According to a recent survey conducted by energy-management specialist Schneider Electric, three-quarters of decision makers at U.S. companies invested in energy-efficiency programs over the previous 12 months. Of those, more than half (56 percent) expected their investment in energy efficiency to be greater over the next 12.
“Increased investment suggests business leaders are seeing a return,” Laurent Vernerey, president and chief executive officer, North America operations, Schneider Electric, said. “In fact, more than half (51 percent) of respondents said they realize at least a 25-percent ROI on efficiency initiatives. This type of return will drive more investment in efficiency applied across the enterprise—beyond energy consumption—as organizations find that they must become operationally efficient to remain competitive and profitable in today’s environment.”
When asked about the most significant trends impacting business today, more than half (56 percent) of the respondents cited the convergence of information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT), with 61 percent saying energy efficiency was its biggest benefit. Byproducts of increased efficiency, including cost reductions (48 percent) and optimized business processes (43 percent), also were cited as benefits.
Respondents said the IT-OT convergence is not without challenges, which include increased technology-management complexity (55 percent), security (54 percent), and conflict between IT and operations staffs (47 percent).
“The need for efficiency is increasing, as is the complexity on what companies can and should do,” Vernerey said. “To stay competitive, more and more companies today need expertise on issues such as how to manage volatile commodity costs, balance sustainability pressures from governments, and modernize systems and infrastructure in a smart way.”
Infrastructure upgrades followed the convergence of IT and OT as a trend impacting business, cited by 22 percent of the respondents. Fifty-one percent of the respondents believe infrastructure modernization is an important business priority, and 48 percent believe upgrading public infrastructure will make their city more attractive for business. Respondents said electrical systems (56 percent), traffic/transportation systems (53 percent), and telecommunications (48 percent) are the public-infrastructure-modernization projects with the greatest impact on their business.
Efficiency initiatives (12 percent) and sustainability demands (9 percent) rounded out the list of significant trends. Energy-efficiency initiatives were identified by respondents as the top (59 percent) way companies do more with less in today’s business environment. Almost half of the respondents said sustainability initiatives improve profit margins (47 percent) and maintain competitiveness (49 percent).
“Progressive organizations are recognizing that efficiency is an emerging basis for competition,” Vernerey concluded. “Increased investment will result in greater efficiency gains, and that’s good for businesses, the economy, and the environment.”
The online survey was conducted in August 2014 among 301 individuals with a decision-making role in facility management, operations management, technology management, supply-chain management, or energy/efficiency management at companies with at least $50 million in revenue.