Future of US Energy Debated Between Industry Pros and Federal Government

The Trump administration has proposed several new rules, repeal of existing rules, and other policies in order to promote coal as a fuel for power plants and to promote nuclear energy. One of their arguments is that the US grid is in a crisis and the more sources of energy the greater the resiliency and reliability of the grid, which will help the economy grow. For example, the U.S. Department of Energy requested that older power plants receive federal subsidies to continue to operate and to enable others to store up to 90 days of fuel on site to enhance reliability given problems with the grid.

In the latest budget proposal, the Trump Administration recommended a decrease in federal funding of renewable energy from about $2 billion to about $0.5 billion, by 72%. Most of this decline would be sharp reductions in research spending, including an 82% cut to research on fuel efficient vehicles, an 82% cut on research into bioenergy technologies, and a 78% cut for solar energy technology research. Congress must approve this for it to go into effect. The Administration proposed a similar large cut in renewable energy programs in the previous year, but it was rejected by Congress.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), many members the president had appointed, rejected the arguments about grid reliability. In January, FERC voted down the idea of subsidies for coal-firing, saying that keeping alive older and less efficient plants would not improve reliability. Promoting such energy sources would put the US and its businesses at a disadvantage compared to other countries which promote more competitive energy sources, such as green energy and natural gas, to their businesses.

FERC argued that the grid is not facing a crisis, and that subsidies or preferred treatment for coal or nuclear plants would hurt a competitive electricity market and drive up costs for businesses and consumers. FERC went on to say that it should not favor any market that is costly and non-competitive. FERC also said that current US problems with the grid do not originate from sources of fuel, but, rather, from transmission shortcomings, such as downed power lines. The commission did go on to say that there is room for improvement of the nation’s grid and asked regional transmission organizations and independent system operators for their ideas on improvement.

The Trump Administration has been working to repeal many Obama-era environmental regulations that would hurt coal-fired power plants, combat climate change, and reduce subsidies for renewable power. In many cases, they have succeeded. However, many major US businesses support not only the Clean Power Plan, which President Trump is attempting to repeal but also the Paris Climate Agreement, which the President has announced the US will withdraw from. Such major firms include Alcoa, Berkshire Hathaway, DowDupont, EMC Corp., and General Motors.

CCES can help your firm become both energy efficient and more flexible in terms of the fuel sources it uses to benefit your bottomline. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or at karell@CCESworld.com.

Reducing Water Usage Saves Energy, Too

While the focus of this blog has been on energy use and demand and greenhouse gas emission reductions, it should not be forgotten that an effective sustainability and self-improvement plan addresses other issues, such as water conservation, solid waste generation (or lack thereof), etc. A recent study indicated that while California was just short of meeting its goal of a 25% water use reduction in 2015, when most of the state was in a severe drought, the policies implemented in the program did result in additional benefits. See https://phys.org/news/2018-01-california-bonus-effects.html

Coming off a four-year drought, California ultimately reduced water usage by 524,000 million gallons. In addition, it was determined that this action resulted in a decrease in electricity usage of about 1,830 GWh, which exceeded electricity savings achieved by investor-owned electricity utilities’ efficiency programs during the same period. In addition, significant declines were seen in natural gas and oil usage for generators in water service. This also resulted in reductions in greenhouse gas emissions of about 524,000 metric tons of CO2e.

California implemented a Water Action Plan, with strict guidelines for continuing to manage water use in the state. These guidelines were localized to the needs of the state’s 410 urban water suppliers. Businesses and homeowners have and will continue to face restrictions such as bans on wasteful practices such as hosing sidewalks and watering lawns after rain. Strict planning, measurement of water use, and reporting were also required.

These results should not be a surprise as previous inventories have indicated that water transportation, treatment, distribution and end-use consumption account for 19% of total electricity demand in California. With significantly less water to manage and use, electricity demand would be expected to and did decline.
This can be a lesson for other states, counties, and communities that wish or need to decrease total energy usage and/or greenhouse gas emissions. Reduced water usage (particularly, reduced waste) will lead to significant energy savings and greenhouse gas emission reductions.

CCES has the experts to help your entity reduce water, as well as energy, usage waste and maximize the financial gains for you. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation discussion about the matter at 914-584-6720 or at karell@CCESworld.com.

