In my August 2013 blog, I framed up the federal energy dilemma in the context of financial, regulatory and mission related drivers for federal energy management and the difficult challenges federal energy managers face in accomplishing their facilities energy goals. As a sequel to that blog, I continue the “Mission Impossible” theme focusing on some fun, memorable and relevant lessons from Impossible Mission Force (IMF) agent Ethan Hunt’s approach to accomplishing a difficult, seemingly impossible mission.
First, what’s typically at the center of every IMF mission? An asset – list of agents, “rabbit’s foot”, vaccine – that must be recovered or protected. In the case of federal facilities, energy, too, is an asset – a very valuable one which must be protected and managed. When it’s not managed, it becomes more costly and less productive, reliable, safe and sustainable. Facilities and the people that depend on them therefore become more vulnerable.
The mission of federal energy managers (I’ll call them the Energy Management Force, or EMF) is to monitor, control, and conserve their energy asset in order to comply with mandates, reduce their environmental footprint, decrease cost and increase energy security.
In MI, once a mission is disclosed and the asset to be protected is identified, the IMF devises a strategy and a carefully constructed action plan. For the EMF, this is the critical first step as well. To be most successful, the EMF must take a lifecycle approach to energy management with a strategic plan designed and implemented with the building lifecycle in mind and a continuous process to actively monitor, control, improve and sustain benefits. In addition, the plan should balance goals associated with many factors, including efficiency, affordability, and resiliency and explore costs associated with delivery, asset optimization and O&M that ultimately impact ROI parameters. Tools like this one from Energy Star can be used to gauge payback potential as you’re building the plan.
Next, Ethan will typically assemble a team of IMF agents and allies and define the logistics of the operation. For the EMF, I liken this to answering the question, “How do I buy my energy?”. It is imperative to understand the commercial sources of energy supply, associated rates and tariffs, and risk. This knowledge can be integrated with existing or planned on site renewable energy assets in order to negotiate the best rates, reduce demand and minimize risk.
What always seems to happen shortly into IMF operations is the discovery of a mole, or rogue agent, determined to destroy their noble plans. Only with diligent monitoring and analysis of clues are they able to uncover the villain. So, too, must the EMF implement an advanced metering plan to monitor and control operations to identify energy savings opportunities and root out the sneaky villains that can impact power quality and increase operating costs.
To overcome their foes and protect their asset, the IMF leverages an arsenal of inventive gadgets. Similarly, once opportunities to better optimize their energy asset are identified, the EMF must leverage innovative technologies and execute targeted infrastructure projects to accomplish their goals. Even if appropriated funds are in short supply, the EMF can count on private sector financing to provide the necessary capital to invest and guarantee savings. Examples of these financing tools include energy savings performance contracts, power purchase agreements and utility energy service contracts.
Finally, how many times has Ethan captured his nemesis, and claimed victory, only to be out-maneuvered by the villain and his allies? So goes the life of the EMF. The EMF must consistently ask, “How am I performing?” because unplanned, unmanaged shutdowns of equipment, facility usage changes, substandard regulation of automation systems, inadequate maintenance, and lack of behavior continuity can quickly erode the savings of an implemented energy conservation measure. It is only through continuous monitoring and analytics, rigorous maintenance and re-commissioning programs, and immediate reaction if deviation from desired levels occurs that an EMF can identify ongoing opportunities for improvement and achieve long-term success.
With Strategic Sustainability Performance Plans in place and countless examples of successful programs and projects implemented across federal agencies, it’s no doubt that agencies have made great progress in this energy management mission. In fact the latest progress report measuring progress towards legislative mandates, shows, among other things, that agencies decreased energy intensity 20.6% in 2012 vs a 2003 baseline. But, many villains in this story remain, challenging the resolve of the EMF and leaving much work to be done towards “mission accomplished”. Stay tuned as I further examine each step of this lifecyle approach in future posts.
Have you applied this or a similar approach in your quest towards “mission accomplished”? Please share your best practices in the comments.