Energy productivity is more than a low-hanging fruit for forward-thinking businesses

Clay Nesler, Johnson Controls
Ilario D'Amato
22 December 2017

Clay Nesler, Vice President, Global Energy and Sustainability, Johnson Controls

LONDON: The business case for investing in energy productivity “is really, really strong,” says Clay Nesler, Vice President, Global Energy and Sustainability, Johnson Controls, in a Climate TV recorded in Bonn during COP23.

Since 2002, multinational technology and industrial company Johnson Controls has spent US$100 million less per year in energy than it would have under a business as usual scenario – thanks to improvements in energy productivity.

The company’s effort is part of EP100, The Climate Group’s program that helps businesses to use the same or less energy to do more – in other words, to use energy better.

“I think any organization can benefit from best practices in energy management, improving the energy efficiency of their operations,” continues Clay Nesler, “so I would recommend all organizations to consider joining EP100.

“Many organizations believe it will become increasingly expensive to continue to make the year-on-year improvements; after you’ve harvested the low-hanging fruit, the fruit higher on the tree is very expensive to reach. Since 2002 until last year, we’ve been able to maintain a high rate of improvements year to year, and almost all of those improvements have been done with measures with paybacks of less than three years – in fact, most of less than two years. So, I think if you really look for the fruit, you can find the additional low-hanging fruit.”


Energy productivity is also crucial to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, since it helps companies use energy in a smarter way. Johnson Controls has been pioneering this pathway in a transparent way, tracking and reporting its GHG emissions and energy use for 15 years. “We made a commitment to reduce our carbon intensity by 25% over 10 years from 2002,” says Clay Nesler, “and we met that goal in only six years.

“So, we were looking for another level of commitment. We then joined the United States Department of Energy Better Buildings, Better Plants Program and Challenge, which again made a 25% energy intensity reduction over ten years.

“Just this year, we’ve met that second goal three years early – in only seven years. We were looking for a triple down goal: we wanted to set another ambitious goal, but we wanted it to be global. EP100 was a perfect initiative because it had a very similar kind of rate of improvement, but it applied to our entire global enterprise.”


Clay Nesler also points out the critical role of technology in accelerating the deployment of more efficient appliances, which help reduce emissions while further strengthening the business case for energy productivity. “When we started our program, we replaced T12 fluorescent lights with T5 fluorescent lights", he says. “Now, we’re in the process of replacing T5s with LEDs.

“Five years from now, I’m pretty sure we’ll be replacing our lighting with OLED lighting fixtures, which will be smart, which will measure lighting levels, which will communicate with the building management system. So, we see a continuing path of innovation, which can provide very cost-effective technologies, to continue to provide energy efficiency improvements.”

There is also another powerful push for companies to invest in energy productivity and reduce their emissions: their customers are demanding it. “At Johnson Controls we’ve been doing something called the Energy Efficiency Indicator survey, and this is our 11th edition,” says Clay Nesler, comprising “over 1,000 organizations – commercial, institutional and industrial – this year, in 12 countries.

“The greatest single predictor of increased investment in energy efficiency has been public goals: programs that help organizations make a commitment publicly to an energy or a carbon reduction goal, like the United States Department of Energy “Better Buildings, Better Plants Program and Challenge”, like The Climate Group’s EP100, are great ways of communicating to all stakeholders the importance and your commitment to this, and more importantly to the internal organization, to the employees, to the frontline workers in the manufacturing plants and [people] in the field. That commitment translated into a three times increase in investment, compared to organizations which had not made a public commitment.”

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