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The latest turn-on: hire an energy manager

MANY business owners who want to save energy think of energy-saving lightbulbs, air-conditioners, solar panels and other equipment. That's all good, but they can also hire a professional energy-saving majordomo, an energy manager or steward, to help cut costs and use power more efficiently.

Energy management has been around in the West for some 30 years, but here in China it is a new career. China only has around 100 graduate energy managers with an Energy Manager Certificate given by the internationally recognized SGS company, according to Zhou Jichao, deputy director of the Association of Energy Engineers (AEE) China team.

The Shanghai Energy Conservation Information Network ( launched energy management training on April 11 this year.

Although it's a promising profession, few people would like to test the water. There is so far no registered energy stewards in the city, according to Kevin Wang from the Shanghai Human Resources and Social Security Bureau.

"I have heard of professional energy manager, but I won't hire one myself," says Jackie Pan, who owns a fabrication plant with an annual revenue of 3-5 million yuan (US$441,176-735,294). "I can urge my staff to turn off lights when leaving. So why bothering to hire an energy manager, who usually costs pretty much?"

On average, an energy manager costs about 150,000 yuan a year while a good one may cost 300,000-500,000 yuan annually, according to Chen Hong, general manager of Shanghai Energy Conservation Information Network, referring to international salaries.

Leaving the lights on, even on bright sunny days, is common in companies, says Zhou, an energy manager himself.

"Look at those lights. They're such a waste on a sunny day," says Zhou, pointing at the lights in a coffeehouse. "Even if those are energy-saving lights, they consume a lot of unnecessary juice.

"It's not that the staff doesn't know it's a waste, it's just that most people don't have much sense about it," he says. "Not having somebody in charge of energy saving is a big part of the problem."

A professional energy manager can change the situation, he says. Analyzing utility bills, taking energy-saving measuring and analyzing the amount of the energy saved, and offering an overall management strategy are what the energy manager does.

Chen from the Shanghai Energy Conservation Information Network compares salesmen of energy-saving equipment to pharmaceuticals salesmen, and energy managers to doctors. The managers/doctors find where the problem lies and prescribe specific remedies.

"Medicine only works when it is used for targeted problem. And to achieve that, you need a doctor to diagnose the problem in the first place," says Chen.

Take a library for example. An energy manager has to assess many aspects of the operation, including the lux (illumination per square meter) of the lighting system, humidity, air-conditioning system, condition of boiler insulation. Then he/she makes a proposal to ensure a comfortable environment that consumes as little energy as possible.

For example, setting the air-conditioner thermostat at 25-27 degrees Centigrade can reduce electricity consumption by about six percent, compared with a lower temperature of around 23 degrees. Using a water heater that powers off at night reduces 25-percent electricity compared with that works all day.

In China, energy manager is a green career that just emerged last year.

Considering the large population and high energy consumption, Zhou believes that China needs at least 1 million energy managers - 100,000 of which should be in Shanghai. But Wang from Shanghai Human Resources and Social Security Bureau says it is still hard to tell the future of energy management at the moment.

Though some Chinese companies have realized the importance of energy saving and hired local energy managers like Guangdong Esquel Textiles Co, many local companies still hesitate due to the high cost.

Jessica Shen, manager of a copper manufacture plant in Shanghai, admits that she had thought of hiring an energy manager, but gave up finally when the financial crisis hit.

"I would consider hiring an energy consultant in two or three years, but spending money long-term on someone who just simply takes care of energy saving is not a good idea," Shen says.


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