Tips For Making The Right Energy Efficient Investments For Your Business

Posted on October 22nd, 2011 by

Jeramy Lemieux, Client Savers Lead for Diversey, discusses the strategy his company takes to investing in energy efficiency projects.

Full Transcript:

Ben Lack: Why does Diversey look at energy efficiency investments as an important vehicle for operating the business in a responsible way?
Jeramy Lemieux: Diversey has a very long and storied history going back to the Johnson family of Racine and in that history there’s a very closely held belief and passion that what is ultimately good for business is good for the environment. The approach that we take really focuses on that. It’s really to aggressively go after this misnomer that what’s more efficient and what’s better for the environment is naturally negative to business. That’s kind of our overall arching methodology is that these things are synonymous and they really deliver that benefit and really serve as the backbone of a lot of the mechanisms and the approaches that we take.
Ben Lack: As you look at different projects to invest in, can you walk us through what that process looks like and how you identify which projects are the ones that are executed?
Jeramy Lemieux: Sure. First off, we try to step away from the individual projects. I think what happens a lot of times is, it’s very easy to get fixated on a technology or novelty and very quickly lose sight of the bigger picture. When we’re approaching potential projects, we always look at them in terms of their performance and their fit into our overall objective. So, it’s not just a matter of doing a single lighting project at a single site, it’s how does a single lighting project contribute to an overall objective, both in terms of environmental benefit and financial benefit from those investments. Further to that, we also try to step away from jumping right into efficiency, because unfortunately, efficiency is kind of a double-edged sword. It’s a very attractive type of an investment. For example lighting replacements make a lot of sense, there are tons of resources that support it and they’re fairly well understood types of programs. Unfortunately, the flip side of it is they can also present serious pitfalls in that. When we jump towards efficiency projects right at the get-go, you’re making a fatal assumption in a lot of cases and that is what you have today you need to have and hence, you need to make it more efficient. So, what we try to do is before we spend that first penny on efficiency projects is we ask ourselves the question, is this necessary in the first place? To give you a great example of this is a program that we have that we do internally and we also share with our customers and it’s this novel concept of daylight cleaning. So, if you go to any major metropolitan area, 10 o’clock or 11 o’clock at night and you look at the cityscape, what do you notice?
Ben Lack: It’s bright.
Jeramy Lemieux: It’s bright. So, the question is why? Why is just about every single office light on? Well, a lot of the times the answer is because the cleaning staff is in there; we clean at night. So, you ask the question, well, why do you clean at night? The answer a lot of times is, we clean at night because machines are loud and chemicals are stinky. Those conditions held true 15 or 20 years ago but they usually don’t hold true today. Chemicals are considerably less odorous, we have indoor ambient air quality standards that we have to live up to, machines are considerably quieter. So the question becomes, why do we continue to clean at night? Why can’t we simply clean during the day? If you think about this in terms of a practical benefit, if a company is saying we need to cut our electrical bills so we’re going to invest X hundreds of thousands of dollars to replace our lights to get a 10% energy efficiency improvement or even a 20% improvement. They fail a lot of times to ask that first question of, well, can we just turn the lights off at night? Maybe we can cut 40 or 50% off our energy bill, have our staff clean during the day and ultimately not have to go and spend that money to begin with. So, we get rid of that excess, that wastefulness and then subsequently, can look at making our systems more efficient. In terms of our overall methodology, that is something we refer to as avoidance.

The approach that we tend to take is a 3-step-one where we talk about avoidance, efficiency and generation. So, the first step being, get rid of the excess and wastefulness. The second step then is to focus and improve the efficiency of what you need to have and the third step is to take that next leap to look at on-site power technology or alternative energy sources. It’s those 3 things taken as a whole, in conjunction with balancing this across overall corporate objectives that really serves as the driving force behind a lot of our investments.

