Look Into Right-sizing To Reduce Energy Usage

No one wants to be responsible for building a system that is under-sized. But when equipment is oversized, energy efficiency drops, reducing its cost-effectiveness.

This is commonly seen with pumps. Everybody wants the pumps to feed the maximum rate of air or a substance to the process. But what if a control, such as a valve, is placed to reduce flow to the optimal rate and that valve is partially closed nearly all the time? The pump was over-designed. It is operating at a continual high rate and then additional equipment, using energy, damps down the rate. This is like always stepping hard on your car accelerator and then quickly pumping the brakes.

Not only does this cost your facility needless energy usage and demand, but the inefficiency often leads to overheating and increased wear and tear, reducing the life of your equipment (raising long-term capital costs) and increasing O&M costs, too.

This is especially a problem in older systems, which are often over-designed as a cultural matter. The design engineer would recommend a pump with a capacity 20% greater than needed (“just in case” things change); the vendor would recommend a specific pump that was 20% greater than that for the same reason. This was tolerated as the cost of such over-conservatism – energy – were quite low back then.

The solution for many pumps and fans is to determine the proper size based on the worst-case usage and to utilize a variable frequency drive (VFD). A right-sized pump for worst situations plus VFD to adjust the usage for need can reduce energy usage for a given pump or fan by 50% or more and reduce wear and tear. In addition, many utilities and state incentive programs will pay you part of the cost of its purchase.

For pumps alone, they may account for up to 60% of total electrical energy usage in an industrial facility. 58% of a pump’s life cycle cost is energy. Therefore, by optimizing a pump system, annual energy consumption can be reduced by 30-50%. And this does not include increased O&M costs caused by wear and tear.

This mathematics is also true for other systems, such as HVAC fans, common in many more facilities.

CCES has the technical experts to help you evaluate your pump and fan systems and help right-size your systems to save you much in energy and O&M costs. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or at karell@ccesworld.com.

The Key Is Not Less Lighting, But Right Lighting

Energy conservation is on more and more people’s minds – particularly building owners and managers and corporate officers. Energy is a growing cost for any business and with recent discoveries in technology that saves energy use, more and more businesses are turning to energy savings to gain many diverse economic benefits.

Among the best ways to save energy is through lighting upgrades. Changing to more energy efficient lights is one of the best “low hanging fruits” for energy savings. But, it is critical that you do not just run to the hardware store and buy new lights labeled “energy efficient”. Changing to the wrong lights may save you some energy costs now, but actually cost your company much more money when it comes to worker productivity.

Work and, Therefore, Lighting Needs Have Changed

For example, in commercial spaces, the way that offices are operated has changed in recent years. Most offices used to be a collection of private rooms for each employee, based upon size (larger ones for senior management), with little common space and hallways. Now, more and more offices are “open” with one or a few large rooms for many employees. Fewer lights are needed because there are fewer walls and separations. Put another way, lighting for one person in one office can now adequately provide proper lighting for several people’s work spaces.

The nature of work has changed, too. Office work used to be based on reading or writing on paper. But now much more work is done on personal computers, tablets, and other devices. Less artificial light is needed because these devices give off light.

Too Much Lighting Is Not Good Either

Therefore, you do not need to provide your employees with as much light as you used to. De-lamping, the strategic removal of light fixtures, effectively reduces wattage and energy costs. If done right, it will not adversely affect, but will improve worker productivity. Excess light, studies show, is actually not a good thing, potentially causing headaches, fatigue, stress, and even disrupting circadian rhythms.

The Illumination Engineering Society (IES) used to recommend a lighting level of 750 to 1,000 lux (lumens per square meter) in offices. However, IES now recommends a lighting level for open offices of about half of this: 300 to 500 lux. While a manager may be tempted to keep lighting levels as they are “to be sure” that everyone has sufficient light, this may not be a good idea for the reasons mentioned above.

Another matter to consider is the use of natural light. While allowing sunlight to enter an office as a replacement for artificial lights (whether by switching off lights or with a daylight control) is an effective energy saver, it can cause glare and solar heat gain, affecting worker productivity and adding to your air conditioner’s load and raising energy costs that way. Installing “low-e” film on the windows that allow sunlight will reduce glare and solar heat gain, providing the office the natural light with less of the downside.

