“If you want to make the world a better place, you’ve got to be willing to do something for it”

Torben Rist (C) ife

Torben Rist (C) ife

Torben Rist works for the Institut für Energieeffizienz (Institute for Energy Efficiency) in Kulmbach. He consults all kinds of businesses, from geriatric nursing to heavy industry, on how to conserve resources and save money. As a guest speaker at the Flensburg workshop he’ll talk about energy management and sustainable entrepreneurship, issues he touches upon here in this interview.

How do I go about saving energy costs as a business owner?
First off, you have to know what kinds of energy costs your company has. That might sound trivial, but the fact is, an astounding number of business owners have no idea about their companies’ energy costs. They behave like they’re driving a car – they slide in and drive off without asking themselves what kind of fuel they are burning and what kind of mileage the car gets.

And say I know my energy consumption?
Then I give you a new approach for measuring your energy consumption and monitoring it, much like you would follow your stocks on the stock market. This way you’re able to track your peak points of consumption, and figure out if they make sense for the company or not. It also allows you to see if your electrical systems are working against each other, i.e. if in one part of your building you are heating and in another you are cooling. One solution would be to shift energy consumption within the building.

So sustainable business practices translate into savings?
When it comes to energy costs, yes. But not when it comes to costs for personnel or technology. If I decide to hire someone to handle energy management and provide him or her with the necessary technology to do this, it costs money. But in the end, the energy savings still put the companies at an advantage. This is what I consider a sustainable business strategy.

Does this call for large investments?
If you want to make the world a better place, you’ve got to be willing to do something for it. One of my customers, for example, needs steam to manufacture its plastics. The company invested EUR 2.1 million in a CHP (combined heat and power) plant, which supplies both power and heat simultaneously. After two years, the plant had already paid for itself.

Is the focus on fiscal savings at this point, or is it more an issue of environmental awareness within the management?
People are definitely becoming more and more environmentally aware. There are some stock companies that publish the carbon footprints of their products. Enterprises like these have made carbon-neutral production a part of their company policy. Low emission production is also a powerful sales pitch. I am currently planning a carbon-neutral wellness weekend with a hotel, a company that makes electric vehicles and a CHP provider. The wellness hotel is emissions efficient, the car manufacturer is providing a sports car that runs on electricity, and both of these companies are supplied with energy from the third partner’s climate-friendly CHP plants. I am certain that this wellness package will be good advertising for all three companies.