Energy Efficiency: Understanding Audits, Assessments, and Retro-Commissioning

April 10th, 2014


Source: EnergySmart

If you’re responsible for a facility’s energy budget, you probably hear frequent claims from various sources about how you can save 10 or 15% on your bills through an energy audit, energy assessment, or retro-commissioning. But if you’re like many energy-decision-makers, you may not fully understand what each of these things entails, and why one might be better for your organization than another.

Navigating the sea of available options to get your facility on the course to energy efficiency doesn’t have to seem like you’re sailing through the Bermuda Triangle. This article lifts the fog on energy audits, energy assessments, and retro-commissioning, and offers four steps to help you figure out which approach to energy efficiency might be best for you.

1) Start with the basics: know where your energy is going.

You can’t manage what you don’t measure. That’s why investing in any effort to improve energy efficiency starts with getting visibility into your operation: keeping track of utility bills, and monitoring energy consumption and costs over time. Consider benchmarking your facility’s energy costs against similar buildings. Benchmarking is a great way to figure out which sites might have the best opportunity for improvements.

2) Understand the different approaches to deep energy savings.

Once you’ve accessed and begun to analyze your energy data, and perhaps even picked the low-hanging fruit of quick energy efficiency project fixes or upgrades, it’s time to dig deeper into your facilities to maximize energy efficiency and unlock the real value of your investment through deeper processes like an energy audit, retro-commissioning, or an energy assessment.

It’s important to note that these approaches aren’t mutually exclusive: what’s best for your facility right now depends on your needs as an organization. Read on to understand these approaches and determine which one might best benefit your organization.

Need #1: “I want a report of prioritized, actionable recommendations I can implement at my facilities.”

Approach: Audits

Let’s start with audits. By definition, energy audits are designed to give building managers a sense of all available opportunities to reduce energy waste, to the tune of anywhere from 10-40% savings on your energy bill. In a traditional energy audit, an energy professional visits your building, reviews mechanical, electrical and control systems, interviews operations staff, and recommends operational adjustments or capital-intensive equipment upgrades to improve energy efficiency. You’ll then receive a report of recommendations, typically prioritized by financial payback.

Need #2: “I want all issues identified and then addressed so that my building is running more efficiently than ever.”

Approach: Retro-commissioning (RCx)

Retro-commissioning is more of a full-facility tune-up, kind of similar to taking your car to the shop for a routine 60,000 mile checkup – except that through RCx, you can save up to 15% of your facility’s annual energy costs (so that’s where the analogy ends – try telling your mechanic to improve MPG by 15%!).

RCx is an interactive and participatory process, during which your operations staff will work closely with an energy professional to run mechanical, electrical, and controls systems through rigorous tests. The team will identify actionable measures like replacing leaking valves and adjusting temperature setpoints, which you implement over the course of the project. Each issue found will be tracked to completion, so that at the end of the project, your facility’s systems are operating smoothly and efficiently.

Need #3: “I have a specific, targeted problem area that I need to investigate further to understand the root issue and how to fix it.”

Approach: Energy assessments

Energy assessments are more targeted projects to dig deep into a particular facility system, such as a compressed air system or central chilled water plant. If you know you have a problem with one of these systems, an assessment is a great way to understand what you can do about it. The assessment can also help present the business case to justify potentially costly improvements to building systems.

3) Consider your budget, now and next year.

You’ve now decided which process is right for you, but that doesn’t mean the work is done. Budgeting for energy efficiency investments is an important step in setting your course to success.

The range of options from low-touch virtual audits to deeper retro-commissioning obviously span a wide range of prices. If you have limited resources now, but are looking to develop a capital improvement plan for budgeting next year, an ASHRAE Level II Energy Audit will present low-cost savings opportunities and give you estimated costs for capital-intensive energy projects. If you have committed funding for projects this year, but are uncertain what the future will bring, an RCx project can bring your facility back to its ideal state, locking in savings for the next few years.