Reducing lighting is a positive way to reduce energy costs and be more sustainable. However, your company will benefit more by doing this coupled with the right lighting.

CCES has the experts to help your company evaluate your current lighting and determine whether there are opportunities to not only replace your current lights with more energy efficient ones, but to also install the “right” lighting to improve productivity. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or at karell@CCESworld.com.

Our Crumbling Infrastructure and Climate Change

After several harsh winters, several major railroad disasters, and a greater frequency of severe storms, more and more people realize that we have ignored our infrastructure for way too long. Perhaps the tragedy with drinking water infrastructure in Flint, MI put us over the edge. While the focus there has been on who knew what when, this would not have been an issue if the Michigan government had not kept cutting their appropriations for all infrastructure. Even the Michigan Legislature began to support tax increases to support road and bridge repairs two years ago and even Chambers of Commerce, who have been major proponents of tax reductions and smaller government, now realize that potholes, sinkholes, improper water and energy delivery, and bridge failures are not good for the businesses they represent. The Federal government is discussing increasing appropriations for infrastructure upgrades, as well.

Let’s hope that any surge in infrastructure upgrade projects takes potential future effects of Climate Change into account. What is the use of re-paving a road, re-piping water mains, etc., if flooding due to sea level rise and strong storms may wipe out upgraded infrastructure? Therefore, the key concept is resiliency, how the structure will stand up to more rain, snow, longer periods of weather extremes, etc. Some key concepts:

o design, construct roadways, bridges, facilities, railroads, and piping to withstand weather extremes beyond the current norm and to require less maintenance, using materials which will perform more consistently in weather extremes.

o new designs of water runoff including permeable pavement and robust drain and river banks and ditches to handle large quantities of stormwater and less erosion.

o more, not less, roadside vegetation to ensure water uptake during severe storms, plus drought and erosion resiliency.

o larger capacity pumps/pump stations to prevent flooding in key areas.

o better sewer and cleaner water lines to adapt to greater and more frequent freeze-thaw, deeper frosts and drought and flood conditions.

A 2014 US GAO study, “Climate Change Energy Infrastructure Risks and Adaptation Efforts” reviewed likely impacts of climate change on US energy infrastructure, such as

o increased demands for electricity (cooling, pumps, etc.).

o physical risk of damage to the grid.

o risk of power plants’ reliability due to water shortages.

There appears to be momentum for politicians to approve more infrastructure upgrade projects, as the growing incidents are embarrassing politicians. Let’s hope that the engineering community gets more involved with design of projects and takes potential climate change impacts into consideration for long-term benefits, such as LEED.

CCES can help your firm assess its climate change risk, both physical and financial, from extreme storms, sea level rise, flooding, etc. We can help you design and manage solutions to improve your resiliency and benefit your bottom line. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or at karell@CCESworld.com.

