lot of money at. It’s small incremental and the accumulation of a lot of incremental changes that really move the needle.
Ben Lack: There are a lot of folks that will tie renewable energy to an energy efficiency program. Do you agree that that’s one and the same and if so, why, and if not, why now?
Todd Jarvis: From my perspective, we think renewable is an excellent idea. However, if you’re looking at your capital that you’re going to invest in the overall effort, we first challenge you to look at your existing operation. And are you as efficient as you can be in your existing operation, through the processes and the equipment that you have and the people that you have in place to actually support that. If you’re at the point that you have satisfied yourself that you have completed upgraded and taken advantage of all the technology and improvements that are out there, then it can make some sense for you to look at renewable alternatives. And, in that case, you truly are leading the effort when you do that.
If you’re just going down the path to participate in renewables or alternative efforts and haven’t fully looked at all your operations in your business, then you haven’t picked what we think is the lowest hanging fruit in your operation.
Ben Lack: Talk to us a little bit about the value add that you guys have in the market.
Todd Jarvis: Servidyne has a unique culture and expertise to understand how both energy, operations and maintenance actually affect not only a building but a business and how that you can actually drive change to improve your operations that are driven on both of those areas. And that’s the expertise that Servidyne has of getting into your operation, working as your advocate to lay out the strategy and the steps to actually affect change.
Ben Lack: So you’re actually rolling up the sleeves and getting into the actual operations of the business instead of looking at from a 50,000 foot view.
Todd Jarvis: We start acting as a consultant and we end up working as a partner. And so actually tell you this what you should do and we’re equipped with the different resources within our business to help you go through whatever barriers you may have to make the change happen. Energy efficiency is not something that you can just do one day. You have to stay on it every, everyday. It has to be actually embedded in the culture in the operations of your business.
Ben Lack: The role that corporate sustainability has played in your growth of your business. How does that factor into the increase client base that you guys have had over the last couple of years?
Todd Jarvis: I’ve been in the energy efficiency marketplace for a 20 years. I’m fortunate of having an extremely, well-potentialed, very talented team around me, and some of the players have been for 30, 35 years. We have been pushing the marketplace during these 20, 30-plus years and over the last two years, we’re now trying to keep up with the marketplace. There are now initiatives that are driven from organizations like Ben’s organization that are regionally focused or locally focused. There’s organizations that are driving federal changes and now we are really trying to just keep up with those changes. Because of that new market awareness, businesses now know they can increase their bottom line by implementing energy efficiency programs. They can also really affect change through sustainability initiatives. And that’s all part of the Green Business Expo’s awareness. It’s another obvious, you have workshops, conferences that are driven out of this type of organization that drive that awareness. So when we’re in trying to sell the value proposition which typically is always financially driven, it is not a tough sale to say, “We think that we can actually improve your operation.” It not only makes good financial sense, it makes good environmental sense. It makes good social economic sense as well.
Ben Lack: Are there any final thoughts?
Todd Jarvis: I would encourage everyone to come out to see the conference and to learn what’s going on here in the southeast. And learn from people that are participating. Learn from those that have actually implemented energy efficiency programs and have had some successful projects so you can maybe take those thoughts and go back and apply them to your own organization.
Ben Lack: Ben?
Ben Taube: I agree with Todd. We look forward to seeing as many people as we can on October 27th, and hope that it’s a dialogue. There’s a learning experience but it’s not when you talk and ask questions and learn.
Ben Lack: October 27th, Cobb Galleria. Todd Jarvis, Ben Taube, thanks so much for the time. I really appreciate it.
Todd Jarvis: Thank you very much. We do appreciate it.
Ben Taube: Thanks.
Tags: ben taube, corporate sustainability, daily energy news, daily energy report, energy efficiency, energy news, energy report, green business, green business works expo, servidyne, southeast energy efficiency alliance, stephanie armistead, todd jarvis