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Power Smart strengthens the case for an energy manager

Energy management consultant Jack Vanier.

"The energy manager's job has implications for the organization's on-time performance, mechanical integrity, workplace safety, emissions compliance, and the ability to make products that can be marketed as environmentally-benign alternatives."

Christopher Russell, author, The Industrial Energy Harvest

With a list of impacts like the above – not to mention energy cost savings – why is it that not all large organizations have energy managers in place?

Well, there are the forces of falling revenues, tightened belts and job losses. It can be challenging to get energy management programs going, or to maintain support for existing ones.

"Sometimes, there's not much you can do because the ball is rolling in a certain direction," says Jack Vanier, an energy-management consultant with Fransen Engineering. "You almost have to just keep the program alive until you're in a position to start swinging the pendulum back."

Vanier is a huge proponent of energy management as a process and, specifically, of energy managers as a means of getting it right. He sees BC Hydro Power Smart's Industrial Energy Manager Initiative – which provides 100% funding of a position for those who apply by November 30, 2009 – as a unique opportunity.

And judging by the enthusiastic response of those who turned out for talk on energy management [PDF, 304 Kb] at the Power Smart Forum in October, he's not the only one.

"What I saw at this year's Power Smart Forum was a lot more interest from organizations and companies that in the past hadn't even thought about energy management," he said.

Executive buy-in is essential

It's not hard to find at least one person in an organization who is enthused about energy management. The challenge is to win the support of senior management, which must commit to the process, get involved, provide the funding and remain accessible.

"It's important to identify the person who's in a key position, who can bring that support back," he says. "You don't have to convince the whole management team, just a key person on that team."

Power Smart's Energy Manager Initiative and related programs make that sell easier because the payback on investment in energy-efficiency initiatives is cut significantly.

Vanier says that when companies commit to a triple bottom line approach, they tend to do a reasonable job with the people (health and safety) and financial (shareholder value). What's sometimes missing from their environmental performance, however, is adequate energy management.

Energy use, according to Vanier, should be scrutinized just as much as the use of money in an organization.

Where are the savings?

Vanier says that for companies who aren't significantly committed to energy conservation already, an energy manager can help put them on the path to energy cost reductions of 10-20%.

As an example, he dives into one of the quickest payback areas for industrial customers, compressed air systems.

"When you're talking about heavy industry, everyone has a compressed air system," he says. "Many probably don't know how much it costs them, but they have some idea of the horsepower that's involved. You quickly change that into dollars, and you can tell them that 20 to 50% of those dollars are probably wasted."

"The kicker," he adds, "is that for some companies, compressed air savings alone will pay for the cost of an energy manager."

Vanier cites the BC Hydro Power Smart co-funded energy management programs of Canfor Taylor and Quesnel River Pulp as good examples of commitment to energy savings.

"Industry has to be willing to believe the things they're saying," he says. "Everybody these days is saying they support triple bottom line objectives, but unless they're willing to put their money where their mouth is, it's a difficult road."

Use the following links for more information on the Power Smart Industrial Energy Manager Initiative: