A kilowatt saved is a kilowatt earned
David Bligh, onsite energy manager with the Nova Scotia Health Authority. Photo: Efficiency Nova Scotia
For some businesses, reducing energy waste means LEDs and heat pumps. For others, it means hiring a professional.
Errol Pereira of Efficiency Nova Scotia has overseen the Onsite Energy Manager service since 2016. The program embeds one of his efficiency colleagues into a partnering business full time, identifying opportunities to save electricity and money.
It began in 2012 with two energy managers in the field, and now has 12, most contracted to single clients. “The service has taken on a life of its own,” says Pereira.
Efficiency Nova Scotia and the partner business jointly cover each managers salary, with the hope that each energy manager will save more money than they themselves cost.
Pereira says that, when one of his energy managers arrives at a partnering business, there tends to be some “low hanging fruit,” like the aforementioned LED lights and heat pumps.
They might also start with general air sealing and improved insulation. The bulk of energy savings, however, come from building optimization: more intelligent and targeted use of heating, cooling, ventilating, and lighting systems.
Dalhousie University is one of the service’s oldest partnering businesses, keeping an energy manager on staff since 2013.
The first of these managers realized that throughout much of the university, heating, cooling and ventilation systems were running around the clock, maintaining comfortable temperatures in spacious classrooms even when no one was there. By scaling back these systems on evenings, weekends and holidays, when much of campus is vacant, he saved the university approximately $250,000 a year.
Another longstanding client of the Onsite Energy Manager service is Halifax Regional Municipality. In 2019, HRM’s embedded energy manager David Brushett evaluated the electrical use at the community centre in Fall River.
It was a new building designed with efficiency in mind, but was performing poorly. Brushett discovered that much of the centre’s heating, cooling and ventilation infrastructure, which was supposed to be automated for maximum efficiency, had been set to manual, waiting for instructions that never came. Some units, for example, had been switching on at 1 a.m. for no discernible reason. Correcting this and other inefficiencies saved about $13,000 a year.
The Onsite Energy Manager service has targeted businesses that spend at least $1 million a year on electricity, says Pereira: the sorts of institutions that can benefit most, and that use much of Nova Scotia’s electricity. Building optimizations like those described above can be as complicated as hands-on mechanical engineering, or as simple as cleaning air filters.
“There are some accounts with us today that have been in place since the beginning,” says Pereira. “We have a good track record of holding onto and producing value for those organizations once we get an [energy manager] on site.”
Aside from consistently auditing energy use and proposing efficiency upgrades, onsite energy managers also work to find incentive and funding programs. Efficiency Nova Scotia offers many of the incentives, plus there are provincial and federal programs.
“It would be fantastic if everyone understood the value of an onsite energy manager,” says Pereira. In his mind, the surest sign of the service’s success would be for Nova Scotian businesses to hire their own energy managers, independent of Efficiency Nova Scotia but inspired by their work.
By the end of 2019, the service’s work was saved a cumulative 155 gigawatt hours of electricity per year, about 1.5% of the electricity sold by Nova Scotia Power annually. Conservatively, their projects have prevented the release of 98,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide (equivalent to taking 21,000 cars off the road), and over the lifespan of existing upgrades, will prevent the release of over 350,000 tonnes.
Programs like this are often inaccessibile to smaller businesses and municipalities, which have a harder time justifying the cost of an energy manager.
Pereira hopes to overcome that by having a single energy manager shared by several small businesses or municipalities, improving their access to provincial and federal dollars, plus the efficiency and optimization work enjoyed by larger clients. Just such an arrangement is being piloted with their most recently hired energy manager, who will be working with six small municipalities.
“I’m excited about expanding this service to smaller institutions,” says Pereira. “It’s going to help produce more sustainable outcomes in their areas, and across the province. There tends to be both an environmental and economic benefit to our work.”
This article was provided by Quest, a non-government organization working to accelerate the adoption of efficient and integrated community-scale energy systems in Canada.
This story was originally published in Halifax Magazine.