With electricity demand in the United States predicted to grow by at least 40 percent by 2032, business could be impacted by higher operating costs and reduced profits from increased energy demand and constrained supply, a decline in sales of energy-using products, a loss of competitiveness in energy intensive businesses, and disrupted supply chains. While many U.S. firms have initiated energy management programs, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the involvement of senior executives in energy planning and decision-making is only just beginning.

Electrical contractors (ECs) are in an excellent position to help their facility customers develop and implement successful energy management strategies. But how? Actually, both the Energy Star program and the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s (EERE) Building Technologies Programs have a broad range of tools and resources that are accessible online and can help the EC succeed in this market.

Energy Star tools and resources
The Energy Star program offers the electrical construction industry guidelines for how to implement proven strategies for superior energy management. It outlines the vital steps that will help contractors assist their customers in improving their energy and financial performance while distinguishing those customers as environmental leaders.

The EC’s first step is to work with its customer to elicit a commitment to successful energy management that includes allocating staff and funding to achieve continuous improvement. Successful implementation, Energy Star stresses, requires that the customer appoints an energy director to set goals, track progress and promote the energy management program; establish an energy team that will execute activities across different parts of the organization and ensure the integration of best practices; and institute an energy policy that will set performance goals and integrate energy management into the organization’s culture and operations.

Contractors can leverage their expertise in the products, systems and technologies necessary to implement a successful energy management program and help the customer assess performance by evaluating energy use for all major facilities and functions in the organization. The results will establish a baseline for future efficiency efforts, helping the customer develop effective performance goals and creating an action plan. The plan develops a roadmap to improved energy performance, implements that action plan, evaluates its progress, and recognizes achievements that sustain momentum and support for the strategy.

The Energy Star program links to tools that can help the EC successfully achieve each of these goals with its customers. These tools include assessment matrices, training options, benchmark assessment kits, industrial plant energy performance indicators, a manual for upgrading building performance, and methods to reduce IT energy costs. Other tools help the contractor specify and purchase Energy Star-qualified, efficient products that will reduce energy costs without compromising quality; create a building energy profile; and learn how to evaluate the financial impact of improvements and to measure progress.

Building Technologies Program
The DOE’s EERE Building Technologies Program has an online directory with information on more than 400 building software tools for evaluating energy efficiency, renewable energy and sustainability in buildings. Tools include spreadsheets, components and system analyses, and whole-building energy performance simulation programs.

The list of EERE directory software functions is extensive and includes energy performance, load calculations, home energy audits and whole-house energy analysis, HVAC cooling and heating loads, thermal analysis, geothermal and heat exchanger design, solar power calculations, retrofit analysis, LED lighting energy savings, 3-D graphics, weatherization, energy pricing, computational fluid dynamics, and financial payback. In addition, many of the offerings in the directory are free to download.

Other energy management software helps ECs comply with codes and standards for residential, acoustics, thermal design, building regulations, energy codes, building energy efficiency, and California Title 24, LEED and ASHRAE 90.1.

Energy management is vital to reducing the impact that U.S. businesses may face over the next decade from changes in climate, policy and the energy market. To maintain competitiveness and long-term success, ECs need more than just a knowledge of electricity; they need the tools and resources that will enable them to help their customers master the fundamentals of energy efficiency; take a long and broad view of the investments and make strategic decisions about energy; search out new and improved ways to manage, procure and use energy; and prepare contingent strategies for future scenarios in the swings of energy price and supply and severe weather events.


BREMER, a freelance writer based in Solomons, Md., contributes frequently to ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR. She can be reached at 410.394.6966 and darbremer@comcast.net.