Monday, January 06, 2014

Energy managers: the hidden army that toils to save the planet

The Scottish Parliament building in Edinburgh was designed to minimise energy use
The Scottish Parliament building in Edinburgh was designed to minimise energy use.


An army of secret warriors is being deployed increasingly by cities and managers of the built environment around the world. Their vital task is to make visible where energy is being wasted, saving carbon and money for everyone. 

They are energy managers are the hidden footsoldiers of the twenty-first century's war against climate change, a foremost phalanx amongst those professions that are struggling to make urban environments more sustainable.

For the most part unseen and unnoticed by the public, they toil in buildings everywhere, from hospitals to hotels, factories to data centres, from office blocks to leisure centres. After all, the energy used in buildings forms about 40% of all energy used and 36% of the world's CO2 emissions. 

Their training leads them to sense the hidden flows of energy as it courses through pipes, wires, spaces and materials. They don't perceive a static situation, such as a boiler switched on, a light glowing, the window open, a tap dripping. They see this as part of a set of processes through time, visualising it as a series of transformations from one type of energy to another, such as, to take the example of a motor, from electricity to kinetic energy to dissipated heat energy.

For them, saving energy is eternal delight, in an evolution of the visionary poet William Blake's famous aphorism, "energy is eternal delight". Consequently these heroes are constantly struggling against the limits of the second law of thermodynamics, striving to prevent useful thermal or electrical energy from being dissipated irreversibly.

Their catechism derives solely from the primum movens that "No process is possible in which the sole result is the absorption of heat from a reservoir and its complete conversion into work".

Energy efficiency

Energy efficiency is frequently described as the “low hanging fruit”. The sector is expanding at a rate of 5% per year. It is estimated that the global market value of innovative products in this sector could reach around £488 billion by 2050, and that on average, most organisations can easily save at least 28% of their energy costs with low-cost actions. 

In the UK, innovative energy saving measures in non-domestic buildings could save 18Mt CO2 by 2020 and 86 MtCO2 by 2050, depending upon the rate at which the measures can be deployed. [i]

In the USA, American Energy Manufacturing Technical Corrections Act was passed at the end of 2012, a modification of the Enabling Energy Savings Innovations Act. This promises to produce a boom in the sector. The U.S. market for energy efficiency and services topped $5.1 billion in 2011, according to Pike Research, and is now expected to reach $16 billion in sales by 2020. 

The need for energy managers

For city management, measuring sustainability, of which energy use and therefore carbon emissions form a great part, is becoming a way of measuring the quality of management overall. For a city to be truly sustainable it must totally transform the way it works, with its employees, citizens, investors and its supply chains.

This effect has yet to filter down. Nevertheless, for city executives to have appointed energy managers signifies that they have acknowledged the importance of sustainable energy use.

Then there are the tens of thousands of building managers and facility managers in urban environments, only part of whose responsibilities includes being responsible for energy management. With their labour, management often saves a considerable amount of money, more than enough to pay their salary, and reduces the risk exposure to volatile energy price increases. 

But it is not just money they save, although that may be their employer's primary motivation. They are also saving carbon, which is increasingly a quantified activity featuring in company annual reports, and as such doing their bit to challenge the advance of global warming and promote the good reputation of the company for sustainable housekeeping.

The UK Government’s 2020 Energy Efficiency Marginal Abatement Cost Curve.

The UK Government’s 2020 Energy Efficiency Marginal Abatement Cost Curve. The graph quantifies the lifetime cost-benefits of various energy efficiency measures across different sectors, and is discussed in more detail in Chapter 10. The y-axis represents the cost effectiveness of a measure, each of which is represented by an individual coloured bar. Any measure which costs more than it saves over its lifetime is represented by a bar which goes over the horizontal axis. The overall message is that the vast majority save money over their lifetime. The net present values are calculated in 2012 terms. The EE-MACC is based on an estimate of the feasible rollout of energy efficiency measures and takes into account supply constraints for energy efficient products, only including technology that is already available in the market.

Legal requirements

In the USA, there is no nationwide law governing the energy efficiency of existing buildings. Little has been done in this sector and there is huge potential for savings, despite the encouragement of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA), and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. These have provided finance for improvements, for instance under the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) Program. The building sector is the largest consumer of energy in the United States, around 41% of total US energy use; the industrial sector is also responsible for 20% of energy use.

LEED  certificateThe LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System is a voluntary standard for sustainable buildings. An example of a certificate is on the right. LEED includes a standard of measurement for defining a 'green building', and achieving LEED certification is a means of recognising environmental leadership in the building industry and raising awareness of the benefits of environmental building.