Condenser Coil Cleaning: Low-Cost Option To Save Energy

By Richard Fennelly, CoilPod, LLC

The vast majority of building owners who have invested 5 or 6 figures for good, reliable roof-top heating and/or cooling units do not invest so wisely in the area of maintenance. Many operators have informal or no maintenance procedures to ensure that the equipment you paid so much for will operate properly, at a high efficiency, and for a long time before needing replacement. One common, but critical, example are self-contained condenser coils that are not cleaned on a regular basis under a preventative maintenance protocol. They are allowed to run dirty, causing more electric usage than necessary to operate. This is not just wasteful, but in an age of rising energy costs, needlessly expensive. Investing in cleaning the coils will result in significant energy cost savings.

One refrigeration expert recently stated: “Eighty percent of operators do nothing, no maintenance, ever. Maybe 20% do some, but not enough”. Source: Refrigeration Magazine December, 2015.

Coils need cleaning at least quarterly for the following benefits:
(a) reduced electrical usage;
(b) reduced service calls; and
(c) prolonged equipment life.
Dirty coils are the main reason for service calls. With routine quarterly maintenance, operators have virtually no breakdowns. Sources: Food Service Technology Center (FSTC), San Ramon, CA and Refrigeration Magazine December, 2015.

And, of course, this leads to cost savings. Exemplary yearly savings per unit if the coils are clean: Electric energy savings of from $220 to $625, depending on the type and size of unit (or from about 46% to 50% electric savings). Source: Cool Savings Project – FSTC and the City of San Francisco.

What is the best way to clean coils? Compressed air can quickly and effectively remove deeply deposited dirt/debris deep inside the coil’s structure. Source: CoilPod LLC (manufacturer of the COILPOD dust hood – described at www.coilpod.com). The data presented below was developed by the Food Service Technology Center (San Ramon, CA)/City of San Francisco Environment Department and announced at the RFMA (Restaurant Facility Managers Association) and CFESA (Commercial Food Equipment Service Association) 2015 annual conventions. The electric rate used was at $0.11/KwH:

Double Door Merchandiser (6 yrs old): Dirty: $1,325/year/unit
Clean: $700/year/unit
Wasted Electric: 89.3% = $625/year/unit

Larger Double Door Fridge:                     Dirty: 24 kwh/day/unit = $950 /year/unit
Clean: 13 kwh/day/unit = $517/year/unit
Wasted Electric: 83.8% = $433/year/unit

Single Door Freezer:                                   Dirty: $546/year/unit
Clean: $289 /year/unit
Wasted Electric: 88.9% = $257/year/unit

Double Glass Door Fridge:                          Dirty: $439/year/unit
Clean: $219/year/unit
Wasted Electric: 100.5% = $220/year/unit

Similar energy usage reductions and cost savings were observed from other restaurant equipment whose coils were cleaned regularly, as presented at the 2015 RFMA meeting.

In August 2017, a summary report was released stating that a total of 10 units were examined with coil cleaning giving savings ranging widely from 2% to 49%, with the average being 17%, representing savings of $138/year-unit at $0.11/KwH. The electric rates in the NYC Metropolitan area and other large cities are significantly higher than this, meaning potential cost savings would be higher.

CoilPod, LLC is a major vendor in the coil cleaning industry. Their compressed air system helps to maintain coils and have them work optimally, using less electricity, reducing costs.

CoilPod Contact: Richard Fennelly, richard@coilpod.com, 914-819-8937, for more information.

U.S. Saving Energy And Reducing GHG Emissions – By Staying Home

Because of changes in technology and culture, Americans are spending more time home than ever before. Working from home, shopping online, streaming movies (instead of going to the movie theater), even “staycations” and otherwise “chilling”, Americans are travelling less and a new study shows that this has made a difference in our carbon footprint. See http://www.wral.com/americans-are-staying-home-more-that-s-saving-energy-/17299025/

New research suggests that these new technologies and their acceptance enable Americans to spend more time home, reducing energy use, and, with it greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Researchers found that, on average, Americans spent 7.8 more days at home in 2012, compared to 2003. For people 18 to 24, it is 14 more days at home and 4 days less time travelling in a year. They calculated that this reduced time going to work, the mall, restaurants, etc. reduced national energy demand by 1,700 trillion BTUs in 2012, or 1.8% of total energy use.

