23 minutes | Jun 21, 2021

Future-Proofing Commercial Properties for a Net-Zero World

The race is on to reach Canada’s target - net-zero emissions by 2050. This is a relatively aggressive timeline, so what should businesses be thinking about now? How do we future proof commercial properties and other industries that are large-emitters for the net-zero future? Glenn Mooney - Manager of Energy Services at Envari, joins us to share his knowledge on sustainable energy solutions and the practical steps that businesses should start with. Related Content & Links:  Glenn Mooney - Manager of Energy Services, Envari  LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/glenn-mooney-4656265/ Envari Energy Solutions - https://www.envari.com --- Transcript: Dan Seguin  00:02 Hey, everyone, welcome back to the ThinkEnergy podcast. Canada's climate plan has put the country on track to not only meet but exceed its 2030 Paris Agreement emissions reduction goals. What's more, Canada is moving entirely to net zero emissions by 2050. A lot of Canadians embrace this approach citing the environment and climate change as major factors. But there are some that will require a heavier lift than others to achieve these future net zero targets. For some, that means planning now. The Paris Agreement target is less than 10 years away, and 2050 isn't so far into the future as it sounds. With only three decades to go. The finish line is closer than we think. The International Energy Agency released a report stating that these goals will require rapid scaling of energy efficiency, renewable energy, and electrification. The Government of Canada has introduced new funding and new initiatives to help support the commercial sector promising 3 billion to establish a netzero accelerator fund to help large emitters reduce their emissions. The pandemic has given all of us the opportunity to rethink our energy habits, lifestyles, our impacts on the environment, and of course, how we work. Think of all these office towers that have sat empty for more than a year. And the discussions that are being had about the viability of remote work versus returning to the office. A lot of companies and industries are in uncharted territory. Will tenants return to those office towers? Add to this the expectation to meet emission targets by making investments in their properties. And there's a lot of uncertainty, but perhaps also opportunity. So here's today's big question: How do we future proof commercial properties and other industries that are large emitters for the net zero future? Our guest today is the manager of energy services for Envari, a subsidiary of Hydro Ottawa, which offers large scale sustainable energy solutions for businesses, governments and other utilities. Dear listeners, please welcome my friend Glenn Mooney. Glenn, this race to reach net zero emissions by 2050 seems like a mission tailor made for the expertise and services of your organization. Perhaps you can start by telling us a bit about yourself, what drew you to your current role? And what does Envari do?   Glenn Mooney  04:00 Sure Dan, thanks. I'm kind of the old guy. So I've been around the energy business for a long, long time I started way back in, in the nuclear world. So I actually worked in the Bruce at one point and then I moved into energy efficiency, Sustainability. I worked for the old Ontario hydro, I worked in performance contracting for a while. So energy management's always been a path that I followed. And it's kind of brought us here so I was actually here at the start of Envari or what used to be Energy Ottawa energy services. So we got to kind of build a business around just needs in the business world with supporting customers in areas that they didn't have support. And so I like to call it concept to commissioning so we do anything that's energy or sustainability related, we do from the analyzation side two studies. We really love to build projects. So that's kind of where we go we commissioned projects we do work in a lot of fields, energy, electric vehicles, battery storage, lots of lighting, tons of lighting, HVAC, building automation, anything sustainability or energy or greenhouse gas, data analytics and presentation, we build generation projects. So we touch pretty much anything that is energy resources: electricity, natural gas, water, steam. We've been involved in that.   Dan Seguin  05:22 Now, Glenn, what's the first piece of advice you would give to municipalities, large commercial property owners, and those in large industries about these emission reduction target dates of 2030 and 2050.   Glenn Mooney  05:38 That's something I think a lot about these days and as a person that's been doing this for a little bit longer than some, 2030 is not that far away, that's nine years away. So if somebody is giving you some targets for nine years from now, you better be thinking about it now. And 2050, that's not that far away, either. If we think back to y2k, or 9/11, that wasn't that long ago. So it doesn't take long to cover 20 years. So when we're making our decisions, we need to be thinking about that.   Dan Seguin  06:04 We know the final goal is net zero by 2050. That can seem like a huge hurdle for some, but with three decades to get there, it's more of a journey. Where do they begin? Let's look at this through maybe a strategy lens, planning, forecasting and investments.   