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Energy Conservation Part 2 – Politics
Posted on January 3rd, 2017 by David W. Spitzer, P.E. in Chemical Manufacturing Excellence
Politics can be a touchy subject that means different things to different people in different positions. For example, politics at a large sewage district can literally mean interaction with elected officials and their representatives who often have different takes on which way the wind is blowing. I suggest that our concept of politics be limited to people within the company with whom you regularly work and whose help and approval are needed to implement a project. This typically includes yourself plus people who are one or two organizational layers above and below you. Focusing on the approval of your superiors is readily understandable but be sure to include people below you in the organization because they can actively help you make the project successful or “sandbag” your efforts so quickly that you will not see it coming.
Notwithstanding the politics of dealing with individual personalities, politics can enter into the mix when the project has to compete with other projects and/or when the company does not have sufficient funds available (or so they say). For example, suppose a plant with annual sales of USD 50 million finds that a cogeneration facility costing USD 50 million makes economic sense. The chances of obtaining funding for such a project are small. However it might be possible to locate a third-party who will implement the project and generate some energy savings by selling steam and electricity to the plant at discounted prices. On a side note, this is similar to the model used by residential solar energy companies when they finance, install, connect and operate solar panels on the roofs of houses.
Energy conservation projects often involve a champion who is willing and able to spend his or her political capital to get projects approved and implemented. There are many pitfalls in project concept, design, installation and operation that can make a project unsuccessful — even though the calculated benefits are quite predictable. In this sense, being a champion can be a “career-ending” endeavor, which is why most people are reluctant to champion anything for fear of being associated with an unsuccessful project — especially when the project has increased visibility in the company. On the other hand, championing successful projects can lead to advancement.
Let’s talk about processes and economics in the next post.
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All opinions shared in this post are the author’s own.
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David W. Spitzer, P.E.
Principal at Spitzer and Boyes, LLC
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