ENERGY MANAGEMENT EMPOWERING CHANGE
I am and have been an energy consultant (certified energy manager) for 13 years. I enjoy energy management, I enjoy promoting stewardship, and I see allot of value in impacting the bottom line of clients. However the focus of this blog is to discuss the importance of energy management as a means of bringing change and peace in Jesus name. So to open I want to share a quote that I believe sums up the heart of this article.
“Accustom yourself to look first to the dreadful consequences of failure; then fix your eye on the glorious prize which is before you; and when your strength begins to fail, and your spirits are well nigh exhausted, let the animating view rekindle your resolution, and call forth in renewed vigour the fainting energies of your soul.” – William Wilberforce
In 2003 I began working in the Energy Management field for an energy-consulting firm out of Austin. During that time I performed thousands of commercial level energy audits, implemented a number of behavior-based campaigns, and many more related services. I learned a number of strategies that can make a big impact on our bottom line. Those of us involved in energy management have our reasons for being in the industry. Perhaps some of us entered the trade to simply make a living; perhaps some chose to be a voice for stewardship, and perhaps some of us have different reasons. At the beginning of my career I first entered this arena to make a living, then as the years went by I saw myself as a voice for promoting sustainability. However today I see energy management in a different light. In order for you to better understand I want to briefly share my story of the Congolese people.
I visited Congo during the Kivu Conflict in November of 2013. I heard it said that if you take all the human rights issues found in the greater continent of Africa you would find them ALL in Congo. During my time in the DRC I was able to see the horrid effects of conflict. I will limit my discussion here, but please understand that the conflict and results of the conflict go much deeper then my description. The M23, a spill over faction from the Rwandan Genocide, invaded North Kivu in order to reclaim land. As a weapon of war they would drive a fear into the region via kidnapping, murder and rape at the local villages. Instead of staying in villages, many villagers fled to the safety of the refugee camps. However in the refugee camps the women were not any safer. According to the United Nations up to 9 out of 10 women have been raped. This happened in many villages, and I was able to speak to three courageous women who lost their husbands, family, and purity yet still served with fervor with the help of churches, NGO’s and more. This is where I want to tie my conversation back to energy management. I am a big believer that what we do in the energy management field can do allot to empower change in places like Congo. I have seen the proof.
CAPTURING ENERGY SAVINGS
How is it that energy management can empower change in a place like Congo? I believe there are a number of ways. I currently own a 501c3, solely focused on leveraging energy management/consulting to empower change and am currently focusing our work to empower China, India and Congo. One of the ways we empower change is to first empower the end user. Our clients are churches, seminaries and other Christian Schools. Many have the desire to help in global justice work in Congo and other places, but they do not have the budget to help. They have either committed the budget to other areas or other like-minded organizations. However we must also keep in mind that the utility expense (Water, Gas, Electric, Oil & Propane) are typically the second biggest budget item within facilities. At the same time, and according to the EPA, we waste up to 30% of energy use through behavior. This means that up to 30% of utility (energy) expense can be saved by changing our behavior. Of course there are other aggressive ways to save via capital expense, but managing our energy behavior is a HUGE catalyst in sustainability and stewardship. Many of the facilities that desire to sow into the developing world, but lack the budget can conceivably find the funding via energy savings. If we were to perform an investment grade audit and retro-commissioning services at a facility that spends $200k per year on utilities, and we were to save them 20% of that expense. That facility could potentially give $40k per year to a partnered organization. That funding will make a big impact in a place like Congo. For one the exchange rate is 914 Congolese Francs to one American Dollar, and secondly if given strategically the amount given can make a long-term impact. If I may take a quick rabbit trail, when we support organizations in our community or abroad we need to be extremely careful in our giving and not careless. Most of the time giving comes from the heart and has great intentions, but there are many organizations out there today that are toxic in their response to global disaster and human rights. Their response can hinder job creation, economic standing and more. My hope is, if we want to support likeminded work via energy savings, that we do so after deep research and thought. Our personal goal is to support tactics that strike at the root of evil leveraging a partnered and well thought out strategy.
TEACH ENERGY MANAGEMENT SKILLS
Another example of leveraging energy management to promote change is by teaching it as a trade. We will have the opportunity to go to China in September of 2015 to help a select group of organizations. We were asked to come as a vision trip to learn more about this organization, with the end goal of training the respective individuals to become energy managers in their realm. There is a big need, as I understand it, for job creation and job skills in the specific part of China. By teaching these job skills to respective organizations we are enabling the individuals to support their families, learn a trade, have influence in their environment and it frees them up to serve in other areas. On top of that there are many countries out their today that do not have strong environmental policies in place, as a result there are many pollution and health-related problems that not only effect the respective country, but global warming as we know it today. When we promote energy management as a trade, we also promote stewardship and in doing so we are giving this respective demographic a voice to flight for climate change.
In India we are working with an organization called Influence International that works with the Dalits or the lower caste of India’s Caste System. In many parts of India, like in much of the undeveloped world, there is lack sustainable power. As a result there a number of health and injustice related issues that take place within this people group. There are many reasons for this, however there is a big need for renewable energy sources. There is another organization called World Relief that is doing work throughout Africa. Part of their strategy is to promote and build Hydro Power Stations (of different sizes), in complete partnership with the locals. Not only will this provide power to a local village or large demographic, but it also provide jobs for the locals. This type of work is an enabler for justice, health, job creation and more. In India I will be doing a study in order to build Photovoltaic system that will power the local school and surrounding villages. The goal is for this system to provide jobs, improve health, save the school money (otherwise spent on utilities), and more. This is an enabler to bring justice to a respective area. If we can use our experience of energy management, energy consulting, program management, renewable energy and more to the undeveloped world we can and will make a difference in a number of areas.
I cannot begin to tell you how much of an impact we can make if we work together to bring change, but I can tell you it will be big. Much of our work will go unsung, but we have the means to make a big impact globally or locally leveraging energy management as a means to fund, teach, develop and more. My hope is that we will all begin to think outside the box.
“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it--always.” -Gandhi
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Colby May is a father of two wonderful boys and husband of 13 years (Amanda May). Colby is founder and president of LIT & Northernpath.com, Championing Godly Pursuit & Justice. He recently spent two years in Boston completing is MA in Ethics & Society (Biblical Justice) from Gordon Conwell Seminary.