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ENERGY MANAGERS ARE BUSINESS MANAGERS : KEY SUCCESS FACTORS AND FUTURE PROSPECTS IN MALAYSIA

By 16/07/2020 July 22nd, 2020 No Comments

The introduction and the enforcement of Efficient Management of Electrical Energy Regulations 2008 has obviously made the requirement to have qualified energy managers the same level with other regulatory requirements that need specified competencies under different types of law that covering management system of  different fields such as  electrical and equipment safety and occupational safety.The only gap between energy managers registered under the Efficient Management of Electrical Energy Regulations 2008 and competent persons under the  safety laws and regulations is the very brief description in provisions on the requirements to efficient management of energy and functions and duties of energy managers.

However, gradually in recent years roles of energy managers started to be seen and recognized as one of the key success factors for sustainable energy management practices in organizations. With the growing interests towards cost-effective business approaches in utilizing energy resources beyond electrical energy, it would be realistic and not too ambitious to expect more demand for competent energy managers from the market soon. This is mainly to ensure better management of energy resources especially among intensive energy users in the business communities in many types of industry in Malaysia and within this region where most countries are developing their economy.

Like its ASEAN neighbours and other developed nations in Asia, Malaysia is expected to be more aggressive in improving its efficiency in utilizing its energy resources to protect and sustain the uptrend progress its economy with challenges caused by fluctuating global fuel prices for electricity generation such as natural gas and coal.

Energy management is easier to sell to decision makers with the business in mind and not just about technical viability and saving potentials

This will also resulting in more people needed in managing energy resources at the demand side who are capable of integrating energy management practices into the overall operations of the organization to minimize wastages of energy operational activities for businesses to remain competitive and expanding.

We are now have moved towards the business environment where energy management has become more people-centric and no longer focusing on technical solutions to get desired results. Organizations in government public sectors are also facing continuous challenges in energy sector especially at the demand or users’ side with the increase trends in commodity prices, changes in legal requirement, demand from consumers, rising global concern on impacts of climate change. There have been changes in the economic climate as well where more funding and financials supports, and investment are getting more and more associated with demand on sustainability elements by investors and financial institutions.

With the gradually increasing in demand for competent personnel and service providers in energy management, energy managers must equip themselves with necessary skills and knowledge to be ahead of their peers to meet that demand from government and private sectors. Role of energy managers today have started to shift to become more important to help organizations to face these growing business challenges and demand from all segments of the local and regional market.  Energy managers need to be seen as “The Champions” for energy management for businesses and not only as technical solutions providers.

In the current business environment, there are key elements that have been obviously becoming important criteria to become effective and successful energy managers at organizational level. Here I would like to highlight most important elements  that will determine how successful energy managers could be based on my observations and working experiences in delivering energy management consultancy services for intensive energy users in Malaysia.

More business conscious.

Energy managers are business managers.This mindset change is a must to enable energy managers to get the attention in much easier when they start to talk about energy management. The paradigm in the recent years and current business environment has gradually shifted from looking at an energy manager as a typical personnel who could only offer technical solutions or performing technical tasks to improve energy performance to more important personnel in improving business performance from implementing energy management programme.

Energy managers are now expected to have the ability to drive initiatives to reduce business and operating costs through energy cost reduction from energy saving measures. That makes energy managers becoming business managers as well. They must be knowledgeable enough on the business impacts caused by improving energy performance with the most cost-effective technologies available and in mitigating identified risks and effects on operations with their proposed solutions.Then, they must be able to package the proposed energy management implementation strategy with business elements  to create an energy management program that are supported by all levels  throughout the organization to work together to achieve the intended operational and business goals.

Energy managers need to have the ability and confident enough  to go out there and educate the market on energy and non-energy benefits of energy management to the business community especially among decision and policy makers. They must position themselves in the market with more business savvy, inspirational and professional in their approaches to address concerns and perceptions business decision makers and from different levels personnel in organizations regarding energy management program implementation. They are also expected to be able to convince decision and policy makers to look at energy management from business strategy point of views in resources management in organizational and economic growth at the national level and not merely as optional measures to reduce energy costs.

With the fast-changing business environment in any market, services offered by energy managers need to be attractive as other services or resources management strategy that will add values and improve profitability to companies. With approximately eighty percent of electrical energy in Malaysia is used by industrial and commercial building users, it is obvious that the demand for energy management related jobs such as energy managers  is needed more than just to meet the legal  requirements.

