Remember me? I haven’t been gone long enough to be a complete stranger, but I guess long enough to be a guest. I am back because there is some really good news to share. I know you will be as excited as I am about the 2015 publication of the 8th edition of “Guide to Energy Management” by Capehart, Turner & Kennedy. This is the text used by the Association of Energy Engineers (AEE), Certified Energy Manager (CEM) program across North America. What is remarkable about this lovely 8th edition is the inclusion of a new chapter (chapter 21 in fact) called Human Behavior and Facility Energy Management (U.S. spelling reigns supreme in this chapter). It is the first time that this text and these editors have included reference to the humans who interact with the energy systems they explain in great detail in the proceeding 20 chapters and 7 editions. Like I said, remarkable right?
What you are going to love even more is that I was co-author of this shiny new chapter. My most intelligent and insightful academic co-authors in this delightful addition to the wide world of energy management; Eric Mazzi and Eileen Westervelt have each discovered in their respective engineering careers that once you bring the humans into the picture your energy management seems to go a lot smoother. Together we wanted to demystify this elusive, high potential, low cost strategy for energy managers everywhere.
Thank you to the editors for giving us a whole chapter to provide this exposé on the human element of energy management. This contribution to the literature couldn’t be in better hands. The Association of Energy Engineers CEM program is widely regarded as the highest caliber training of this sort. Their trainers are the best, their students are the best and now I believe their text book is the best too. The simple inclusion of a chapter on human behaviour (the real Canadian speller in me shining through) completes the puzzle. It was the missing piece and now it has been found.
But why on earth is this so important? “We are engineers” you might say. We do the heavy lifting around here and make sure boilers don’t explode and HVAC systems don’t destroy buildings. True, all true, and we love you for it. You are not wrong but as the brilliant Mithra Moezzi says “narrow”. Lack of familiarity with this content is common, because in general, most energy management programs are developed and managed by individuals with highly refined skills in Engineering, Building Science and Technology with limited exposure and/or interest in the human part of energy systems.
Due to the lack of familiarity with human and social behaviour many organizations with energy management programs choose not to focus on the people. Eric, Eileen and I think that is a big mistake. This chapter was born to fill that gap, get practical tools, stories and encouragement into the hands of the humans who need it most – energy managers. I hope this chapter will be the nudge energy managers need to recognize that humans aren’t so bad. Yes, we are irrational, unpredictable and hard wired to think in the short-term but that is all ok. In the end, we are just human and all we want is our energy systems to provide their services efficiently so we are comfortable and can enjoy our time doing important things like having parties and seeing movies or in the case of UHN performing double lung transplants.
Which brings me back to why I was invited in the first place to tell you about this…because it all started here at UHN. The bulk of the energy successes at UHN over the last 15 years have come from creating an energy conservation culture with the humans who have the most control over energy decisions. Some of the biggest wins from the energy behaviour program come directly from making facility managers and building operators more comfortable with adopting and eventually suggesting energy efficiency solutions. Opening this pathway results in large scale energy projects moving forward faster, smoother and at less cost. Demonstrating to senior leaders that it is ok, even preferred to let staff spend time on energy conservation has resulted in year over year increases in energy efficiency up to 10% across all utilities equaling cost avoidance of $2.35 million dollars per year.
This approach is highly scalable and easily translatable to other organizations. What UHN has found from experimenting with behaviour based solutions over the last decade is that in addition to the upfront savings, behaviour is almost always part of the success in making savings from technical fixes persist for the long term. The benefits of setting, meeting and then exceeding your energy saving potential are available to anyone who acknowledges and includes the humans in the system upfront. This is not hocus pocus and it is not manipulation. It is sincere interest in understanding how the socio-technical environment functions so we get our energy management right from the very start.
One more thing before I go, just wanted to quickly mention my next step on the energy behaviour frontier. In my new post at the Office for a Healthy Environment at Carolinas HealthCare System in Charlotte, North Carolina I am contributing to a fledgling Energy Management program that will eventually span across 40 acute care hospitals and 900 healthcare buildings. The chance to create a culture of energy efficiency and conservation on this scale will ring out loudly across the American South and hopefully beyond. There are 60,000 plus employees at CHS which are a lot of humans in the system to acknowledge. I’d love to know more about the humans in your energy system so we can grow the network of energy behaviour changers internationally. I am guided by my experiences at UHN and the science of human and social behaviour described in this chapter. I hope you will be too.