4) Figure out how much time you can commit.

Realizing energy savings takes some effort – whether it’s scheduling an on-site visit during an audit or managing implementation during retro-commissioning, the most successful audits, assessments, and retro-commissioning exercises happen when facilities staff can engage in the process and resulting outcomes.

Energy audits are generally much less demanding of facility operations staff, because the auditor is there to observe and report on building systems. Retro-commissioning is more time intensive, requiring facility staff to participate during system testing. This has additional benefits, though, empowering your staff to deeply understand the causes of energy waste within the facility.

Each of these processes can identify areas of improvement for your facility and help to make it more efficient, but it’s important to choose the right approach given your organization’s goals and your facility’s unique characteristics – understanding that over time, achieving and maintaining deep energy savings can require a few different approaches. Like any journey through the high seas, it’s important to set a course of action, measure performance, and adjust your plans over time.

To read the full article click here.

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4 Steps to Deliver the “Whole Sustainability Package”

March 26th, 2014


Source: GreenBiz

1. Benchmarks and Metrics

In order to accomplish sustainability goals in multiple facility locations, it is critical to research and develop benchmarks into easily understandable checklists so that you end up with uniform results throughout the company. You also need to simultaneously track metrics in order to measure success. To do this, you must find acceptable third-party calculations whose assumptions and sources can be trusted. Often, these metrics can be compiled into a handful of environmental and sustainability currencies, such as greenhouse gas emissions reductions, gallons of water saved, waste reduced, jobs created and dollars of donations.

2. Data Tracking

Once you have developed the metrics and benchmarks, they must be built into tools to make the tracking process easy for users. Collecting metrics needs to be efficiently built-in as a part of the process, not as an afterthought.

3. Green Teams

You can’t do all of this work by yourself. Building cross-disciplinary teams at each facility makes it easier to move through the checklist and track progress. The teams could consist of leads from each department. It is especially important to engage leads from facilities and/or custodial departments. You can improve employee engagement in the process and productively encourage innovation by creating rewards, friendly competitions or games surrounding accomplishments.

4. Marketing and Communications

Once your teams have done the work and collected the data, you or your marketing/communications expert must translate sustainability data into information that makes sense to the general public. Although your sustainability peers may be very excited about the tons of greenhouse gases you have reduced, that isn’t a metric that makes sense to your customers. Instead, you want to find a way to explain the data in a way that gets them excited about purchasing a product or using a service. Perhaps that means translating it into the energy to power whole neighborhoods, or the equivalent of hectares of rainforest restored. Once you’ve determined the story you want your data to tell, use your communications expertise to tie the story into your company’s product or service, and to make sure that you’re telling that story to consumers. Green marketing is a completely new paradigm. Consumers expect a company to add value to its community, not just in dollars, but also in social capital.

Consumers are also savvy enough to know when they are being misled, and there is some corporate mistrust. You may need some third-party certifications to back up your claims. Lean heavily on these certifications, as well as social media, to broadcast your efforts. Consumers trust messages that come from their peers, friends and third parties.

To read the full article click here.

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4 Top Sustainability Reporting Trends for 2014

March 6th, 2014

Source: Green Biz

For most companies work on 2013 sustainability reports are well underway. But it’s not too late to take stock and assess whether you’re giving enough consideration to four major issues: materiality, conflict minerals, social compliance in supply chains and reporting requirements in emerging market stock markets.

  1. Focus on Materiality
  2. The leading sustainability reporting frameworks (GRI, SASB and IIRC) may differ in their definition of materiality, but they all agree that a focus on relevant issues is essential to meaningful, strategic reporting.

  3. Mandatory Conflict Minerals Disclosure
  4. The first filing deadline to comply with the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission’s (SEC) conflict minerals disclosure requirements covering calendar year 2013 is June 2. Per the legislation, companies must investigate their supply chains for conflict minerals and report on their origin.

