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Developing an Energy Management Plan

Posted on December 23, 2015 by HSC

Housing providers are facing increasing utility costs as rates increase and support programs such as the Ontario Clean Energy Benefit expire. One sure way to tackle high utility costs is to lower consumption. To achieve cost-effective and long-term results, housing providers can benefit from taking a strategic approach that includes an Energy Management Plan.

What’s an Energy Management Plan?

An Energy Management Plan is a written plan in which you describe the steps and approaches you will take to increase energy efficiency and conserve energy in all areas of your building. It typically covers a three to five year period. The plan includes a building profile, short- and long-term energy reduction strategies, reduction targets, staff responsibilities, financial considerations, and how you will evaluate progress. It’s a live document that can be changed in response to results, unexpected events, and changing needs.

Why plan?

Energy Management Plans act as roadmaps to improve efficiency, build on progress, and control energy costs. Having a plan allows you to be less reactive, so that you anticipate work that needs to be done and address issues before they happen. It also helps keep you track during staff and board turnover.

Who creates the Plan?

An Energy Management Plan can be developed by the housing provider or an energy management firm. Staff will be responsible for carrying out the plan, making sure it’s on track, and bringing in technical experts when the Plan calls for them.

Contractors, suppliers, energy management firms, and others can provide information about energy savings upgrades to inform your plan.

Your fellow housing providers can be great sources of information to provide recommendations about anticipated savings, which products work well, and which don’t. They may not only be able to discuss the costs and effectiveness of upgrades, but can provide valuable feedback about impacts on tenants, annual maintenance costs, and any other challenges with completing the retrofits in a social housing setting. Include time to have these discussions as you develop your plan.

Your Service Manager or DSSAB may have other recommendations about upgrades that have been applied in places like yours or in long-term care homes, community centres, and other buildings they operate. They may also have a designated staff person or team who can provide energy reduction strategies and offer assistance.

HSC has several energy efficiency and conservation oriented programs available. We can assist you in better understanding available incentives and help you with developing RFPs, project management, capital investment and forecasting, and more.

What are the Basic Steps?

Here are some steps to consider as you create and implement your Energy Management Plan. These steps are discussed in more detail later in this article.

  1. Find out when your operating agreement, mortgage, or debenture ends. Every building has a separate and distinct end date, so if you have more than one building you will have more than one end date.
  2. Get an up-to-date capital plan or building condition assessment. Ensure it includes a focus on energy-related upgrades.
  3. Use your UMP reports to track your energy and water use now, and continue to monitor it on an ongoing basis.
  4. Complete an energy audit. Check with your gas and electricity utility to see if they offer incentives to help cover the cost.
  5. Get input about energy upgrades and planning by talking to other housing providers and Service Manager/DSSAB staff about their experiences.
  6. Create an Energy Management Plan.
  7. Develop an implementation schedule as part of your Plan. It may be best to plan to do easy and inexpensive or free to implement improvements in the near term, followed by higher cost changes. Resident engagement should be a component of this plan, since they can impact as your equipment and operations.
  8. Once you have a draft plan, talk to your Service Manager or DSSAB about it:
    1. Are they supportive of your plan?
    2. Do they have any other ideas about products or retrofits you could consider?
    3. Do they know other housing providers doing similar projects such that you could bundle purchasing?
    4. How will they treat savings?
    5. Are they able to apply your energy savings to their overall energy reduction strategy?
    6. Are there other opportunities for the housing provider and Service Manager/DSSAB to work together to save energy?
  9. Engage tenants to ask their feedback about the plan and to ensure their needs are considered.
  10. Once you have a final plan, don’t put in on a shelf. Start to implement it!
  11. Monitor the impacts of your changes over time, using your UMP reports as a guide.
  12. Review your plan over time. Are you on track? Are the changes you’ve made successful? If not, then modify your plan to achieve best results.


