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5 years on: BCIT energy management program delivers for B.C. businesses

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In its five years, BCIT's Sustainable Energy Management Certificate program has sent 125 graduates on to help B.C. businesses and institutions save energy and money.

Graduates 'hit the ground running' to help businesses improve efficiency, save

Since it was launched five years ago, the Sustainable Energy Management Certificate (SEMAC) program at BCIT has prepared graduates for a career in the growing field of energy management. And it has helped strengthen the conservation culture in British Columbia.

No fewer than 125 graduates have helped schools, hospitals, private and public sector groups, non-profits and municipalities to help businesses save energy and build a conservation culture in B.C.

"Businesses are seeing the value in hiring an energy manager to implement a comprehensive approach to energy efficiency," says Simon Vickers, manager of BC Hydro's Commercial Energy Manager program. "And SEMAC is producing skilled graduates that can hit the ground running."

Developed in partnership with BC Hydro, FortisBC and Natural Resources Canada, SEMAC is working to ensure there is a strong supply of energy management professionals to help large businesses identify and implement sustainable energy management strategies.

Courses offer a balance between technical and business skills. The program is now fully online and accessible from anywhere in B.C. and the world. BC Hydro's Vickers says BCIT has been a valuable partner, helping create energy-service jobs, attract and train a skilled workforce in communities throughout B.C. The program is now fully online and accessible from anywhere in B.C. and the world.

Dedicated energy managers deliver sustainable results, and pay for themselves

One SEMAC graduate, Michael Urbas, worked with BC Hydro to commission an energy study a few years ago that helped Richmond's River Rock Casino save $56,000 each year. But he says an energy manager's value isn't just about reducing energy consumption.

"It's also about maintenance efficiencies, value-added procurement, guest and staff comfort, and equipment condition and monitoring," says Urbas, energy manager for Great Canadian Gaming Corp. "It's the difference between a well-managed and maintained facility, compared to the status quo."

Another grad, Luisa Mora, is energy manager for the City of Coquitlam.

"A dedicated energy manager allows an energy efficiency program to be delivered in a comprehensive manner, rather than be run out of the corner of someone's desk," says Mora. "This dedicated resource is the key to achieving results that can be sustained over time, results that make sense to the organization, and are aligned with other business priorities and plans."

The SEMAC program demonstrates BCIT's ability to quickly adapt and respond to evolving technology and trends. Andrea Linksy, program head for SEMAC, says relationships with BC Hydro and FortisBC help keep the program current and up-to-date, "creating a brand that B.C. businesses respect."

And that's key, according to Urbas.

"The fact that BCIT offers a sustainable energy management course shows how advanced and proactive it is," he said. "SEMAC is an important program not only for the energy information it offers, but also because we learned about change management — and in today's market, companies are constantly re-inventing themselves."

"The SEMAC program helped us learn how to apply knowledge from other fields, like business management and engineering, within an energy management context," says Mora. "In my opinion, SEMAC is the specialized link that guides and forms new professionals in the energy management field."

Energy management field expected to keep growing

Looking ahead, energy managers say they believe their field will only continue to grow.

"I compare energy management to what preventative maintenance was 50 years ago," says Urbas. "As the cost of energy rises, and the efficiency of new equipment, the role of an energy manager has become a revenue source for facilities departments.

"An Energy Manager role pays for itself and reduces operating cost. I can only see the awareness and adaptation of this role becoming mainstream."

Says Mora, "Energy management is a key component of corporate responsibility, and also as a key factor influencing a business' bottom line. As different business sectors mature in B.C., and British Columbians continue to hold pride in preserving our natural resources, energy management will continue to grow in relevance and impact."

Learn more about SEMAC