Ideas are free – Proposal for energy management training at Algonquin

I used to sit on all my ideas worried, concerned that someone else would steal them. Of course, with my day job and real life very few of these ideas went anywhere and occassionally someone else would come up with the same idea and maybe turn it into something.  In these cases, I was always ecstatic that an idea that I had once thought of actually was turned into something of value by someone else.  Sure I would have preferred to have turned it into something useful and interesting, but at least the idea did not sit in my head or on one of my many lists waiting for the day that would never come when I could devote the needed time and energy to actually move it along.

Now my new approach is to share my ideas with colleagues and peers and in my meetings as part of my networking. Set them free! If someone sees value in it and runs with it, Great! If they see value and run it and want to include me, even better!

So here is one idea and granted this one is not new although it may be new in the Ottawa community.

Training program in Energy management:


A set of events are coming togethor which are driving momentum to improve how we use energy in our homes and our work.  These include the continued increase, volatility and uncertainty in  energy prices, recognition and changing social expectations about addressing climate change and reducing  greenhouse gas emissions and as our energy use increases with more electronics and conveniences, there is interest in ensuring that we use our energy more efficiently.   Utilities also know that reducing energy use and investing in energy efficiently can reduce energy use and help to meet the growing demand much cheaper than building new energy infrastructure.  It is much cheaper to invest in energy efficiency in the electricity sector rather than trying to build nuclear power plants, natural gas generation in Ontario and large hydro.  Recognition is also growing that it is cheaper to reduce energy use and invest in efficiency in the fossil fuel sector rather than building new refineries, new pipelines to export crude oil or new LNG export terminals.

As well at the same time, new technologies are being created and being brought to market which will allow for the more efficient use of energy and enhance and preserve our quality of life. These opportunities have been recognised by entrepreneurs in the clean tech sector as well as traditional energy players as they are being forced to adapt to changes in the energy sector.

Skills are needed to understand the underlying technologies, understand where these technologies can be applied, understand how to describe the benefits and how to use the tools that are not developed to forecast, project, measure and verify that the energy savings will be delivered based on the promises made.  Technical skills are also needed to support the evaluation of the success of any energy efficiency investments using the suite of tools, technical understanding and experience that the individuals who graduate from this program will have.

Objective: Practical training and education that can lead to an undergraduate certificate in energy management, potential certification in IPMVP, continuing education units for PMI project management certificate, LEED  plus others.

This training could be part of a one year certification degree, a specialization within an existing degree or an add-on to an existing certificate. Thie could also link with any existing certificate programs asociaterd with green construction and/or advanced construction engineering degrees.

Qualified Individuals:

A need to drive investments in the energy efficiency sector is the need for qualified individuals who can do a number of interrelated jobs including:

  • go into a facility and building and understand the energy use,
  • understand the impacts of a retrofits of different technologies,
  • understand how to model different technologies and their impacts,
  • be able to ensure that after the building has been built or retrofitted it is operating optimally and be able to do a commissioning to support this,
  • be able to establish and operate a monitoring and verification program to be able to ensure that the building is functioning as intended.

In addition, to be able to understand and develop a business case and be able to articulate this business case is a needed skill for driving energy efficiency investments.  The skills that these individuals need are practical skills best delivered through a college diploma and certificate. Algonquin could develop a complete program which could train individuals with these skills to the marketplace. These skills are needed both for retrofits of existing building as well as building new energy efficient buildings and net zero buildings.  The sectors where these skills are mostly needed include commercial, institutional, industrial and residential.

Industry that has need of these skills include property managers, property developers, architects, architectural technologists, energy companies (utilities etc.), ESCO’s, engineering consultants.

The types of positions that these individuals would fill include energy managers, energy auditors, energy modellers, building commissioners, building inspectors.

It would also be useful skill development for existing trades including engineers, building inspectors, architects, planners, project managers etc.

Potential Courses:

  • Rationale: Why, business case for energy management and energy efficiency and retrofits
  • Introduction to energy management:
  • ISO 50001 Energy Management System
  • How to do energy audits
  • Benchmarking (see article at bottom)
  • Energy modelling (include RetScreen and others)
  • How to determine energy savings, greenhouse gas emission reductions, establish baselines etc.
  • Monitoring and verification
  • Commissioning and decommissioning
  • Financial Analysis
  • Potential sources of capital
  • How to sell energy efficiency
  • Practical application to a building on campus.

It just so happens that on the day that I was writing this up and preparing, I came across this press release from Algonquin College about a new Energy Management Graduate Certificate

I hope to be taking this around to people at Algonquin college in the next few weeks and working with a couple people who I know to push this ahead.  Comments and suggestions are welcome!

My early experiences with selling energy efficient lighting – did we guarantee energy savings?

There is a blossoming of innovation in energy efficiency financing that has taken place over the last 10 years as many of the ideas around energy efficiency and how to pay for them have been learned and seeped into the marketplace.

Of course all of these projects are positive NPV.  Using the cash flow from energy savings to pay off the upfront capital costs and borrowing costs of the energy efficiency investment, allows these investments to be paid off with no upfront capital costs to the project owner. In an environment with rising energy or electricity utility prices and an environment where the total cost of generation is higher than the costs associated with conservation, incentives are supporting increased investments in energy efficiency.

I worked for a company in the early 1990’s , at that point called Orion Scientific – which may have morphed into Orion Energy Systems.  We approached businesses that were operating for close to 24 hours a day and tried to sell them energy efficient lighting systems which at that time consisted of more efficient electronic ballasts, more efficient fluorescent tubes (T4’s instead of T8’s) and replacing potlights with CFL as well as selling a reflector to reflect the light down from the top of the T4.  The capital costs were financed through a third party lease to own arrangement where the lease costs were less than the energy savings, so the business still saw some of the savings while paying off the costs of the efficiency investment.  The payback was somewhere in the 3-5 year period.  There were a whole set of barriers for why businesses said “No”.  From my perspective, these were mostly about

  • Inertia or laziness
  • Resistance to change
  • Split incentives (the person operating the business not paying the utility costs)
  • Doubt about the savings actually being achieved (and in turn wary about being sold something that did not exist)

When I was selling these energy efficient lighting systems while we would project the actual energy savings based on the historical use patterns, we did not “guarantee” the energy savings.  If the use changed, for example the business only ran 12 hours a day rather than 18, then the lease costs would not change even though the energy savings were less.

Granted the total energy costs were also less, since the business was only operating two-thirds of the time.  Now however, with the use of energy modelling and legal agreements and ways to account for changes in use of the building as well as accounting for particular cool or hot weather patterns, companies will actually guarantee energy savings though energy performance agreements.  If the building does not perform as anticipated, the contractor will pay the client what they should have received for energy savings.

With energy performance agreements, the contractor aslo takes on the responsibility of ensuring that the building or facility is operating optimally.  They do this by commissioning the building and monitoring the energy use of the building.  Of course it also means that when bidding on an energy efficient contract, the incentive is to bid somewhat lower, design for a better standard and when operating you should be able to hit in the middle most of the time.  This will be contrary to an energy efficient retrofit with no energy performance savings agreement where the contractor will promise high and the building may be able to perform as intended or not.  There is no financial penalty of the building does not perform as intended.

The energy efficiency sector has moved significantly since then and particularly over the last few years.  I will explore those in future posts.