Heads Up: Building Energy Efficiency – Volume 3, Issue 3

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Volume 3, Issue 3

Energy: a fixed cost? Think again!

The days of thinking of energy as a fixed cost will soon be a distant memory. Many businesses are realizing that when you stop thinking about energy as a fixed cost that you can’t do anything about, you’ll discover many ways to manage and control, and even completely offset, your energy use and costs.

Fixed costs are costs that remain constant regardless of business activities, such as rent, buildings and machinery.

Variable costs change with activity or production volume, and may include wages, utilities and materials used in production.

Mixed costs contain elements of both types, for example, electricity. A factory’s electricity use may vary with production levels, but it will probably need to consume some even in periods of zero production.

The first step is to get a hold of your energy use data. Your utility bills can provide you with site-level energy use information that can help you identify rate reduction opportunities and support financial planning. Data straight from your meters offers you an instantaneous view of the energy used by specific equipment or building areas. You can use this information to make immediate adjustments to reduce energy costs. Whether you analyze your utility bills or real-time metered data, this information is a great starting point for identifying energy savings opportunities, prioritizing energy improvements and building an energy management plan.

Energy benchmarking is a particularly effective way to analyze your data and help you better manage your utility costs. Benchmarking gives you some context for your energy data, letting you know how your buildings are performing relative to each other, to similar buildings nationwide, or to their own past performance. Why not join the many Canadian organizations that are already using ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager with great success?

Once you’ve collected and benchmarked your data, it’s time to take action. Your results can help you identify where energy is being wasted so you can make site-specific investments, find ways to reduce energy consumption, and develop more sustainable methods for the production of goods or daily business activities.

Not sure how to get started? Natural Resources Canada offers a host of training opportunities, including commercial and institutional renowned Dollars to $ense energy management workshop series. Industrial, commercial and institutional organizations that want to learn about energy management planning, energy monitoring, recommissioning for buildings, and other energy-related topics are invited to visit Workshop your way to success to learn more. In addition to the standard workshops, the Dollars to $ense program also offers:

For more information on energy as a controllable cost, visit:
www.ecova.com/ecova/blog/2014/april/energy-is-not-a-fixed-cost.aspx economics.fundamentalfinance.com/micro_costs.php.

ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager provides scores for energy performance

Image of Acces Page to ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager button

ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager is the energy benchmarking tool of choice for Canadian organizations looking for opportunities to improve their energy performance. It is the only nationally standardized benchmarking system based on real Canadian data and backed by the federal government. The tool helps businesses to identify poorly performing buildings, invest strategically in energy-efficient upgrades and track the effectiveness of improvement projects. Ultimately, Portfolio Manager will help organizations lower their operating costs and increase competitiveness.

Portfolio Manager takes user-entered building and utility data and compares it to the national population of similar buildings, normalizing for factors such as local climate and occupancy. The tool then provides a 1-100 ENERGY STAR score. The score is percentile based, so a score below 50 means that a building is performing worse than 50 percent of similar buildings. Conversely, a score above 50 means that it’s performing better than 50 percent of its peers. A building with a score of 75 or higher is considered a top performer.

Portfolio Manager offers a host of powerful metrics for assessing your building’s energy performance, and the ENERGY STAR score is a particularly useful one. It provides a snapshot of your energy performance in one easy-to-understand number, letting you know, at a glance, how your building is performing. This number can help you determine which of your buildings could benefit the most from efficiency upgrades and can help you make a compelling business case for investment to senior management. A high score represents ongoing efforts to improve energy efficiency and can be used to highlight your organization’s commitment to sustainability and climate change initiatives to clients, occupants and other stakeholders.

While an ENERGY STAR score offers many benefits, it is important to understand some of the things it does not do. Because it is a measure of whole-building energy performance, it does not measure the energy use of individual pieces of equipment or building areas. It does not credit any specific building technologies, nor does it explain why any building performs the way it does. However, by highlighting those that perform particularly well or poorly, it can help you decide which buildings might need an audit to find out where they can improve. It might also inspire you to identify best practices in high-scoring buildings that could be replicated in other buildings in your portfolio.

