These days, you can't enter a room without spotting at least one electrical outlet on a wall. What you don't see is that a majority of those outlets are powered by coal plants that emit a disturbing amount of carbon dioxide, which is a major contributor to climate change. Good energy management is good business. Depending on your industry sector, energy costs, and geographic location, utility bills can be a significant line item on your Profit & Loss Statement. Even a small percentage reduction can have big dollar impact.
Consequently, it's not surprising that reducing energy usage is on the global business population's mind lately. You can take steps toward decreasing your business's greenhouse gas emissions (and its resulting effect on climate change) and increasing your cash flow by setting up a well-crafted, long-term energy conservation plan for your office that focuses on eventually becoming carbon neutral. To achieve this status, you need to develop a three-pronged approach:
Practice energy conservation. This term refers to becoming more efficient with the energy you currently use. Depending on how efficient your facilities and operations have been in the past, aggressive energy management efforts can, in certain parts of the country, yield up to 30 percent savings, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Convert all or a part of your usage to renewable energy sources. However aggressive your energy-conservation initiatives may be, you'll still have some energy needs. Because of the uncertainty surrounding carbon taxes and restrictions in the future (see more on pending policy discussions), all businesses need to be thinking about ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Position yourself for the future by turning to renewable energy sources as much as possible. Most parts of the U.S. have some renewable energy that can be purchased, with prices varying widely depending on your geographic location. Although renewable energy may cost you more now, you're beginning the process of weaning your company off of oil and coal, which sets you up for stability in the future.
Offset any traditional energy that you can't convert to renewables. This step, known as carbon offsetting, refers to purchasing an instrument to absorb any carbon you continue to emit, despite your efficiency and conservation efforts.
Why not plan for the future while you're at it? Make sure to expressly request that any savings generated by increased energy efficiency at your office be allocated to future sustainability efforts, which may require more seed capital than the easy and obvious projects described in the following sections.