As part of the Municipal Energy Manager (MEM) Program, the Town of Okotoks has hired a Climate Change and Energy…
As part of the Municipal Energy Manager program, the City of St. Albert has hired a Municipal Energy Specialist that will benchmark municipal facilities, identify energy savings opportunities and implement greenhouse gas emission reducing projects.
Environmental stewardship is a priority for the City of St. Albert, so the Municipal Energy Manager program was a natural fit. The City of St. Albert had already done great work towards greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions, such as having Canada’s first municipally owned long-range electric buses with a solar PV system to help power them. The City has also actively pursued projects identified in past energy and water audits.
Much of this work has been done off the corner of someone’s desk, which makes the progress that much more remarkable. However, by participating in the Municipal Energy Manager program to create Cassie’s position, the City was able to have a dedicated staff member to help them pursue further cost and GHG savings in support of their environmental stewardship and fiscal responsibility goals.
Looking Back on Year 1
Cassie started her role with the City of St. Albert as their Municipal Energy Specialist in December 2019. Her role is structured within the Environment branch, but she gets to work with staff across many departments, including Public Works and Transit, Recreation and Parks, Finance, Strategic Services, and Engineering. The City is excited to have support in pursuing ways to reduce its energy consumption, costs, and GHGs.
As the City of St. Albert’s Municipal Energy Specialist, Cassie Kupsch supports renewable energy and energy efficiency-related projects to advance the City’s GHG reduction goals and realize cost savings for the City. Cassie holds an M.Eng. in Clean Energy Engineering from the University of British Columbia and is registered with the Association of Energy Engineers as an Energy Manager In-Training.
While her education and training are in energy management and clean energy, she had not previously helped an organization to formalize or develop an energy management program. But the support through the program is not limited to the financial contribution.
More than funding
Cassie’s first year began with collecting utility data and building information to inform a benchmarking study to better understand the City’s building performance and identify where the most opportunities are.
The Action Centre support energy managers with monthly action items, tools, and training opportunities to help guide their progress. They offer several strategic energy management sessions on topics like boiler optimization and compressed air management. These sessions are open to facility staff as well, which is another great way to build internal capacity around energy management. All this support helped to establish a GHG inventory baseline and to set goals for GHG reductions.
The program also includes several training and learning opportunities for completing energy modeling in a software program that the Action Centre provides and developing successful employee engagement programs.
Cassie worked with her Executive Sponsor and facility managers to form an Energy Management Team and develop a charter outlining the City’s work. From here they began to undertake energy scans of facilities, where she worked collaboratively with facility managers and operators to identify energy saving opportunities, which are later analyzed and prioritized into an energy management plan. This work is complemented by energy modeling to help understand the drivers of the facilities’ energy consumption, and to help capture the savings seen over time as measures are implemented.
Cassie also completed an energy management assessment of the City’s organizational approach to energy management. This assessment identified opportunities and actions to help mature their energy management system across a Plan-Do-Check-Act framework. The City has been able to complete low- and no-cost measures and larger projects and, are now seeing the benefits of a more developed approach to energy management.
Grant Funding and Projects
In addition to identifying and implementing low- and no-cost measures through energy scans, Cassie has been able to access several different grant funding programs in support of the City’s projects. Municipal budgets are tighter than ever with the financial impacts of the pandemic, so being able to access grant funding is pivotal in deciding whether a project can proceed.
Grant funding and projects that are underway or planned include the following:
- In 2020, the City completed the design and construction of a 287 kW DC rooftop solar PV array at the public works facility, which is expected to produce a portion of the site’s annual electricity consumption. They are also exploring the installation of a large solar PV array on the recreation centre, with funding support from the Alberta Municipal Solar Program. This project would more than double the City of St. Albert’s solar power capacity.
- The City recently installed a REALice floodwater de-aeration water treatment system to enable cold water flooding for two of the arenas at the City’s recreation centre and are excited to see the savings once the arenas reopen. The City is also planning a large LED lighting retrofit at the centre later this year that will help achieve significant energy and demand cost savings, as well as the associated GHG reductions. Both projects are funded in part by the Recreation Energy Conservation program.
- The City is planning to undertake a feasibility study to assess moving more fleet vehicles to electric later this year. This study and possible purchase of vehicles will be funded in part by the Electric Vehicles for Municipalities program.
- The City has undertaken its first building recommissioning project, at Maloney Place. This commissioning demonstration project was made possible by a financial contribution from Natural Resources Canada and is expected to result in a case study which can inform future decisions. All staff involved are excited for the potential of recommissioning City facilities, not just for the energy reductions, but also the operation and maintenance savings associated with the improvements.
There are also several other grant funding programs that are on the City of St. Albert’s radar for other potential projects. In addition to the activities outlined above, through Year 1 Cassie also had the opportunity to:
- undertake billing structure analysis and modelling, to be able to better estimate cost savings associated with measures;
- explore the City’s electricity demand with the facility manager to better understand what is driving the peaks and how it might be managed differently;
- initiate a review of the minimum process with the City’s electricity distributor to have one of the demand billing determinants revised to reflect actual usage and reduce utility costs; and,
- communicate the City’s successes to staff and leadership to raise the profile of energy management.
COVID-19 Pandemic-Related Impacts
Like most municipalities, when the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020, the City’s focus had to shift to respond. City emergency operations were activated, and many staff had their day-to-day work put on hold, but Cassie was able to continue working on the energy management portfolio. This work likely would have otherwise been paused through much of the pandemic. Understandably, other staff did not have much capacity to support these activities; however, Cassie was able to shift her attention to more independent work.
As the City was closing and later reopening buildings in response to restrictions, Cassie was able to monitor and analyze utility impacts and bills to help understand financial impacts and predict future bills. She also contributed to an analysis of different operating methods for facilities to help inform operational decisions in response to changing provincial restrictions.
Also like most municipalities, there have been significant financial impacts of the pandemic for the City, which makes every opportunity for savings identified through energy management that much more important. Modelling information also helped in the decision-making process regarding budgeting and facility operations.
Looking Ahead to Year 2
As noted above, there are already many exciting activities underway in Year 2, such as continuing to build on the work completed in Year 1 and expanding energy scans to additional City facilities to identify further opportunities.
As mentioned earlier, Cassie is looking at their municipal fleet and equipment, which accounts for about 20 per cent of the City’s corporate GHG emissions. A feasibility study through the Action Centre’s Electric Vehicles for Municipalities program will help to inform decisions that will allow the City to take advantage of vehicle rebates, as well as other rebates currently in place.
Energy Management Team
Cassie is also starting the employee engagement campaign, which is an important piece of the program. With 750 City staff spread across several sites, Cassie knew that she had to find a way to broaden our reach to engage as many staff as possible to see the greatest success in the City’s programming. A foundational piece of their employee engagement has been the creation of and recruitment for the Energy Management Team.
The Energy Management Team consists of 12 Energy Champion volunteers from across seven departments, who are helping to create energy efficiency awareness amongst staff. By advising on proposed engagement campaigns and helping with program implementation in their respective work areas, their involvement will help to ensure the City’s employee engagement is as successful as possible. Volunteers will also gain energy management knowledge and experience through their involvement in the Energy Management Team, which helps to build their internal capacity and achieve even greater savings. Throughout Year 2, Cassie will be meeting with the Energy Management Team every two months to discuss initiatives, such as an upcoming space heater swap campaign, and will be running lunch-and-learn info sessions for interested staff.
Cassie was the first municipal energy manager hired through the program, but more municipalities are hiring energy managers to help them find savings and reduce emissions, like the Town of Cochrane.
Read more about the Municipal Energy Manager Program