Currently, ENERGY STAR scores are available for commercial office properties, hospitals, K-12 schools, medical offices, senior care communities and residential care facilities, and supermarkets and food stores. Scores for other building types are being developed, and median energy use intensity values are available for 86 building types. These values can be used as benchmarks for building types not currently eligible for an ENERGY STAR score. See ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager for specific building types for the full, up-to-date list of all eligible building types.

Energy benchmarking success stories using ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager

More and more organizations are tracking and assessing energy use in their building portfolios. ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager is one of the most user-friendly, online tools that building owners and managers can use to achieve sound energy management. 

Image of TD bank logo

The benefits of Portfolio Manager are wide-reaching, as leading organizations that have adopted the tool can attest. Toronto Dominion (TD) was the first North American bank to go carbon neutral and to track the energy use of all its corporate and retail buildings in North America. Several years ago, the bank decided to use Portfolio Manager across its entire North American real estate portfolio. TD uses Portfolio Manager to identify underperforming buildings, to determine the impact of energy efficiency measures, and to compare the company’s performance with the industry at large. As the industry improves, so does the baseline against which TD compares its buildings.

CivicAction’s Race to Reduce also made use of energy benchmarking in its energy office challenge in the Toronto area, which involved over 42 percent of the region’s commercial office sector. During the four years of the challenge, participants achieved a reduction of 12.1 percent in collective energy use. In 2015, CivicAction recognized more than 80 organizations at its Race to Reduce award ceremony. Awards for excellence in energy reduction efforts over the 2011-2014 period went to Bentall Kennedy (Canada) for best capital project, to Cadillac Fairview Corporation for best operation project, and to Oxford Properties Group and the Royal Bank of Canada for best cultural/behavioural change project.

In the institutional sector, energy benchmarking has found a champion in the Simcoe County District School Board. The board’s Mundy’s Bay Public School received LEED-NC Gold certification during the 2009-2010 school year and was ranked as one of the most efficient schools in Canada in 2009 along with three other schools in the board. Moreover, the school board participated in the Sustainable Schools and GREEN UP® pilot external energy benchmarking programs. The board also conducted a comprehensive energy management program including retrofits, building automation upgrades and mechanical improvements.

Crown Realty Partners is a private co-owner and manager of mid-sized office buildings in the Greater Toronto Area that has also benefitted from energy benchmarking. The organization uses tools such as Portfolio Manager to support certification of some of its buildings under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) high-performance green buildings rating system. Crown sees benchmarking as a proven energy-saving technique that supports its continuous improvement efforts, ultimately benefitting both its bottom line and its tenants.

The City of Richmond, British Columbia, has been active in energy benchmarking through its Richmond Energy Challenge, which aimed to help building owners, managers and operators reduce energy use in their facilities. The program, which wrapped up in 2015, used Portfolio Manager to track energy use in participating buildings, and recognized the buildings with the greatest savings.

In the U.S., energy benchmarking has also seen significant uptake and tremendous results from its users. The Glastonbury Town Hall, for example, recently received its eighth consecutive “Energy Star” rating from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The recognition is due in part to its use of Portfolio Manager to benchmark its performance, to identify opportunities for improvements and to track the impact of those improvements. Upgrades have included the installation of solar panels, LED lighting and occupancy sensors for lighting; and the town conducts regular maintenance on its heating and ventilation systems.

For the full story on Canadian Portfolio Manager success stories, visit The benefits of ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager, Race to Reduce, and the Canadian Circle of Champions. For detailed information on Glastonbury Town Hall, visit Glastonbury Town Hall Earns Eighth Consecutive Energy Star Rating.

Please also explore the extensive energy benchmarking resources offered by NRCan at Benchmarking training resources

Cape Breton University becomes energy self-sufficient

Image of Cape Breton University  sign

Cape Breton University (CBU) is leading academic institutions in its concentration on energy. With its soon-to-be-commissioned wind farm and a multitude of energy efficiency measures, CBU is well on its way to contributing to Canada’s GHG emissions reduction goal set at the December 2015 COP21 meeting in Paris.

Sustainability is woven into the academic fabric of CBU, an innovative and entrepreneurial academic institution that offers a wide range of programs that include sustainability education and sustainable resource management. Thanks to this philosophy, CBU is set to be the first North American university to be energy self-sufficient and carbon neutral.

