In the past week or two, we evaluated whether or not we wanted to respond to a request for proposal to deliver a commercial and industrial (C&I) custom efficiency program. The metrics of the RFP were doomed to a disservice for this particular utility’s customers, and therefore, of course we passed. What do I mean?
The project term was one year. In that year, the program needed to be designed and promoted, customers needed to be recruited, projects developed, AND implemented within the year. Give me a break! Here again, large C&I is treated like an upstream program for LEDs in which the cost of the light bulbs is bought down without consumers knowing it. The bulbs are promoted by radio, print, TV, and banner ads launched in a month or two of contract signing. While I haven’t done this because consumer programs don’t interest me, I can guarantee it is infinitely more doable in a year’s time than getting results for the C&I custom efficiency program.
In fact, I said this RFP is written for one of our ambulance chasing competitors. What is ambulance chasing in this context? Finding projects that are going to happen anyway and throwing money at them and declaring victory. Seriously, this is the only way the goals will be met this quickly for a C&I program to be spawned, promoted, developed, and implemented in 365 calendar days.
The underlying theme of my presentation to C&I customer facility staff and executives last week was: energy efficiency beyond light bulbs at your level is hard. Many utilities (thank God) get this and have strategic energy management programs and robust assessment, feasibility, and retrocommissioning programs. Decent projects at this level run parallel to planning, designing, building, and commissioning a new building. Period. Projects aren’t developed in a day. Go / no-go decisions aren’t instantly made by one person in a bubble. It’s more involved than changing a light bulb. The hardware for most penetrating projects does not do anything to save energy in and of themselves.
Let me put it this way.
- Lighting replacements = preparing a hot dog for dinner.
- Commercial and industrial custom projects = preparing thanksgiving dinner from scratch, starting with a fertilized turkey egg.
The unwise program administrators and managers want to start with the cooked turkey. That is impacts via ambulance chasing. Others want to skip the egg part where ideas and concepts are hatched (cheesy pun alert) and developed. From there, the concepts must be herded through the organization for approval and buy in. And like a turkey farmer, projects are continuously turned over and in development, construction, and testing.
In many jurisdictions program managers and administrators want nothing to do with the messy parts – the stuff that happens between the study and the successfully completed projects. What happens in these cases? People contract salmonella or spend a bunch of money on hardware that does nothing for them. (I feel an oxymoron coming on) Somebody has to safely kill, butcher, and process the bird. Somebody needs to develop the process and oversee the conversion of the naked gutted bird into something (most) everyone loves – a savory golden cooked bird.
Program managers who think they can just show up at the dinner table with a fork and knife aren’t doing anything for customers or ratepayers. They are simply taking credit for the sunrise.