Ben Lack: How hard is it to get the buy-in that you need in order to push these objectives? Are you getting any push-back with this strategy either from the C-Suite or from the folks actually implementing the projects?
Jeramy Lemieux: I would say that as you go higher in the organization, the value of these types of approaches especially when you are talking the avoidance ones, become more attractive because they require very little if any investment and they can generate significant savings. However, as you work your way down through an organization, the greater and greater the resistance is, because you are ultimately asking individuals to start changing their behaviors and that’s uncomfortable. These avoidance projects in general terms are relatively easy to find, are extremely valuable to implement and are obnoxiously painful to do. But, they ultimately unleash a significant amount of value. So, they are painful things to do but they are enormous opportunities.
Ben Lack: Can you give us an example of a lesson learned as you’ve implemented this strategy?
Jeramy Lemieux: There is a very common tendency to fixate on technologies. I kind of alluded to this earlier. As an engineer myself I get relatively geeked-out about certain technologies, there’s just a certain coolness about some of these things. But, you have to be able to step away from that and really measure these things from their tangible impact. There’s a lot of hype around different technologies, there’s a lot of perception that one technology is better than another and if you fall into that hype and start trying to implement these cool and new and innovative and fashionable technologies, often times you’ll find they don’t fit. They don’t deliver nearly what they should deliver or what you expect they’re going to deliver and you very quickly lose momentum.

So, my biggest piece of advice is to stop and really measure to see how well does this technology, this solution fit into my business or fit into my needs. Instead of looking to say well how do I get my business to be able to take on the value of this technology, like a PV array or a wind turbine or even a HVAC upgrade, instead you should say what technology fits best with what my needs are and instead look at that PV array, wind turbine or HVAC upgrade as kind of a tool and my objective is to find the best tool to fix the problem that I have.

Ben Lack: Jeremy, why are you doing what you’re doing and why does this industry interest you?
Jeramy Lemieux: I do it because I deep down just have a complete abhorrence to waste and inefficiency. That’s probably my biggest motivation. It’s seeing so much excess and lack of utilization in resources across an operation. Frankly speaking, it’s fairly fun to find those and find ways where we can either reduce that wastefulness or better yet, to find a viable use of that waste from one process into another. When we talk about the path that Diversey has taken over the years, we’ve tried to be very clear and say that our objective is not to be perfect. Because at the end of the day if as the legacy Diversey company in and of itself, even if we were perfect and we completely got rid of all our carbon emissions across our global operations, completely eliminated our water footprint, our waste generation, at the end of the day that would relatively be insignificant, it wouldn’t be so much as a drop in the bucket. Our objective historically has always been to go and say instead, let’s try and figure out a way that a business in virtually any industry can aggressively set targets for carbon reduction, water reduction, waste reduction, can tangibly set those targets in absolute terms and can drive down those consumptions and that wastefulness in a way that’s attractive to business where it’s a financially viable objective and then to spread that to a much broader audience. Our prospective historically has been that if we are able to do that, if we’re successful at that, what we ultimately end up doing is something considerably bigger than ourselves and a whole bunch of companies making a 20 or 25 or 30 percent reduction in their carbon emission is going to be infinitely greater than the total of our whole operation, even if we’re perfect.
Ben Lack: Diversey has been participating in the EDF Climate Corp program for the last couple of years. Can you briefly talk about what you had your EDF Climate Corp fellow do this year and what the project was?
Jeramy Lemieux: In 2011, we really focused on finding ways to go and tying numerous technologies together to make the overall efficiency improvements at a highly expanded manufacturing plant that we were going through. So, the fellow really worked to say, what would happen if we make process improvements in hot water, in compressed air, in building heating systems and select those so that they work much more harmoniously with one another to deliver the maximum benefit to that specific plant as it was undergoing some significant process improvements and increases in production volume.
Ben Lack: And what were the results of those findings?
Jeramy Lemieux: Well, he was able to go in and identify a number of contractors and vendors and to refine a number of potential projects that could all be scoped together and the goal is that at the specific facility that he was working on, that even though that plant will increase its volume by more than 50%, will be able to have its total energy consumption, after these increases, be about 20% less than it was before the production volume increases.
Ben Lack: Fantastic. That’s a cool program.
Jeramy Lemieux: That’s how you demonstrate the absolute reduction even though there’s growth.

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