Energy Managers Educating Personnel, Creating Culture

Story Number: NNS140305-08Release Date: 3/5/2014 3:44:00 PM
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By Shawn Miller, NDW Public Affairs

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- As Naval District Washington (NDW) pushes to execute its energy mission of promoting positive command, conservation and behavior change, Navy leaders are looking to installation energy managers (IEMs) to help shape energy culture across the region.

Funded by Commander, Naval Installations Command (CNIC), IEMs track energy usage at bases, facilitate new projects, and meet with leadership to tackle a variety of energy challenges.

"Fundamental to building a sustainable NDW energy culture in accordance with the NDW energy policy statement are results-driven efforts by our IEMs and installation energy teams (IETs) to support their respective installation commanding officer and supported commanders," said Lt. Cmdr. Keith Benson, NDW Energy Director.

No matter how many projects are started, however, personnel must buy in and have a vested interest in the energy mission, said William Ortega-Ortiz, energy manager at Naval Support Activity (NSA) Bethesda.

"Ultimately, it's raising awareness of not just the metrics and those numbers as far as how much consumption is taking place," Ortega-Ortiz said. "It's also in leveraging that information and educating our personnel and command to understand that energy culture applies to everyone at the installation."

Beyond simply being an ambassador for energy, Ortega-Ortiz said his challenge is balancing the need for conservation and positive culture with maintaining mission readiness across the installation, particularly at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC), where critical patient care requires vast amounts of energy usage.

"The way that we've been able to garner their support is attempting to leverage their projects and behavior modifications in a way in which we are passively making their systems smarter," said Ortega-Ortiz.

The low-hanging fruit, he said, was simply replacing outdated steam traps in the WRNMMC infrastructure to make the facility run more efficiently.

Cmdr. Burr Vogel, NSA Bethesda public works officer and Ortega-Ortiz's boss, said saving energy and accomplishing the mission should not be opposing forces.

"Energy efficiency really is almost synonymous with mission readiness," Vogel said.

Missions are actually negatively affected more often by energy lost through improper maintenance or malfunctioning systems, he added.

Vogel, Ortega-Ortiz, and a handful of staff work behind the scenes every day across the installation to regulate energy usage and promote new initiatives despite dealing with an overall shortage in key staff positions.

Without dedicated building energy monitors keeping track of individual facilities as with some other installations, personnel already working in buildings at NSA Bethesda have been tasked with keeping Ortega-Ortiz and the energy team informed of issues.

"We have creatively found a way to garner the support as an additional duty, because our personnel actually believe in the program," said Ortega-Ortiz. "It's also rewarding because we've been able to leverage that positive behavioral attitude from our personnel at every single level."

While training those individuals on how to adequately respond to building issues is a good step forward, Vogel said filling the empty vital positions with skilled energy, design, utilities and operations managers is important to making the installation run more smoothly overall without overtaxing facilities' staff members with extra duties.

After attending the 2013 Energy Week at NSA Bethesda last fall, several industry vendors expressed interest in testing out a new training course for energy staff in NDW, at no cost.

"The training will enable us to produce meaningful energy information, in addition to the maintenance and operational improvements, that we can then use to help encourage the behavioral changes that the culture pillar is all about," said Vogel. "If we can show people how much they are really saving, I think that's a big win."

Ortega-Ortiz said education is the key to promoting a positive culture and behavior for everyone.

"We need to make our military and civilian personnel smarter about energy overall," Ortega-Ortiz said. "It's not just within the fence line; it's how we're utilizing energy outside of the fence line, too. It's how we're using energy at home. So the education that we're putting in place at the installation is something they can go back and utilize at home as well."

Beyond the easy fixes, communication with leadership and long-range planning on funding and support help to stimulate critical thinking about projects with longer returns on investment.

"We need to think creatively not only about how we finance these projects, but also from energy security and independence, we need to look at sound investments where we are providing energy smarter to our installation," Ortega-Ortiz said. "We all have different challenges at different installations, but we all work together."

While educating personnel to change culture and achieve the goals outlined in the NDW energy policy is a long process, Vogel takes it one day at a time.

"Energy culture, for me right now, is just doing our jobs well," Ortega-Ortiz said. "We're starting by looking in the mirror and seeing what we need to do better, and that's where we see a great deal of opportunity."

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