Energy Conservation: A Great Financial Investment

Don’t think of energy reduction as a burden, but as a great financial investment. A robust program will effectively help your bottom line by reducing operating costs.
What is the other way to increase profits? Increase revenue. Fine, but how easy is that to achieve? Let’s say a building saves $100,000/year in operating costs through energy savings (not hard to imagine: less than $10,000/month). If your average “widget” results in a 10% profit, then you’ll have to increase sales by $1,000,000/year to get the same increase in profits as reducing energy. That means investing in more advertising, sales people, etc., and then there is no guarantee that you’ll reach that $1,000,000 annual increase in sales. It is more likely you will meet an energy savings goal than a sales goal. More important, even if you succeed in increasing sales accordingly, the next year you have to do it all over again. Keep the advertisements, salespeople, etc. going. How easy is that? But the energy conservation measures automatically keep saving you energy costs. In fact, savings will increase in future years as the unit cost of energy will only rise (will your utility keep the cost per kWh, per therm, etc. the same?). So the savings likely will be $103,000 in year 2, $107,000 in year 3, etc. for some time. But each future year, you have to invest and hope to get that million-dollar increase in sales.
Yes, think of energy savings as an investment to get the best return with your business’ hard-earned money. The basics of any financial investment is to get the highest return for the lowest risk. Energy efficiency achieves this as rates of return on many projects are conservatively in the teens percent per year, and often 25%, 30% or more per year. What bank or Wall St. investment pays this, with no risk (a light bulb is lower wattage, you will save; equipment is designed to use a certain amount of energy, etc.)?
Why is energy management such a good investment?
• Rate of return exceeds most financial investments (often >25%/year), with low risk. Technologies are well understood and perform well in “real life” conditions.
• Energy costs are a growing segment. Reducing these directly increases Net Operating Income for any business.
• These technologies last longer, meaning you need to have fewer in reserve, liberating space. Reliability is improved and maintenance costs are lower, freeing up O&M staff for other projects.
• Prices for these technologies are coming down as more get into the business. Plus, utilities and governments give incentives to pay part of the cost. But don’t wait for prices to come down further. Future capital cost savings will likely be lower than the lost opportunity to save energy costs in your buildings.
• The financial community knows energy efficiency projects have a high rate of return and are reliable. So they will compete to loan you upfront money for these projects. Financing can be arranged to produce a positive cash flow at all times.
Again, think of energy savings – if done right – as an opportunity to get a great financial return with little risk. CCES has the experts to help your company maximize the benefits of energy upgrades. We handle it all from assessment to planning to execution to benefit you the most. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or at karell@CCESworld.com.

3 Ways To Get Building Owners To Say Yes To Energy Upgrades

March 2016

The CCES blog has returned. It was nice to take a break, but great to be back!!

A lot has been written about getting building owners and managers to invest in smart energy upgrades. We in the profession know they are beneficial in many ways. But how do you get somebody who may be scared by the technical aspects of upgrades to not stick with the status quo, even when presented with positive reasons? A recent article summarizes 3 barriers to overcome to get most such people to agree to move forward: http://www.slate.com/articles/business/the_juice/2016/03/ge_sells_1_4_million_leds_to_jpmorgan_it_s_the_most_important_light_bulb.html.

The three barriers are:

1. Does the technology work? Not only does it save significant energy, but does it do so without sacrificing any of the features of the technology it replaces or causes the user to sacrifice its lifestyle or workstyle to enable it to be used?

2. The finances. Is the simple payback reasonable and/or is the rate of return outstanding? As for the latter, we are looking at the energy cost savings plus other indirect benefits (reduced O&M, increased asset value, improved worker productivity) vs. the length of time the technology is used for.

3. See the project through and ensure that the technology works as designed. If the buyer just receives the technology and has to install something so new and different, it will get scared off.

If these concerns are suitably addressed for a given technology, whether it be solar PV or LED lights or anything else, then there is a good chance that even an unknowledgeable potential buyer will go forward.

CCES is an energy consulting firm helping buildings, companies, and municipalities to determine the best strategies and technologies to reduce their energy usage and demand, to reap maximum financial benefits from the upgrades, and to ensure that any chosen strategy is incorporated in the best way for your operations. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or at karell@CCESworld.com.

Case Study: CCES Performs Energy Evaluation to Settle Landlord-Tenant Dispute

Climate Change & Environmental Services (CCES) performed an energy evaluation used to settle a landlord-tenant dispute. The landlord operates a mall in New York City with a main meter for electricity for one restaurant and a number of offices in the complex. The landlord charged tenants for electricity based on a percentage of the meter reading, based on relative square footage. However, the landlord realized that the restaurant, with large refrigeration needs and an electric oven and domestic hot water, used much more electricity per square foot than the offices. As a result, they doubled the proportion assessed to the restaurant, which they disputed.

CCES performed a comprehensive energy assessment of one year’s worth of electricity usage from the meter. We reviewed equipment and operations of the restaurant, offices, and common areas all served by the main meter, based on sources of electricity, their usage, and time of operation. CCES determined that the relative usage of electricity by the restaurant was actually greater than that in the re-assessment made by the landlord. The report was reviewed for technical accuracy and was approved, and helped settle the landlord-tenant dispute.

Final Words on Energy Efficiency

Despite the new agreement from the Paris Climate Change Meeting, there seems to be growing momentum against being energy efficient. As I write this, crude oil is under $40 per barrel, and perhaps going lower as the new year begins. Lower prices of gasoline, diesel oil, etc. in the retail market are quite apparent.

