Business Energy Advisors add firepower, and are here to help

Image of Business Energy Advisors team
Front: Mary Zuccaro. Middle (left to right): Marilyn Christensen, Ida Keung, Darrell Eason, Ben Mills. Back (left to right): Adrian Pettyfer, Sorin Pasca, Sean Mcfetridge.

After helping more than 700 businesses in first year, service adds two more advisors

The first-year results of the Business Energy Advisor service are in. Since July 2014, more than 700 B.C. businesses have requested and received energy assessments from BC Hydro's Business Energy Advisor service, resulting in an estimated 2.5 million-kilowatt hours of energy savings.

To meet the growing demand for appointments, the Business Energy Advisor program has expanded from six to eight advisors in the province. Ida Keung and Mary Zuccaro are advisors who focus on industrial sector customers in the Lower Mainland.

We caught up with Keung and Zuccaro earlier this month for a quick Q&A to get a bit of insight into their role and the trends that they observe while they are out in the field.

Q. What's the first thing a customer asks about when you walk in the door?

Keung: Most industrial customers want to know about their energy savings opportunities and incentives from BC Hydro to help them lower their project cost.

Zuccaro: Usually, industrial customers ask me how they can improve the quality of task lighting in their facility. Then they ask about incentives.

Q. What are customers most confused or unsure about when it comes to energy efficiency?

Keung & Zuccaro: The many different energy efficiency technologies and options available can be very confusing. For example, there are so many different lighting solutions, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Both agree it's important for industrial businesses to understand the variety of products available, especially lighting products; for example, how to distinguish between the wide varieties of LEDs available, and understanding the best technology for their facility.

Q. How long does a typical energy assessment take? How many energy assessments do you do in a week?

Keung: It depends on the size and complexity of the facility, but most appointments are about 60 minutes long. I see on average three customers per week, and then I spend time assisting each customer with their energy saving projects.

Zuccaro: Most of my customers are busy owner/operators, so I try to limit my initial walkthrough to 60 minutes. I see about three to four [industrial] customers per week.

Q. In your opinion, what's the best first step for BC Hydro business customers?

Keung: Definitely understanding your bill and how you use energy. BC Hydro's online platform MyHydro allows customers to track their consumption down to five-minute increments (up to the previous day) which can be incredibly useful in identifying anomalies early before they create significant costs.

It also allows customers to sign up for alerts (eg. consumption, demand, power factor) to allow them to better manage their energy use in order to lower their bill.

Zuccaro: I agree. Industrial businesses are also able to identify peak demand in similar increments, which is helpful in considering ways to reduce your peak load where possible, such as scheduling cleaning or drying operations at night, and turning off unnecessary lights. Demand charges can be very costly — it's worth avoiding by running unnecessary processes or equipment at a lower peak period.

Q. What's a common misstep that customers make?

Keung: Not taking advantage of energy efficiency opportunities. It just doesn't make sense to use inefficient technologies, especially with BC Hydro incentives available to help ease the capital costs of upgrading.

Zuccaro: By far and away [for industrial customers], it's a lack of maintenance of compressed air systems. Leaks are incredibly common. We can help customers understand the source of leaks and help them incorporate practices to reduce losses.

Q. Name some easy, low-cost efficiency upgrades that you suggest customers consider.

Keung: Turn off unnecessary lights and air compressors when they aren't in use, add controls, and keep an eye out for air-leaks in the hose and connections.

Zuccaro: I agree; install lighting controls, follow equipment operating procedures, and train staff to identify and fix compressed air leaks. Your employees are your eyes and ears on the plant floor — encourage them to report energy waste.

Q. Name some higher cost upgrades that you think are worth every penny.

Keung & Zuccaro: Both agree that replacing your old out-dated lighting system and/or your old compressed air system with an energy efficient option can yield some significant energy and cost savings. Factor in a BC Hydro incentive into your project costs and (the project payback) may be even more attractive.

Q. What's the best part of your job?

Keung: To be able to help customers lower their energy bill, attain their sustainability goals, and get BC Hydro incentives for doing it.

Zuccaro: Saving energy, of course.

Industrial lighting and compressed air upgrades may qualify for incentives through the Self-Serve Incentive Program. Use the Business Program Eligibility tool to see which program(s) your business qualifies for or just talk with your local Business Energy Advisor.

Keung, Zuccaro and their colleagues regularly meet in person with business owners to help them evaluate their electricity and natural gas usage. To book a free appointment with a BC Hydro Business Energy Advisor, contact the Power Smart Business Help Desk at 1 866 522 4713.