Class B and C commercial buildings

Class B and C commercial buildings eyed for CDM

Conservation keeners and stragglers figure in Toronto outreach strategies
Thursday, May 18, 2017
By Barbara Carss

Conservation keeners and stragglers are both vital if Ontario is to meet the ambitious target to cut 7 million megawatt-hours (MWh) from province-wide electricity consumption before 2021. These seemingly divergent constituencies will be key to sustaining performance in buildings that are already energy-efficient and capturing unexploited savings in buildings where few or no conservation and demand management (CDM) incentives have been deployed to date.

Toronto Hydro and the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) of Greater Toronto have joined forces on strategies to reach owners/managers in both categories. Together, the two organizations will soon launch a second iteration of the popular Race to Reduce — which inspired participating owner-tenant teams in the GTA to an impressive 12 per cent reduction in energy use in the 2011-15 period — now rebranded as race2reduce. They also plan to have an emissary on the job as early as this summer to proactively target the city’s Class B and C commercial buildings.

“Our preliminary analysis reveals there are about 800 buildings within Toronto Hydro’s service area that could participate in Save on Energy programs, but are not participating,” reports Bala Gnanam, director of sustainable building operations and strategic partnerships with BOMA Toronto. “That’s a significant population of untapped customers. Definitely, there is an opportunity to find savings there.”

Resources to facilitate incentive programs

BOMA Toronto is now accepting applications for a conservation consultant — a position that will largely replicate the outreach work roving energy managers perform for many of Ontario’s electricity utilities. It’s expected to be something of a hybrid role, calling for marketing savvy to engage uninitiated building owners/managers, technical expertise to identify energy-saving measures that could have favourable paybacks, and project management skills to steer proponents through application and reporting processes.

For Toronto Hydro, a conservation consultant specifically tasked with bringing more commercial buildings on board is another step toward achieving its mandated 1.6-million-MWh share of the provincial conservation target. The new partnership continues tag-team efforts begun in 2007-10 when BOMA Toronto piloted what later became province-wide CDM incentives for the commercial real estate sector, and leverages BOMA’s profile as a sponsor of education and advocate for the industry’s interests.

“We will basically be an enabler,” Gnanam says. “Typically, the Class A buildings are way ahead. Class B and C are the ones with the resource constraints. So rather than doing this on their own, they will have access to BOMA’s resources.”

Although an engineering degree and/or certified energy manager (CEM) accreditation is a prerequisite for BOMA Toronto’s new position, there will be more liaising than hands-on technical work. The conservation consultant will conduct an initial walk-through audit — a good first step to gauge what’s expected to be abundant potential for low-cost and no-cost improvements in Class B and C commercial buildings — then facilitate the next steps. BOMA’s own roster of allied members with energy management expertise is a good example of its resources and the connections its new consultant will be well placed to coordinate.

The work will also have something of a grassroots organizer component since it will entail meeting and building relationships with owners/managers who haven’t previously been involved in industry associations. “As we connect with this segment of the buildings sector, it provides exposure for BOMA’s education role so we can promote other best practices,” Gnanam adds.

Finding and sustaining energy savings

The Save on Energy program categorizes energy managers as part of the “process” of CDM. First introduced in the 2011-2014 suite of incentives, funding for energy managers has been a successful carryover into the 2015-2020 term.

Roving energy managers have conventionally been employees of local distribution companies who work, free of charge, with multiple smaller or mid-sized customers to find energy efficiency improvements in their operations. Energy managers are expected to hit a minimum threshold for energy savings across their client base. In turn, these clients must commit to invest some of their own capital in energy efficiency measures, relying on Save on Energy incentives for no more than 70 per cent of the cost of projects.

This is the approach BOMA Toronto’s conservation consultant will take, with funding for the position coming from Toronto Hydro. Meanwhile, larger customers can be subsidized to hire their own in-house energy manager. This funding will either come from an LDC or, in the case of a business that operates facilities in more than one LDC’s jurisdiction, directly from the Independent Electricity System Operator.

“One of the best ways for companies to reduce their operating costs and therefore increase a property’s value is to implement energy savings initiatives, but the challenge is that energy savings are not necessarily a primary focus for any one individual in the organization. The energy manager program allows a company to hire an expert who can exclusively focus on generating savings,” says Andrew Pride, an energy management consultant who was an influential proponent of the program in his previous role as vice president of conservation with the now-dismantled Ontario Power Authority. “History has shown the savings are tangible and other benefits, such as better systems and comfort, usually come in parallel.”

“Energy managers are part of the philosophy of continuous improvement,” concurs Jennifer Grado, Toronto Hydro’s lead on CDM business development. “The learning curve is intrinsic to the role. Initially, there may be a lot of savings found, while the sustained savings come from the understanding they develop of the facility’s function.”

CDM strategists also plan to spread and reinforce this message through the new race2reduce challenge. BOMA Toronto is aiming to have at least 100 buildings enrolled ahead of the program launch on June 6th, but more are expected, and certainly welcome, to sign up in the coming months. Participating teams will officially set off toward the goal — a collective 10 per cent reduction in energy use over a course of three years — in January 2018.

BOMA’s new conservation consultant is expected be both a recruiter and a coach — encouraging more Class B and C buildings to join in and counselling all teams on energy-saving strategies. Looking to past experience, organizers also expect the line between team rivalry and sharing of best practices will be fairly porous.

Barbara Carss is editor-in-chief of Canadian Property Management.

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