Public service organizations create the infrastructure of our society, as all of us regularly come into contact with or utilize MUSH organizations. MUSH stands for municipalities, universities (and colleges), schools, and hospitals.
Uplight’s latest installment of our research program recruited MUSH experts and energy managers to better understand how this sector makes decisions, who is involved in decision making, and what barriers exist around energy management. We interviewed ten focus groups with 37 participants, and supplemented the work with a pre-panel survey that 39 participants completed.
We found that while the MUSH sector is incredibly complex and varied, all segments are looking for help on managing their energy use within limitations around budget, timing, and approvals. These large organizations have constrained capital and maintenance budgets. Energy managers are in the middle of the decision making hierarchy, and must influence facilities managers and building users while also making the business case to get their projects approved. Politics play a big role in energy management for municipalities and schools, and a new set of elected officials can have a completely different vision than departing ones.
Overall, this sector doesn’t have sufficient data to make energy decisions, especially since they often have hundreds or thousands of buildings and addresses. Participants noted they lack disaggregated and real-time data, data on baseload and benchmarks, and assistance in consolidating and understanding bills across buildings and departments.
Not surprisingly, cost and timing are the two factors most important to MUSH decision making. Cost, of course, is critical for public resources with limited budgets, with schools being especially budget constrained. And for some segments, energy projects need to be completed in a short window of time such as summertime for schools and universities. Hospitals have to balance timing with patient care, and the COVID-19 pandemic has made that even more difficult with increased patient load.
MUSH organizations try to extend every dollar spent, attempting to increase the longevity of existing infrastructure, and recovering and extending the life of old buildings. When cost savings can be realized through energy efficiency or a reduction in use, these savings can be applied to other initiatives.
Environmental impact and sustainability motivations also rank high, and most MUSH sub-sectors have clean energy or zero carbon goals. Municipalities and universities are leading the charge with ambitious targets. For example, one research participant’s university had a goal to become carbon neutral by 2025, another had a 33% reduction target by 2023, and another had a 40% reduction target by 2040.
While municipalities, universities, schools, and hospitals have a unique set of challenges, there are also big opportunities to help these public service organizations better manage their energy. Register for our upcoming webinar to find out more about Uplight’s research on the motivations, barriers, and opportunities for MUSH.