    Conflict minerals are those mined in countries such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo and are most often used in electronics: things that buzz, blink or beep.

  5. Reducing Supply Chain Risk
  6. Supply chain management is complex and in the spotlight after recent tragedies, such as the clothing factory fires in Bangladesh, the new Global Reporting Initiative G4 guidelines raise the bar on supply chain disclosure through the expansion of the boundary concept for determining the scope that reporting should cover.

    Two key areas of the G4 guidelines are the General Disclosure requirement of a description of the supply chain (required for both Core and Comprehensive reports) and the Specific Standard Disclosure EC9 on Procurement Practices. In addition, the guidelines set forth disclosure of supplier assessment and grievance mechanisms in the areas of environmental, labor, human rights and society performance.

  7. Stock Exchanges Requirements for Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Disclosures
  8. A growing number of stock exchanges around the world are beginning to recommend that companies report on select environmental and social indicators, or explain why they do not.

    This trend is likely to spread because the NASDAQ OMX and New York Stock Exchange are participating in the Investor Network on Climate Risk Sustainable Stock Exchanges Working Group, currently collaborating on a standards proposal. The proposal submitted to the World Federation of Exchanges in October sets forth three major requirements:

    • A materiality assessment.
    • A hyperlink in annual financial filings to the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Content Index.
    • Corporate ESG disclosure, on a “comply or explain” basis.

Now is the time for companies to establish systems for capturing key ESG metrics and develop non-financial data metrics before guidance becomes mandatory.

To read the source article click here.

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Ten Predictions for Energy Management in 2014

February 14th, 2014

energy predictionsBy: Tiffany Richmond

Recently Verdantix released a complementary report on ten predictions for energy management in 2014. Verdantix assessed global regulations, innovation, competitive dynamics and corporate energy strategies and identified 10 key predictions for 2014.

  1. Building energy management will explode in Japan. Japan’s need for demand side management has accelerated in recent years, as it continues to face risks of power shortages following the 2011 Fukushima disaster that led to the shutdown of the country’s nuclear power fleet. With all 54 of Japan’s nuclear power stations still offline in December 2013, the Japanese government is promoting energy efficiency and utility demand response programmes to temper increased fossil fuel imports.
  2. Legislative changes will kick-start demand response in Europe. In 2014 market conditions for demand response will start improving, with renewables driving the need for more flexible demand management and legislative movement toward capacity markets.
  3. Firms will power ahead with on-site solar electricity generation. In 2014 long-term financial savings, power reliability and reputational benefits will drive commercial and industrial firms to increase their proportion of renewable energy generated on site.
  4. Building control systems will integrate with lighting control systems. In 2014 building management systems will integrate with more types of control systems – particularly lighting control systems – due to advances in open and wireless communication protocols and the growing installation of LED lighting.
  5. Electric vehicles will begin a slow fightback. While 2014 will not see the tipping point for EVs, the market will make a quiet recovery as government incentives in countries such as Norway, Sweden, the UK and US continue. Automakers will drive market acceptance by releasing more practical EV models and rolling out EV charging infrastructure.
  6. More microgrids will complicate the traditional utility business model. With the price of microgrids starting to fall, as distributed power generation infrastructure gets cheaper, more microgrids will be deployed in 2014. Entities such as military bases, hospitals and universities will continue to install microgrids to reduce exposure to utility grid vulnerability and escalating energy prices.
  7. Power utilities will launch services for their SME customers. In 2014 utilities will try to crack the energy services market for their small and medium (SME) business customers through less technical, lower price solutions with greater emphasis on customer education.
  8. Home energy management will move beyond its US stronghold. With 40 million residential smart meters already deployed in the US, home energy management activity has focused on the US market. As residential smart meter deployments ramp up across Asia and Europe, utilities will look to leverage the data generated by smart meters and demonstrate the benefits of smart meters to their customers.
  9. Smart home appliances will remain on shop displays. In 2014 technology giants such as LG Electronics and Samsung will launch smart home devices to enable consumers to control and monitor devices remotely using mobile phone platforms, such as iOS and Android. However, smart home will remain a niche market in 2014, with just tech-savvy customers reaching into their pockets to buy the latest gadgets.
  10. Large-scale battery energy storage will gain access to broader energy markets. For 2013, Verdantix predicted energy storage would be the hot smart grid technology as battery developers, such as Eos and Seeo, tried to improve the cost-benefit equation of large-scale energy grid storage by bringing down capital costs, and regulators increasingly accepted energy storage technologies as a reactive power supply to manage grid stability. In 2014 Verdantix expects this trend to continue with the largest portion of the grid storage market attributable to the integration of intermittent renewable.

