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Career Advice I want to be an energy manager ... what will my salary be?

Job: Energy manager

The role: Optimize energy usage in accordance with employer goals, which may include reducing energy costs, ensuring continuous availability, optimizing on-site energy generation or reducing carbon emissions.

“Right now the energy managers that are focused on emissions are probably in the minority; it's usually not their primary goal,” said Colin Chan, the energy and emissions manager for the British Columbia Institute of Technology.

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Mr. Chan explains that while some energy managers consult for smaller organizations, most in-house practitioners are employed by institutions with multimillion-dollar energy bills, such as hospitals, manufacturing facilities and real estate property managers. For those larger organizations, ensuring continuous power supply during grid outages or reducing electricity costs are typically prioritized over emissions reductions.

Meeting those needs requires energy managers to analyze and monitor day-to-day energy use, and investigate any spikes or anomalies. They are also responsible for presenting opportunities to upgrade equipment or implement projects that promote the organization’s energy goals.

“A good energy manager requires this combination of a technical, analytical background while also being a strong communicator and proficient in change management,” Mr. Chan said. “You’re not silo-ed away; you’re interacting with lots of different departments all the time.”

Salary: According to the Environmental Careers Organization of Canada, the average annual starting salary for an energy manager is roughly $60,000 a year, while the average top annual salary is nearly $98,000.

“The higher salaries go toward the more complex energy management roles, and that tends to be really large organizations like health authorities that manage multiple hospitals or really large manufacturing companies,” Mr. Chan said.

Education: Although not legally mandated, most employers require energy managers to earn a Certified Energy Manager (CEM) designation offered through the Association of Energy Engineers. In order to be eligible for CEM certification, applicants must first complete a two- or four-year degree in a qualifying field, such as engineering, architecture or business management. They must also complete the corresponding number of years in related experience, which ranges from three to 10 depending on the applicant’s educational background.

“The prerequisite is to have a little bit of work experience with an engineering degree or a tradesperson with Red Seal [designation] and a few years experience,” Mr. Chan said.

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Job prospects: The job prospects for energy managers in Canada are strong, and only expected to grow, Mr. Chan explains. “As the costs of energy continues to rise, as issues around energy security increase and as the focus grows around managing greenhouse gas emissions, the business case to have an energy manager will continue to grow,” he said.

Challenges: Energy managers are challenged with balancing their employer’s non-energy-related needs with opportunities for energy savings, as changes to infrastructure and internal systems could have unintended consequences or cause disruptions to day-to-day operations.

“Another big challenge for energy managers is really making energy relatable, trying to take something that is quite analytic – like kilowatt hours and Gigajoules – and boiling it down to a narrative that you can take to your CFO,” Mr. Chan said. “That’s really important to being a successful energy manager, because not everybody is as technically knowledgeable, and not everyone is interested in the nitty-gritty details.”

Why they do it: As challenging as it can be to find, communicate and implement solutions that satisfy all stakeholders, successfully doing so is often highly rewarding, Mr. Chan said.

“I really look for those win-win situations,” he said. “When I'm able to come in and upgrade pieces of equipment that will save energy, save our greenhouse gas emissions, as well as improve the performance of that equipment, those are slam-dunks where everyone ends up happy, and those are projects that are really meaningful to me personally.”

Misconceptions: Since most Canadians’ experience with energy management is related to household energy use, they may fail to appreciate the complexity of a large organization’s energy ecosystem, Mr. Chan said.

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“When I started my career 15, 20 years ago, people thought energy management was really just telling people to shut off the lights and turn off their computers, and that image has stuck,” he said. “It’s so much more than that now with aspects like energy reliability, greenhouse gas emissions and the proliferation of small-scale onsite energy generation.”

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