In business these days you can always find experts across many sectors who promise to provide the answers you need to be more productive or profitable. Some so-called experts may add value to your business – others, sadly won’t! Siemens’ Steve Barker explains

When it comes to identifying, implementing and supporting potential energy efficiency programmes, I believe there are many sound commercial reasons why working in partnership with an appropriately skilled energy consultant can pave the way to real business benefit. Expert consulting can achieve many things – but you should also be mindful of potential pitfalls.

Many organisations are quite rightly heavily focussed on their day to day operations. This is their top priority. With ever increasing competition meaning a constant focus upon overheads and cost control, companies will inevitably have limited spare resources that they can direct towards new projects such as potential energy efficiency programmes. Indeed, research amongst the business community highlights internal resource issues as a prime barrier to implementing energy efficient solutions.

With internal help at a premium, it may be wise for companies to consider employing the right level of expertise now – readily available when it comes to tackling energy management and efficiency issues. However, the key is to use the correct experts.

Utilising expertise

Professionals in this field can help companies across a broad spectrum of areas to underpin value added benefits. These can include helping to maximise the potential savings from energy programmes which are typically increased by a factor of four if implemented via a planned and strategic project base, as opposed to utilising an ad-hoc approach. Such additional energy savings far outstrip the cost of any associated consultant fees.

Experts can work with businesses to identify ‘no cost/low cost’ saving opportunities and help prioritise the costs/benefits derived from a range of identified investment projects, as well as highlight process and operational efficiency improvements that go hand in hand with energy efficiency objectives.

They can also take into consideration the effects of water, effluent and emissions linked energy projects in addition to the more traditional areas so that a holistic and strategic approach is adopted with all the key energy consuming areas included.

Looking to the longer term, expert consulting can develop the basis for continuous improvement programmes and provide the tools, processes and documentation needed to achieve on-going targets and ultimate success.

As well as the detail of the programme itself, expert support can be made available through the project implementation phase, as well as the provision of advice on compliance with important and relevant regulatory and legislative commitments. They can also help steer businesses toward the optimum method of project finance and lifecycle costing. Finally, if required, the expert can partner with the business to develop complete carbon management and long term sustainability programmes that can help secure the business for the future.

What to look out for

Being able to tap into some or all of the benefits listed above is possible through the expert consulting channel. However, my one piece of advice before you do so is to ensure that you are using the correct experts for what you are seeking.

Such experts should be capable of considering all aspects of energy consumption such as steam, compressed air, heating and cooling technologies and process improvements, as well as the basic electrical energy consumers – drives, motors and lighting. Also make sure your expert does not overlook the potential savings to be gained in high energy areas such as water, effluent, waste and emissions.

Two final thoughts to note. Where appropriate, seek specialists with industry specific knowledge. Probe their service offering to make sure you are satisfied they understand the particular nuances of your industry, if that is particularly important. Finally, avoid at all costs what I term the ‘one trick ponies’. These ‘experts’ will only target a single issue such as offering energy audits that simply look at electric motors in isolation. Such a piecemeal approach will limit the substantial energy saving potential to be gleaned from a far wider look at how your business uses energy and, more importantly, how you can reduce its level to ultimately deliver tangible bottom line cost savings.