 Strong leadership and possess effective communication skills.

In Malaysian market, energy managers are often associated with engineers or people with technical background and they are often seen having their own set of characters and communicating in oral to other people unless among the same field is not something that they are expected to be good. However, effective energy managers today must be able to be the “bridge” between different sections or departments in engagement with them from the start of the energy management program. The buy-in from all internal stakeholders from all sections or department will determine how smooth the implementation process to achieve the agreed objective and goals.

Getting the supports from different level of personnel especially from the top management is one of the important factors of cross-functional duties and engagement that is crucial to ensure an energy manager’s success because a sustainable energy management program implementation need the commitment from the top executives from the top management groups and board of directors. Without the top-down support, efforts made most probably will be futile and continually fall with lesser attention given.

This is where energy managers need to show extraordinarily strong leadership traits that can be seen as convincing and committed enough to champion energy management program from the top to down of the organization. One of the core requirements to sell the idea of energy management and its benefits, energy managers must have the ability to convince others especially the top management for key decisions and other personnel throughout the implementation process. Therefore, strong, and effective communication skills possessed by energy managers are critical in leading and dealing with different levels of personnel at each organization.

Effectiveness in communicating with key stakeholders in the organization is critical to gain the buy-in about energy management program.

Energy managers are always expected to be resourceful people as the most competent person to be asked about energy management at the installation and therefore, the ability for energy managers to explain clearly on queries for energy management activities and proposed technical solutions is also important. Strong and effective communication skills such as in oral presentation, negotiation, persuasion, and business proposal will distinguish an energy manager for from typical technical managers.

Energy management is not all about technical solutions and issues and energy managers must bear in mind that in the line of their duties an energy manager within the organization or as an external party to the organization, they will have to communicate effectively with all levels of people. The needs for the ability to communicate effectively will be more obvious in discussions and/or meetings that energy managers will have to attend and participate.

In energy management activities, roles that need to be played by energy managers to develop and implement energy management system will require them to interact and to get cooperation from different levels and groups in the organization as well. Normally, people need to be convinced and oral skills in communication are the best way to send key messages and to get their supports and cooperation. For external energy manager services providers, excellent writing and oral skill will give extra strengths in preparing attractive business proposal and to present it convincingly to the targeted audience in business meetings or presentations.

Making decisions based on well-processed data.

Sufficient and reliable data is the foundation of any energy management plan and energy managers are supposed to be able to identify and source key energy related data and information that are required to establish a good energy management plan and targets. For large organizations with multiple facilities, data holds the key to prioritize energy performance improvements, identifying further initiatives, setting up the baseline and energy performance indicator and targets. Energy managers must also know how to interpret these key data resulted from their analysis that can be used to help the top management to make well-informed business decisions in energy management.

Data is needed not only to have an achievable target and maximize the return in investments to be made for big scale projects but is needed to justify the investment in the first place. In current tough capital environment, it is required more now than ever that requests for investment is backed up by strong data-driven business cases to convince decision makers to invest using internal capital or to secure financing from financial institutions.Therefore,knowledge and basic skills of energy managers  in  finance matters especially in assessing  the economic feasibility and benefits of energy energy management to the organization.This make it much easier when they need to communicate and having the same understanding with finance personnel especially those who can influence decision makers for any energy management related business proposal.

Seeking continuous improvement in energy management program.

Energy managers today must always keen to seek opportunities for continuous improvement through constant monitoring and evaluation results achieved in energy performance. Energy management is a dynamic process and energy managers must be ready to meet the challenges and demands their organizations will face in the business climate of the industry that they are in. It is important for energy managers to have the ability to develop and establish the mechanism to review energy performance with the internal energy management team participated by different sections or departments. The mechanism should be able to monitor, discuss and evaluate progress made using the agreed energy performance indicators to ensure continued supports from the top management and all personnel in the organization for further improvement of the program.

To be able to drive others for further improvement, energy managers must always update themselves with knowledge and information on the latest technology in technical solutions and approaches or standard in energy management practices. Knowledge and know-how about common financial assessment methods has more almost equally important for energy managers nowadays for them to be more convincing in preparing and presenting their business case for any investment proposal that require large capital. This can be done through on-going readings, attending training programs and seminars that are suitable for them to upgrade their competencies and skills in energy management and its related topics such as financing.

Having additional and relevant qualifications and competencies.