CBU had already been working with Efficiency Nova Scotia (Efficiency NS) on a lighting retrofit in its ice rink when it enrolled in the Onsite Energy Manager program, which allows organizations to have one of Efficiency NS’ engineers at their site to assist facilities managers in the identification and development of energy projects. Through the program, CBU was able to hire Mohsin Khan as its Onsite Energy Manager.

Carbon neutrality refers to zero net release of CO2 to the atmosphere through a variety of mechanisms, including the use of renewable energy sources and offsetting CO2 emissions.

Since 2013, CBU has undertaken many measures, including a retrofit of the university’s ice rink with low-emissivity ceilings, compressor heat recovery systems and an energy-efficient water treatment system for estimated annual savings of 182,700 kWh. LED high-bay lighting with occupancy sensors replaced less efficient lighting fixtures in the field house for annual savings of 174,000 kWh. Exterior lighting was also converted to LED with daylight harvesting to save 117,000 kWh per year.

To gain an additional 165,000 kWh of electrical savings, two wings of the university have also had upgraded lighting and occupancy sensors installed. CBU also replaced 55 old refrigerators in its residences with ENERGY STAR models for 36,000 kWh in yearly savings. The Campus Centre’s air handling unit was retrofitted with energy-efficient motors, variable frequency drives and a building automation system for annual savings of 217,000 kWh. Khan estimates that these projects will reduce GHG emissions (CO2 equivalent) by 800 tonnes per year.

Khan adds that sub-meters were installed for specific equipment in a number of buildings. “We can now monitor energy consumption for individual equipment and isolate issues. High consumption areas and buildings now have several meters that feed data into the campus’ energy management information system, providing real-time analyses of energy use.”

CBU uses cloud-based Building OS as its energy management software, which immediately updates information in CBU’s ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager account.

Wind farm offers self-sufficiency

One of CBU’s major steps toward energy self-sufficiency is its wind farm, commissioned in mid-January 2016. In 2012, CBU started planning for the three-turbine, 5.4-MW wind farm that will generate an estimated 16,200 MWh of electricity annually - about twice the CBU’s energy consumption and equivalent to saving 15,000 tonnes equivalent of CO2. Total emissions from all energy consumed on the campus are estimated to be just 8,000 tonnes equivalent of CO2.

Khan notes that CBU created an energy team and identified an energy champion who meets regularly to identify and implement projects. Additionally, students participated in a sustainability competition among the four residences between January 21 and 28, 2016. “And there is more to come”, says Khan. An energy audit on CBU’s pumps has indicated an opportunity to retrofit the approximately 100 existing ones to electric variable frequency drive models. He expects this project to be underway by sometime in 2016 and to save the university just under 160,000 kWh annually.

Consider joining CBU in its drive for energy self-sufficiency and efficiency. Visit NRCan’s site Why energy efficiency? to discover more benefits, and, just as CBU has done, join the thousands of other universities and colleges that are already benchmarking and using Portfolio Manager. Need more convincing? Visit NRCan’s Why benchmark energy performance?

To read the full sources for this article, please visit the following websites www.cbu.ca/news-events/story/has-cape-breton-university-achieved-a-global-first-on-climate-change-just-in-time-for-cop21/(press release) and http://atlantic.ctvnews.ca/cbu-to-become-first-energy-self-sufficient-campus-in-north-america-1.2666579.

Notice of Expression of Interest

Natural Resources Canada is seeking expressions of interest from training firms to enter into a commercial licensing arrangement to administer the delivery of Dollars to $ense workshops to industrial, commercial and institutional organizations across Canada. Please refer to the Commercialization and Licensing Opportunity website for more information and to submit your expression of interest.

Let us know what you think

Heads Up: Building Energy Efficiency is published by Natural Resources Canada’s Office of Energy Efficiency and distributed monthly to 16,000 subscribers. Our goal is to deliver meaningful news and information about programs, services and events related to energy efficiency in commercial and institutional buildings and, as well, to share the success stories of organizations that have benefited from positive change. Help us spread the word by sending this link to your colleagues. We encourage you to subscribe to our sister publication that focuses on energy efficiency in industrial facilities, Heads Up CIPEC.

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