We’re stuck in a difficult economic dilemma: Fuel costs have risen, while for many businesses, revenues and demand for services are down. Enterprises across the country are looking for ways to cut costs, but find that their expenses – particularly for energy use – are going up. Faced with this difficult economy, building owners must be smarter about the costs they can control.There’s a not-very-novel idea that commercial building owners and management companies are considering with greater frequency these days: Simply cut energy use. Sound crazy in this super-sized, SUV era? It shouldn’t be. Cutting energy costs may be one of the fastest, easiest, and least painful ways to conserve scarce energy resources, save money, and dramatically reduce operational costs.More and more buildings are installing energy management systems that can closely track energy use and proactively take steps to reduce energy consumption. Not only do the systems save money and precious energy resources, but they also give building operators a better pulse on the heartbeat of a facility.Energy use is always at its highest level in the summer. Ninety- to 100-degree temperatures, combined with high humidity in some locations, force air-conditioners to work overtime. Energy and electricity warnings are hardly uncommon during the hottest days.In commercial buildings such as office parks, data centers, medical facilities, and universities, levels of heat or cool air are dictated by a master energy control system, filling cafeterias and conference rooms with the same amount of heat or cool air as a 12- by 12-foot office or a 20- by 20-foot washroom. This one-size-fits-all approach to energy management and distribution is problematic.Small offices are too hot, so employees turn on fans. Large conference rooms are too cold, so people turn up the heat. In the summer, it can be so cold in some offices that personal space heaters are used. Lights are left on all night and on weekends; computers and networking systems remain on all week (as they have to, in this 24/7 era).But web-based energy management systems can take steps to address these kinds of problems. Through use of monitors and web-based software programs, energy management systems can learn when to turn down the air-conditioning (say at 6:00 p.m., when many workers have headed home). These systems can take steps to ensure that comfort levels are maintained, regardless of the temperature outside – all while keeping costs down.Commercial building owners estimate a decrease of about 10 to 20 percent in annual energy costs when reliable and effective energy management systems are in place. The savings will translate to more consistent comfort levels, better rates for tenants, increased revenues for building owners, and ultimately, more business.So, when building owners pore over the books at the end of the quarter looking for ways to cut costs, an old-fashioned idea (saving energy costs), combined with a new-fangled concept (energy management systems), can help buildings painlessly cut costs and be eco-friendly at the same time. Oh, and don’t forget to turn out the lights when you leave. Paul O’Conor is chief marketing officer at Cambridge, MA-based WebGen Systems Inc. (www.webgensystems.com), provider of the first predictive and proactive energy management system, the Intelligent Use of Energy (IUE)™.