Glenn Mooney  06:27 Yeah, and I guess if this thing is just think it through make it part of the new vocabulary, because it's something that we haven't thought about. And I'll be honest, we've all kind of pushed it off a bit. We know what's been coming, we've talked about it coming for quite a while, but we don't want to overreact on it, but we need to make it part of our thought process. So any decisions that we have to do in our buildings that involve, I'll say something mechanical things that building equipment, if you're making decisions on it factor in these target dates of 2030, or 40, or 50, or whatever it is in your world, or your owners world or your shareholders world, and make a part of your planning process. Every time you take a look at something and you have to make a business decision on it. Think about it, stay in tune, get informed, get some help if you need it, but help make wise decisions. Because these you only get one chance to do it right now.   Dan Seguin  07:17 What's a good game plan to adopt now, that will get results, but also save them money in the long run? Is it benchmarking and setting actionable, achievable goals that can be done along the way?   Glenn Mooney  07:34 Absolutely, just have a game plan, set yourself out a roadmap doesn't all have to be done this year. But a lot of times the goals are getting set for us. So our owners or pension funds that own buildings, or shareholders or governments or whatever institution, whoever we work for whoever's setting our marching orders, they're setting our goals for us, we don't want to get behind that ball, we want to be up in front of it. So yeah, find out where we are, let's get some get some help qualifying the impact of the options that you have before you, if you've got something, as I said earlier, you've got a piece of equipment that needs to be changed for whatever reason, figure out what the impact of it is. And it may not, it's a different business model right now, it may not always be that best cost solution or best payback solution. But we need to take a look at it, plan it out and avoid what they call lock in, don't if you replace something today, like for like and it doesn't fit into your carbon plan for the future, you've probably made a 20 year decision. So that piece of equipments gonna last 20 or 25 years, you don't get to make that decision again. So you've kind of locked in that missed opportunity for 20 or 25 years. So if you do the math on that now we're talking 2040/2045. So if people are putting pressure on you to reduce your greenhouse impact, and you're putting in equipment that is just like for like and not moving sticks, then those are things we need to think about. A big part of the carbon world is just it's reducing greenhouse gases. So a lot of times natural gas is great fuel. It's not as great for climate as maybe electricity is because we live in a very low carbon electricity, world and material here. So it's finding ways to maybe do better. And I'm not suggesting replacing gas boilers with electric boilers, because you probably can't make the business case for it. But you may want to look at things: We can talk about them heat pumps, things like that, that use electricity more efficiently, or use less gas. So that's one of the things too is always the less you use it but the less you pay for it, the less impact you have on the climate world.   Dan Seguin  09:45 Okay, Glenn, what types of investments would you recommend from the owners of Canada's largest commercial real estate properties and from municipalities? What should they invest in now versus later?   Glenn Mooney  09:59 Well, that's actually the heat pump is a good example. They don't fit everywhere. I'm not there's no one solution for this. It's just think about it. What are my options? So what are not but the other side of that equation are what are natural gas price is going to be? So the federal government's been pretty clear that they're moving up the carbon price on natural gas to $170 a tonne by 2030. That's not that far out. So what impact is that going to have on the natural gas impact? Because you're probably basing your decisions right now on what natural gas prices are today, you need to look at what they might be in the future. There is a focus on electrification. So what can I do to use electricity more efficiently in my building, and maybe less carbon negative products if you want to use that term. So things like the heat pumps, envelope opportunities, making your envelope using again, like using less, sealing things up better automation, controlling your building more, so that you're only using the energy you need to do the purpose it's intended to new age factor approaches. So again, those might be challenging business cases, but get some help making those decisions.   Dan Seguin  11:07 Now, looking for some tips, Glenn, what are some untapped or low hanging fruit options that folks either haven't thought about or considered that you would recommend?   Glenn Mooney  11:19 I always go to my, if you don't need to use it, use less of it. So that's the number one thing, the cheapest option is the pure conservation. Take a really good look at how you use energy in all forms. And find out ways that you can reduce the amount of energy use things like lighting, still a good option, like LED more efficient lighting, turning lights off when people aren't in spaces, HVAC, managing your automation system so that you're not using energy in hours that the building's unoccupied, we still need HVAC, we need to provide air and there's a lot of focus on that these days with little COVID situation but use it wise. Other technologies are coming along, I keep kind of going back to heat pumps, they they may be a more expensive option right now. But we're seeing a lot of movement in costing and we're seeing a lot of movement in performance. So there may be as a good business case to look at some of the newer technologies like that.   