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Jim Volkman, Principal, Nominated for the 2016 Leadership in Energy Efficiency Awards


Jim Volkman is a professional engineer who has spent his career in Energy Efficiency.

He began his career in 1989 conducting energy audits and analysis with North American Energy Services. In 1998 he was responsible for identification, development and implementation of resource conservation plans with Chevron Energy Services and PG&E Energy Services. In 2001, he led the technical team supporting the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance’s Building Operations market transformation strategy, providing technical hands-on training to service providers and specific facility staff in the basics of “tuning” commercial buildings and tracking building performance. Served as a senior member of a program development team that assisted the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance with the implementation of a five-year market transformation initiative targeting industrial firms throughout the Pacific Northwest.

In addition, he participated in the development of the Building Operations Market strategy through development and implementation of Building Performance Service. Jim led the Alliance’s delivery of the Test in the Portland Metropolitan area working with O&M and mechanical service providers to develop, refine, and deliver these types of services to the market. Jim provided sales and planning support, quality assurance overview, and mentoring of technical services.

In 2006 Jim was responsible for refining the regression modeling process for industrial clients which resulted in utilities having a regression model that would document savings and manufacturing now have a management tool that measures O&M savings. While the industrial market had an appetite for adopting a Continuous Energy Improvement process Jim focused his efforts on customizing the Industrial CEI process to better fit the commercial market. His collaborative effort with utilities and building operators is responsible for the current Strategic Energy Management program design we see in the market today. Jim has played a critical role in the program we see today in North America. He has had his fingerprint on each innovation. He continues to play an integral part of refining the MT&R process that is accepted during the M&V process. Jim understands the energy efficiency process from the utility perspective and has been an innovator to provide business solutions to address both the needs of the utility and end user.

8 tips to help you have a greener summer and use less energy

1. Turn Up Your Thermostat
Heating and cooling account for more than 50 percent of the energy use in a typical home, making it your largest expense, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. The Consumer Energy Center recommends setting your thermostat to 78 degrees while you’re home and 85 degrees while you’re away. That’s because you’ll cut your costs by 1 to 3 percent for each degree you set the thermostat above 72.
2. Use Fans
A house fan installed in your attic will draw cool air into your home through the windows while forcing out hot air. A few well-placed fans throughout your house also will allow you to set your thermostat higher and help you keep your cool.
3. Check Your Air Conditioning Filter
When’s the last time you checked on your air conditioner? If it’s been a while, consider this: Replacing a dirty filter can lower your air conditioner’s energy consumption by 5 to 15 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
4. Avoid Using Appliances During Peak Hours
Electricity costs more at certain times. Avoid using washers, dryers and other appliances during traditionally peak times — typically between 4 and 6 p.m. — or whenever an electricity emergency is declared.
5. Turn Off and Unplug Appliances When Not In Use
Turning off the lights when you leave the room is common sense, but you’re likely wasting energy in other ways around the house. So-called “phantom energy” is being wasted any time you leave cell phone chargers plugged in after the phone has finished charging, when you leave your computer running, and anytime you have old appliances plugged in but not in use.That old refrigerator in the garage might be great for your summer cookout, but if that’s the only time you use it, consider using coolers instead.
6. Plug Cracks in Doors and Windows
Cracks or gaps in your doors and windows are sucking money out of your home. Take time this summer to install some inexpensive weather stripping. Caulk leaky doors and windows, and install foam gaskets behind outlet covers.
7. Seal Your Ducts
Leaking ductwork accounts for about 25 percent of cooling costs in an average home, according to the Consumer Energy Center.
8. Don’t Let Your Pool Become an Energy Drain
Pools add tons of fun to your backyard, but they also add to your electric bill. The U.S. Department of Energy recommends installing an energy-efficient pool heater, using a pool cover, installing a smaller pump and reducing the time it runs to save energy and money.

Getting Persistent Home Energy Savings

There are many things we do every day to save money, but there are also things which we do, without realizing that are wasting money. This week I looked into the electricity usage. Turn off things like the TV and plugs at the wall when not in use. The TV, on standby, uses up to 50% of the energy that it uses when it is on. The same applies to phone chargers and computers.

