A new energy level: energy manager aims for efficiency

Danielle PilusoDanielle Piluso began working at NC in February 2013 as the embedded energy manager – a position created through a grant from the Ontario Power Authority (OPA), with a mandate to identify and implement measurable and verifiable electricity reductions, develop a formal energy management plan with reduction and engagement strategies, and report regularly to Niagara College and the OPA. She’s also completing a series of energy-management training programs, and she has ambitious targets to meet over the course of her two-year position: a 300 kilowatt demand-reduction per year, as well as a 10% reduction in kilowatt-hour electricity consumption.

Piluso recently shared some thoughts on her role, the progress that’s being made and how the NC community can work together to help the College achieve its energy goals:

What was your background before coming to NC?

I graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Chemical Engineering from McMaster University. After graduating, I began working at Maple Leaf Foods in Capital Project Management at one of their processing plants. I participated in all capital projects including equipment upgrade projects and efficiency improvement projects.

I worked at Maple Leaf Foods for five years. During that time, I obtained the required work experience to gain my engineering license, and then decided to move my career in a direction that would allow me to work in an environmental role. The embedded energy manager position at Niagara College was a perfect fit for what I was looking for. 

What are some of the changes and/or larger projects you are implementing as part of your role?

There are many energy projects and initiatives taking place at Niagara College. While some of these projects are not completely visible to all staff, students and visitors, they are in effect and they’re making a difference. In addition to set point adjustments to the heating a cooling systems and reducing the air-handling unit operation schedule, we’ve also:

  • Adjusted lighting on various circuits at the Welland Campus. The most visible lighting adjustment can be noticed in the Learning Commons;
  • Installed window film at Benchmark Restaurant as a cost-effective way to reduce energy consumption by increasing the solar energy rejection and UV light rejection. It reflects visible light and reduces the amount of glare within the restaurant. More window film projects are in the planning stages;
  • Lighting retrofits at the NOTL and Welland Campus are providing significant energy savings.
  • Additional utility sub-metering is also being installed to collect detailed information about the consumption patterns for specific buildings.

What are some of the benefits of improved energy efficiency at NC?

Reducing energy consumption, whether it is natural gas or electricity can help Niagara College achieve the 10% reduction target. In addition, energy reduction can reduce stress on the Ontario power infrastructure and reduce the overall cost of energy. Environmental sustainability is a key strategic priority for Niagara College, and increased energy efficiency can help reduce the environmental impacts associated with fuel production, generation and transportation, including air pollution, biodiversity loss, natural resource exploitation and water pollution.

Taking the steps to reduce energy consumption and increase efficiency also helps to build a culture of awareness on campus. These actions help support the Sustainability Committee’s goals to improve and extend current environmental practices, while being mindful of the need to balance ecological, social, and economic imperatives in an open and transparent decision-making process.

How can staff help the College reach its energy goals?

NC’s Sustainability Committee is building awareness through engagement opportunities, and this will be very important as we pursue our energy and sustainability goals.

Students, staff and visitors at NC are all responsible for environmental impacts, and there are consequences to our actions.

In terms of efficient energy use, some of the major low hanging fruits (easy reduction strategies) include:

  • Turning off the classroom lights as well as computer and projection equipment when leaving the room;
  • Encourage students to shut down the computer and monitor when they have finished in their labs;
  • Shutting down the computer at the end of your working day;
  • Turn off your office light when you leave the room;
  • Turn off classroom lights that you see have been left on when passing by;
  • Don’t bring in personal appliances. Plugging in equipment from home in frequently used outlets can potentially lead to hazards. Use the lunchroom or kitchenette nearest your office. 

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