Energy Management's Stanley Cup

By Robert Greenwald, President, Prism Engineering Ltd.

As a hockey fan and a practitioner of energy management, I started thinking… how is Energy Management like hockey? A review of the key roles on a hockey team provides some interesting comparisons.

The General Manager (GM):

The GM determines the direction for the team, assembles the players, and sets the tone for the type of play. Will it be an offensive or defensive style team this year? Will the team be built around one or two superstars or a group of equally talented players? The GM provides the direction for the Coach, player and his management team.
For a successful energy management program, the organizations senior management position (CEO or President) needs to set the tone for the importance of energy management to the organization. He or she demonstrates this through leadership by example. This person communicates and inspires the organization to strive for energy improvements.

The Coach:

The coach organizes the players so that the sum is greater than the parts. He determines which players work best together and builds on the strengths of each. The coach has a strategy and sets objectives for the season, each part of the season and each game. He meets with support staff, players and management to adjust the strategy and deal with challenges that come up. As a facilitator, he tries to get the best out of each player. At many organizations, the "Energy Manager" is the Coach of the Energy Management Team. He tracks the progress each day and moves short term and longer term energy objectives forward. Using the Energy Management Plan as his playbook, he organizes the various parts of the energy team and ensures open communication.
The energy manager solicits feedback from others but ultimately it is his responsibility to move the program initiatives forward. Like the coach of the hockey team, the energy manager is not satisfied with the status quo and is always looking for opportunities to improve.

The Defence:

A strong defence is one of the keys to winning a championship. The defence needs to keep on eye on all the activities happening on the ice and needs to be ready to respond to any lapses in performance of other team members.
For an energy team, the defence is about identifying waste. When are we using energy when we don't need to? What lighting is on when the room is empty? What computers are on when the computer lab is empty? What room temperatures are set higher than required causing excess heating energy? What walls, roofs, doors and windows have gaps or holes where heat is lost?
The defence wants to keep the puck in the opposition zone, just like the energy management team needs to keep waste down.

The Forwards:

The hockey forward needs to score goals. The focus is on offence -- passing the puck to achieve a clear opening to the net and taking your best shot on net. For energy management, the offense is about efficiency improvements.
How can we do better at using the energy that is currently consumed? Replacing equipment with more efficient products and technology is how the energy team scores the goals. It may be through the installation of premium efficiency lighting products, high efficiency boilers, variable speed compressors, or high COP rooftop units.
Some new innovations, like LED lighting, have similarities to the fibreglass carbon sticks available to hockey forwards today: they work better than the traditional wooden sticks, however, they do tend to break in some instances. New technologies go through development cycles and the ones that come out on top are both reliable and efficient.

The Goalie:

The goalie is the last line of defence. If the goalie is distracted, looses focus or not performing, the puck will surely end up behind him. For the energy team, the building operator, security staff or cleaning staff are the last ones around that can prevent waste. They spot the opportunities at the end of the day, week or season.
These individuals are walking through the building and finding open windows, equipment left on, cooling systems running in vacant rooms.
When a high school closes in early July for the summer holiday, are the pop machines, coffee machines and walk in freezers still running? When the retail tenants from the local mall close up on Friday night, do the young staff members know what procedures to follow for the HVAC systems setback and store lighting before they head out for a night on the town. The energy management team needs the goalie to eliminate waste.

The Captain:

Some captains lead on the ice with their performance. Others may be slightly past their prime on the ice but lead in the dressing room by inspiring others to perform. Communication is key for this team leader to motivate others to take action. The energy team needs a captain to lead communication programs as well. He needs to build awareness of the actions others can take to save energy. He needs to provide a reason for change, a consistent message and provide feedback on how the program is doing.
Like the Captain of the hockey team, he needs to know when to fire up the troops and when a tap on the shoulder will do just fine. By communicating a consistent message, the captain of the energy team drives change of the corporate culture by changing one behaviour at a time.

The Training Staff:

The training staff not only keeps the team healthy but also monitors their fitness. Often, they will suggest new approaches to rehabilitation, like the hyperbaric chamber, to keep the players in top form. These members of the team research available nutrition and fitness approaches and stay on top of developments in the field. For the energy team, training is critical to increase competencies.
Some tools, like the online training for building operators that we developed for BOMA BC, is available online to take at their own pace from their own location. Other training for energy management include multiply day training for energy managers, various single day workshops and conferences.
By staying informed and increasing energy management know how, members of the energy team are more effective at managing their resources. Energy management training is a key component of a success program.

