To prevent the devastating impacts of climate change and accelerate economic growth, businesses need to commit to smart energy management.

There is a massive economic opportunity at hand when it comes to acting more sustainably -- one that, according to Secretary of State John Kerry at the Bloomberg New Energy Finance Summit, presents the opportunity to deliver substantial savings on a global scale.

Yet a 2015 PwC survey of chief executives found that global warming doesn’t even make the list of key concerns or priorities, highlighting how little today’s businesses prioritize their energy use.

Energy use from industrial and commercial buildings represents double the savings potential as residential building use. In order to meet global sustainability and climate objectives, as well as to deliver on Secretary Kerry’s economic opportunity, businesses must be motivated to pay more attention to their energy use.

Most business owners don’t realize the bottom-line impact of their inaction. By taking even the smallest steps to be more energy-efficient, corporations could save millions of dollars annually. So why aren’t businesses paying attention?

Each business is unique in its revenue model and operations plan, and one-size-fits-all tips on energy efficiency and savings just aren’t motivating enough. However, by translating energy patterns and costs into individual business impacts, we can help businesses understand energy efficiency opportunities in their own terms.

Data-driven customer intelligence now allows us to mass-produce this level of individualized insight on usage and savings opportunities, as well as to translate it. Using consumption data from meters combined with publicly available information on each building, energy customer intelligence can help each business understand uniquely how much energy they are wasting, where improvements can be made and what it is worth to them.

Take, for example, the team at a Walgreens store that used data analytics to identify that the location was spending an unnecessary amount of money on lighting and refrigeration. Interior and exterior lights, along with refrigeration units were coming on at night unnecessarily. If fixed, the location could save over 135,000 kilowatt-hours -- equivalent to 4,217 bottles of Colgate toothpaste ($3.79) sold from its shelves. By presenting insight in a language relevant to its specific business operations and margins, Walgreens is better able to make the case for energy-efficiency action based not just on sustainability intentions, but also on business imperative.  

Similarly, with the help of data insights, a popular seafood restaurant found that its HVAC systems were operating for longer hours than necessary and, similar to the Walgreens example, found that its lighting fixtures and refrigeration were consuming significant amounts of energy. Overall, the data identified lighting, HVAC scheduling controls and refrigeration control as key opportunities for the restaurant to save a total of 108,335 kilowatt-hours.

While a restaurant manager may have a tough time getting his head around efficiency investment returns and control systems, he knows just what to do with the opportunity to add the equivalent of 1,710 bowls of his famous gumbo soup to his bottom line.

Data is everywhere, and by harnessing the power of data-driven customer intelligence, we can give businesses relevant and specific insights that empower them to drive efficiency and other sustainable energy technology adoption through an understanding of their energy consumption and costs. In addition to software, training helps energy professionals to use data to motivate and better connect to business customers.

Motivating businesses to embrace sustainability will be challenging, but it will be much easier if we present the issue in a way that is directly applicable to them -- and share just how much money is being left on the table. The result will be a more serious approach to smart energy use, and a big step toward reaching our worldwide sustainability goals.


Indran Ratnathicam is the vice president of marketing and strategy at FirstFuel.