Additional qualifications and competencies will always bring more value and credentials for energy manager to increase their image and reputation within the organization. These will make the prospects and existing clients to have more faith on the strengths and background of the energy manager especially qualifications and competencies that can assist the clients to achieve better energy performances from energy management activities.Below are some qualifications and competencies that will add value to energy managers to increase their credentials.

  • Professional and competency certificates in related fields such as the as professional engineer and competent engineers for electrical safety.
  • Certified trainer by Human Resource Development Fund to conduct training that are claimable by eligible companies under  human resource development fund.
  • Certified lead auditor and registered auditor with certification bodies for ISO50001 certification.
  • Certifications from other independent bodies such for green building facilitator  and measurement and verification specialist.
  • For energy managers who offer energy management services as the external party to organizations, the company that they are representing should have all related certificates of registration with relevant bodies such as Energy Commission, Construction Industry Development Board, Ministry Of Finance and etc.

Visibility  and recognition within the organization.

Finally, with all the above quality, competencies and skills possessed, energy managers must stand up and need to show off what they have done and what they can do in the eyes of others in the organization.They must continue to create the awareness and share the importance of their roles in the organization through the comprehensively and strategically planned energy management program especially among decision makers. Progress and achievements must be clearly  and continuously highlighted for all to see the  impacts from effective energy management program to the organization especially from the business perspective among decision makers.

I remember when I visited factories in Japan many years ago when I saw how high the energy manager is regarded in the organization due their significant roles in the business sustainability through energy management other than just due to legal requirements. During such visits, energy managers were often seen sat next to top ranked executives and directly assigned to speak about energy management activities to international delegates instead of other senior managers.

Energy managers need to come out from the impression or perception that  their roles are just supplementary compare to other  managers in other departments or business units of the organization.Energy managers must  find ways on how energy management can be one of the agendas in business decision making process of the organization where inputs from them seen as strategic as other inputs from core business operations.One of the key factors is they must be more tactical about energy management when they act and talk in front of the top management and not so much on technical like typical technical executives or engineers.In other words, it is about providing business solutions and not just technical or engineering solutions to save energy costs.

The way forward.

The on-going economic transformation efforts by the government especially with the introduction of subsidy rationalization policy in recent years had and will provide more push for intensive energy users to take more sustainable efforts to mitigate impacts from paying higher energy price through the increase of electricity tariff rates in the future. The drive to be more green in economic and development activities in the nation’s progress to become a developed economy will leave all segments in all communities to look at energy management  more than just for cost savings  but also for greener future of the next generations. With a specified target to be achieved in carbon dioxide intensity reduction committed by the government to the global community by the year 2030, managers are expected to play important roles to achieve that target since the biggest carbon dioxide emission source in Malaysia is from the energy sector.

Finally, it would be not too optimistic to foresee a promising future for careers and business opportunities that are connected to sustainable energy management for more sustainable business and life in the future.With more clear and defined policy in Malaysia in managing our energy resources that is expected to be introduced in coming years, more energy managers are expected to be in demand in different segment of management activities and level for most organizations either in government or private sectors.

It is expected that the requirements to become energy managers to be more specific and with different types of competency possibly needed to meet the needs for different market segments in the future. Energy managers with extensive experiences and have been successful delivering services related to energy management activities would have more advantages with already built-in credentials, expertise, and track records  to be compared with late comers to get noticed and appreciated in the market.

With the upcoming ASEAN economic community market to be in place, more opportunities are also expected to be available to explore  in this region for knowledge-based type of services  like what could be offered by energy managers. That will be another great career and business opportunities  for those who would like to expand their career beyond their existing organization and domestic market.

Another reason that keeping me to remain positive is the commitment among global communities with introduction of Sustainable Development Goals in 2015. In goal number 7, it has been specified  to double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency  by 2030 and goal number  12, there is  clearly  stated about the target to achieve the sustainable management and efficient use of natural resources by the same time.These goals that are directly related to energy management have and will  continue to offer platforms with opportunities that require energy managers.It is simply because no one can avoid energy management when they are talking or doing something to achieve their sustainability goals across all energy using sectors.

Challenges for energy managers today is to build their foundation and then to get  recognized by the market through the quality of their service delivery despite the lacking of many factors to support the growth and acceptance of services offered in energy efficiency industry with the current , uncertain and sometime very vulnerable environment and economic climate. However, I am quite optimistic that the future of energy managers with the growth of energy efficiency industry in the regional and global markets will leave us with no options other than joining them to be on the same path to achieve goals to be more energy efficient society and country.