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Deciphering the Term “Energy Manager”

Dec 18, 2013 5:00:00 AM

The job description of an Energy Manager has been quite loose since its inception, because it can mean something different depending on the needs of the recipient and the qualifications of the provider. To date, there are no standardized credentials of an Energy Manager and it is “buyers beware” within the industry. As a building owner or facilities manager, it's difficult to know what level of energy management options there are and what type of professional to hire for the task.

Photo by TAFE SA Electrical Engineering

Many people use the term “Energy Manager” when referring to an auditor that performs an analysis of energy opportunities; or an engineer that performs a billing analysis to benchmark a facility; or a full-time employee that plans, regulates, and monitors the energy consumption of a facility. The qualifications of these positions are quite different. An auditor can be a professional engineer or a skilled tradesperson, a benchmarking analysis can be performed by a trained engineer or an administrator, and a full-time facilities energy manager needs to be a skilled and highly trained engineer or building operational tradesperson. All of the above-described occupations are valuable contributors to producing an energy efficient facility, but they provide very different levels of services. And only the last description is the official definition of an “Energy Manager.”

Current Credential Confusion

The industry has responded to the demand for energy efficiency professionals through many different training and certification programs. There are Certified Energy Managers (CEMs), LEED certified design engineers, Building Performance Industry (BPI) certified contractors for homes and small commercial, to name but a few. Although this has produced considerable improvement in the efficiency of buildings, it has created confusion and potential frustration for the client. Different professions approach a building with different credentials and therefore provide a service with different scopes. A business owner or facilities manager is experienced in their profession – he/she is not necessarily well versed in what nuances exist in the efficiency profession. They may hire the wrong professional and become disillusioned by the “Energy Manager.” This leads to missed efficiency opportunities and wasted money.


Standardizing the Terms and Qualifications

In an effort to standardize the qualifications and create more transparency in the industry, the US Department of Energy (DOE) has recently developed a Commercial Workforce Credentialing Council. ASHRAE and other credentialing and professional development organizations will work to establish a set of voluntary national guidelines – The Better Buildings Workforce Guidelines – to improve the quality and consistency of commercial building workforce credentials. National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS) is leading this effort to define “Energy Manager” among other professional titles. Initially, the Guidelines will address commercial building workforce training and certification programs for five key energy-related jobs: energy auditor, commissioning professional, building/operations professional, facility manager and energy manager. The goal is to define each of these services very clearly. My next few blog posts will delve into each of the aforementioned energy-related jobs; how they differ, what they can provide and for what services you would want to hire them.


Written by Eveline Killian