Yet, energy from such sources, such as oil and natural gas, is in a finite supply. We will eventually run out. We cannot be wasteful. Plus, the scientists say there are limits of how much of carbon currently trapped in the ground can be put into our atmosphere without causing grave outcomes of rising sea levels, more extreme storms and droughts, etc. We need to not only transition to renewable (non-carbon) sources of energy, but also to use more efficiently the fossil fuel we still need to combust.

While Americans had moved toward a more energy efficient economy in their buying decisions, recent market conditions (cheaper fossil fuel prices) appear to be pushing us in the other direction. Recently, reports have come out about Americans purchasing fewer hybrid and other fuel-efficient cars and more larger, less fuel-efficient ones.

How can we overcome the reaction of Americans to short-term trends, such as cheaper gasoline prices, and focus instead on long-term needs? Certainly the concerns about and growing acceptance of Climate Change has not affected purchasing behavior long-term. Polls show a majority of Americans now believe Climate Change is real, but don’t think they can do anything about it. Perhaps an outright war in the Middle East may trigger a revival of concern for energy efficiency; let’s hope it does not come down to that! Perhaps a return to $4 per gallon gasoline will do so; but now in post-Recession America perhaps people can better tolerate such high prices and not change their ways. Besides, high gasoline prices will harm certain sectors.

I think the biggest obstacle to people and companies being more energy efficient is that there is no single “face”, no celebrity, no company or entity that is “talking the talk” very publicly backed up by “walking the walk.” Trying to make it both beneficial and “cool.” Energy efficiency is complex and not a single entity to be represented to the public. And there are no “trophies” or high-visible ones that are internationally accepted. It’s a lot easier to do nothing.

Although there have been many good, leading companies being out front on energy efficiency, the average CEO cares little about potentially losing many thousands or millions of dollars in inefficient processes or buildings. Maybe it’s education; today’s CEOs never learned about sustainability and limits to resources. Today’s Business School students are learning this. Or maybe CEOs perceive bigger battles to wage or think the gains (financial, publicity) are not worth it.

This directly impacts my business. Particularly in the last year or two I have had a number of people, companies, or municipalities approach me about helping them be more energy efficient or sustainable, and then not go forward with the project or just do the minimum and not go forward with the rewarding projects. Some “vetoer” stops the process, they cannot get funds, they change their minds, etc. Energy efficiency and sustainability are nice concepts in theory, but for many, there is little will to close the deal and really be serious about it.

I hope entities like these will change their mind in the future, and they probably will eventually, but I cannot go on as a business this way. I will be working for a larger energy consulting firm that uses greater resources to invest in convincing and serving buildings about being more energy efficient.

CCES is still around, and we can help you address technical issues involving environmental compliance issues affecting your company. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or at karell@CCESworld.com.

Have a wonderful Holiday season and a happy, healthy, prosperous 2016!

Green Building Reported To Double Every 3 Years

According to a preliminary report presented at the recent 2015 Greenbuild International Summit in Washington, D.C., the amount of green building that is being implemented is doubling about every three years. Complete findings will not be available until 2016, but this rate of increase continues to occur, substantiating a trend for over 2 decades. The new report surveyed over 1,000 professionals in the field globally about their thoughts of the future of green building.

The report also highlights trends, such as a rise in green building in emerging nations and increased demand from clients and tenants for buildings that meet sustainability standards.

Historically, the greatest barrier for developers to do green building is the perception that it is more expensive than doing convention construction. The survey showed that the percentage of respondents who cited this as the top barrier dropped from 76% in 2012 to 50%.

The report also indicated that the largest growth in green building activity is anticipated to be in the commercial and institutional areas. The latter, including government buildings, schools, hospitals, and public buildings was perceived as a major future area of growth as more government agencies with strapped budgets are beginning to understand the long-term cost savings and improved worker productivity and learning capabilities of those in green buildings. More important, agency managers and politicians are beginning to show the fortitude to insist on at least green building elements of more projects.