Use the washing machine only when it is full. If the sun is shining, hang the clothes on the washing line. If you are going to use your tumble dryer, make sure the clothes are not sopping wet when they go in as the laundry will take longer to dry. If you have a pool, set it to filter once every 24 hours and keep the pool covered. Obviously, if you have a heated pool, the heater should be turned off in winter, unless you swim every day or have solar heating. If you can move to solar or gas for your house, it will save you a lot of money eventually. Remember your load shedding survival kit:-Torches and lanterns, extra batteries, a small gas canister for boiling water or a pot of soup, and games to play to replace TV and computer games. Keep mobile phones fully charged at all times

The 5 Key Elements to a Successful Strategic Energy Management

I. The 5 key elements to a successful Strategic Energy Management Implementation?

SEM Element                                                                   Sustainable Adoption Metrics (A Must)

1. Strategic Leadership                                                   Engaged Executive Sponsor

2. Continuous Direction                                                 Continuous Assessment of Practices

3. Mobilizing the Organization                                      Updating Energy Champion & Team
Mandated Staff Accountability

4. Focus on Core Practices                                             Continuous Operations & Maintenance
Ongoing Occupant Engagement (New Stuff)

5. Continuous Improvement                                          Tracking Performance – Re-baseline
Review/Update Plans
Reporting as part of the Business Plan

Driving Culture Change for Efficient Energy Management

Strategic-GearsAt Strategic Energy Group, our goal in everything we do is to help utilities and businesses achieve persistent energy savings. Over the past decade, we have implemented customized Strategic Energy Management (SEM) solutions for hundreds of companies across more than 1,000 sites and commercial and industrial sectors. Through our experiences, we’ve learned what works and what doesn’t. This insight has shaped our core philosophy: sustainable energy management requires change in an organization’s culture.

Energy efficiency is about more than just turning off light switches or shutting down computers at the end of the night. In order for an organization to be truly sustainable, energy savings need to be incorporated into a business’ operational strategy, leadership, and, as a result, their culture. That’s why we combine engineering, operations and change management expertise into a program that drives comprehensive energy improvement. Our program’s holistic nature makes it different from any other SEM program offered today.

Without a culture change, it’s very difficult for a business to successfully implement, manage, and maintain a sustainable energy practice. Before implementing improvement initiatives, businesses should prepare for change by first understanding the impact culture has on success. Then, they must identify how those cultural strengths can be used to overcome cultural resistance and integrate them into the improvement strategy. Remember, sustained improvement is a journey, not a short-term project with immediate gratification. Take the time to build an improvement plan that starts with evaluating how the site’s culture can be used to gain momentum and sustained improvement.

Our expertise is designing improvement processes that build a foundation of cultural strengths while reinforcing a sense of urgency. We work side-by-side with our clients in understanding how to capitalize on their strengths. The benefits of our program are clear: utilities experience persistent energy savings, verifiable resource acquisition benefits and improved customer relationships, while end users are equipped with the training required to achieve a long-term improved energy strategy. After completing our program, customers have achieved — and maintained — an annual average of 8% improved energy intensity.

Rather than offer canned solutions, we provide answers that treat the root cause of your energy hurdles and engage your employees in the solution process. As a result, our solutions are effective in every business sector. Contact Strategic Energy Group today to discuss how we can customize our SEM program to fit your unique business goals.

The last step in the Structured Approach to Energy Efficiency Implementation- Strategic Energy Management Plan

Org chart blog 7When you think about the successful program or practices in your business, what do they have in common? Do they have some documentation around the initiative…..of course!

Where would your organization be without a business plan? How about a marketing plan? Core elements of your business don’t succeed without solid planning, right?

Energy management is no different. Just like I have talked about in previous blogs, for your energy management program to be successful, you need to incorporate elements that have made other practices in your business successful. If you want results that continue long term, you need a Strategic Energy Management Plan (SEMP).

The SEMP document will pull all the core elements of your energy program together, making program fundamentals easy to locate and communicate.

This task should not be cumbersome, compiling this document as a team will cement everyone’s involvement in the process and ensure time commitment stays minimal.

The finished document will pull together all the strategies and tactics you’ve used to date, and lay out your plan to achieve future goals. It will serve as an important tool to share your learnings and goals with others who may lead the program in future. This is also a great way to share accomplishments with corporate or sister plants.

You’ve worked hard on implementing a successful program. Now it’s time to make sure the process is documented so it can be sustained into the future.

SEG has many SEMP templates to make this process easier. Contact us today to get started!

Awareness – an Important Step in a Structured Approach to Energy Efficiency Implementation

road to awarenessWhen you think about successful initiatives in your organization, what are some key elements that lead to success? One thing that you probably thought of is that everyone in your organization needs to be aware that this initiative is taking place. This key element of success is also true of your energy program. To create a lasting and successful energy program, every person in your organization will have to be informed and get involved.