It is based on well-founded scientific standards and incorporates sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality.  Mandatory Residential and Commercial Energy Conservation Ordinances (RECOs and CECOs) have been implemented by a handful of municipalities as a way to bring the existing building stock closer in line with the energy code requirements for newer buildings.

In 2009, President Obama mandated federal agencies to make significant reductions in energy consumption, hoping that government would "lead by example" by upgrading many of its facilities. Two years later, the administration tried to jumpstart that work by setting a goal for federal agencies to enter into at least $2 billion of energy efficiency projects within two years. In President Obama's second term, this trend is likely to be accelerated.

In Europe, the EU’s Energy Efficiency Directive has a target of 20% energy savings for the EU as a whole by 2020. It mandates energy audits and energy management by large firms, and stipulates that 3% of public buildings that are owned and occupied by central government must be renovated every year.

The recast EU's Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) was transposed into national legislation in 2012. Member States are required to set energy use at cost-optimal level, and be measured for a whole system, (such as a heating system) rather than at a product level, such as a boiler. This will have to be proven by the installer or designer.

 Display Energy CertificateIn the UK, energy performance standards are set for new buildings and benchmarks for existing buildings. 'Consequential improvements'  are required to the energy efficiency of buildings undergoing refurbishment, and all buildings must have an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) available when offered for sale or rent. A small number of buildings are exempt (e.g. some heritage buildings). The EPCs of large buildings to which the public has access must be displayed in the form of Display Energy Certificates, pictured right.

The UK's Energy Efficiency Strategy hopes to achieve 196 TWh of energy savings in 2020, with a reduction of around 11% over the business-as-usual baseline, and a reduction in carbon emissions of 41 MtCO2. The Energy Management Alliance, a forum for the UK’s energy management companies and industry bodies, foresees a huge growth in the sector as a result. However, recent political infighting may dampen this expectation.

Barriers to energy efficiency

Changing to LED street lighting can save<br /> a lot of energy and maintenance costs.

Changing to LED street lighting can save
a lot of energy and maintenance costs.
If energy efficiency is such a good idea, why is it not practiced more widely? The UK’s Energy Efficiency Strategy has identified several barriers:

  1. Misaligned financial incentives: the person responsible for making energy efficiency improvements is not always the one who will receive the benefits of these actions;
  1. Lack of management buy-in: boards may think that energy lacks strategic importance, in comparison to other imperatives, especially if energy costs are a small proportion of overall business costs;
  1. Hassle costs: perceived disruption caused by making the improvements, for example building works or production lines halted;
  1. Lack of awareness: many people are unaware of just how much can be saved by taking even simple measures. There is a lack of access to trusted and appropriate information, especially at key decision-making times. Even when present, information may only be generic and not specific and tailored to the situation;
  1. Lack of supply: the energy efficiency market itself is under developed, with a supply chain that is still gaining maturity in some areas;
  1. Lack of financial support: often financiers fail to appreciate the benefits of investment in energy efficiency, especially if the financial argument is complex. Companies are often reluctant to invest in energy efficiency, seeking short payback times, even if a project is cost-effective at usual interest rates, or on a life-cycle basis.

This article is an extract from my new book, the Earthscan Expert Guide to Energy Management in Buildings Earthscan Expert Guide to Energy Management in Buildings, published this month by Earthscan. This comprehensive book covers how to:

  • conduct an energy audit
  • plan a monitoring and verification strategy
  • make any energy-saving campaign successful
  • evaluate and make the financial case for energy-saving measures
  • make use of free energy for lighting and managing heat loss and gain.

It also contains special chapters on:

  • ventilation, heating and cooling
  • demand management through automated systems
  • lighting
  • most requirements of industrial facilities
  • regulatory requirements in Britain, Europe and the United States
  • the use of smart meters and monitoring
  • how to achieve zero energy buildings
  • the use of renewable energy.

I wrote it to be of assistance for all professional energy, building and facilities managers, energy consultants, students, trainees and academics. It takes you from basic concepts to the latest advanced thinking, with principles applicable anywhere in the world and in any climate.

‘Provides a complete introduction to the subject of energy management, and will, I’m sure, be useful to both trainees and novices and industry veterans seeking an updating of their knowledge with the latest developments. David is a clear writer, who manages to make the most technical subjects accessible. He has a clear overview of all sectors and technologies.’ —Nick Bent, Editor of Energy Focus Magazine

[i]  UK Energy Efficiency Strategy, Department of Energy and Climate Change, November 2012

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