  11. Tiffany Richmond has over six years of experience as a marketing professional and is responsible for online marketing strategies at Energy Advantage Inc.

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What Will LEED v4 Mean For The Green Building Community In 2014?

January 21st, 2014

LEED v4
Source: Verdanix

On November 2013, the US Green Building Council (USGBC) officially launched LEED v4 at its annual Greenbuild International Conference and Expo held at Philadelphia, PA this year. Created by the USGBC in 1998, LEED is a prevalent third-party green building rating system used in over 140 countries and territories globally. It is recommended by the US General Services Administration, which governs all federal buildings alongside the Green Building Institute’s Green Globes (2010).

The holistic updates covering better design, lifecycle assessment, and new market sectors (data centers, warehouses, and retail distribution centers to name a few) are a drastic improvement compared to the last updates in 2009. The LEED v4 updates place a strong emphasis on integrated lifecycle thinking.

Fundamentally, LEED 2009 awards weighted points for “doing less harm”, whilst LEED v4 awards weighted points for “doing more good”. For example, the new whole-building lifecycle assessment credit examines the long-term impacts of building materials and the new demand-response credit incentivizes buildings to communicate with smart utility grids in real time. Optimizing material selection through the inclusion of Cradle-to-Cradle analysis and manufacturer Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) are particularly encouraging as they redirect industry focus towards process, material, and technological innovation.

With the added emphasis on life-cycle transparency in LEED v4, the competition in the already crowded certification market will continue in 2014. For example, the International Living Building Institute’s Living Building Challenge is a potential long-term certificate of choice for higher end grade A real estate and infrastructure markets over the next ten years. Launched in 2010, the Living Building Challenge’s highest certification evaluated across seven stringent performance hurdles was only achieved by four buildings worldwide as of December 2013.

Unsurprisingly, the launch of more stringent standards is often met with vocal controversy. The American High-Performance Buildings Coalition (AHPBC) was formed by 27 trade associations to push for greater use of the Green Globes as an alternative to LEED given its less stringent rating system. The proponents of LEED v4 are making their voices heard too. Skanska, a global Swedish-based construction firm that worked on one of the four Living Certified buildings, resigned its U.S. Chamber of Commerce membership in protest against their anti-LEED v4 stance. To appease the market, LEED v4 went through a year in beta test during 2012 with six public consultation drafts and will not be fully rolled out until 2015. Despite the debate, the eventual draft was passed with overwhelming 86 percent approval among LEED constituents.

With nearly 20,000 certified projects globally for commercial and institutional real estate, LEED will remain a competitive third-party rating system and continue to challenge the green building movement towards higher-performing buildings.

To read the source article click here.

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Happy Holidays from Energy Advantage

December 19th, 2013

Categories: E&EM News



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Water Risks to US Companies are Becoming More Acute

December 4th, 2013

Source: CDP

Water security risks are increasing and will significantly impact business continuity if left unaddressed, according to the CDP U.S. Water Report 2013, prepared by Deloitte. Even as water risks become more acute, the majority of Standard & Poor’s 500 index (S&P 500) companies facing water risks lack strategic plans to adequately address these risks.

