Monthly Archives: February 2015

Energy Efficiency is Part of Any Strong Business

In recent weeks, major articles in the New York Times ( and the Wall St. Journal ( have stated what you have been reading here for several years: that energy efficiency pays off big time, better than most other investments, and that major companies now recognize energy management as an essential part of any business functioning and growing. Any business that ignores energy is at risk for major problems.

David Goldstein, the Energy Director of the National Resources Defense Council, recently wrote an interesting blog article (see NRDC’s Switchboard), stating that the lack of energy efficiency legislation for a number of decades contributed to the recession that hit the US starting in 2008 and that recent energy efficiency policies had a major influence in us getting out of the recession. For example, the Department of Energy recently issued stronger appliance efficiency standards than any previous administration. These standards have been conservatively estimated to save consumers over $425 billion over the next 30 years. That savings in the hands of consumers and businesses allow them to spend that money in other ways or save it, benefitting other businesses, banks, and investment houses.

Similarly, the USEPA issued updated fuel economy standard for automobiles and for trucks for the first time in decades, saving consumers and businesses an estimated $2.7 trillion, and generated almost an additional million new jobs for parts manufacturers and the businesses that the savings support.
States and localities are realizing this, too, and have implemented a wide array of rebates, tax credits, and low-interest loan programs. These programs help local businesses stay competitive and put more money in the hands of families and businesses to spend and benefit other businesses. In addition, being more energy efficient and reducing peak demand enables utilities to put off or reduce the amount of new or updated infrastructure it needs to install, saving billions of dollars which, of course, would be collected from consumers in higher energy (electricity and gas) rates.

Energy efficiency also influences markets. As we are all aware, crude oil prices have dropped (as of this writing) by over 50% compared to a year ago. Of course, many reasons contributed to this (greater natural gas and oil exploration). But one definite factor is energy efficiency, such as the greater purchasing of fuel efficient cars (not only in the US due to the recession, but in China and Europe) and that the average number of miles driven annually by Americans has dropped in recent years due to millennials staying home more and land use law changes reducing urban sprawl.

And finally, we come to everyday businesses and municipalities. In these tough monetary times, there is great economic benefit in improving energy efficiency, reducing energy used and, therefore, costs that go to someone else, while not impacting service at all. Here are three examples.

The recent NY Times article spotlights several universities that have set up “green funds” to pay for energy efficiency upgrades. The direct cost savings goes back into the green fund to implement other energy efficiency projects. The University of New Hampshire is an example. They started such a green fund with $600,000 of university money, and within 5 years saved $1.3 million, which went back into the fund and invested in other energy efficiency projects. They believe that in another 5 years, the university will have saved over $3 million dollars all coming from the original one-time $600,000 investment. Once all major projects have been completed, the university can reap the full benefits of the cost savings to their budget.

I recently did an analysis for a municipality for one energy efficiency project only, replacing street lights with LED lamps. This municipality had a cocophony of different types of lights and lamps. Many of them shone a yellowish tint and times were tough for it, being in a state that limits property tax increases. My analysis showed that switching all of their street lights to LEDs would likely save them $250,000 per year, which they were quite happy about. It would be a 3.5 year payback, but more important, the cost savings would likely increase every year as the utility’s rates would likely increase. Therefore, the rate of return of investing nearly one million dollars in LED street lights would be 14% per year for 7 years. What bank pays that rate of return? What Wall St. investment is as good with no risk (lower wattage means lower wattage)? With such a rate of return, it would be quite easy to borrow the money or float a bond. In addition, I pointed out that these LED street lights would likely be warranteed for 10 years before any need to be replaced; their current lights need to be replaced every 1-2 years. In fact, the town has two workers who nearly full time replace street lights that burn out. They were thrilled to free up those workers for other tasks. In addition, this means fewer trips up the cherry picker and reduced risk of an accident and tying up traffic.

And finally, how does energy efficiency help business? I worked for a small warehouse / light industrial facility who was not only being hurt by high energy costs, but the workers were not comfortable in the office and warehouse. The building was over 60 years old, and still had its original windows and some of its HVAC equipment. The owner, to his credit, did not just put “band-aids” to fix the problems, but instead went first-class, with 21st century energy upgrades. He saw this as an investment. He upgraded the windows, installed improved insulation on the exterior walls and roof, upgraded the lights, installed solar PV and hot water, and installed a new boiler with thermostats to control heat distribution. The building has reduced its energy bills by over 50% due to these changes. We also helped them obtain applicable incentives from the utility and state and a federal tax deduction for the upgrades. But two other things resulted from the energy upgrade. First, a section of their warehouse that was hardly used was now, given the upgrades, attractive for alternative use. The company fixed up the area and now rents it out to a supplier, not only resulting in additional (rental) income, but better assuring that supplies will arrive quicker! Finally, workers were much more comfortable in all seasons and noticeably more motivated and efficient.

CCES has the experts to help you design the right energy upgrades to maximize the myriad of financial benefits possible. We can manage the implementation of the upgrades you choose and ensure it confers the benefits projected. We can help you get the maximum incentives, low-interest loans, and deductions that the project qualifies for. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or at

Changes To Reporting GHG Emissions From Renewable Energy, Low-Carbon Power Purchases

The World Resources Institute recently published new guidlines for entities to measure greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from purchased electricity, Scope 2 emissions. This is the first major update to the GHG Protocol in many years, and responds to changes in the electricity market. The new GHG Protocol Scope 2 Guidance ( provides the methodology for entities to compute and report revised Scope 2 based on different types of electricity purchases.

