Addressing growth in the energy-management industry
There has been a lot of reflection on how far we have come and where we are going in the energy-management industry. Two distinct themes have emerged: energy dependence and diversification of the industry.
With respect to dependence, energy has become a form of vital economic and social sustenance. Because energy is conveniently available via plug, switch, or valve, few people consider how critical it is. The federal government has identified energy as the most critical infrastructure in the United States, further noting that all of the other critical infrastructures rely on energy. As society and technology have evolved, the dependence on energy has increased exponentially. There is a dependence on energy in communication, medicine, travel, manufacturing, food preparation and storage, entertainment, shopping, and environmental conditioning. Thus, when interrupted by natural disasters like recent hurricanes, restoring these services is a paramount concern.
With the challenges brought by energy dependence also come opportunities. Foremost are increased jobs and advanced careers in energy management and related fields of production and environmental management (the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) estimates U.S. energy-related employment tops 7.58 million). These related fields encompass a wide variety of tasks and responsibilities. While consulting engineers often equate energy management to assisting clients with audits and studies to reduce demand and consumption, other professionals have related roles in monitoring, generation, distribution, research, sustainability, and/or financing of various energy-related services including:
- Service utility engineers seeking to optimize generation and distribution while improving the resiliency and hardening of systems.
- Mission critical engineers seeking high reliability and fault tolerance of their facilities’ energy services.
- Health care engineers ensuring adequate ventilation and containment for indoor air quality and safety.
- Equipment manufacturers creating more efficient lighting and HVAC equipment.
- Control companies expanding offerings to include sophisticated monitoring, fault detection, and diagnostic systems including monitoring-based commissioning.
- Sustainable designers seeking to grow renewable energy systems, while researchers push to expand energy-storage systems.
Recognizing the limits and potential consequences associated with growing energy dependence and consuming an increasing amount of our natural resources, professional organizations and governmental entities continue to develop (and tighten) standards, benchmarking ordinances, and auditing/commissioning criteria governing energy efficiency in buildings and building systems. Coupled with the need to reduce dependency on fossil fuels for climatic and political reasons, many companies, institutions, and municipalities are pledging to be net zero and use 100% renewable energy within 2 decades. Meeting these demands will require leadership and innovation.
For example, Energy Management Association (EMA) has adopted a commissioning-based approach to energy management. This is designed to assist building owners and tenants in achieving energy savings while maintaining optimum system performance. The method is data-driven as opposed to making assumptions and calculations based on unreliable information.
The EMA’s Energy Management Professional (EMP) certification is preparing for the future by completing the process for ANSI accreditation, which will lead to obtaining recognition under the DOE’s Better Buildings Workforce Guidelines program.
Future challenges and opportunities in energy fields need to be met by tomorrow’s energy managers, and EMA is committed to training them. The technical-program portion of CxEnergy Conference & Expo (presented jointly by EMA, the Associated Air Balance Council (AABC), and AABC Commissioning Group) features many presentations based on commissioning-based energy management and new energy efficiency technologies.
Past decades have seen a tremendous growth in the energy-management industry, but many believe there is a lot of work to be done going forward. Work is also accelerating due to multiple demands. However, the results of current efforts to date are showing.
The U.S. has achieved remarkable gains in efficiency and productivity. The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy report, "Energy Efficiency in the United States: 35 Years and Counting," found that while U.S. energy use increased by 26% between 1980 and 2014, gross domestic product increased by 149% during that same period.
Further, global interest and investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy are on the rise. The 2017 Johnson Controls Energy Efficiency Indicator (EEI) survey of more than 1,500 facility and management executives revealed that 70% of organizations are paying more attention to energy efficiency than a year ago, with 58% expect to increase investments next year.
This is a golden age for energy management. It is at the nexus of technological advancement, innovation, and service to the well-being of the environment and its inhabitants.
Robert Knoedler is a vice president of Hanson Professional Services Inc. He is a professional engineer, energy-management professional, and certified commissioning authority. He also is currently president of the board of directors of the Energy Management Association.