Case Study 3: Royal Canadian Air Force

Icon for Royal Canadian Air ForcesEnergy management training is a relatively new activity at the Royal Canadian Air Force. But for the Air Force Sustainability Office, it has quickly become an important tool to increase staff knowledge about energy management, while helping to create a new culture of energy conservation at the Air Force Wings (Canadian Forces Bases) across the country.

In 2011, more than 50 air force staff attended the GreenBuild conference in Toronto, which included a full day session on high performance buildings. In 2012, nine Air Force Wings participated in two-day energy management training workshops delivered by Natural Resources Canada. They immediately started working on developing the following year's energy training courses for the Wings, including a workshop specifically for electrical designers and electricians.

Key Benefits of Training

Jim Nostedt, Manager at the Air Force Sustainability Office, views training as a key part of the work that the Sustainability Office does with the Air Force Wings, because the people who work at the Wings are the people who "are going to measure the energy use and [implement] the energy measures. That's why they are the ones that need training." To make this point, Jim described a major meter installation project in more than 500 Air Force buildings across the country, explaining that once the meters were installed, each building needed someone to read the meter, check it for accuracy and do an analysis to pull useful information out of the data. In order for the metering project to be successful, they needed personnel trained in energy monitoring and tracking. Energy management is not just about installing a new piece of equipment; it is the people running and monitoring the buildings who are critical to achieving savings.

In addition to providing staff with new skills and knowledge, training is about motivation, empowerment and changing habits. Jim described how sending 50 staff to the GreenBuild Conference probably cost upwards of $150,000, but that "we probably got 10 times that motivation and 100 times more in energy savings if we think about what is going to be saved over the life of the buildings." Training also empowers staff to take action in the workplace, because by investing in training, management is demonstrating support for their actions. Training also helps the Sustainability Office overcome some of, in Jim's view, the major barriers to energy management: habits and myths. The ultimate goal is to change the culture around wasteful practices and "the only way to do that is with some kind of training and awareness program."

It can be a challenge to have the Air Force Wings spread out over the country in diverse geographic areas. Training provides a means of creating consistency throughout the organization in terms of the way in which energy management practices are carried out, while providing the staff with the skills and knowledge to make educated energy decisions for their particular situations.

Developing a plan and securing support

The support and drive for energy training comes from the Environmental Sustainability Implementation Plan, approved by the Commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force in 2010, and the subsequent creation of the Air Force Sustainability Office to implement it. The plan lays out 5 key areas of focus, one of which is training and awareness.

A key aspect of establishing the plan was setting out an energy reduction goal and a budget for training activities. The Air Force has a goal, based on Federal Sustainable Development legislation, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 10 percent by 2020. They were able to dedicate a small portion from the capital and maintenance budget to do training because Jim  knew that in the long term they would see the savings in operating costs over the life of all the Wings. He admitted that the "economics may be a little difficult to quantify, but we do know that the total energy bill is something like $300 million and if we can take a couple percentage points or two off [of the bill], training is a pretty good investment."

Jim explained the importance of developing a plan: "once you have a good plan in place, which is supported by senior management, it makes it easier to implement [your energy management strategies]."

Management support is strong for training at the Air Force Wings, demonstrated by the Environmental Sustainability Implementation Plan that has been put in place. This support was made clear to Jim at a leadership meeting at one of the Air Force Wings where the Wing Commander, after receiving a briefing on the sustainability program, said "I like this program. This is a leadership issue and I'll be leading it". With this type of support, training for Wing personnel will continue to be a tool for the Sustainability Office to increase the capacity and motivate Wing staff to help them reach their energy management goals.