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Energy manager tips: Getting started, maintaining savings

Focus efforts on highest areas of waste, greatest opportunities

2017 update: BC Hydro electricity rates for Large General Service (LGS) customers and Medium General Service (MGS) changed as of April 1, 2017. LGS and MGS customers are all charged under simpler, flat rates with no tiered pricing for energy and demand charges.

The online Baseline and Forecaster tools are no longer required to estimate customer electricity costs and will be removed from MyHydro.

Learn more about the changes

This year, energy managers working in commercial and institutional settings across the province have shared their knowledge through a series of answers to questions we posed.

This month we address the question: "What's the best way to get started on energy efficiency, and maintain the savings?"

Before we dive in to this month's question, here are links to the first two stories in our energy manager tips series:

Know how much energy you use vs. what you need

It seems obvious, but bears repeating: the best place to get started on saving energy is to know how much you need: understanding when, where, and how much energy is required for your operations.

This is where an Energy Study co-funded by BC Hydro can help.

Comparing your usage baselines with your real needs allows you to identify gaps, and as one energy manager says, "The gaps you find are energy waste." That gives a focus to your efforts to improve efficiency by pointing to the areas of highest waste and best opportunity.

Another place to start is to check with your relevant industry association. These organizations may have energy management resources that are applicable to the specific situations your operations face.

For example, Building Owners and Managers Association, Tourism Vancouver and BC Non-Profit Housing Association. Gathering all the information you can will help you create the best plan for savings.

There's also information on bchydro.com. Learn more about Energy Management Assessment, Workplace Conservation Awareness, and how to track your business electricity use. Or, consult the Power Smart business guides and energy saving tips.

Create a plan and business case(s) and get senior management onside

A strategic plan (often called a strategic energy management plan, or SEMP) helps identify efficiency opportunities. Potential initiatives should include estimated energy savings and the simple payback period, and the plan should include operational procedure changes that may have a zero cost.

From there, create a business case summary sheet for each major project to provide more information.

All of this supports communication to senior management to gain their buy-in. Energy managers will tell you that nothing gets done without upper management support.

Allocating one individual to oversee the plan and ensuring they have authority and accountability for energy-related matters is important, as is establishing energy saving targets.

From there, it's a matter of identifying the best projects, and getting started. Don't forget to take advantag of energy incentive rebates.

Monitor and manage

To maintain energy savings, our energy managers focused on two main areas: monitoring, and building relationships throughout the organization. That makes it easier to take action when energy use climbs.

Careful attention to energy bills and any monitoring systems available is key — explore the Forecaster for Medium General Service or Large General Service customers.  If applicable, an Energy Management Information System dashboard that provides real-time display of consumption is best.

Comparing to baselines, and taking corrective actions quickly are all part of maintaining savings — and the reason why having one person accountable is most effective.

But that person can't act alone. Says one energy manager, "Energy managers don't usually have a team of human resources so must do things by influencing others. This makes interpersonal skills and the ability to work with others even more important for energy managers."

Producing regular energy-usage reports for all staff to review, and establishing an energy awareness behavioural program so everyone takes part in energy conservation initiatives is critical to sustaining long-term savings.

Contact your Key Account Manager to learn more about energy efficiency options and incentives for your organization.

With input from Fabian Biagetti, Peter Nilsen, Ron Sue, Joe Ciarniello, Jerry Wyshnowsky, Robert Greenwald, Gwendal Castellan, and Sam Thomas.