Energy Expert Interview: Chris Beaver
Welcome to the new Bruce Power Interview with an Energy Expert blog post series. This will be the first of several blog posts which feature interviews with energy management experts who supply useful information to anyone who has a hand in electricity management at a business or engineering level.
Educated in Quebec and Ontario with the Canadian Armed Forces, Concordia University and General Electric, Chris Beaver is a senior energy business consultant with more than 25 years of experience in power generation (including renewable energy projects), energy conservation technology assessment, advanced energy systems engineering and energy management consulting services.
He is a member of the Association of Energy Engineers, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and the Conference Board of Canada.
Chris joined Sheridan College in 2010. His role at Sheridan is to work with faculty, staff and students, in an engineering outreach capacity, to enable students to obtain actual applied research (problem-solving) experience while providing measureable benefit to the industrial partner’s performance.
1. What is the most common mistake that is made as it relates to energy efficiency at a plant or facility level?
The most common mistake we encounter regarding implementing energy efficiency in an effective manner is the lack of an integrated energy management plan. Most large, successful companies manage energy efficiency at the plant or facility level with the use of enterprise business management systems following proven standards such as ISO 5000. Why? Because if you can’t measure and set targets you can’t manage. ISO 5000 contains a complete standard, ISO 50,001, designed specifically to manage energy. This is just one example of an integrated system. There are many other references and systems that work well. The important part is that there is a plan!
Most small or medium size company’s facility or plant managers have a very tough job simply keeping their operations working as intended. With more and more responsibilities continually being added to their long list of duties and deliverables there is very little time left for applying energy efficiency measures in an integrated fashion. Let’s not forget, what we do to lighting effects heating and cooling. This being said, success can be achieved by developing internal engagement and using the help of a trusted energy management specialist to design and put in place a standard set of policies, procedures and targets. This will help ensure employee buy-in, management support and the implementation of sufficient data measurement processes for accurate decision making and quantifiable results which improve profitability.
2. I have many energy managers who tell me all the time that they have done basic retrofits like replacing their lights with LED’s, and they have no intention of additional retrofits or upgrades. How might you respond to an energy manager who tells you that?
If I buy a beer and pay for a full glass but only get 3/4’s I wouldn’t be very satisfied or happy. We would ask the basic question: What is the energy cost to provide the service or product from your facility, i.e. cost of energy to produce a specific part, and how does that compare to your competition? If the company can answer that question and be satisfied with the answer, all is good. Can your company answer that question? Good pay back energy efficiency projects equals improved productivity and competitiveness.
3. In Ontario, most organizations focus on reducing their electricity for financial reasons, obviously everyone wants to save money. In your opinion, what are the other benefits an organization can realize by having an energy audit, or taking additional efficiency measures?
By far the most compelling reason to practice good business energy management is sustainability – sustainability of the organization and sustainability of the planet. Specific benefits to an organization of improving energy efficiency besides financial are typical; better running systems such as heating and ventilation. This results in more comfortable employees, raised energy efficiency awareness, organizational buy in and management’s commitment. Equipment lasts longer. Reliability is enhanced. Quality is maintained. Another competitive advantage is response to supply chain pressure, e.g. customers may require their suppliers to follow certain environmental, energy efficiency measures and targets. Employee awareness is often increased, which provides for better project results. Other societal attributes include obvious environmental benefits but there are many more. For example the overall demand on the electrical grid is reduced resulting in better reliability and less investments in expensive energy generation and transmission systems resulting in more competitive rates and higher reliability.
4. You are an expert in the energy efficiency world, with great experience. How do you think the industry has changed over the past decade? How do you think it will progress over the next decade?
Awareness has definitely increased due to higher energy prices over the past decade. When asked ‘what is the number one way we can reduce the use of electricity?’, the number one answer is ‘raise the price of electricity’. Research has shown that the number two most cost effective energy efficiency practice, after actual energy reduction projects, is education. Industry is definitely more aware BUT usually too busy to do anything about it.
Over the next ten years Canadian industry will adopt new technologies, policies and procedures that will be essential in order to remain competitive in an increasingly global market. Co-operation between government, industry and the energy sector will improve dramatically due to the necessity of competitive energy pricing affecting the national economy. Canada’s productivity relies heavily on the judicious use of our energy resources. Renewable distributed energy generation is now becoming financially viable. We will be seeing solar panels and other energy conservation and demand management projects everywhere. The further development and use of energy markets as a financial tool will allow for more competitive, cost effective dispatch of renewable energy and demand response.