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Municipal energy manager looking for efficiencies at local facilities

As the municipal energy manager for both Jasper and Hinton, Faraz Khan has his work cut out for him. Only a few months into this new position, he is undertaking energy scans of multiple facilities before the real work of making efficiencies begins. | Supplied photo

Scott Hayes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter | reporter@fitzhugh.ca

As the municipal energy manager for both Jasper and Hinton, Faraz Khan is constantly on task for creating efficiencies.

“I’ve come to strongly believe that we do have the technologies needed,” he said.

“The renewable technologies needed are ready to be implemented, but the huge portion I find missing is the awareness and the education for people on how small actions can make positive or negative impact on the environment as a whole.”

Khan comes from an engineering background focused on energy usage. His master’s degree concentrated on energy management, renewable energy and energy storage technologies. He was most recently the energy engineer with the West Fraser Pulp Mill in Hinton. With his certified energy manager designation by the Association of Energy Engineers, he started in this new role only a few months ago.

The municipal energy manager position was established to help the two communities manage their energy use, become more energy efficient and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in their facilities.

That’s no small task, especially considering the variety of municipal facilities that exist, their ages and the spectrum of energy-related pieces of equipment at work in them.

Khan said his work is actually easy to simplify, as long as you keep your eyes on the objective.

“If you’re talking about anything – it can be a municipality or an organization or even an industry of any scale – you’re looking at the current energy consumption. How much electricity are you using: natural gas and propane? And then what are the associated greenhouse gas emissions from those consumptions?”

Khan also looks at how energy consumption could be reduced at facilities without having to implement major changes such as putting in new equipment.

“That can come in the form of just looking at minor operational changes, creating awareness amongst the people who are running the facilities, educating some people on this way of operating will result in a lesser consumption of electricity or natural gas, and in return, you’re going to reduce your emissions from that particular site.”

That’s energy management in general, he continued, but the work goes broader. He said an energy manager is basically a person who looks at the big picture but from different lenses. Having multiple perspectives on energy usage is one of the keys to finding those efficiencies. 

The position was recently established through an initiative by the Municipal Climate Change Action Centre (MCCAC), an organization established in 2009 that runs as a partnership between Alberta Municipalities, Rural Municipalities of Alberta and the Government of Alberta. Its objectives are to lower energy costs, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve climate resilience.

The centre exists to reduce how climate change impacts the province by providing program and project funding, offering technical assistance and through educational efforts. Municipal energy manager positions are new to the province within the last few years, Khan said, and his salary is an 80/20 split between the MCCAC and the two municipalities.

Some communities have seen such positive benefits made that they have since permanently established their energy manager positions.

Only a few months into his work, Khan is still in the process of doing energy scans of facilities to gather the primary data and determine where some gross deficiencies might exist. After that is complete, he will compile that into a list of opportunities that can be prioritized over a two-to three-year implementation plan.

His other current objective is to look at other sources of funding to accomplish those future upgrade projects.

Doing such groundwork can itself be an exhaustive study, but he has found people to be enthusiastic and supportive about the prospect of his task. Usually, the first major challenge is to get the main stakeholders on board “because it’s such a small thing to be missed,” he said. Here, he hasn’t encountered any resistance.

“I find that the people of Jasper are already there to get things moving. That’s one thing that I do appreciate, I think, in the program. The support that it’s getting from everybody in the municipalities is just really good.”

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