Municipal Energy Management in Alberta - The Benefits to Communities
Updated: Sep 20, 2022
TLDR: Energy Management can save your municipality a LOT of money
Albertan municipalities are facing a lot of cost pressures with the provincial government engaged in a program of debt reduction that is unduly passing costs down to them. With these cost pressures also comes the squeeze from the feds as federal carbon taxes continue to increase. Municipal governments need to look at all sources of revenue to keep the town running and provide services to their citizens. When it comes to cost savings, energy management is an area of considerable opportunity for leveraging grant funding to realize significant savings to your budget. Understanding how your community can benefit will help you get started if you're thinking about it yourself.
What is energy management?
Energy management is the process of streamlining your power expenses by finding ways to reduce consumption or improve the efficiency of buildings. This not only reduces direct energy costs, but also lowers the amount of carbon taxes a municipality must pay. And the savings can be very considerable.
What does this look like? There are some great examples of successful energy management programs on the Municipal Climate Change Action Centre's website. For example, the Town of Cochrane instituted changes in the first year of their energy management program that resulted in an estimated annual energy savings of $80,344 and an annual GHG emissions reduction of 380 tonnes. These savings were mostly realized through low-cost or no cost measures, like optimizing smart thermostat programs, upgrading weather stripping, and changing out lightbulbs for LEDs.
The amount of money in direct cost savings is enough to cover an entire full-time employee’s salary.
Energy management looks different for every community and is focused on the opportunities specific for that community and what resources are available for them to leverage. For instance, Sturgeon County achieved over $14,000 per year in energy savings from doing LED lighting upgrades and instituting smart-building technology, while the City of St. Alberta reduced their annual costs by nearly $200,000 by changing their bus fleet to all-electric vehicles, deploying solar arrays, instituting energy efficiency technology, and changing how they make their ice.
The energy management projects that you pursue in your community will be specific to your needs and resources.
How does energy management work?
The good news is that it isn't rocket-science, but it does take the dedicated work of team members with a bit of know-how and industry knowledge. A typical energy management program starts by benchmarking your energy use. Team members then audit the buildings and facilities that you operate and go through them in detail to identify opportunities for increasing energy efficiency by changing behavior, undergoing repair or maintenance, or engaging in capital upgrades. Your energy team then lays out all the potential action items and discusses what is within the community's resources to affect change, what grant funding might be available, and how to maximize the return on your investment so that you achieve the maximum savings on your energy bill from the projects that you do.
And a lot of those savings come from things that are low cost. The outsized importance of low-cost or no-cost actions is often underrated, and many communities can realize incredible cost savings from seizing on low hanging fruit such as behaviour change, weather-stripping, and proper utilization of existing equipment.
What are the economic benefits of energy management?
The economic benefits of energy management are impressive. Not only can you save a lot of money on reduced utility bills, but right now in 2022 there is an unprecedented grant environment for supporting energy efficiency work in municipal settings. Grants like the Green and Inclusive Community Buildings Fund offer up to 80% matching funds for eligible projects. Additional grants are available from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the Municipal Climate Change Action Centre, Natural Resources Canada, Infrastructure Canada, Emissions Reduction Alberta, the Community Facility Enhancement Program and more.
The work of our own team in the Town of Raymond is advancing energy efficiency projects that promise $1 million in utility cost savings over a 20-year period.
How to get started
There are a few ways to get going. First, if you have the capacity in-house, you can launch right in. There's plenty of reading material out there on how to run a municipal energy management program, and lots of good people you can talk to for advice.
If you don't have the capacity, the Municipal Climate Change Action Centre is opening their M.E.M program for another year. This program will provide 80% of the salary funding for communities to hire an energy manager for a two-year program, with the possibility of extension after that. If you can afford to front 20% of the salary cost, you can hire a qualified person that will more than repay your investment in the program. Frankly, this is a unique opportunity with such a positive pay-back that if you can get it, you should.
Finally, if you just want advice on how to get rolling, give us a shout. We do this kind of work of course, but we're happy to advise you for free on your own unique circumstances and put you in touch with the people who can put you on the right track to success.