Respondents were asked which benefits of green building were important to their clients and, therefore, driving such projects. 84% said saving costs through reduced energy consumption was important, while 76% said reducing water consumption.

Overall, the preliminary report shows that the public worldwide is beginning to understand the long-term benefits in cost savings and productivity of green building and given this decision makers are having the courage to forgo short-term savings for longer-term improvements in the value of their buildings.

CCES has the experts to help you develop green building strategies for your existing buildings to improve your energy and water use efficiency, save costs, improve productivity, which will result in greater demand for your space, and raise the asset value. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or at karell@CCESworld.com.

USEPA’s Proposed Update of Cross-state Air Pollution Rule

On November 16, 2015, the USEPA proposed an update to its Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) ozone season requirements in a pre-publication letter signed by USEPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. (http://www2.epa.gov/airmarkets/proposed-cross-state-air-pollution-update-rule) CSAPR was originally promulgated on July 6, 2011 to address interstate transportation of ozone precursors under the 1997 ozone NAAQS, as well as fine particulate matter (PM2.5) under the 2006 PM2.5 NAAQS. The USEPA proposes to update this to cover the 2008 ozone NAAQS. The proposed changes, scheduled to go into effect in 2017, are intended to reduce summertime emissions of ozone precursor nitrogen oxides (NOx) from power plants in 23 states that impact the health of millions downwind. The proposed NOx emission reductions would help downwind states to meet the 2008 ozone ambient concentration standard of 75 ppb.

Air pollution, of course, travels and knows no state or national boundaries. The Clean Air Act (CAA) contains a “good neighbor” provision (Section 110(a)(2)(D)(i)(I)), that requires states to address impacts of air emissions from their sources on downwind states’ ability to meet and maintain air quality standards. This requires a state that contributes “significantly” to adverse impacts in a downwind state to submit a State Implementation Plan (SIP) revision to reduce these impacts. Otherwise, it will be subject to a Federal Implementation Plan (FIP) imposed on it by the agency to address CSAPR NOx impacts. In this proposal, the USEPA alleges such adverse impacts from 23 states and proposes NOx budgets for each to reduce impacts. The 23 states include all states east of the Mississippi River except the New England states, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida, and seven states west of the river – Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas.

The NOx budgets discussed are updates to meet more rigorous standards of existing CSAPR NOx ozone-season (summer) emission budgets for electricity generating units (EGUs). These revised budgets would be implemented as the CSAPR NOx ozone-season allowance trading program. For one state, Kansas, this would represent a new trading program. The USEPA is proposing implementation of the new allowable NOx budgets starting with the 2017 ozone season.

On June 30, 2015, the USEPA issued a final notice determining that a number of states had failed to submit “good neighbor” SIPs for the 2008 ozone standard. The findings set a 2-year deadline to either approve a revised SIP for each noticed state or impose a federal plan to meet the “good neighbor” requirement. This will undoubtedly result in more stringent regulations on fuel combustion in many different circumstances.

CCES has the experts to help your company assess its activities and determine an emissions inventory. We can provide the technical portion of expertise to determine compliance with many state and federal air pollution rules. And we can provide technical strategies to reduce emissions and maintain compliance in the most economical manner possible. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or at karell@CCESworld.com.

Energy Trends That Will Continue in the Foreseeable Future

2015 will pass by soon. While we live our day-to-day lives and careers, it is easy to miss trends that establish themselves in a small number of or even in a single year. Yet, this is happening with energy. Some new “realities” are coming into the marketplace, likely unstoppable by those who prefer the status quo or by industries who resist change. It is likely that next month’s Paris Climate Summit will drive the establishment of these changes, as both developed and developing nations are starting to unify on the need to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and encourage more renewable energy.

What a difference in public opinion and the market that has occurred since previous recent climate summits. These influences will likely stay with us in the future.

Global and US use of renewable energy has and will rise significantly.

In just the last few years, solar panel prices have fallen over 80% and, therefore, the overall cost of the energy from solar per kwh has dropped by over half. The market has taken notice, and there have been major private investments in solar, wind, and other renewable sources in the last few years, an over 6-fold increase. Not just on homes, but whole solar and wind power plants. In 2009, the International Energy Agency predicted that solar would produce about 20 gigawatts of power worldwide by 2015. Solar now produces nearly 10 times that amount! Who would have thought that nearly half of the new electricity installed in the US in 2014 would be solar? And look at the massive wind farms being constructed in Texas. In Texas!

