Sandia's Grassroots Energy Awareness Campaign Yields Big Savings

February 28, 2003

The Energy Management Program at DOE's Sandia National Laboratories has grassroots help from a semi-anonymous senior scientist who calls himself "the Energy Nag." The Energy Nag has been rankling the 250 occupants of his building since summer 2001 with mass e-mails, an online newsletter called The Nag Rag, and uninvited office visits.

He has been urging coworkers to switch off unneeded lights, lower thermostats when possible, switch office equipment off at night, and even purchase 10-watt halogen desk lamps.

"If we adopt some simple and painless habits," he pleads, "we could make a huge difference in the amount of energy the laboratory uses." And they have. Occupants of Sandia's Building 810 have cut overall electricity use by 17 percent from August 2001 to July 2002. During this period, the energy savings in the 151,000-square-foot building at the Albuquerque, New Mexico, site totaled more than 825,000 kilowatthours and approximately $43,000 in annual cost savings.

Energy reductions at Building 810 are estimated to be saving $150 per person. According to Sandia's Energy Management Program, if 70 percent of Sandia's workforce could save an average $50 per year per person in non-essential electric use, a 3 percent laboratory-wide reduction in annual electricity use would result.

"With very minimal pain, we've cut back about 41,000 kilowatthours per month since this effort was launched," he wrote in a recent issue of The Nag Rag. "Not bad, but there is much more nagging yet to come."

When editors of Sandia Lab News, the laboratory's employee newspaper, found out about the Nag's efforts, they featured him, retaining the Nag's anonymity and allowing him to deride his coworkers on a grand scale. The Nag tells employees he believes saving energy is not only the right thing for the environment and taxpayer's dollars, it's also a national security issue.

The Nag's combination of sarcasm and wit has hit a chord with Sandia employees. His writings are inspiring nag "wannabes" to volunteer to nag their coworkers in buildings across Sandia.

As a follow up to the Nag's exploits, Sandia Lab News featured articles on energy-use statistics and energy-saving opportunities. The program coordinators further capitalized on the Nag's efforts by holding an energy awareness training session in September 2002 to kickoff National Energy Awareness Month and an energy conservation contest for FY 2003.

At the meeting, the neophyte nags were provided a brochure with energy-saving tips and supporting information, posters and other handouts, moral support, and an offer for more assistance, including energy usage information for their buildings. The FY 2003 contest challenges Sandia employees to compete to reduce monthly per-square-foot electricity consumption.

At the end of each quarter, Sandia buildings with significant energy reductions are placed into the following categories: the 5 Percent Club, 10 Percent Club, 15 Percent Club, and the Overachievers Club. The building numbers and energy consumption reductions will be publicized in Sandia Lab News. Prizes will go to occupants of buildings with the highest overall reductions at the end of each quarter, and a grand prize will be awarded at the end of the year.

Sandia is a two-campus National Laboratory complex, with sites in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Livermore, California, totaling more than 6.5 million square feet. Sandia has achieved a 34 percent reduction in energy use per square foot since FY 1985, mostly with technology improvements and efficient new buildings. Laboratory-wide energy awareness and behavioral changes have the potential for even more reductions.

For more information, please contact Ralph Wrons, Sandia's Energy Management Program Manager at 505-844-0601, or Malynda Aragon, energy contest coordinator at 505-844-1288.