The second step in the energy services project delivery process is normally thought to be an energy audit; it is the cornerstone of energy service. While it is a key component, an energy audit is only one form of assessment. The electrical contractor (EC) can help its customers perform other building assessments.
Building energy audit
Understanding how much energy a building uses is as simple as obtaining a set of past utility bills to determine how much and what kind of energy it used and the cost. This information is important, but it is just the start of the energy audit process because it only addresses energy input. To be effective and useful, the energy audit needs to determine the relationship between energy input and the business purpose for which the building is used as well as the activities that it houses.
Using the information gathered in Step No. 1, the energy audit process first determines the efficiency at which the overall building operates and drill down into particular building systems and production processes to determine where there is energy waste and opportunities to economically improve energy efficiency. Methods include modifying building operations, changing building processes or occupant behavior, improving system control, upgrading equipment or systems, and adding on-site energy production.
ECs or their staff members must have the necessary knowledge, skills and abilities to perform the energy audit. However, to be successful in this market, the EC also needs knowledgeable personnel to market this service to potential customers; identify, analyze and define energy project alternatives based on the energy audit results; provide assistance in identifying funding alternatives for energy projects that include taking advantage of available government and utility incentive programs; and the ability to execute the energy project. Most ECs do not have personnel with this experience since energy services is an emerging market. As a result, the EC will need to invest in educating and training both office and field personnel to take advantage of this market.
Energy audit training programs are available to ECs from a variety of sources locally, regionally and nationally. Training providers include manufacturers and distributors, professional and trade organizations, local community colleges and universities, and many others. Programs include seminars and short courses on specific energy audit equipment, such as infrared thermography, which requires personnel to understand not only how to physically do the thermal imaging but also interpret the results for the customer and use proprietary software to document the results of the study.
One way to find programs is to search the Internet for energy audit training.
Through its Management Education Institute, the National Electrical Contractors Association offers such a program. It is a two-phase energy audit education program that can be sponsored by the local chapter or offered internally by the EC. The first phase—The Screening Survey Workshop—teaches attendees how to conduct initial energy audits for commercial, institutional, and industrial facilities. Phase two, The Preliminary Energy Assessment (PEA) Survey Workshop, teaches how to conduct in-depth energy audits that include both the technical and financial analysis of energy-efficiency opportunities.
The energy audit can open the door for the EC to help with other energy and sustainability assessments. The owner may want to benchmark his or her building or certify that the building meets recognized third-party energy or sustainability criteria. For example, Energy Star for buildings and manufacturing plants (www.energystar.gov) is a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Energy. It applies a performance rating on a scale from 1 to 100 to help building owners assess how efficiently their buildings use energy relative to similar buildings. The Energy Star program provides helpful energy and water analysis and benchmarking tools as well as the opportunity to have eligible buildings certified as Energy Star buildings.
Similarly, the U.S. Green Building Council (www.usgbc.org) publishes the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system for Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance (LEED-EB). It provides a standard for certifying the operations and maintenance of an existing commercial or institutional building as a “green building.” LEED-EB goes beyond energy and water use and addresses building operations and maintenance processes, including purchasing, recycling and cleaning. Like the other LEED rating systems, existing buildings can be certified at one of four levels ranging from Certified to Platinum, based on the number of points earned.
The author thanks ELECTRI International Inc. for its sponsorship of the research project, “Energy Roadmap: Electrical Contractor’s Guide for Expanding Into the Emerging Energy Market,” on which this article is based.
GLAVINICH is director of Architectural Engineering & Construction Programs and an associate professor in the Department of Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering at the University of Kansas. He can be reached at 785.864.3435 and firstname.lastname@example.org.