The reduction in time travelling appears to have the greatest impact on energy saved and GHG emissions reduced, as energy intensity of travelling is 20 times greater than staying at home. Even the time Americans travel is more efficient than in the past, saving energy. Decades ago when most families had a breadwinner and a homemaker, the worker commuted to work and returned straight home, while the homemaker would go out shopping. Now it is more common that the person returning from work stops off at the store to buy some things on the same return trip. This reduces total miles travelled.

The trend is certainly solid of more and more firms allowing workers to work from home. Online services and video conferencing allow the worker to be as efficient at home where the energy intensity is lower than in most offices. At the same time, companies are saving money and energy by consolidating office space. The growth in the U.S. of entrepreneurs working at home instead of renting space is another likewise trend.

One additional growing HR trend that appears to be increasing energy use is the nearly doubling of part-time workers in the U.S. during this period. More employers are hiring people on a part-time basis only, and many workers survive by holding more than one part-time job, raising the potential commuting distance and time and, thus, energy use.

CCES has the expertise to help your company manage and reduce energy use by the design of your facility and audit and upgrade of your energy using equipment. We can examine your operations and advice you on how to take advantage as employee counts change. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or at karell@CCESworld.com.

Trump Administration Repeals Obama-era Fracking Rules

The Trump Administration’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) published in the Federal Registry on December 29, 2017 a revision to reverse a 2015 rule that contained strict standards for how one performs hydraulic fracking on public lands.

https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2017/12/29/2017-28211/oil-and-gas-hydraulic-fracturing-on-federal-and-indian-lands-rescission-of-a-2015-rule

For the Administration, this is part of their ongoing effort to rollback regulations and to encourage domestic energy production that will reduce energy costs for businesses.
This final rule is a rescission of most of the Obama-era rule whose effective date was June 24, 2015, which contained standards for fracking operations on public lands, including identifying the chemicals and the nature of the mixture of water, sand and chemicals injected to loosen shale oil and gas from rocks where it has adhered. It also contains standards to reduce the chance of contact between the mixture and underground supplies of drinking water.
This brings the debate about fracking back to the fore.

While oil and gas companies and their supporters want greater freedom to perform fracking operations, environmentalists were split. Some wanted an absolute ban on fracking, as they desire a carbon-free future and have an energy future dominated by renewable energy. Others understood that promoting natural gas, which emits greenhouse gases at about half the rate of coal, and enabling it to be plentiful and cheap in order to displace coal, leading to progress in meeting climate change goals and eventually be replaced by renewables as its costs decline in the future. Obama Administration leaders took this latter tack, encouraging fracking to reduce energy prices, yet protecting the environment and public health, too.

In opposition to this, oil and gas developers argued their fracking processes were continually improving over time and there was little evidence of harming drinking water supplies. These groups sued to stop the 2015 fracking regulation without success. With the new administration more sympathetic to oil and gas company concerns, it was a matter of time until the Obama rule would be repealed or altered. Oil and gas companies understood that many states had its own regulations protecting drinking water supply and the local environment, and were willing to comply with each state’s rules as they work in those states.

CCES has the experts to keep you up-to-date with technical interpretations of federal and state and city rules on energy and make sure you get the best information. Marc Karell, P.E., Principal of CCES will speak about recent new New York City energy rules at the New York State Bar Association Annual Meeting on Thurs., Jan. 25 at 9:20 am. See http://www.nysba.org/am2018/ for more details.

USEPA Announces 2018 Renewable Fuel Standards

On December 12, 2017, the USEPA published in the Federal Register final volume requirements and associated percentage standards for its renewable fuel standards (RFS) program for calendar year 2018, as well as the biomass-based diesel volume requirement for 2019. See: https://www.epa.gov/renewable-fuel-standard-program/final-renewable-fuel-standards-2018-and-biomass-based-diesel-volume

As can be seen in the table below, he annual volume quotas for how much renewable fuel must be added to gasoline and diesel are virtually unchanged from 2017. These values set national standards for distributors to reduce the overall use of petroleum-based fuel.