Power companies, besides helping states meet renewable power commitments, are also learning that the upfront costs of building solar and wind farms are lower than a new fossil fuel plant, and the source of energy is and should remain free. Companies, such as Apple, are even building their own renewable-powered power plants.

Energy storage will be the ultimate game changer.

Of course, solar and wind have one major drawback, their variability. The sun does not shine at night, when most residential users have their greatest demand for electricity; wind varies from hour to hour and may also be out of synch with demand. What can be done with the excess power a farm may generate while the energy source is plentiful to supply electricity for the times it is not, while demand is high?

The answer is energy storage. Hundreds of millions of dollars are currently being invested in energy storage R&D on a large scale by major firms like GE, Tesla, Lockheed Martin, and others. Energy storage is currently available on a small scale, and it is inevitable that breakthroughs will be achieved on a grander scale allowing solar and wind farms to independently deliver electricity to meet all variable demands throughout a year. Given the cost of renewable energy is now comparable or cheaper than for fossil fuel-powered energy, this would be the breakthrough renewables need to operate competitively without additional fossil fuel-fired plants to balance load and at a lower cost than a fossil fuel only-powered plant.

New energy regulations are coming in the US – and many see additional benefits.

The USEPA recently published the final version of its Clean Power Plan containing GHG emission limits for US power plants that are estimated to cut GHG emissions by over 30% by 2030. This rule will further encourage greater renewable power and conversion to less polluting fossil fuels. Therefore, there will be significant reductions in emissions of other air pollutants, many of them known to be toxic. Public health studies show that this will greatly significantly reduce the incidents of asthma attacks and lung and other cancers, resulting in great economic benefits (people living longer and being more productive and saving governments money in Medicaid and Medicare payments).

While there are interests and certain states fighting the new rule in court, most states and companies appear to be accepting the new rule as here to stay. In fact, many prefer this to the uncertainty of an unregulated world. Governments and business like certainty for planning and financing reasons. States that are embracing renewable energy are benefiting, such as California and Texas. California has a tradition of forward-thinking climate change-based legislation. They will easily manage this and other new rules. And Texans have benefited tremendously from their large amounts of undeveloped land and its high incidence of sun and wind.

The USEPA has also proposed new rules specifically for methane emissions. Methane, the combustible portion of natural gas, is 21 times more potent as a GHG than carbon dioxide. While natural gas is thought of as the “bridge” to renewable power, a fuel source that emits less GHGs when combusted compared to coal or oil, it is recognized that natural gas infrastructure (its mining and capturing and transport thousands of miles) results in leaks of methane into the atmosphere during these stages. And the disproportional climate change effects of methane may make up for the gains of lower carbon dioxide emissions of switching from coal or oil. The USEPA is committed to getting more serious about controls to reduce methane leakage and drive up efficiency.

Major US corporations are coming on board for Climate action.

As discussed in a recent blog (http://www.ccesworld.com/blog/giant-firms-demand-strong-carbon-deal/), a dozen of the largest companies in the world, including some thought to be totally against climate change action, came out publicly in favor of a comprehensive climate change deal in Paris, so that they can smartly plan for the long-term future. In addition, a number of Fortune 100 US firms have issued statements in favor of climate change action. With these gigantic firms in favor of meaningful climate change action, it is likely that their money and weight will influence government and public opinion, too, despite what some current US presidential candidates are saying.

These signs of improved technology, acceptance by the public, favorability of the market, and acceptance of powerful corporate interests demonstrate that Climate action is now her to stay, with tangible benefits for people and businesses in the future. The Paris Climate Summit is likely to be the crown for 2015 as the year that climate change became mainstream and becomes a portent of great changes in energy in our future.

CCES can help your firm prepare for the upcoming climate change realities and obtain the greatest benefits from smart planning as far as energy and sustainability go. We can develop climate change and sustainability plans for you and help you minimize use of energy, water, and other resources. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or at karell@CCESworld.com.