Energy management

Energy management has become a critical part of an integrated sustainability strategy for many businesses, with the increase in the use of digital data tools, states a new report.

The 2020 Corporate Energy & Sustainability Progress Report, issued by global energy solutions provider, Schneider Electric, examines how organizations are addressing the opportunities and challenges presented by a changing energy landscape focused on enterprise energy management and decarbonisation.

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The report is based on a survey completed in partnership with GreenBiz Research, of 265 global professionals responsible for energy and sustainability at organizations with more than $250 million in annual revenue.

In 2020, business leaders are recognizing energy managers as an integral part of their business operations, with 87% of respondents agreeing that energy procurement is increasing in its scope and complexity.

This has led to changes in the way organizations approach energy management; 56% of respondents now employ dedicated energy management staff. With a growing number of different energy sources, financial mechanisms and technological developments to manage, in an increasingly volatile environment, organizations require expertise to advise on money-saving best practices and strategies.

Related findings include: 

  • In 2019’s report, only 29% of respondents’ companies cited strategic energy sourcing as a top initiative for cost savings, but this year 46.5% noted that timing and pricing volatility are the single biggest challenge.
  • Sixty per cent of respondents are considering onsite or offsite renewables as a purchasing strategy in the next three years to manage volatility, with 30% of respondents already deploying renewables. 
  • More than 46% of respondents are prepared to respond to future innovations in energy management.
  • Executive buy-in is the most important driver for getting new energy and sustainability programmes approved and funded according to 84% of respondents.

“Energy and resource management has moved past the payment of utility bills and become a strategic way for organizations to mitigate financial and reputational risks,” said Bill Brewer, VP of Global Energy & Sustainability Services at Schneider Electric.

“The landscape is evolving rapidly and if businesses want to remain competitive, they will need to implement strategies that demonstrate a clear understanding of where energy management is heading.”

Energy management strategies evolve based on data

The overwhelming amount of energy and sustainability data available can be complicated to navigate and difficult to manage. But over the past year, more businesses have been investing in digital technologies to ease this complexity, with double the number of respondents (37%) from last year reporting that they use IoT devices such as meters, sensors, and other smart assets. Investing in these technologies is having a positive impact on organizations, with 63% of respondents with digital solutions reporting higher confidence in preparedness for innovations in resource management. 

The research also shows that energy and resource management strategies are evolving based on new data technologies. Of the participants, 48% reported that they are adapting their energy or sustainability data management programmes based on growth in connected devices and 24% said the same about growth in artificial intelligence.

Although 54% of respondents reported they are still managing their data using spreadsheets, the benefits of investing in digital solutions are clear.

Prioritising climate change

Mitigating and adapting to climate change and global warming, rapid decarbonisation, and other climate-related initiatives make up a much larger focus of business operations than ever before.

The research showed that environmental considerations are a top driver for corporate energy and sustainability initiatives (51.5%) and that climate change is the top risk to energy and resource supply (58%).

Executive leadership is beginning to understand the benefits of addressing climate change, including reputational advantage with stakeholders, new products and services, and the potential to benefit from environmental investing.

Other climate related statistics show: 

  • Public perception is a driving factor for sustainable energy investment with brand/reputation (50%) and competitive advantage (47%) top of mind. 
  • Seventy per cent of this year’s respondents report that they have set energy or sustainability targets and announced them publicly, compared to just 57% in the 2019 report.
  • Seventy-five per cent of respondents say that they have increased goals over those previously set, and those that have increased goals are more confident they will meet them.
  • Thirty per cent of responding CEOs indicated that they strongly agree that their organization’s response to climate change will be advantageous to their business.

“Climate change has taken centre stage for any global business,” said an anonymous survey respondent. “Stakeholders from investors to consumers are keeping a close eye on how organizations are doing their part to reduce carbon emission and commit to sustainable energy stewardship and its imperative businesses start thinking about their plans to contribute if they have not already.”

The Corporate Energy & Sustainability Progress Report was developed to understand how large organizations purchase energy, manage resource demand, use data, and develop, finance, and execute enterprise efficiency and decarbonisation programmes.

The findings in the report come from a web survey and phone interviews conducted by GreenBiz Research.

Participants included 265 global energy and sustainability professionals who oversee procurement, operations and sustainability, from board members to individual contributors.

Companies surveyed represent 17 industry segments and reported minimum annual revenues of $250 million.