Finding and Engaging the Energy Manager


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As you work to define new energy programs or call on clients who are enrolled in existing programs, it’s worth asking: Who is the energy manager in the target buildings? Knowing the answer can speed program engagement and ultimately produce more effective projects.

Advocates for conservation—and the programs dedicated to it.

Energy managers are responsible for reducing energy use for a building or portfolio of buildings, which involves everything from keeping records and procuring audits to implementing improvements, reporting issues, and educating tenants and management about building energy. Active and engaged energy managers play a critical role—but, oddly enough, I’ve found that the individual or group responsible for these activities isn’t even aware!

Professionals managing energy portfolio programs, such as utility and state energy programs or engineering firms, should probe to find answers to these questions:

  • For any specific building, who is the energy manager (even if they don’t know it)?
  • Which of the energy manager responsibilities (described below) are already being taken care of?
  • Which responsibilities are not being addressed and need attention?

Who is the energy manager, anyway?

Energy manager broadly refers to the party responsible for energy at a facility, who is affiliated with the facility, and who represents the facility. In large complexes, like universities, there may be a dedicated energy manager or even a group of energy managers. In smaller organizations, the owner, facility manager, or even others, such as the person responsible for finances, may perform the job of energy manager.

What are they responsible for?

The energy manager has many potential responsibilities. These include:

  • Keeping and maintaining records (drawings, equipment user manuals, R-values of original and added insulation, energy improvements).
  • Keeping and maintaining energy billing, including water. They use these records to track and benchmark energy usage, comparing a building’s energy use to the use of similar buildings and to the building’s own use over time.
  • Obtaining and maintaining details on building usage, such as occupancy information (how many people are in the building, and when), schedules (lighting and ventilation), and similar energy-related information that can help in programming controls and in supporting energy audits.

The energy manager can periodically procure energy audits or develop capabilities to do these in-house. They should be able to issue requests for proposals for energy audits, select a qualified energy auditor, review and check the energy audit, and interpret it for building management.

Energy managers also typically perform responsibilities that are less feasible for energy auditors, as they are on-site more often and longer than auditors. These include:

  • Checking for and eliminating leaks, such as gas leaks, water leaks, or compressed air leaks. These can be checked using leak dials on gas or water meters when there is no other gas or water use, or assessed using leak detectors or visual observation.
  • Checking that photocell-controlled lights turn on and off at the right time (dawn and dusk), rather than turning off too late in the morning or turning on too early in the evening.

The energy manager may also create estimates for energy improvements and see them through implementation, coordinating activities that are done either by in-house crews or outside contractors. Energy improvement projects are often construction-related, requiring the same level of management that capital improvements do, such as controlling scope, schedules, costs, quality, and risks. To do this role well, the energy manager should keep up to date on developing technologies and understand how they would add value to their facility. This will minimize the risk of being sold too quickly by vendors who come calling to promote products or services.

Finally, the energy manager should report energy issues to building management, along with recommendations and results. Like an energy auditor, the energy manager can and should become comfortable with the role of being an advocate for energy conservation and more efficient operations.

Energy manager and energy auditor: A powerful team.

The energy manager and energy auditor can better address energy problems when working collaboratively. While the energy manager brings in-depth knowledge of their own building, the energy auditor brings a knowledge of many buildings, best practices, specialty topics like energy modeling, and more. This complementary skill can be valuable in exploring new ways to improve the building’s operations. For example, energy auditors can use specialty tools to take measurements in the building over time to diagnose energy problems.

The energy auditor may also enlist the energy manager’s help with energy field measurements. The intent of this approach isn’t to reduce work for the auditor, but rather to increase the accuracy of data in the audit. It also goes a long way in engaging and educating them in the process. For example:

  • For areas in which access is difficult, such as tenant spaces, the energy manager can inventory appliances. The energy auditor might not include an inventory of every refrigerator in a 500-unit apartment complex, but such an inventory may already be maintained by an energy manager, and will lead to a far more accurate assessment of the potential for refrigerator replacements than one that is based on a small sample of refrigerators.
  • The energy manager can inventory as-found lighting and occupancy in each office of a large office building. If a high percentage of offices have lights that are left on but are unoccupied, the team is more likely to advocate for a program to encourage occupants to turn lights off, or to advocate for motion sensors to prevent lights from being left on.
  • A restaurant energy manager might measure dishwasher water use by running the dishwasher, without any other water loads, and reading the water meter before and after.

There are many other forms of potential connections with the energy manager: Tenant energy education within a building or portfolio of buildings, educating building management (“managing up”) about energy issues and associated decisions, energy planning, public and community relations, to name a few.

Understanding all of these opportunities will help you uncover the many ways you can engage energy managers in discussions about your program and the ways you can support their success.

As you go about defining or refining your energy program, be sure you know who the energy manager is in YOUR target buildings. It’s the best start for customer engagement.

Ian M. Shapiro

Authored by Ian M. Shapiro

Ian M. Shapiro is the founder of Taitem Engineering, a full-service consulting engineering and energy firm based in Ithaca, NY. He is the author of the recent book Energy Audits and Improvements in Commercial Buildings (Wiley, 2016), on which this blog is based.