The guidance offers methodology for companies producing their own electricity from renewable sources, such as solar and wind. This electricity may be used in-house or sent into the grid. It allows estimation of GHG emissions for a building who may be a net developer of electricity for certain periods of a year and a net user of electricity from the grid during other periods. This report also allows calculation of GHG emission credits from companies that invest in renewable power, such as purchasing renewable emission certificates (RECs). The report also offers case studies of 12 companies that have already used the new guidance. The USEPA and The Climate Registry support the new guidance.

Scope 2 GHG emissions derive from activities even though the emissions physically occur outside the facility due to purchasing of electricity, steam, or cooling water. (Scope 1 is GHG emissions at the facility, such as combusting a fuel by a piece of equipment or vehicle.) Normally, companies purchase electricity for their facilities from the grid, and report these Scope 2 GHG emissions based on the emission factors of the main power plants that supply the electricity the facility is purchasing electricity from in the area. However, as more and more facilities either are purchasing “green” credits (such as RECs) and power purchase agreements and are investing in renewable means to produce their own energy, this accounting has now grown more complex. These contracts and agreements vary and are accounted differently from nation to nation, and this has been determined to be a problem to more accurately estimate GHG emissions.

The Scope 2 Guidance now allow companies to better compare and make decisions on purchase or renewable options based on GHG emission reduction targets.

CCES has the experts to perform a GHG emissions inventory (“carbon footprint”) for your company’s diverse facilities and operations using WRI and The Climate Registry procedures, including these revised procedures. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or at

President Obama Submits Budget for Energy

On Feb. 2, President Obama released his fiscal year 2016 budget, including money for his climate change agenda, both in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and preparing to adapt to climate change effects. Items include offering incentives for states to reduce their reliance on coal-fired power; $1.29 billion for the Global Climate Change Initiative; $400 million to map flood risks; $200 million for a Dept of Agriculture to plan for extreme weather events; and funding for coastal, drought, and wildfire resilience programs. There will likely be a budget fight with Congressional Republicans, who mainly campaigned against spending on climate initiatives. The Senate has already passed a rule ordering approval of the Keystone Pipeline project (with some Democrats joining Republicans), but not by enough votes to overturn a likely veto. Congress will likely work to defeat other proposed rules, such as the USEPA’s Clean Power Plan.

The fiscal year 2016 budget request is $29.9 billion for the Dept of Energy (10% increase). The DOE would have about $5 billion to spend on clean energy technology programs. The USEPA’s fiscal year 2016 budget request is $8.6 billion (6% increase). This includes large increases for the administration’s latest climate change initiatives. This will come at the expense of some traditional environmental programs.

For energy upgrade planning, the budget request seeks to make permanent the renewable energy production tax credit and investment tax credit and reduce many oil and gas tax incentives. The budget would permanently extend the deduction for energy efficient commercial building property, provide a CO2 investment and sequestration tax credit; extend the current tax credit for 2nd generation biofuel production; provide a tax credit for the production of advanced technology vehicles; provide a tax credit for medium and heavy-duty alternative-fuel commercial vehicles; extend the tax credit for the construction of energy-efficient new homes; and reduce excise taxes on liquefied natural gas to bring it into parity with diesel fuel. The House Ways & Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee have not indicated how or when it will move on extending the large number of tax incentives for energy that expired in 2014.

CCES has the experts to help you qualify for all applicable incentives on the federal, state, and local levels so you can gain the maximum financial benefits from your energy upgrade. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or

Ways To Inspire People To Reduce Energy Usage

A recent study conducted at UCLA showed that reducing pollution may be a more powerful motivator for people to reduce their energy usage than monetary gains.
Traditionally, businesses make financial arguments when they sell customers some sort of energy reducing technology (“You will save $__ /year; the payback is only ___ years). However, this study indicates that many people will show more interest in such a product if it is shown that it will reduce air toxic emissions into the local air.

This study was conducted on apartment dwellers of UCLA-owned residences. Subject families completed surveys to determine their baseline energy use, including costs. A website was set up to allow residents to compare energy usage among dwellers. Over the next 4 months, one group received weekly emails telling them how much less energy certain neighbors were using and as a result, how much more the target families were spending on energy costs each month. Another group was told that certain neighbors were emitting less air toxics into the local air and was told of the positive health effects if they can reduce their emissions further, too, by reducing certain energy use practices, such as reduced number of asthma attacks and cancer.

People who were regularly told how much money they could save were unmoved to take steps to reduce their energy use. On the other hand, those that received the repeated messages focusing on the environmental benefits cut their energy use an average of 8%. This trend was strongest for people with children living in the home; they reduced their energy use by 19%.

The researchers believe that appealing to people’s beliefs in public good (improving the local environment and reducing health problems) can be as effective as appealing to their private good (saving money). Of course, the study may have been influenced by demographics (the subjects were UCLA students or employees) and the fact that energy costs in the complex are partially subsidized by the university and, therefore, cost savings were not necessarily great.

However, one positive of this study is that families can see their energy use data for individual appliances and systems (apartment heating and cooling) and track changes in energy use to specific actions, such as being away on vacation or staying up late to work on their computers. A good cross-section of residents checked their usage quite often, and became energy savvy. Seeing the immediate effect of changes in energy use may have led many to decide to reduce energy usage.

CCES has the experts to help your company or building develop cost-effective ways to reduce energy use and help you implement such programs to maximize success. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or