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Training employees improves workplace energy savings

An innovative approach to changing workplace behaviour has found that training employees in energy-saving methods significantly enhances workplace energy savings in the food and beverage industry.

Food and Natural Resources
Energy

Energy saving is not just about more efficient buildings or streamlined industrial processes. Training the workforce and management and involving them in energy-saving initiatives have been shown by the EU-funded INDUCE project to be more effective as they change mindsets and behaviours in the workplace. “We designed a different approach to training that can be adapted for each company. The idea is to create an energy culture within companies that increases energy efficiency,” says Gema Millán Ballesteros, project coordinator and technology project manager at the CIRCE Foundation (Research Centre for Energy Resources and Consumption) in Zaragoza, Spain. INDUCE developed an open access platform with training materials and online lessons for companies to improve energy efficiency. But the key to company-wide energy savings is the project’s company-specific human-centred training programme beginning with an energy assessment of each company. The project implemented the training system to improve energy management and energy-saving behaviour in 15 pilot companies in France, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain which between them represent around 45 % of the European Union’s food and beverage industry, a large economic sector. “We did a company-by-company analysis because each one in our pilot was very different – big and small companies and different sectors in food and beverage. We did different surveys and interviews and worked very closely with the managers to analyse the company’s energy situation and energy concerns, so that training modules can be combined differently for each company,” Millán explains.

Person-centred training system

The courses were devised for three different levels – company CEO, department managers and employees in general – and last around 20 hours over 2-3 days depending on employee availability. But leadership within the company is an important factor. If a manager in a top position uses the knowledge to promote energy-saving initiatives with the rest of the employees, it is more likely to be successful in saving energy, says Millán. “Several companies devised an action plan with their employees modifying different aspects of the company and also making investments to implement energy-saving measures,” she notes. Modifying lighting was the most common measure. Another, which does not require investment, is for all employees to turn off computers at the end of the working day. Some 641 employees participated the project training. Around 63 trainers – an average of 15 in each country – were trained in the teaching method and will continue to work with new companies. “The trainers were experts in energy so we had to train them in this human-centred approach,” Millán explains, adding: “This innovative approach and understanding the psychology of users can be strange and a challenge for technicians to understand at first.”

Better than expected energy and emissions savings

The results were far better than the estimated goals set at the beginning of the project. Implementing the training saved the pilot companies around EUR 20 million a year. “Replicating the results in 300 companies could translate into around EUR 540 million a year in savings,” says INDUCE project manager Clara Lorente Almenara, market development manager at the CIRCE Foundation. The project achieved some 490 measures of energy efficiency, she notes, saving 554 gigawatts (GW) per hour a year in the pilot companies – almost five times higher than the project goal of 106 GW per hour in primary energy savings. In addition, around 13.5 kilotons of carbon emissions a year would have been avoided by the pilot companies implementing the project training, according to project estimates.

Keywords

INDUCE, energy, training, food and beverage, energy assessment, energy efficiency, energy saving, carbon emissions, lighting

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