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Spotlight on Rod Michalko – 2019 Energy Manager of the year

“Facilitating the cultural change to a more sustainable and environmentally responsible organization is an ongoing personal challenge and provides me with a rewarding sense of achievement every day.”

September 7, 2021  By  Anthony Capkun

September 01, 2021 – “For large organizations, a dedicated energy manager is one of the best hires you can make,” says the IESO’s Carrie Aloussis, Senior Manager, Business Strategy and Content, adding that its Energy Manager program is the largest of its kind in North America, helping to save energy and drive Ontario’s competitiveness.

One of those dedicated energy managers is Rod Michalko of Dunn Paper, one of five 2019 Energy Manager award recipients.

Working with the IESO’s Save on Energy team, Energy Manager Canada interviewed Benjamin to learn how he became an energy manager in the first place, to discuss his successes, and to understand the importance of energy managers and proactive energy management to any organization.

PART 4 of 5
Rod Michalko, Save on Energy Manufacturing Sector Energy Manager of the Year

Meet Rod, who saved approximately $1.5 million dollars in operating costs for Dunn Paper by implementing projects such as optimizing pumping and air compressor systems, and introducing a facility-wide energy management information system.

Energy Manager Canada: How did you get into the field of energy management and/or how did you become an energy manager in your organization?

ROD: For most of my engineering career, I was an electrical power systems design and certification integration specialist at an aerospace company.

After a long tenure, that company transitioned its core competency out of electric power systems integration work. Fortunately, I had developed a casual interest over the years in the synergies between efficient aircraft energy design and industrial/commercial energy-efficiency applications.

It was obvious that the rising global awareness of energy conservation technologies and practices had created a new and valued path for me to reapply my skills.

Considering that aircraft energy systems are essentially micro grids consisting of turbo machines that burn petrochemicals to provide thrust (but also spin generators that charge batteries and drive electric motors), the segue to global energy-efficient technologies could not have been more seamless.

I already had work experience at this paper mill (under previous ownership) while pursuing my engineering studies, but I had been lured away by the glamour of aerospace. After a successful aerospace career, I reached out to my contacts at what is now Dunn Paper and learned the company was interested in hiring an energy manager to help it participate in the many available Save on Energy energy-efficiency programs.

After coming aboard, I completed my Certified Energy Manager (CEM) and Certified Measurement & Verification Professional (CMVP) training, which not only complemented my years of prior experience but also allowed Dunn to qualify for the IESO-funded Energy Manager program.

At that point, I began to undertake projects that qualified for incentives from other Save on Energy programs, in particular the Retrofit program. I also managed the Industrial Conservation Initiative (ICI) and Demand Response (DR) programs offered by the IESO to reduce our annual electricity costs.

Energy Manager Canada: What excites you the most about the work you do in your organization?

ROD: The exciting part of energy-efficiency work is the data-driven discovery of new and unexpected savings from retrofit projects, and then using the results from these projects as a launching pad for more ambitious projects.

An ongoing motivation for me in this role is to shatter the belief that energy savings come at great financial burden and reduced productivity. Realizing significant energy-saving projects that pay back fully in the same fiscal year, or finding that production actually increases as a result of an energy project, is quite satisfying.

Facilitating the cultural change to a more sustainable and environmentally responsible organization is an ongoing personal challenge and provides me with a rewarding sense of achievement every day.

Energy Manager Canada: What is a “win” (or some “wins”) of which you are really proud?

ROD: I have found there are no losers when energy-efficiency practices and projects are employed. Any respectable business leader must address waste in their organization, and paying to dissipate energy that provides no increase in industrial output is just plain irresponsible to shareholders, the public, and the environment.

Energy-efficiency projects and practices, as well as participation in government programs—when approached sincerely, efficiently, and in a timely manner—can add significantly to the bottom line.

In fact, production rates have increased as more-efficient equipment is introduced, and maintenance costs are reduced by newer and smarter equipment upgrades.

The results at Dunn Paper show that an active energy management program results in energy savings that produce a business win every time. Employees who understand energy management and energy policy—both within the organization and in their daily lives—become informed participants in the transformation to a more sustainable society.

I am proud to have spent the time to educate and promote energy efficiency with the employees of Dunn Paper, since it would have been impossible to make these strides in energy efficiency without their understanding and support.

Energy management is an energy savings win when people see what is in it for them, and they begin to willingly participate in the effort.

With executive leadership, local management and employees on board, Dunn Paper was able to gain provincial recognition through receiving the 2019 IESO Manufacturing Energy Manager of the Year award. This achievement is special as it demonstrates what level of savings can be attained with a positive attitude and dedication.

While yearly savings of $1.5 million can be directly attributed to participation in the Save on Energy Retrofit and the Energy Manager programs, process energy awareness and participation in the ICI program, both of which I was able to strategically manage in my role as Dunn’s energy manager accounted for about $5million of additional energy savings.

As result of winning the Energy Manager Award, I gained international recognition when I was awarded 2020 Energy Engineer of the Year – Canada Region by the Association of Energy Engineers (AEE). This exemplifies the scope of the energy-savings achievements accomplished by Dunn Paper from a Canada-wide perspective.

Energy Manager Canada: How did Energy Manager Support Services provided by Save on Energy help you to succeed at your organization?

ROD: Energy Manager Support Services provided exactly what its name implies: it provides the energy manager community with a forum to learn, share experiences and obtain guidance on best practices for energy savings.

Their insights were very helpful for avoiding pitfalls that could hamper progress, while providing milestone reminders. The regular in-person and web-based training sessions were informative and gave me a steady source of professional practice training that could be used to meet the licence requirements of energy accreditation bodies.

Energy Manager Canada: Why is it important for organizations to have people like you?

ROD: Energy managers bring a new discipline with a fresh perspective to organizations that are otherwise structured in typical business silos, focusing on meeting the numbers, day in and day out.

In such organizations, adding “energy management” duties to someone in the current structure won’t work; they will view this assignment as an unfamiliar burden added to an already long list of duties.

It’s even worse if you try to spread these new, additional duties among several people, since it will become diluted to the point of ineffectiveness.

A dedicated energy manager has a mandate, plus the training and the independence from routine matters to see the big “energy to business” relationship and build teams of expertise, facilitating mutually beneficial change across disciplines and reporting hierarchies.

From a personal perspective, I was able to obtain significant results early on by applying my diverse energy engineering background to discover deep savings opportunities, provide detailed engineering solutions, and implement a systematic approach to the collection and analysis of data that accurately validated the energy savings achieved.

These early wins were essential for developing credibility within a short period to stimulate funding and catalyze exponential progress. The quick achievements were also backed up by previous regulatory experience to effectively recalibrate existing programs for maximum returns, all while staying ahead of emerging programs and regulations.

Hitting the ground running and getting meaningful, measurable results early is a key attribute to the success of any energy manager and the establishment of any successful energy management program.

Energy managers = project success

“Energy managers have the strategic and technical expertise to recommend the energy-saving equipment and technologies that are right for your business,” added Carrie Aloussis. “They also have the skills to implement an energy management strategy for your business that supports project success and benefits a company’s bottom line.”

Learn more about the other 2019 Energy Manager award recipients:

Jana Jamnicky of Cameco

Benjamin Ratcliffe of the Peel District School Board

Olga Horolskaya of Canadian Tire Corp.

Cristina Guido of the Town of Caledon


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