A Deeper Look at the Planning Process

Before creating an Energy Management Plan, it’s important to take stock of your resources your building’s current energy performance:

  • Understand your building’s energy performance by tracking energy and water consumption on an ongoing basis, including before and after retrofits. HSC’s Utility Management Program helps you do this by reporting your gas, electricity, and water performance over time, accounting for weather variations, and compared to other similar buildings in the sector.
  • Complete an energy audit. The audit identifies how all your building systems and equipment use energy, and it recommends low, medium, and high cost energy savings measures. Incentives are available from electricity and gas utilities to help pay for energy audits so be sure to contact your utility companies before you start. Once done, you can use your energy audit to help develop your Energy Management Plan.

What’s in the Plan?

There are many excellent examples of Energy Management Plans, including one developed by the Greater Sudbury Housing Corporation (GSHC). Check out GSHC’s 2014 HSC Energy Forum presentation (slides 13-33) for the steps they took to create their plan.

When planning the actions you’ll take to address consumption, you will want to:

  • Create clear and measurable goals, with target dates. Your goals should align with your capital planning and reserves.
  • Identify when and how you’ll evaluate progress. Ongoing monitoring and benchmarking, such as with HSC’s UMP program, will be part of your ongoing evaluation strategy, and regular checkpoints should be built into your plan’s timeline.
  • Include an implementation schedule of when you will start and complete actions.
  • Include easy, free or inexpensive energy reduction actions early in your schedule, such as:
    • Lowering the temperature on hot water heaters
    • Changing to compact fluorescent light bulbs and LEDs
    • Changing exterior lighting to more efficient technology
    • Installing water saving products such as low-flow shower heads and aerators, which your utility companies may offer for free, including free installation.
  • Items that may have a mid-range cost but a relatively short payback period and are not overly complex can be included in the short to mid-term of your implementation schedule, such as:
    • Installing low-flow toilets
    • Replacing refrigerators that are more than 15 years old
    • Replacing caulking on low-rise buildings and townhouses
    • Installing motion sensors with lighting, which is especially effective in common rooms
  • As you’re completing the above improvements, you can be planning the more expensive or complex upgrades. Such upgrades typically require advance planning, because they usually involve many contractors working together, significant tenant disruption, and inclusion in a long-term capital plan. Your implementation schedule should reflect that you will be planning large projects while you do your smaller projects.

Creating and implementing an Energy Management Plan takes time. However, having a strategy to guide you is essential in addressing utility costs and improving your building’s efficiency.

Consider EOA/EOD Dates when Creating an Energy Management Plan

When creating or implementing an Energy Management Plan, providers should be looking at their EOA date(s), as well as capital plans to see where energy savings can be realized. Many Service Managers and DSSABs are interested in seeing housing providers reducing operating costs wherever possible, and many are considering buildings’ energy efficiency in their EOA/EOD evaluation. The goal should be to maximize savings by your EOA/EOD date(s) where possible.

Your Service Manager or DSSAB should be aware of your plans to save energy (and any other good news you can share!). Questions to ask your Service Manager or DSSAB include:

  • Is the Service Manager/DSSAB supportive?
  • Will they allow the housing provider to share in the savings (rather than have all surplus funds generated from energy savings returned)?
  • Can the housing provider apply the savings to underfunded capital reserves?
  • Is the Service Manager/DSSAB able to apply the energy saved by housing providers to their overall energy savings?
  • Are there other opportunities for housing providers to help their Service Manager or DSSAB meet their energy reduction strategies, such as allowing the installation of bicycle racks or a transit stop?
  • Are there opportunities to bundle equipment purchasing or projects with other housing providers in your own building or your portfolio of buildings?

Paying for Energy Upgrades

Depending on what Service Area you are in, you may be able to use the savings from free or low-cost initiatives to pay for more costly retrofits. Many changes and retrofits can be incorporated into capital plans. Adjustments may need to be made to ensure housing providers maximize energy savings when completing capital plans. There is a tendency to replace old equipment with equipment of similar efficiency, but this will only result in higher utility costs down the road. Today, there are many high-efficiency alternatives to products installed 15, 10, or even 5 years ago. While high-efficiency equipment can cost more initially, the energy saved over the lifetime of the product makes such investments preferable to replacing “like with like”, especially when coupled with available utility incentives.


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