10 things we learned about making your firm more energy efficient

Last summer, EDF embedded nearly 100 EDF Climate Corps fellows in companies, cities and universities across the nation. EDF Climate Corps recruits and trains students from the nation's top graduate programs to accelerate adoption of smart energy management practices in commercial America.

Here's what our EDF fellows learned about saving energy and curbing emissions in 2012.

1. Set a goal: Goal-setting is a priority for fellows at many organizations. An EDF Climate Corps fellow working on Duke Energy's Smart Energy Now program specifically identified energy efficiency opportunities to meet the Envision Charlotte goal of reducing Uptown Charlotte's commercial office building use 20 percent. At Volvo Mack Trucks, an EDF Climate Corps fellow wrote a detailed strategy for how the company could achieve and maintain the ISO 50001 standard. Also, at Booz Allen Hamilton, a fellow recommended that the organization motivate employees by sharing the higher level goals behind internal initiatives.

2. Make your data useful: Having too little or too much data is one thing, but whether you make use of it is another. EDF Climate Corps hosts such as NYCHA, RBS Citizens Financial Group and AT&T are using innovative software, central databases and real time energy dashboards to organize, analyze and evaluate the data they have so that it can be used to inform decision making.

3. Put initiatives into perspective: The New York City Housing Authority is developing a strategy to show residents how much energy they are using compared to their neighbors. Instead of just listing metrics, such as the hundreds of kilowatt hours that could be saved, many organizations are really trying to put energy efficiency initiatives into perspective.

4. Utilize new technology to overcome unique challenges: In an operating room run by Ascension Health, or a hospital run by HCA Healthcare, HVAC and energy requirements are incredibly specific – more so than in your average office building. Also, at the Smithsonian Institution, lighting is more than just functional – it is an art form. Our EDF Climate Corps fellows have run into many barriers unique to certain businesses and environments; however, they have not found them impossible to overcome. The range of sustainable products and solutions is quickly expanding, so keep your eyes open for new technologies that might have added benefits beyond energy efficiency.

5. Power down at night: While it may seem obvious, many EDF Climate Corps fellows have identified energy efficiency savings by determining what can be powered down at night. At Bloomberg BNA, one fellow figured out that only 25 percent of its computers need to stay on overnight, which would save 338,000 kWh of electricity per year. At Texas A&M University, Kingsville, the recommended occupancy sensors and daylight sensors could save $250,000 over project lifetimes.