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Energy Management Principle Number 2: Energy Audits

By: , Posted on: July 25, 2017

energy audits

The energy audit is one of the first tools used by energy managers. Following the 1973 oil embargo, when fuel costs and availability became a serious concern in manufacturing plants that faced possible curtailment, plant managers sought a way to evaluate the problem. Audits were an accountant’s tool to evaluate financial problems and the concept was readily adopted to identifying where energy was used and how it contributed to manufacturing costs. Energy audits are now a widely employed tool in manufacturing plants as well as in federal, commercial, and residential buildings and sites.

Chapter Download: Planning for Energy Management 

In the energy audit, the auditor or audit team collects detailed information for each piece of equipment, operation and maintenance practices, and sometimes information on the building construction. The energy manager and energy committee then use results of the audit to delineate major areas of energy use and to formulate the next steps in the energy management plan. The audit can be done on a process-by-process basis or on a building or facility basis, depending on the scope defined during the planning and initiation stage. Auditors may include members of the firm’s maintenance or technical staff or outside energy specialists could be brought in to conduct the audit. Ideally, the audit team will have a combination of experienced energy engineers who know how to identify issues and opportunities and facility personnel who are intimately familiar with the facility’s systems and operations.

The audit will reveal how much energy is used by building systems (lighting, heating, ventilation, air conditioning, water heating, and plug loads) as well as by process equipment. The major end uses can then be studied for opportunities to improve energy efficiency by more efficient equipment, alternative processes, better controls, heat recovery, improved insulation, and so on.

In the 1970s and 1980s it was possible to virtually guarantee energy savings of 10 to 20% in almost any facility before walking in the door. This was due to two things. Previously, energy had been so inexpensive relative to labor and other operational expenses, that improved efficiency did not warrant the additional investment.

Next, with rising fuel and electricity costs, new products—more efficient motors, better lamps, improved controls—became available. Often, energy audits revealed opportunities for immediate savings.

Fortunately, there is a much greater awareness today about the value of efficient energy use. Codes and standards and advances in energy efficient equipment and technology have kept pace with rising energy costs and increasing environmental concerns. What this means is that a facility that reduced its energy use 20% in 1980 most likely has or can reduce it a further 20% in 2017.

A number of studies have been made in recent years that show that a 20% reduction in industrial energy usage is cost-effective and readily achievable. A study by Oak Ridge National Laboratory examined data from 12,000 plant energy audits that included 82,000 recommendations to increase energy efficiency in these facilities. The results from these actual case studies supported a 20% reduction potential.(1)

There is also more emphasis on the behavioral aspect of energy management. Though always a critical factor in successful energy management programs, greater access to real-time energy data and performance feedback have made the human element all the more important in achieving deeper energy savings.

Programs focused on using “big data” to identify energy efficiency opportunities are popping up all over. They range from online audits and home energy reports that leverage utility smart meter data for residential customers, to remote “virtual” audits for commercial buildings using interval data, weather data, and modeling software to estimate loads, to strategic energy management program for manufacturing plants that use sub-meters and data analytics to support ongoing energy monitoring, targeting, and reporting to achieve continuous improvement.

For a limited time you can read chapter 4 Planning for Energy Management on ScienceDirect.

energy management principles

Read more about clean energy and the other fifteen general principles in Energy Management Principles.

Energy Management Principles, 2nd Edition: Applications, Benefits, Savings

  • Provides extensive coverage of all major fundamental energy management principles
  • Applies general principles to all major components of energy use, such as HVAC, electrical end use and lighting, and transportation
  • Describes how to initiate an energy management program for a building, a process, a farm or an industrial facility

Need it now? Access the book on ScienceDirect, want your own copy? Visit, and enter STC317 at checkout to save up to 30%

You can also read the author blog on Energy Management Principle Number 16: Energy Storage below:

Energy Management Principle Number 16: Energy Storage


(1). Kreith, Frank and Goswami, D. Y., eds. (2017), p.250. Energy Management and Conservation Handbook, second edition. Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press.

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