Dan Seguin  12:16 Great segue here. Certainly, technology changes quickly. But there's a lot of tech that exists today that can help building owners and municipalities prepare for the future. What are some out of the box ways that today's technology can help?   Glenn Mooney  12:36 I keep harping on cold climate heat pumps, we've we've done a lot of work with them lately. And just the the performance levels and even the last three, four or five years they've improved and they're being built for Canadian environment, we're not your typical environment globally, where minus 30 minus 40 some days in the wintertime. And what we're finding is we're getting these, these heat pumps are starting to perform well at minus 20, even minus 30, some of them even at minus 25. So we're we're getting a lot more efficiency out of these products. And I think with adoption, we're going to start to see the pricing come down. They already have quite a bit right now. And there's some really good technologies out there right now,   Dan Seguin  13:18 Glenn, the Government of Canada has just introduced new funding, and new initiatives to help support the commercial sector, promising $3 billion to establish a netzero accelerator fund to help large emitters reduce their emissions. What are some of the highlights? And what should clients know?   Glenn Mooney  13:40 So great programs in this, there's quite a few out I've just even in the last month, I've seen the three or four announcements of different programs for different applications. So great programs, a lot of money on the table, those are billions, not millions. So that 'b' is a big factor. So I think it's going to drive a lot of change. I think they'll be more programs coming as well. And they tend to be more sector specific or industry specific or building types. So you're gonna start to see more tailored programs, I think coming out. Bottom line, know what you want to do have your roadmap in place, plan for it, get a little bit of help, the one thing we are finding with a lot of these incentive programs is there needs to be a really good justification built at the start of it, which may take a little bit of energy modeling, creating a benchmark that they can actually assign the performance part of the incentive to. So that's quite often a little intimidating for customers. So that's one thing that we spent a lot of time doing. They are usually post project incentives. So you do need to put the capital aside. It's a call it a rebate or an incentive after the fact. So you want to make sure that you've done everything properly. You don't want to jeopardize the incentive. So read closely. They are there's some pretty good programs out there.   Dan Seguin  14:56 Now can you give us some examples of work Envari is doing and how you've helped clients reduce their energy usage and save money?   Glenn Mooney  15:06 Yeah, sure. The we're spending a lot of time right now doing deep retrofits. So a deep retrofit is to go into a building. Look at every way that it uses energy, find out how to reduce A) the amount of energy. So you need to, in lots of cases get at least a 25% reduction, which is a challenge, it's not easy. Also looking at what can I do with fuels to get more climate friendly, reduce the footprint and then reduce the GHG. So the deep retrofit, it starts with a study, it has to be integrated, everybody has to be involved, because it does affect operations in a lot of cases, too. So you need everybody at the table to, to work through it. It is a big process. And it looks at things like the envelope. Things like heating and cooling. So we've done a lot of work with electric boilers. And again, not not the need to replace everything on electric boiler. But there may be places where a smaller electric boiler serves a purpose. And it can be maybe dispatched on price signals when it's when it's cheaper to run electric boiler and make sense to run it then run it. Things like that, again, the heat pumps everywhere he comes through, they're kind of a unique thing because they provide you heat, but they also provide you cooling. So the air conditioning is part of that. But they also allow you to move heat around. So in commercial spaces or institutional spaces, heat pumps quite often can take heat from one area, put it somewhere else or take cool and put it somewhere. So it can be a whole ecosystem in and of itself in a building. We're doing three schools right now where it's driven by ventilation improvements based on COVID. But the heat pumps are there, we're offsetting baseboard heat with the heat pumps, we're adding cooling to a lot of spaces that didn't have room which is ideal in schools, we're putting in a lot of energy recovery ventilators or heat recovery ventilator, so let's not waste that heat. Let's not dump it outside. We need the fresh air. But let's use the heat that's in that air, not let it leave the building so that we're maximizing as much as we can. And that's all underpinned by a building automation system. So a lot of emphasis on good building automation, proper schedules, proper strategies, do everything you can to use as little as you can. And then lighting, we do a ton of lighting, indoor lighting, outdoor lighting, it's a big part.   Dan Seguin  17:22 Okay, let's now fast forward to post pandemic. What is your prediction for commercial real estate? Will people return to the office towers downtown like before? Ultimately, what do you hope these emission targets will achieve for companies and municipalities? Will they be required to innovate plan for a sustainable future and control costs?   