City’s Energy Management Coordinator Shares Energy Efficiency Tips

Installation of solar panels — a “big win” for energy efficiency — on the City’s Smith Aquatic & Fitness Center.

Installation of solar panels — a “big win” for energy efficiency — on the City’s Smith Aquatic & Fitness Center.

In our recent spotlight on the City of Charlottesville, we asked Kirk Vizzier, the City’s Energy Management Coordinator, if he had any advice to offer fellow Better Business Challenge participants who are also pursuing strategies to save energy and reduce their environmental impact. Turns out, Vizzier had a TON of practical advice that any Charlottesville-area business or organization can use to improve both energy and water efficiency and optimize overall building operations, all while making the process of change a manageable and achievable one.

Here are his thoughts on how you can think through and maximize your energy game plan, which include starting with ENERGY STAR® Portfolio Manager® to measure and track your business’s energy and water consumption. We also recommend starting with the Better Business Challenge’s Energy Scorecard, your roadmap for taking action!

  1. Find an easy win. You do not need to shoot for the largest and most impactful project to start. Hitting low hanging fruit (e.g., operational changes and simple lighting retrofits) builds momentum and sets the stage for moving to larger strategies.

  2. Identify the stakeholders throughout your organization and outside your organization that will be impacted by implementing energy-saving strategies. Whose day-to-day activities and working environment will be impacted by the measures?

  3. Put yourself in their shoes. If you are a tenant in a multi-tenant building and would like to install new lighting in your space, the employees in your space are stakeholders, your budget department is a stakeholder, the facilities maintenance team is a stakeholder, and in some cases, the owner of the building is a stakeholder. Think through what role each of these has in this project, how they will be affected by it, and what the value proposition is for them.

    For employees, it’s lighting performance, so be sure to choose lighting that provides enough lumens and the right color temperature for the space.

    For your budget/finance department, it’s getting the lowest cost, highest ROI, and staying within budget.

    For facilities maintenance, it’s how often will they need to service the fixture and do they have the expertise to do so (depending on the type of LED fixture/retrofit or controls).

    For the owner, it’s asking, “Does this increase the asset value of my building?” and if you were to vacate your space, “Will that lighting transfer to the owner?” Once you look through these lenses, you can think through how to appropriately address each so that everyone is happy with the end product.

  4. And honestly, the main thing is to not let yourself get overwhelmed with where to start. Begin by seeing how you are performing now by benchmarking and tracking energy usage (ENERGY STAR® Portfolio Manager® is a great tool, but a spreadsheet works just fine initially) and getting a handle on what uses energy in your space. A simple walkthrough to identify the key areas (HVAC, lighting, plug load) can help you begin to break this down into manageable pieces. For each of these, ask yourself: 1) Is there an opportunity to upgrade to a higher efficiency version and 2) Is there an opportunity to reduce its daily/weekly operation? Reducing operation is typically free, so target that first. Then look to upgrade as budget allows. It’s that simple.

  5. And of course, don’t forget to take advantage of utility rebates (electricity and natural gas)!