The CDP US Water Report 2013 is based on information provided by 145 companies listed on the S&P 500 at the request of 530 institutional investors representing $57 trillion in assets to disclose through CDP, formerly known as the Carbon Disclosure Project, providers of the only global environmental disclosure system.

More water-related risks are identified, impacting business continuity
While the number of U.S. companies participating in CDP’s water program this year increased 4% to 145 from 2012, risks reported increased 16%. The majority (58%) of the 523 risks reported are expected to be felt now or within the next five years. Furthermore, nearly half (46%) of the companies analyzed have already experienced detrimental impacts related to water, with costs as high as $400 million and projected impacts as great as $1 billion.

Most businesses appear to lack strategic responses to water-related risks
Board-level oversight of water-related issues has increased 13% from 2012, but is still relatively low at 32%. This compares unfavorably to findings of the recently released CDP Global Water Report 2013, which analyzed 180 of the largest global companies listed on the FTSE Global 500 Equity Index and found that 58% have board-level oversight of water-related issues.

While 94% of the S&P 500 respondents can identify which, if any, of their operations are located in water-stressed regions, 43% do not know if key inputs or raw materials come from regions subject to water-related risk – potentially leading to business interruption.

Companies are overlooking risks within their value chain
There was a significant increase (23%) in the proportion of companies setting concrete, quantifiable water-related targets or goals, but unfortunately the majority of these companies focus solely on water management within direct operations such as usage reduction, efficiency or compliance. Companies that continue to focus on direct water risks only could be missing business opportunities and overlooking substantive risks within their value chain that could be mitigated.

Companies with robust water stewardship strategies typically have comprehensive knowledge of water use across their value chain and are aware of the current and projected impact that water-related issues have on their business. Most importantly, they have appropriate plans and processes in place that give adequate consideration to priorities of the local watershed in which they operate.

To read the source article click here.

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BC Hydro’s Continuous Optimization Program Success

November 12th, 2013

Energy Management Information SystemBy: Luke Ferdinands

BC Hydro’s Continuous Optimization program has proven to be a very successful program over the past 5 years. This program has supported re-commissioning projects at more than 250 buildings and, on average, the buildings that completed the investigation phase show a 8.7% overall cost reduction on average, with a 1.6 year simple payback. Energy Advantage has assisted many of our clients in this process, in partnership with our Energy Management Information System (EMIS) provider Energent.

When it was announced that the program would be closing to new applicants effective September 13, 2013, there was a rush of new applications. For anyone who has submitted an application and is looking for a proven track record in delivering re-commissioning results, please contact Energy Advantage directly. With an industry leading EMIS and capable on the ground support and project management we will help you ensure that your re-commissioning project goes smoothly and that you achieve the best possible results.

Several of Energy Advantage’s forward thinking clients will be working with us to pilot an on-going commissioning process, using state of the art Fault Detection and Diagnostics (FDD) softwares to enhance the findings and to augment results over time. We believe that a platform for on-going commissioning will incorporate the best of building re-commissioning practices and extend it with superior results in tenant comfort and energy performance. The FDD software will leverage the untapped capabilities of the modern building automation and control systems by mining the data for emerging faults and operational errors and inefficiencies. Acting on identified faults will pro-actively avoid issues becoming alarms – or crises – thereby ensuring a high level of performance and reduced energy waste. Watch this space for more information on these pilot tests over the coming 12 months.


Luke Ferdinands has over 10 years of experience in energy and sustainability management and is the Regional Director for Western Canada at Energy Advantage Inc.

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Tame Your Vampires Before They Devour Your Energy Budget

October 23rd, 2013

By: Randi Kruse

It’s that time of year again. Grocery stores crowded with spooky displays of vampires and goblins, and everyone anxious for the festivities to begin. But there are other ominous signs of trouble brewing quietly in the corners of your office. Did you know that there are vampires gobbling up 10% your energy budget even while you sleep? Fortunately, you don’t need a magic spell to combat this poltergeist. In most cases, some clever occupant behaviour programs and a few power bars will scare away phantom power.

