Q&A with Joel Kirby, Energy & Environmental Manger at Celtic Manor Collection and an EMA Recognised Energy Managers after successfully demonstrating the knowledge and skills in energy management through the Knowledge and Skills Gap Analysis Interview.
How did you become interested in energy management?
I have always had an interest in the environment and our climate from an early age which pushed me towards geography as an undergraduate and then more specifically climate change science as a postgraduate. My specific interest in energy management came more by luck when I was invited to interview as an account manager to encourage energy efficiency for The Restaurant Group. From here my interest has only grown, as there is a satisfaction in knowing that what you do day-in, day-out has an impact on the wider environment.
What does your role at The Celtic Manor Collection entail?
My basic role at The Celtic Manor Collection is to improve efficiencies to reduce the resort’s utilities spend and to coordinate the reduction of our overall effect on the environment and ensure environmental compliance. Although that is a very basic description, in reality my role is far more wide-ranging, touching every area of the 2,000-acre operation consisting of 4 hotels, 10 lodges, a conference centre, 3 championship golf courses and 2 golf clubhouses. The portfolio varies in age from the 17thCentury Manor House to the 2008 Twenty Ten Ryder Cup Clubhouse and currently under construction a 5,000 delegate International Convention Centre Wales. Electricity and gas are, like in most businesses, the most expensive elements of our utility spend and therefore require the most attention. As you can imagine in the older buildings there are always areas of maintenance that need attention. I work closely with our maintenance and operations teams day to day to ensure that equipment is running as efficiently as possible, whether that be at the correct times, to the correct temperatures or just a case of only switching equipment on in areas that are absolutely required at the time. I also look after waste disposal in all of the buildings which is a constant and evolving battle. Not only the day to day operations, but also the large events that as a resort we host annually, such as the Celebrity Cup and the annual Christmas event which runs throughout December. Furthermore, packaging and plastic waste features prominently in the media and the public is aware of what needs to be done, and this means it needs a much larger focus from myself to manage these impacts. Apart from all of the above, there are also the more recent developments currently under construction and in planning on the grounds and a few upcoming acquisitions to The Celtic Manor Collection, which require attention.
What is the most exciting part of your job?
I would have to say there are quite a few, but the most exciting would be my involvement with the International Convention Centre Wales. Obviously, looking after older buildings and being able to make drastic changes to the efficiency and running costs is particularly interesting for an energy manager, but the opportunity to help develop a world-class conference and events venue from day one is great. As an energy manager your ability to implement change is limited to those around you and the belief they share in what you are trying to achieve is crucial. I am very lucky to have an excellent maintenance team and senior managers who really buy into the importance of what I am trying to achieve across the Collection. This is exemplified by the new build Convention Centre, and to witness the 2019 opening has to be the most exciting part of my job right now.
What is the most frustrating part of your job?
My main frustration is that I cannot make all of the changes that I would like at once. As I have already mentioned, I have great support from senior managers who understand what I am trying to achieve and recognise the importance of sustainability and energy efficiency. I do get the opportunity to develop new energy projects every year, but obviously there is a limited budget and not everything can be implemented all at once. Some of the larger projects implemented over the past year consist of 3 CHP engines, variable speed drive installations to control ventilation in our kitchens and underground car parks on air quality, BMS optimisation and upgrades, and we continue to roll out LED lighting across the estate, something which is now almost complete. We have made solid reductions to all of our utilities since I started the role in 2016, most notably electricity, reducing like-for-like consumption by 10.5% year to date against 2016 baseline and scope 1 and 2 CO2emissions by 28%, so I cannot complain too much.
Can you describe your typical day?
It is very difficult to pin down a typical day, but there are various things that I do on daily basis to manage the estate’s utilities. Every morning I check our sub-metering for any issues overnight or pick out any trends or anomalies from the previous day that could impact on overall consumption. This can be from a number of things, improper shutdowns in any of the outbuildings and golf clubs, equipment being switched or left on in areas that should not be, and to ensure that certain key equipment like CHPs are running. The other thing I do every day is check and set up the multiple BMS platforms that we have across the Collection. This involves setting up AHU schedules for upcoming business, checking building temperatures and generally ensuring equipment is running correctly. Following this, I make sure key items are in stock, such as LED lighting, something which I have taken control of to ensure that we are only ordering high efficiency equipment across all of our older buildings. Waste management will also take a main role in any typical day. From managing contamination reports to chasing missed collections, this is probably the most time consuming part of my typical day. The rest of my time can vary, from dealing with project installations, developing new projects and dealing with other requests and problems from across the business.
What drives you?
My main interest has always been in the environment and so I would have to say that my main drive is to have an impact on reducing our global emissions. As an energy manager, I am in a privileged position to have a direct responsibility and the resources to reduce the emissions and enhance the sustainability of The Celtic Manor Collection. To see the improvements that are being made on a day to day basis encourages me to continue to seek further areas of improvement and persuade others to do the same.
What qualities should a good energy manager possess?
Due to the nature of an energy manager’s role, and the need to engage with so many different stakeholders within a business to encourage change, I think there are many qualities that an energy manager needs to be successful. That being said, I believe that there are maybe two main qualities that are vital for a good energy manager. The first being the patience to keep persevering and the second to have the ability to seek help and advice from others.I do not think there are any energy managers who have not been told ‘no’ by key decision makers over certain projects, and I have spent a lot of time on certain projects which have been dropped at the last minute, but this should only encourage you to move onto the next thing. Not everything always works and there are many ways to reduce a business’s impact on the environment without getting hung-up on one decision. In addition, no single person has all the answers and I have heard stories about people rejecting the help of others over the fear of looking bad themselves. I have certainly required the advice and guidance of others, and without this I definitely would not be in the position I am now.
Which energy efficient innovation can revolutionise the global economy?
There are so many energy efficient innovations now that it is hard to pick one. The biggest impact in my experience, in large buildings, is the proper utilisation of equipment already installed. For example, a few changes to the building management system at the main Celtic Manor Resort reduced our annual consumption by over 5%. There is a lot of mis-use of these systems and a lack of knowledge by managers in charge that a few small changes could have a significant impact on global energy demand.
What prompted you to undertake the Knowledge and Skills’ Gap Analysis Interview with the EMA?
I have been in energy management for a few years, however apart from my experience I had nothing to demonstrate the skills I had learnt and the level of my competency. The EMA Knowledge and Skills’ Gap Analysis Interview not only allowed me to gain some recognition but also highlighted areas where I needed improvement. In turn, this can only help to improve my ability to make a bigger impact on the industry in my career.
Do you think that the EMA Recognised Energy Manager status will allow you to highlight your credentials as an energy manager?
Absolutely, and this is one of the main reasons I wanted to become a Recognised Energy Manager. I would like to think that this also helps me to demonstrate competency to key members of staff within my workplace. It has not been long since I got the status, but it has helped from a confidence point of view if nothing else, knowing that your knowledge has been validated and that you do know what you are talking about.
What does next year hold for you?
The next year promises to be very busy for The Celtic Manor Resort Collection, and myself, with the opening of the International Convention Centre Wales in July 2019, not to mention the continuing progression of efficiency projects for the rest of the estate in the meantime. We have focused heavily on efficiency throughout the build, ensuring that ventilation systems are controlled by occupancy, air quality and temperature, LED lighting is installed throughout, low flush urinals and low flow taps are used in all WCs, and natural ventilation is used where possible, to name a few. As a result, I am hoping that there will not be too much involvement required to run the building, however I am sure there will be efficiencies that can be built-in as we learn more about the way the building runs. It is certainly an interesting time for the business and very exciting from a sustainability point of view!