Glenn Mooney  17:49 All of the above, it's going to be a challenge. It's it's we're in such a strange time right now. It's obviously it starts with a lot more awareness of ventilation in your buildings, people we didn't talk that much about it before, we just assumed that we had lots of fresh air, but COVID has really highlighted that and put a spotlight on it. So I think building owners have a lot of they need to pay a lot of attention to that because I think their tenants or their users or the community, whoever's in their buildings are demanding that and it's gonna be a struggle to balance those dollars because we've we've lost opportunities over the last year, we've incurred a lot of costs over the last year. Now you're asking what society is asking for us to spend more and more money to green our fleet of buildings and more value to our shareholders, our shareholder want to see us reduce our carbon footprints, as well. So it's going to be a lot of planning. And that's the thing is, everybody needs some help. There's a lot out there. I don't think anybody has all of the answers. I certainly don't. But I think it's going to take a little bit more thinking than we've kind of riden through in the last few decades with just in general with energy management. And again, I can't stress enough be careful with your decisions do not lock in equipment for 20 or 25 years and lose an opportunity to meet your long term goals.   Dan Seguin  19:08 Okay, Glenn, what's exciting you right now about the energy management and energy solutions industry   Glenn Mooney  19:17 it's it's just really disruptive right now it's it's a challenge to balance energy efficiency with electrification it's counterintuitive at times like it opposes each other you've got you know, you use less, use cheapest use, you know, reduce greenhouse gas is just so many variables out there now that we're all trying to manage. It's not an easy task. And the landscape, it's changing, it's going to change for the next few decades like this is I've done energy management for 30 years I've kind of seen progression from you know, I started in the days they were you know, they said go electric, which is, you know what is old is new again, but what they meant there is get your oil furnace out and go to an electric furnace will go electric Now has a totally different meaning to it. So the other thing is 2030. A lot of goals are set for 2030. That's only nine years out. And if anybody's been working for a few years, nine years flies by very quickly.   Dan Seguin  20:13 Okay, we're just about done here. Glenn. How about we close off with some rapid fire questions?   Glenn Mooney  20:21 Ready to go?   Dan Seguin  20:22 Glenn, what is your favorite word?   Glenn Mooney  20:29 I don't know if I have that. I know a lot of words through COVID. I haven't been crazy about like, pivot and something to do with COVID. I guess just optimism. I just, yeah, I like people that are optimistic. I like when people use that word. And that's the driving force behind what they're trying to do.   Dan Seguin  20:47 Now, what is the one thing you can't live without?   Glenn Mooney  20:52 Early on in COVID are working from home, I bought noise cancelling headphones. And I can't believe how valuable they have become in so many different aspects of my life, not just sitting in front of my computer for work, but going for a walk and just listening to music and just drowning out street noise.   Dan Seguin  21:09 I like that. What is something that challenges you?   Glenn Mooney  21:13 Oh, I'll make it recent COVID I find with COVID not just me, I think everybody, there's just so many balls up in the air. And I think the biggest thing is just try not to drop too many of them, you know, you're gonna drop some of them, pick them up as quick as you can and get it repaired.   Dan Seguin  21:28 Now, Glenn, if you could have one superpower, what would it be?   Glenn Mooney  21:35 Probably not to bore people. I find, you know, listening, listening teachers is a lot more than talking. And I guess I'm always trying to be cognizant of that. I'd rather I'd rather listen to what people say than to always found my opinion on them.   Dan Seguin  21:49 And if you could turn back time and talk to your 18 year old self, what would you tell him?   Glenn Mooney  21:56 People that you always think that don't get it? People like I am right now. They've actually seen a lot. They've learned a lot. They've tried a lot of things. They're not as dumb as you may think they are. But the other side of that is don't grow old and cynical, because that's the one thing I've really tried to avoid. Keep learning. Like I have 18 great nieces and nephews and I learned more from them than I learned from most people in my life. So stay young. Have fun.   Dan Seguin  22:21 Okay. And lastly, what do you currently find most interesting about your sector   Glenn Mooney  22:29 Change. I've, done energy management for over 30 years, I have never seen a rate of change like there is right now. And right behind is  a rate of technology development for energy storage, electric vehicles are coming we're all seeing that come quick - discussions like we've just had, we now have to rethink how we do things in our buildings. And in our life, just it's things are changing very quickly. It's gonna be a fun next decade.   Dan Seguin  22:54 Well, Glenn, we've reached the end of another episode of The ThinkEnergy podcast if somebody wanted to connect what is the best way   Glenn Mooney  23:02 our website Envari.com please reach out, reach out. Always happy to chat.   Dan Seguin  23:11 Thank you for joining us today. I truly hope you enjoyed this episode of The ThinkEnergy podcast. For past episodes, make sure you visit our website hydroottawa.com/podcast. Lastly, if you found value in this podcast, be sure to subscribe. Anyway, this podcast is a wrap. Cheers, everyone.
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