Final Volume Requirements                     2017            2018            2019
Cellulosic biofuel (million gallons)           311               288                 –
Biomass-based diesel (billion gallons)       2.0                2.1              2.1
Advanced biofuel (billion gallons)              4.28              4.29              –
Renewable fuel (billion gallons)               19.28            19.29              –

The reaction to this was mixed. Many had feared that the USEPA would reverse the trend and lower significantly the required introduction of various biofuel, which current leadership sees as a hindrance to business. For them this is a victory.

However, many in the renewable fuel industry saw keeping requirements pretty much flat as harmful to business growth. The National Biodiesel Board and the governor of at least one corn-growing state complained that keeping requirements flat would harm many U.S. business sectors, including farmers, producers, truckers, and consumers.

Meanwhile, the petroleum industry was also disappointed with the flat RFS volumes of the coming year, and that the USEPA’s failed to repair a flawed program that answers to corn and other interests.

CCES has the energy experts to help you assess your fuel and electricity sources to maximize financial benefits and to strategize to ensure you have reliable fuel sources. Contact us today at karell@CCESworld.com or at 914-584-6720.

Lowering Energy Costs of Data Centers

Data centers and their servers within them are of growing importance to companies. As companies have painfully learned during non-functional periods, such as breakdowns, severe storms, or blackouts, the cost for a company of losing data is tremendous. It has been cataloged that many companies went out of business as a result of hurricanes or other natural disasters that caused data centers to stop functioning and lose data. After all, a lot of what a company is its data. Without which (for controls, sales, marketing, etc.) it can be existential. Even “small” companies realize the importance of a high-quality data center system.

Therefore, in utilizing larger and more redundant equipment and systems, companies are finding themselves paying a heavy energy cost penalty. Not only must they operate large amounts of energy-using equipment, but to prevent malfunctions (often due to excessive heating of systems), such data centers are often cooled 24/7 to very low temperatures, extracting a cooling energy penalty, too.

What can be done to maintain the reliability of a data center, or but save some energy costs, too?  The federal government’s Energy Star lists 12 items an operator can do to manage and minimize energy use and costs of a data center. See: https://www.energystar.gov/products/low_carbon_it_campaign/12_ways_save_energy_data_center These include decommissioning non-functioning systems, consolidating under-used servers, utilizing fans with variable speed drives, utilizing HVAC with air-side or water-side economizers, and others. The webpage lists several case studies.

Another way to reduce costs and improve reliability is to implement combined heat and power (CHP cogen) systems to supply electricity for data centers. CHP utilizes the waste heat from a boiler that would otherwise be lost to produce electricity, reducing the amount purchased from the local utility. Early data centers were often located remote from other offices or facilities of a firm, but the more recent trend is to co-locate a data center within an existing facility, often the corporate headquarters. This makes CHP more appealing, as it can produce electricity and steam for multiple functions besides a data center.

According to Persistence Market Research (https://www.persistencemarketresearch.com/mediarelease/us-combined-heat-and-Power-systems-market.asp), growth in CHP for data centers in the U.S. will be at 3.4% annually through 2024, as business owners see rising energy costs, and need to minimize the rising usage with maintaining a reliable data center. A growing number of utilities encourage companies to generate their own electricity and putting less demand onto the grid, and will provide financial incentives to incorporate. Revenue sales of CHP systems for data centers is estimated to reach $277 million in 2024, and will be predominantly high in five high-use energy states known to have corporate and data centers, California, New York, Washington, Texas and Massachusetts.

Data centers with greater and more sophisticated servers will become more common as the risk of losing data through natural disasters or loss of power becomes recognized as a critical issue for a company’s survival. These more redundant systems have an energy penalty associated with it, therefore, driving efforts to maintain such systems in a reliable manner while minimizing energy costs.

CCES has the technical experts to help you assess all of your company’s or building’s energy needs and be able to have you function normally and reliably, while reducing your energy costs and getting additional financial benefits, as well (improve sales, reduce O&M, etc.). We are here to maximize your financial benefits for utilizing smart energy conservation methods. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or at karell@CCESworld.com.

Upcoming Trends In The LED Market

The use of more energy efficient LED lights to replace incandescents and fluorescent lights has reduced total carbon dioxide emissions by an estimated 570 million tons in 2017, according to a report issued by IHS Markit, or by 1.5%.

