Energy managers a big plus for businesses

Doug TrippNina Winham

In the fast-paced world of business today, it's not unusual that trends, and even management roles, may come and go. But there's one relative newcomer at the management table who is likely to settle in for the long term. That's because companies that hire an energy manager tend to see a distinct, ongoing advantage.

"What we often say to organizations is, 'Look at your energy spend and figure out what 20-25% of it is,' because that's the kind of annual savings companies tend to find as they make energy efficiency a priority," says Doug Tripp (in photo,  left), Executive Director of the Canadian Institute for Energy Training (CIET).

"And that's often conservative," he continues. "Some have far exceeded that rule of thumb."

Tripp has years of experience watching companies reap the benefits of proactive energy management. That's because he has spent years training the new managers who are taking on the energy management challenge.

The CIET is one of several partners who collaborate with BC Hydro to provide specialized energy management training (BCIT also offers a certificate in sustainable energy management.) CIET offers the Certified Energy Manager (CEM) professional credential in conjunction with the Association of Energy Engineers. CEM training sessions will be held in Vancouver in April and November this year.

Tripp says three key drivers are making energy management – the ongoing work of maximizing an organization's energy efficiency – worthwhile. They are:

  • Diminishing conventional energy supplies around the world, making prices volatile;
  • Environmental concerns, particularly climate change;
  • The need to increase and maintain industry competitiveness.

"In the past, energy management has been viewed as something different from normal business priorities," says Tripp. "The traditional thinking has been to treat it as a one-time project. 'Let's do some technology change, put some high efficiency motors and drives into our plant, and then we're done'."

"In our view, however, energy is a manageable issue like any other business priority, and should get the same sort of scrutiny as other priorities do," he continues. "Companies that have been truly effective at this work [and have reaped the benefits] have shown that you need to treat it as an element of continuous improvement, integrated into the corporate structure with policies, and planning."

Energy managers are typically trained not only in the technical aspects of energy efficiency, but also the management issues that need to be considered when embedding efficiency into a company's DNA, such as human resources, skills development, and financial and investment priorities.

"If you view energy efficiency as a project, it's harder to sustain the savings that you achieve," says Tripp. "It's inevitable that as time goes on, efficiencies tend to deteriorate, because things aren't maintained and operated the way they should be. When energy management is viewed as continuous improvement, with real-time ongoing monitoring and measurement the gains are maximized and sustained."

Tripp says more than 700 Certified Energy Managers have been trained in Canada since 2000, and demand continues to rise. (A US survey of energy professionals found that 72% of them expected a heightened shortage of qualified professionals in the energy efficiency and renewable energy fields in the next five years.)

BC Hydro has also noticed the rising trend, with five times as many companies responding to last year's offer for enhanced funding for Energy Managers as were expected.

"Companies are more clearly designating energy management responsibilities within their organizational structure, and are starting to see value in having a certified professional undertake that responsibility," says Tripp. "I've seen situations where companies have had significant energy savings once they establish a CEM role, not solely due to that individual, but more because having a CEM on staff acts like a catalyst.

"It helps establish energy efficiency as an organizational priority, and crystallize activity around an individual."

Learn more about the role and benefits of energy managers and about related BC Hydro initiatives designed for industrial distribution, industrial transmission and for commercial customers.