OWL Energy Scouts: Trainees supporting climate protection

Achieving a sustainable reduction in the consumption of energy and resources is one of the key challenges of our times. This places particular demands on commercial enterprises as large-scale consumers. But tackling this issue in a consistent way often founders in the course of day-to-day business operations. This is where the “Energy Scouts” come in. The practical project instructs trainees how to track down areas where savings could be made in their own companies and to tap into these in a focused way. In the region of East Westphalia-Lippe (OWL), the project, which was initially conceived of as an internal project within a company, was developed into a project across the region.

The idea of the “Energy Scouts” originated at the headquarters of the Baden-Württemberg fan manufacturer, ebm-papst, where a small group of trainees got together in 2010 to find potential ways of saving energy in their own company and achieved savings of 100,000 euros in just the first year. The idea of achieving great things by apparently simple means appealed to the junior chamber of commerce in the district of Lippe, who took up the concept in 2013 and established the “OWL Energy Scouts”. A year later the chambers of commerce and industry (IHK) in East Westphalia and Lippe developed the idea into a project at the regional level.

Engine for progress:

  • Raising trainees’ awareness of energy and resource efficiency
  • Sustainable reduction in resource consumption, in CO2 emissions and in company costs
  • Role model and motivational factor for the entire workforce
  • Trainees acquire key skills

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Photo: IHK Ostwestfalen zu Bielefeld

Award presentation for "OWL Energy Scouts in 2016": 24 teams of trainees presented their projects at an exhibition in the lobby of the Competence Center of Schüco International KG in Bielefeld and received awards in recognition of their ideas.

Trainees identify weak spots

Since then, the “OWL Energy Scouts” project has become established as an annual event. Any company providing training that is registered with the IHKs can take part. A minimum of two trainees need to form a team and in addition a supervisor within the company must be provided to support them. The teams of trainees are then given instruction on the themes of energy and resource efficiency through joint events and workshops. After that, the project phases begins, when the trainees first of all set about looking for weak spots in their companies and then develop concrete projects to tackle the potential areas of saving and implement these where possible. They are supported by the IHKs leading the project and their partner agencies EnergieAgentur.NRW, Effizienz-Agentur NRW and Energie Impuls OWL. In the voluntary regional competition which follows, the teams with the best projects can win prizes of between 500 and 1,000 euros, sponsored by the Sparkasse banks in Paderborn-Detmold and Bielefeld.

2,300-tonne reduction in CO2 emissions

Since the scheme started in 2014, 171 teams with a total of 664 trainees have taken part in the four rounds held so far. The projects they have developed focus on a wide range of different areas of operational consumption from lighting to compressed air, IT optimisation and waste heat utilisation, right up to projects which directly affect manufacturing processes. The climate change mitigation effect achieved is impressive: from all the projects submitted, savings in the consumption of electricity alone amounted to more than 4,500,000 kilowatt-hours per year, which equates to a reduction in CO2 emissions of at least 2,300 tonnes and cost savings of over a million euros per year. Savings achieved by transferring the measures to similar installations in the same company are not included in this calculation. In addition, savings in resources, for example plastics, chemicals or paints, produce further extremely positive ecological effects which go beyond climate protection. Furthermore, the project tends to create more transparency as regards consumption within the companies and raises overall staff awareness of the issues concerned.

Nationwide training programme

In the meantime, the Association of German Chambers of Commerce and Industry (DIHK) has adopted the project – at the suggestions of the junior chamber of commerce in the district of Lippe – as a nationwide training concept through the “SME Initiative Energy Transition and Climate Protection” and presents an annual award to the best energy scouts in the country. About 50 chambers of commerce and industry have decided to offer the concept to their member companies. As well as OWL, there are other highly active regions in North Rhine-Westphalia as well (Cologne, the Lower Rhine, South Westphalia), but the OWL project is still the largest one in the country in terms of numbers.

Photo: IHK Ostwestfalen zu Bielefeld

“In this project, the trainees are getting into shape in terms of energy and resource efficiency. They identify weak spots in their companies, develop solutions and get valuable project experience in their teams. They thus make an active contribution to climate protection and raise their colleagues’ awareness of the issues. In the rounds of the competition completed until now, the teams have identified potential savings of over one million euros and have realised these savings in many cases. So their commitment has paid off!”

Martina Dekomien (Wirtschaftsjunioren Lippe e. V. (the junior chamber of commerce in the district of Lippe)), Matthias Carl (IHK Lippe in Detmold) and Arne Potthoff (IHK East Westphalia in Bielefeld)

Partners and sponsors

  • IHK Ostwestfalen zu Bielefeld
  • IHK Lippe zu Detmold
  • Wirtschaftjunioren der Kreise Lippe, Ostwestfalen, Paderborn & Höxter