LEDs achieve this because they are more efficient than current light sources, using, on average, 40% less electricity for the same amount of light compared to fluorescents and about 80% less electricity than incandescents. An incandescent filament source needs about 7 watts to produce about 100 lumens of light. A fluorescent source needs about 2 watts to produce the same light. Metal halides and high-pressure sodium bulbs about 1 watt. LEDs, however, can produce this same amount of light using just 0.5 watt. Given this differential at many thousands of facilities, encompassing hundreds of thousands of light sources, that is many megawatts of power not needed and, therefore, all the more oil or gas or coal that needs to be combusted to make that power. Thus the major reduction in CO2 emissions.

Although LED lights are more expensive than current light sources, these electrical reductions make converting to LED lights quite economical, “low hanging fruit”.
Initially, there was objection to LED lighting based on their inability to be dimmed or the quality of light not being complementary to certain uses. But in time, these issues have been resolved, and LED lights today are dimmable and can have its intensity altered.

Upcoming Trends

Case studies have shown that spaces lit by the right LEDs have a whiter or higher quality of light, resulting in better worker productivity and better school performance. More vendors are specializing in such LEDs that will more likely result in better performance as their way of separating themselves from the pack.

Another item that has been driving the LED market is government or utility incentives. Such organizations have paid some of the upfront cost to building owners willing to change out large quantities of lights because this represents a relief to a stressed utility infrastructure. However, as LED light prices have been coming down, these organizations realize that the pure economic benefit of a building upgrading their lighting with LEDs is great enough; incentives will not add that much to the fine payback LEDs result in. The trend in utilities is to use incentive funds for other, more expensive energy-saving technologies and less for LEDs.

Finally, LEDs were initially more popular in states like NY, NJ, CT, MA, and CA, partially because energy-saving and greenhouse gas-reducing is part of their cultures, but also because the economics were better there because electric rates are higher in those states than in others. However, with more competition and the further drop in LED prices, even in other US states where electric usage rates are lower, converting to LEDs makes a lot of sense financially. Expect to see sales rise in the Midwest and the South.

CCES has the experts to help you assess whether now is the time to convert to LEDs for your commercial space. We can evaluate potential savings, payback, and IRR for you to determine if this is the right time. If you go ahead with a conversion, CCES can manage the project for you, saving you time to concentrate on other things, while ensuring that anticipated cost savings and other benefits are achieved. You reduce cost without the hassle. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or at karell@CCESworld.com.

Environmental Evaluation of the Trump Administration’s 1st Year

December 2017

Recently, President Trump boasted about the number of regulations he repealed or otherwise inactivated, as the most in history. We’re not sure how factually true that statement is, but it certainly is true that the most active agency in carrying out this de-regulation was the USEPA. There have been a number of roll backs of Obama Administration rules and initiatives, headed by the Clean Power Act, as part of the Trump Administration’s desire is to encourage coal production. A recent article also stated that not only has the agency lost much in the way of personnel, but it is enforcing existing rules with much less vigor than in the recent past, even under a past Republican administration. See https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/10/us/politics/epa-enforcement-methodology.html

In addition, the Trump Administration has cut drastically environmental and public health research and has scrubbed mention of Climate Change from its websites, educational materials, and conferences, including terminating research in these areas.

One of the few areas that the USEPA has remained active is in Superfund cleanups. The degree of cleanup has accelerated in the past year. Many think prioritizing certain Superfund cleanup projects coincides strongly with where valuable mineral and oil and gas deposits are found, which can be profitable for future owners or miners in the area.

However, one other area that has disappointed many in the environmental community is the President’s vigorous attempt to free up federal land for mining and oil exploration, including the Arctic Wildlife Refuge and several national parks, such as Bears Ears National Monument, in which President Trump announced that the section of this monument that is protected from private use and exploration will be reduced by 1 million acres or 85%, the largest reversal of national monument protections in US history. The proposed change has been challenged in court by conservation groups.

The good news in all of this is that this news has galvanized the environmental community and many citizens, worried about the impacts of repealed environmental rules on the health and wellbeing of millions in this country. Many states will maintain and strengthen their rules. Several political candidates have discussed environmental concerns, something that rarely happens. In addition, global images, such as extreme haze and people walking around with filters in India and China have shown all the importance of smart, workable environmental regulations.

