Energy training puts people first

Giles Barwell, Future Energy Solutions, on how staff energy awareness training helps to focus attention on why and how energy can be saved.

ut simply, the benefits of staff energy awareness training can be immense. For little cost, savings of 5-10 per cent can be made, even by companies that have already introduced a number of energy saving measures. These savings will go straight onto the bottom line to help profitability, often in a matter of months. So, if your annual energy bill is in the region of £500,000 – £1 million, then you could be looking at saving as much as £50,000-£100,000.

No matter what industry or process, it always pays for staff at all levels to be energy aware. For example, Perkins Engines, manufacturer of diesel engines, conducted a staff survey before introducing an awareness campaign. Nearly 90 per cent were concerned about the company’s environmental performance and could identify areas where energy was wasted, but only 10 per cent had been involved in any environmental initiative – citing lack of relevant knowledge as the main reason. After the campaign, over 85 per cent were taking actions to save £100,000 a year for the company.

In general, people are very receptive to the energy efficiency concept, from the shop floor up. When work starts, the enthusiasm is tangible and the response is often immediate. In rare cases of scepticism, it is swept away by the end of the training session.

Energy audit

Before training commences, we generally conduct an energy audit of the site. This not only helps us to identify key areas for attention, but it also allows us to speak to people. This helps us to identify other issues – maybe where working practices can be improved, or where attitudes need changing.

To optimise results, the training needs to involve the whole workforce, including shop-floor, technical and managerial staff. It makes a big difference if activities are integrated into a long-term programme or framework. This enables people to make their own suggestions, bring up issues and opportunities. Many of the best ideas come from workshop sessions and debates. Regular forums or events such as quizzes can encourage involvement.

The benefits of this type of structured approach can be illustrated by the success of a campaign introduced by ICI Paints. Only two years into a five-year energy plan, the company had slashed the amount of energy used to produce each litre of paint by 35 per cent – more than double the 15 per cent target.

Simple but effective devices, such as posters, can have a dynamic effect. A poster campaign – costing just over £7,000 – helped Rover slice £1 million off the energy bill. And that was 10 years ago, so think of the cumulative savings!

Fuel consumption

It is also important to remember that fuel used for transport should be included. We recently worked on an energy efficiency campaign with the RMC Group, which featured a driver training programme. This saved the division at least 10 per cent on fuel consumption.

Energy efficiency campaigns often focus on technical measures and new equipment. Remember, people are also an essential resource, and equipment is only as effective as its operator. Energy efficiency training will help the workforce to understand why they need to save energy, and how to go about it. In the end, everyone benefits – including the company, the community and individuals.

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