Global survey reveals businesses’ energy strategies wanting

A survey of 1,500-plus professionals in the Americas, Europe and Asia finds that while most companies see the cost benefits of energy efficiency measures, the majority lack a clear strategy, concrete targets and a systematic approach to related goals. It was conducted by DNV GL – Business Assurance, a world leader among certification bodies, and the research institute GFK Eurisko.

“Across the board we see commitment to energy efficiency driven by cost control, and most organizations are only scratching the surface, not tapping into their full potential,” says Faith Beaty, president of DNV GL – Business Assurance, North America. Among trends she and colleagues glean from survey responses:

Energy efficiency management. Energy efficiency is a key topic, not only at a personal (77 percent of respondents) and societal (81 percent) levels, but from a business perspective as well (69 percent). Of companies surveyed, 57 percent have an energy efficiency strategy and 55 percent set measurable goals, with percentages around 10 points higher for businesses belonging to the energy intensive sectors. However, energy efficiency is still a generic ambition, with goals mainly set at company level (37 percent). Very few set concrete targets on activities, even among energy intensive firms.

Costs drive sustainability. DNV GL and GFK staff report that 67 percent of companies have invested in energy efficiency initiatives during the last three years. Costs are driving sustainability: 46 percent of respondents stated that they invested in energy efficiency measures in order to obtain more efficient tools, or to reduce energy consumption and costs. Companies are making concerted efforts in order to optimize their energy management, but without a long-term view; only 26 percent have an energy management plan. More sophisticated initiatives such as staff training (21 of respondents), having energy managers (20 percent) or performing audits and assessments (20 percent) play a minor role. A clear strategy and a systematic approach are lacking; less than half of the companies that have undertaken efficiency activities are able to quantify the energy savings obtained.

Main obstacles and benefits. Management awareness is not a problem, survey results suggest. Economic constraints are the main obstacles preventing companies from making more progress, as respondents cited other priorities (36 percent), expensive implementation (33 percent), lack of returns (25 percent) and focus on short-term results (24 percent). A systematic approach would help firms make the right decisions and get a proper return on their investments. However, the benefits are already perceived as exceeding the costs (59 percent of respondents), especially in terms of savings (54 percent).

Future outlook. Looking ahead, companies are expected to increase their commitment to energy efficiency by taking a more mature approach. Activities related to cost and reduced consumption will remain the most common actions, but there will also be significant increases in more strategic actions like staff training (+13 percent compared with the present time), identification of energy savings potential (+8 percent), and energy management plan preparation (+7 percent).

“The majority of companies are unfortunately not taking a holistic approach. We see that energy efficiency is not being applied at all organizational levels in businesses,” says DNV GL – Business Assurance CEO Luca Criciott. “Organizations are also mainly focusing on reducing costs and consumption, which is good of course, but they lack a well-rounded approach that would enable them to tap the full potential of energy management. Establishing an energy management system would help them to define a strategy and to translate it into action. Facing energy efficiency issues at operational level only is not enough.”