What is phantom power? Nearly every electrical device in your office or home has it; energy drawn even when the device is turned off. You see them all the time – the blinking lights, clocks and “standby mode” features. Energy supplied to the device plugged in is being converted to a form that the device can use. Even when it’s not in use, this conversion is still happening at a low level. Office equipment across the world quietly cries itself to sleep.

The challenge, then, is not going to be solved by a technical upgrade. If you want to save yourself some kilowatts – and increase staff engagement at the same time – you need a behavioural solution. We humans are creatures of habit, and if we’re going to try something new (like using a power bar to reduce wasteful plug load) it needs to be both fun and easy. Electronic peripherals are becoming a significant factor in energy consumption, and for most building occupants, they are the largest energy consuming mechanism under their control.

Where to begin? Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Host a lunch-and-learn about what phantom power is and why it’s important to save energy. Invite people to share why they care about conserving energy. Hand out power bars, explain where to plug them in, and demonstrate how to use them. Ask people what will prevent them from using the power bars, (i.e. “I don’t want to crawl around under my desk”) and then do everything you can to remove those barriers.
  • Run a little contest between departments to see who can “power off” the most over a one month period. Invite staff to act as energy captains, checking vacant work stations to measure participation. Offer fun incentives, like dressing up the CEO as a vampire or a work station improvement. Ask yourself, “what do I need to do to make this message stick?”
  • Keep it simple: avoid data-heavy jargon, and instead include some concrete images that visually display what phantom power is (i.e. how many basketballs of greenhouse gases do losses through plug load represent?). Your goal is not to run an engineer boot camp but to see people using power bars to shut down peripheral office equipment. What will motivate them to do that? Social compliance. Find the most engaged, socially connected staff and ask for their support.

As with all social marketing campaigns, you need a hook. With Halloween just around the corner, this may be the perfect time to have some fun at the office and kick start a new ethic of power smart behaviour. Go get those vampires!


Randi is a social marketing and corporate sustainability planner with ten years of communications management experience.

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Stalled Sustainability Strategy?

October 3rd, 2013

Sustainability Strategies
Source: Verdantix.com

Over the last 3 years Verdantix has monitored an increasing number of sob stories from VPs of Sustainability narrating the same tale of woe:

“Two years ago my CEO signed off on a sustainability strategy. We have set goals for reductions in energy, water, waste and resource consumption. We also have plans to target improvements in the supply chain. We have implemented GRI reporting and are doing mandatory GHG reporting in some countries. But Business Unit leaders are not willing to fund projects that would deliver the program. The Group CFO says this is an operational responsibility and she’s not stepping up either. At this rate, we’re not going to achieve our goals. The whole program is stalled. What should I do?”

Step one, build the sustainability performance plan at the operational level of business units because that is where changes will take place. An industrial manufacturing firm like GKN which operates four distinct divisions with a small HQ function would need to engage divisional leads so they can incorporate industrial energy efficiency investments into their operational excellence plans. A firm like Johnson & Johnson with consumer products, medical devices and prescription products business units needs faces a different mix of material issues which need to be acknowledged in a corporate plan. Mexican conglomerate FEMSA, has a robust plan to tackle water issues in its bottling division, but these issues are irrelevant to other business units.

Step two, aggregate business unit targets into a corporate narrative. No matter how decentralized the organization, external stakeholders from stock exchanges to Greenpeace expect the firm to provide a single narrative on its performance across energy, environment and sustainability impacts.

Step three, implement metrics at corporate, business unit and large facility level. Verdantix’s recent Green Quadrant benchmark of leading sustainability management software providers found that benchmarking the sustainability performance of internal divisions was one of the primary drivers for customers to invest in software.

An increasing number of executives now understand that sustainability strategies are dead without being integrated into operational excellence programs. The problem is that hundreds of business unit leaders, still struggling with the tail end of the long recession, often don’t want to know.

To read the source article click here.

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