Today’s energy prices may be low, but U.S. businesses still see energy management as crucial.
Last year, natural gas prices fell to the lowest point since 1999. Lower natural gas prices have also put downward pressure on U.S. electricity prices, which fell 24 percent to 64 percent in key regions during the first quarter of last year.
Despite lower prices, our recent survey of 300+ energy decision makers — from across a range of U.S. industries — told us that a majority are still taking steps to use less and cleaner energy. In fact, 96 percent reported that their business incorporates at least one energy management best practice. That's because energy management can provide significant savings on energy costs.
Two Industry Strategies
However, for today’s businesses, an energy strategy is not simply about securing lowest-cost energy. In an era with a growing focus on sustainability and climate change, businesses also appreciate the environmental benefits provided by greater energy management.
Price is certainly important, but it’s not everything. And U.S. companies continue to step up their commitments: 71 percent of Fortune 100 companies and 43 percent of Fortune 500 companies have now set renewable energy or sustainability targets.
How are businesses meeting their renewable energy and sustainability goals? Largely through two main strategies: energy efficiency and renewable energy. First, they employ efficiency measures because, as the saying goes, the megawatt saved is always less expensive than the megawatt produced. According to the survey:
More than two-thirds are making energy-saving improvements to their facilities
Nearly the same number encourage employees to use energy more wisely through behavioral programs
Nearly half use energy monitoring technologies to pinpoint equipment inefficiencies
Beyond efficiency, businesses also take advantage of today’s low-cost renewable energy technologies. Solar represents the best example, with its prices falling 70 percent over the past 10 years and adoption of the technology by businesses. Use of solar won particular kudos among those surveyed. Nearly 90 percent that generate electricity with solar rated their energy management programs as either effective or very effective.
Direct Energy Business is proud to be part of this growing trend and offers a number of commercial solar power options. In 2015, we unveiled a groundbreaking 1.2 megawatt rooftop solar project with H-E-B and SolarCity in Weslaco, Texas. More recently, we announced an innovative 13.6 megawatt remote solar project with Johns Hopkins University in Maryland and a new plan to install solar power systems at Whole Foods Market locations throughout the United States.
The survey also showed that businesses and institutions understand the value of knowledge in energy planning. More specifically, they see the value in collecting data to lay the groundwork for facility improvement.
More than half of energy decision makers surveyed already use energy monitoring technologies — like Panoramic Power — to pinpoint energy waste and operational inefficiencies. Another 34 percent plan to do so within the next year. More than three-quarters either already use advanced analytics to apply the data or plan to in the next year.
Data analytics helps us understand how and when a facility uses energy. We can isolate faulty or under-performing equipment. And with this knowledge we can schedule maintenance, repair and replacement to achieve maximum equipment performance at the lowest cost.
Analytics also help us design successful energy use strategies, such as peak shifting. This practice taps into the reality of energy pricing, which changes all the time. In places where time-of-use pricing is available, a business might shift energy-intensive activities to times of day when electricity prices are lower.
The Bottom Line
Across the board, energy decision makers surveyed see themselves as gaining significant environmental benefits through energy management. In our survey, respondents overwhelmingly — 88 percent — said that by pursuing these strategies, they also reduced energy-related costs.
The bottom line? Even with energy prices generally lower, the right strategies can bring both environmental and financial benefits.
Learn how businesses are boosting their bottom line and meeting sustainability goals through energy management.
Download the 2017 Energy Decision Makers Survey Report