First of all, let me announce that there are only a few predictions in this article, but you can take them to the bank. Part of my reluctance to predict is because there are big factors within 2012 that cause uncertainty, such as the economy and an election year.
However, energy costs are increasing all over the world and will continue to do so as global demand increases while new fossil fuel supplies are stagnant, partially due to environmental issues and external costs to society such as gas fracking and the tar sands pipeline. Global energy demand is expected to grow by 33% during the next 25 years. Even if the Energy Information Agency is a little off in its prediction, the demand will be more than it is today and there will be less available supply.
Hopefully the above trends will allow U.S. leaders and companies to realize that energy costs are a significant factor. They will impact not only production and operational costs, but water and food costs, etc. Leaders will think long-term, rather than current “quarter-to-quarter” reactionary business planning.
In the United States, the ability to do more strategic planning is a necessity for future economic prosperity. It is no secret that the U.S. has declined when you consider the data from New York Times, OECD.org and other sources:
- U.S. Life Expectancy is 28th in the world;
- U.S. Student math scores are 28th
- US High School Graduation Rate is 18th in the world.
This data literally points to the idea that the United States is becoming fat, dumb and lazy.
If the above information makes you angry… Good. It does the same for me, but rather than sit around and wait to feel better, let’s do something about it! As necessity is the mother of invention, perhaps this awareness is enough to innovate, something we are still good at, and I mean YOU. Energy management carries the same principles and disciplines as dieting: Commitment, discipline, and progress. We can do this ourselves, and, like dieting, no one is going to do it for us.
Energy management saves money, helps our economy, and reduces pollution. The problem is that energy management is not implemented enough, and what we need in 2012 is to increase the number of projects getting approved and implemented.
What are the barriers? According to several recent studies, including one survey done by BUILDINGS, “lack of capital for upfront costs” remains a significant barrier. However, upfront capital has been a consistent barrier for years, and it can be overcome if the presentation of the project is better. Ask any married man – It’s all about the presentation. Rather than continue to analyze and delay, let’s have a call to action to do a better job including and prioritizing all the benefits of our energy projects so that we can get more projects approved. Our business leaders and society in general today have shorter attention spans than 5 years ago, so we must present our projects so they stand out.
The great news about energy savings is that these projects definitely accomplish good on both logical and emotional scorecards!
If lack of capital is truly the barrier, then let’s get more projects financed, so that they don’t require upfront funding from the owner.
Believe it or not, there are still financing companies who are looking for good projects to invest in. Getting financing is a solvable problem, which basically alleviates the biggest barrier. It is the same process that a homeowner has with a mortgage. Those who take action get better financing.
My final prediction for 2012 is that I would not expect any help or energy leadership from our government. Energy/climate issues are on the back burner for politicians until the presidential election is over, or unless a major catastrophe occurs such as the Japan nuclear crisis.
It is really up to us to make the case for energy management as a great example of something that helps the environment and economy. It is amazing to me that this topic isn’t a golden goose for politicians to talk about and incorporate into their campaigns, but maybe with your efforts, it could become one.
Finally, there will be technological advances in 2012 that will create new projects and opportunities, but technology is not what we need most right now - we have plenty. As with any diet plan, what we need is commitment and discipline to get more projects approved. It really is up to you as the facility manager to sell the projects. If you can do that, I predict you will have a great year!
If you would like to hear a State of the Industry webinar recorded on December 15th, 2011, click here to download: http://profitablegreensolutions.com/?q=resources/2011-2012-state-energy-engineering-industry