The Scout:

The scout is on the road looking at new prospects. Some young players have talent and these are watched closely but they will not all make it to the big leagues. Sometimes the scout takes a chance on a talented player and recommends him for the team. Your energy engineer or manager will be looking for the next round of potential for the energy program as well.
More than likely they are scouting alternative energy opportunities and giving them a tryout. Perhaps a pilot study on solar heating for the local motel that is looking to show customers their commitment to sustainability. Perhaps an office building manager looking as a solar powered parking lot area light or signage. All show promise but only the mature technologies will remain. The energy manager needs to be aware of current and upcoming alternative sources of energy.

The Capologist:

This is a new position in the big leagues as unions and management have moved to limit the spending abilities of the billionaire owners that can not seem to limit themselves (kind of like how my wife limits my chocolate intake). The Capologist knows the numbers- what each player's salary is, how it adds up to the limit for the team, the impact of injuries on the cap, how trades will impact the teams numbers, and how other teams are doing with respect to the cap as well.
For the energy team, watching the consumption regularly is also a critical role. A monitoring, targeting and reporting system (MT&R) is critical to actively and effectively managing energy use. The energy manager needs to know what the trends have been and why, what has caused recent energy changes, and who to report to.
Like the capologist, he monitors some trends daily, like the electrical demand, and others on regular basis, like monthly energy consumption and costs. Sometime penalties occur, like power factor penalties, late charges, demand spikes and just like the capologist, he needs to take quick action to rectify the situation. Innovative programs such as the BC Hydro continuous improvement program merge MT&R with real time feedback of energy to develop a "continuous commissioning" process.

The Medical Doctor:

Puck in the face? Charley horse? Sometimes players get injured and need some medical care during the game, between games and during the off season. Energy consultants play that role for the energy management team…they bring tools and expertise to help.
Even large organizations with full time energy managers relay on energy consultants and their expertise. The consultant may bring ideas, calculation tools, expertise and knowledge to the energy program. Just like the medical doctor, it makes common sense to bring in the specialists when required.

The Power Play:

It is beautiful to see a power play that clicks: the pucks move crisply from one stick to the next, back and forth until success…a goal! That's the feeling I have at the completion of an energy project: seeing the result, the savings from the retrofit project, is like the goal on the power play.
This is a chance for the team members to feel good about their work, to celebrate with high fives, and then get down to business as the game continues. Celebrating success is a key component for a long term and sustainable energy management program.

Slumps:

Sometimes even the best teams get into a slump and don't win every game. Similarly in energy management project, not every project will turn out the way you want it to. Real winners will confront problems and look for ways to make the best of the situation. Strong leadership and determination are required to get back on track.

The Holy Grail:

Every NHL team wants to win the Stanley Cup and every team at the Olympics want that Gold Medal. They focus their energy and work towards this goal throughout the season. Training, teamwork, and focus on the objective are all keys to success. A successful energy management program needs to set goals to motivate, inspire and target.
The goals are shared with others and provide a common thrust for everyone involved. Objectives are then set each "period" so that the goals can be broken down into logical pieces. Tasks are then assigned to members of the energy team to ensure that there are responsibilities assigned with specific time projection.

The Team:

Some of the best players have not won a championship. They try their best but do not have support from others to achieve their ultimate goal. Like a star player, no one individual can achieve success in energy management without the support of others. A university campus needs energy champions in each building to build awareness and share concrete actions with building occupants. It needs maintenance staff to keep condensers clear from debris, filters changed, setpoints optimized. It needs building occupants like faculty and students that are aware of the impact their behaviour has on the campus footprint and care enough to do something about it.
An energy team is made up of individuals with various backgrounds, interests and abilities that come together to make a difference: reducing the environmental impact of their organization.

 

As you can see, there are many similarities between a hockey team and an energy management program (although it may be tough to sell tickets for fans to come see your energy management team in action). The important point is that just like hockey, it has to be a TEAM effort to achieve the ultimate success. Not just the superstar, not just the players, but a lot of others "behind the scenes" all working towards the same goal.

I hope your favourite hockey team achieves success this year. And I hope that you move forward with all the players on your energy team to enhance your organizations sustainability through smarter use of energy in your facilities.