Free energy efficiency help for manufacturers, food processors

Nina Winham

Imagine this: you hire a consultant, who does two studies, then tells you how to cut your company's electric bill by 10-30%. Permanently.

Better yet, imagine this: you don't have to pay the consultant. And in many cases, they'll help you get rebates for part of the capital cost of your efficiency project.

If you're a manufacturer or food processor in B.C., you can stop imagining, because that's the offer BC Hydro is currently extending to industrial companies in those sectors. Provided through partnerships with the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME) and the BC Food Processors Association (BCFPA), the program is called Energy Manager for Associations.

"This allows several industrial companies to share an energy manager," says program manager Eddie Young.

The program is aimed at companies that spend more than $50,000 per year on electricity, but generally less than $1 million – a size where many would find it prohibitive to have their own on-site energy manager. (Note – you don't have to be a member of either association to take part, as long as you're in the manufacturing or food processing sectors.)

BC Hydro contracts with the energy manager and provides the service for free to participants. The partner organizations handle promotion and recruitment.

A great first step

"This is a great first step for the companies who are just getting started, who want to assess where they're at," says Young. "The energy manager first does a technical assessment – a walk-through of the facility to find opportunities to save energy. Then they take the company through an organizational assessment, looking at how they manage energy. For example: Do they have a corporate energy reduction policy? So they have accountabilities for it, the right reporting and metrics for it? Things like that."

The two assessments come together in a Strategic Energy Management Plan (SEMP) that is given to the company. "It's up to the customer to implement their plan," says Young, "but what's innovative is the implementation support that is available. The energy manager will follow up and help them keep moving along. If they need help, they can call the energy manager with their questions."

Young says the energy manager will also help companies apply for Power Smart incentives and will help them access other Power Smart programs.

Customers who have already gone through the process have found significant energy savings. "The medium-sized companies seem to be able to reduce their bills by a far larger percentage than the larger companies," says Young. "We don't want to draw conclusions yet, but based on what we're seeing in incentive applications, we think savings in the 10-30% range is reasonable for participants."

"It's a great opportunity," says Donna Brendon, Membership Manager with the BCFPA. "A processor can figure out the exact energy cost of each item they produce."

Brendon says the Sustainable Energy Management Plan is also very helpful. "People in operations are often aware of all those input costs, but the SEMP is an opportunity to get upper management involved. Sometimes it's as simple as not running a machine at a peak hour, or turning off machines before a break. People leave them running because, 'We've always done it that way.' It's a great opportunity to look at everything."

Each association partnership is slated to run three years, with a target of 20 food processing and 50 manufacturing participants each year (both programs are now in year two). "We have dairy and meat processors, blueberry and cranberry producers, metal fabricators, electronics assembly, clothing and textile manufacturers," says Young. "It's a diverse group."

"People have been very pleased with the program," says Brendon. "Having access to the expertise of the energy manager is great for them. They're in and out of plants all the time, so they have a lot of ideas about how to use various equipment, what works and doesn't, and how companies can save."

Interested in learning more? Food processors can contact Donna Brendon at the BCFPA; manufacturers can contact Ali Jamal at the CME.

Remember that you don't need to be an association member as long as you are in the food processing or manufacturing sector. You can also contact the Power Smart Help Desk for Business by calling 604 522 4713 (Lower Mainland) or 1 866 522 4713 (elsewhere in B.C.).

Nina Winham is a Vancouver-based sustainability consultant and regular contributor to