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.
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, including UMP and Community Champion resident engagement. 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.
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:
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:
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:
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.
The Tenant Factor
Getting tenants to change their energy consumption behavior use can seem like a major challenge. But some tenants often know more about how they use the buildings than staff and have great ideas to reduce energy. Other tenants, or even staff, are unaware of the total energy costs to operate their building and don’t understand the impacts of their actions. It’s helpful to talk to tenants about their energy use in a way that’s meaningful to them.
Talking about energy costs may have no impact on tenants who don’t understand the relationship between subsidies, rent, and energy costs. HSC’s Community Champion program engages tenants in a way that helps them understand the links among their behaviour, operating costs, resident programs, and the quality of the buildings they live in. Ongoing and consistent resident engagement can result in energy savings of 5 to 10% and is an essential piece to include in your Energy Management Plan.
Over the past year, we’ve refreshed the Community Champion program to better suit resident and staff needs and schedules. Modules are offered on energy, waste, water, and train-the-trainer, or a mix to accommodate housing provider interests. The program is offered at no cost in certain areas thanks to utility funding and under the HSC Natural Gas Program. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more info about this and other programs.