However, all in all, 2017 was not a good year for environmental protections and governance in the U.S.

CCES has the experts to help your company stay in touch with environmental regulations and provide technical assistance on how to comply in the least expensive, yet reliable way, without disrupting operations. Contact us today at karell@CCESworld.com or at 914-584-6720.

Climate Change News End of Year – 2017

Trump Administration Reiterates Objection to Paris Climate Agreement

The big US climate change news of the year is President Trump’s announcement that the US will pull out of the Paris Climate Accord because developing nations would get to play by a different set of rules from those of the US. The Paris Accord is voluntary, however, as each country would determine how much greenhouse gas emissions it can reduce. At the time the Accord was signed, the Obama Administration said it would decrease US GHG emissions by 28% by 2025. The U.S. is already about halfway to meeting the goal due to large turnover of coal-fired power plants to natural gas and other changes, triggered by market forces. Meanwhile, China said that its GHG emissions would rise before tapering off around 2030 because of power plants already operating. As a developing country, China would be permitted to prioritize growth, even though it is the world’s largest GHG emitter. In addition, the richer nations will contribute to a $100 billion fund, seen as an investment, to help developing nations reduce GHGs. These areas are what the current administration object to, although the US would be the only nation in the world not to be part of the Accord if it pulls out.

While President Trump, despite discussions with world leaders, reiterated his desire for the US to pull out of the Paris accord late in the year. However, a series of horrific disasters (several major hurricanes and rain events and wildfires in California) in the second half of this year have widely been analyzed as having been worsened by climate change. As a result, public opinion polls indicate a solid majority of Americans (even conservatives) believe that climate change is real and harmful, and a majority believe the government should do something about it. Whether that will cause President Trump to reverse course and stay in the Paris Accord is unknown.

In the meantime, a number of US states and cities have stated that they will pursue policies that would reduce GHG emissions in alignment with those required of the Paris Accord. California is perhaps the most resistant to the federal rejection of the global agreement, and is looking to forge an agreement with other nations and provinces to establish a market-based system to encourage major GHG emitters to decrease emissions by global standards. Massachusetts has confirmed its goals initially formed through their Global Warming Solutions Act of 2008, an 80% reduction in GHG emissions by 2050. Both New York State and New York City have active plans to achieve the same goals.

EIA Projects 0.6% Annual Growth in GHG Emissions

The US Energy Information Administration projects that growth in global GHG emissions from energy-related sources will drop to 0.6%/year through 2040 despite increased energy consumption. See https://www.eia.gov/outlooks/ieo/. GHG emissions rose by about 1.8% per year from 1990 to 2015.

The EIA says that this decrease is/will be caused by the continued switch to renewable sources of energy, estimated to rise in use by an average 2.3% per year between 2015 and 2040. Nuclear power consumption is estimated to increase by 1.5% per year over that period. The small rise in GHG emissions is still projected despite these advances because of increases in energy-using processes due to projected business growth.

The EIA projects the average growth in commercial energy use of 1.2% per year from 2015 to 2040, with the highest rates of growth in developing nations.

US Supreme Court To Rule on Solar Power Growth and Regulation

On December 1, the US Supreme Court announced it would hear a case about whether a utility can charge ratepayers a fee for having solar panels. SolarCity initially sued Salt River Project, an Arizona utility, over its 2015 decision to charge a fee for solar power systems operated by individuals. SolarCity argued that these fees were implemented in order to make rooftop solar systems too expensive to be competitive, in violation of federal antitrust laws. Salt River Project argued that they had the right to levy this fee as part of its statutory pricing process, exempting it from federal antitrust laws.

A district court and circuit court made different rulings. The US Supreme Court expressed interest in deciding whether utilities are exempt from antitrust laws in its decision and rate and fee-setting process. The Court’s decision, expected in June 2018, will be closely watched by the solar power industry for its future ramifications.

CCES has the technical experts to help your entity (company or municipality) remain knowledgeable about changes in climate change rules and policies throughout the US, and about changes in technologies to help you assess the right policy and GHG emission reduction goal that is right for you. And to enable you to maximize financial benefits from addressing climate change. Contact us today at karell@CCESworld.com or at 914-584-6720.