Involvement can mean a bunch of different things; from doing simple things like turning off the lights, to championing whole new initiatives. Ask people if they have ideas and if they have anything to contribute. Creating this awareness and fostering this willingness to change can be an uphill battle. In fact, research shows that problems engaging people is THE top reason projects fail. You are working so hard on this energy program, don’t let this engagement piece undo all your success!

In order to accomplish this awareness element, you will need a deliberate engagement strategy to communicate the program vision for change as well as the urgency. People will need to see where they fit in–what can they do to be a part of the change? Be interactive by creating a survey or asking people directly for suggestions.

Once you create and implement your awareness plan, an engaged workforce will begin to arise and they will care about saving energy and take ownership or the program. Your program will take on a life of its own, reaping rewards far beyond what an individual could accomplish. So don’t be shy. Go spread the message and create some awareness!

Continuing the steps in a Structured Approach to Energy Efficiency Implementation- Performance Tracking

Energy can sometimes be a waste we don’t see. We implement capital (or non-capital changes) but does anyone really notice a difference? How do you determine which energy projects have the biggest impact? Once the projects are implemented, how do you know they are effective?

Have you heard the saying: “What gets measured, gets managed”? That is something SEG finds valuable; measuring our energy consumption to a baseline; allowing your consumption to get managed!success b 3

Your company needs to know how you are doing in order to stay on track. That’s why tracking your energy performance is so important.
The first step is simply monitoring your energy usage–Collect energy data and analyze it, learning what variables affect your usage such as changes in production, occupancy days, or weather. Next, establish a target; identify savings opportunities and set goals. Finally, as you make improvements, design a score card to report the data to your team, presenting it in a form that’s easy to understand and motivates people to achieve targets.

SEG has a number of useful ways to help you analyze and track your energy consumption. Depending on your interest, there are simple ways such as Load Profiling, or more complex metrics such as MT&R modeling. We are here to help you measure and track your energy usage in a way that is meaningful to you and your employees and helps measure your success.

With this approach, you’ll gain valuable insight into your energy use, track your progress and effectiveness of improvement measures. So as part of your program, track your energy, and watch your savings grow.

The Next Step in the Structured Approach to Energy Efficiency Implementation- Utilizing Team Walkabouts

hard hats b4How often are you in meetings? Many of us sit through hours of meetings a week. A lot of project work happens in meeting rooms; planning, analyzing, and problem solving occur. We already talked about having an effective team, another way to make your team successful is to make sure you “walk the talk” during these meetings.

Use part of your monthly scheduled meeting time to get out of the meeting room and into your facility. Walk around the building, area by area. Look for energy opportunities and talk to people as you go. Ask employees if they have ideas or suggestions.

You’ll understand the opportunities when you see energy in action and build relationships with employees. They see the energy being used every day, and will have ideas on how to save.

Once you complete the area walk through, you can go back to the meeting room to discuss the findings. Dig deeper into the opportunities and create an action plan for implementation. This will help ensure actions are taken, team members are accountable, and energy gets saved.

So get out there and explore your building. You’ll engage your team, encourage employee involvement, and harness more opportunities.

The Second Step in a Structured Approach to Energy Efficiency Implementation- Building an Effective Team

Once you have taken the first step – engaging your energy sponsor – you can now move to the next step: building your energy team.
I’m sure most of you have been a part of a team at some point; whether it be a sports team or a work team. Most of the time, that team has a goal in mind…to achieve something specific. Everyone on that team wants to help achieve that specific goal and share in the success.
Now think about a work team. Have you ever been part of a team that aimed for greatness, but fell short of its’ potential? Maybe the group met often and talked a lot, but not much got done. This is a common problem.

Fortunately, this can be prevented by creating an effective team. In order to have a successful Energy Management program, your organization needs to have an effective energy team.

First, make sure you have the right people on board: that means an engaged executive sponsor, a passionate energy champion to lead the team, and empowered, committed members. Try to get a cross representation of your facility; this will ensure all areas feel a part of the team and program. team hands b4

Once the team is compiled, your team needs a shared sense of purpose to truly thrive. Create goals and operating guidelines to keep everyone in sync.
Have team roles and responsibilities is also an important factor in team success. Dedicate a team scribe, and an awareness and data champion. Include any other team roles you think will be important to accomplish team goals.

Finally, as you get down to business, learn to run focused and action oriented team meetings. Create specific action items that are tracked and measured. This will keep you accountable to each other and make sure tasks get accomplished in a timely fashion.

Implement these key elements and your team will achieve its’ goals, while also feeling empowered along the way.
Alright. Now go build your successful team and start working towards your energy goals!