More than 70% of California companies said the energy shortage has significantly impacted their business, according to a survey of building managers in the state. However, nearly half of those responding don't know how their companies will address the problem.

The survey, conducted by SWR Worldwide for Trane, found that while 66% of the companies expect unplanned blackouts in the next 12 months, 47% either don't have a strategy to address the impact of the energy shortage or don't know if their company has a plan.

The survey also found that two-thirds of businesses (67%) have placed restrictions on only their use of lighting, while few have looked at other means to improve energy efficiency. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)/Energy Information Administration, commercial and industrial businesses in California consume nearly 64% of electrical energy in the state.

"With the hot summer months quickly approaching and costs associated with air conditioning use expected to drastically increase, it is critical that companies in California and other states put together actionable conservation plans now to help them deal with increased energy demands," said Vance Tang, Trane vice president of Asset Management Services.

"While restricting the use of lighting is a solid first step, business owners and building managers can do much more to conserve energy and reduce their risk of suffering from unanticipated blackouts."

Heating and air conditioning systems alone can represent almost half of a facility's utility bill. New technologies and upgrades in the heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, building automation systems, other equipment as well as lighting can save considerable energy and cost in nearly all major systems in a building. The survey also indicated that companies were unclear what steps they could take to conserve energy and 44% said they were interested in getting assistance to help lower costs.

"Companies have more control over their costs than they may realize," Tang said. "There are relatively quick and easy steps companies can take to address the problem."

More than 80% of control systems today aren't used effectively.