Energy managers key big savings by B.C. businesses

You've likely heard the term, but do you know what an energy manager does?

Energy managers are experts in the often cryptic systems and processes that are the spine of B.C. businesses. They are problem solvers who are responsible for finding efficiencies. Their job is to reduce the amount of electricity, gas or any other power being used by their organization, whether it's public or private, big or small.

Energy managers lead the cultural shift to change the way we think about and use energy. They spearhead large upgrade projects but they also find small but critical reforms that can save big on electricity costs. Since 2008, BC Hydro's business customers have conserved over 2,100 gigawatt hours a year, enough to power more than 190,000 homes a year.

Energy managers educate and inform, persuade and inspire. And when the Power Smart Excellence Awards roll around — BC Hydro makes it a priority to recognize the best of this talented group.

For 2012, three energy managers have been nominated for a Power Smart Excellence Award, including:

Below, we take a look at these three guys, who nicely represent some of the variety to be found within the field of energy management. They exemplify the commitment that drives today's energy managers.

Cowichan Valley schools cut usage by 17%

Brian Branting, Cowichan Valley School District

His office may be in Duncan, but Brian Branting is responsible for tracking the schools throughout the entire Cowichan Valley.

And track it, he does: In the past two years he's helped the school district reduce its electricity use by an average of 17 per cent.

"A big part of what I do is monitor the situation," he explained. "I set baselines for how our schools are doing, consumption wise."

Branting's mornings begin with him checking the computer for the daily readings on energy use. He's got a degree in geophysics and is an electrician by training, two experiences that he puts into practice every day.

He generates new projects to save energy, sources funding for them, then manages those projects. While his focus is electricity related, Branting said he'll initiate anything that is for the betterment of the district, such as heating plant upgrade he's currently working on.

Being embedded within a school district also gives Branting the opportunity to encourage conservation among students. He supports behavioural programs within the schools that involve the teachers and students becoming "energy champions".

It's a way, said Branting, of letting the students take ownership of the sustainability effort within their schools.

Thrifty Foods saves enough to power three stores

Jerry Wyshnowsky, Thrifty Foods

Jerry Wyshnowsky calls Victoria "Canada's Hawaii". The Winnipeg native moved to the west coast about seven years ago to help expand the Thrifty Foods grocery stores on Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland.

Wyshnowsky had spent the previous 13 years building and renovating stores for a Manitoba-based retail chain. He managed construction on projects from Baffin Island and the Aleutians to Labrador and the Canadian territories. Many of the remote communities got power from diesel generators.

"That taught me the value of a kilowatt," said Wyshnowsky.

As the director of energy and environment for Thrifty Foods, Wyshnowsky is responsible for putting sustainability into practice. "What we're doing is so far advanced beyond what we were doing before we became a Power Smart partner," he said.

One example is the replacement of old, synthetic-based refrigeration systems with carbon dioxide systems. And because Sobey's, the parent company of Thrifty Foods, has a goal of diverting 30 per cent of solid waste from the landfill and reducing its carbon footprint by 15 per cent, Wyshnowsky is overseeing a new compost and recycling program.

Despite all the initiatives, Wyshnowsky said that energy managers must be practical and business focussed. "It's nice to try new things," he said, "but it's got to make sense from a business point of view."

Since becoming a Power Smart Partner, Thrifty Foods has saved more than six million kilowatt hours of energy – enough to power 545 homes a year, or nearly three additional Thrifty Foods stores.

CN doubles first-year savings target

Hamid Kazmi, CN Rail

Based in the Lower Mainland, Hamid Kazmi is the energy manager for CN Rail. He agreed that a business case is essential when considering how to bring in efficiencies.

And how's this for good business. After helping establish an energy savings target of five per cent each year for five years, CN saved 10% in the first year of the plan. And they did it mostly with low cost/no cost operational measures and behaviour changes.

After working in industrial organizations and high tech companies as an electrical engineer, Kazmi went to the University of British Columbia for a masters degree in clean energy engineering. While there he learned about solutions related to the sustainability of energy supply and demand, and topics covering energy economics and policies.

All energy projects begin with an assessment, said Kazmi, to form an understanding of where the energy is being consumed and how much of it is being converted to useful work. The goal is to determine which efforts will bring about a maximum return.

Kazmi recently completed lighting upgrades at some CN facilities as well as a major compressed air system upgrade.

An important aspect of his job, he said, is to transfer his knowledge and experience across the company. "There's a culture of conservation in B.C.," he said, "that is helping implement organizational awareness and change across boundaries."