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Strategic Energy Management team earns top awards from Energy Trust
Photos and Story by Abe Proctor
“Strategic Energy Management” is a term that’s entered into the parlance in recent years. It describes an approach to helping an organization maximize its energy efficiency through a comprehensive evaluation of all the ways in which it consumes energy.
And, it turns out, Portland Community College is really good at it.
PCC’s Strategic Energy Management (SEM) team was honored by the Energy Trust of Oregon for its outstanding efforts on a number of fronts. PCC won top prizes for “Most Engaged Energy Team,” “Exemplary Employee Engagement for Remote Workers,” “Earned All Milestone Incentives,” and “Attended Most Operations Calls.” In total the awardees from all over the state were responsible for 5,000 tons of CO2 avoided and more than $1 million in savings and incentives.
The Energy Trust of Oregon works with PCC staff like facilities maintenance staff Jimmy Hood (above) to help identify energy-saving projects. Since 2015, the college has gained the support, tools, and expertise to increase efficiencies in buildings by enrolling in the Trust’s commercial SEM Program. Working in partnership, PCC increases building efficiency by setting goals, tracking progress, and reporting results. These efforts, in turn, help the college to reduce energy consumption and save money.
The Energy Trust supports SEM efforts across the state, and facilitates cooperation and information sharing between the many organizations taking part. Since enrolling in the SEM program in 2016, PCC has saved 2,384,680 kilowatt hours’ worth of electricity, and 862,117 in natural gas (measured in therms). The college has also garnered more than $106,000 in cash incentives for its energy conservation efforts over the past five years.
“I was thrilled to see that our SEM team was recognized for all the energy conservation work we are doing,” said Elaine Cole, sustainability coordinator at PCC’s Rock Creek Campus and one of the leaders of the SEM campaign. “From our Climate Action Plan engagement to the ‘boots on campus’ efforts from our Facilities Maintenance Services staff, we brought home the hardware this year.”
In addition to the team awards garnered by the team, Facilities Operations Maintenance Specialist Jimmy Hood brought home an “Above and Beyond” award for his exemplary individual commitment to the effort.
Even during a year in which PCC’s facilities have been closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, the college’s SEM team earned the admiration of other organizations participating in the statewide program.
“Our PCC energy team has built a reputation within the Portland Metro SEM cohort as one of passion, creativity and dedication,” Cole said. “I field calls from other organizations asking about our projects, team building and successful intern program.”
The PCC SEM team works towards greater energy efficiency across the college by monitoring and tracking energy use, identifying energy efficiency opportunities, and developing employee awareness and engagement campaigns. This was incredibly challenging during a viral pandemic, and required team members to adapt to their markedly different circumstances, said Jen Piper, SEM team member and dean of instruction at the Southeast Campus.
“This was a hard and unusual year,” Piper said. “Our Oregon Trust Energy coaches stated that no one pivoted their work to an online format better than PCC, and many organizations struggled to reach some of their milestones because of the challenges the pandemic posed.”