Monthly Archives: March 2015

More Proof of the Great Value of Energy Efficiency

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) issued a report last year detailing the special value and benefits of becoming more energy efficient (for access, see: The report determined that improved energy efficiency costs on average 2.8 cents for every kilowatt-hour saved, while the average American spends 10 cents per kilowatt-hour used (of course, we in the Northeast pay much more), making energy efficiency a great value. Therefore, efficiency is the true cheapest form of energy and pursuing energy efficiency is, if done properly, a positive financial success for any business or families in their homes.

This and other papers drive home this point this way:

The unseen cost value of energy efficiency. Many energy efficiency projects are judged by the payback on the initial investment. Many companies have a threshold (i.e., 3 years or 4 years) above which they will not make the investment in the project. No matter what! Within limits of what money is available to be invested, this is a short-sited argument. The real value of energy efficiency is in the length of time the savings continues, as well as, the continued and growing value of the savings.

Here is a conservative example where I overestimate costs and underestimate benefits: a simple group of lights in one particular room is replaced with LEDs, say 20 60-watt fluorescent lights with 18-watt LED equivalent lights. Assuming the lights are on 12 hours/day, 5 days/week, then the electricity savings would be over 2,600 kWh/year. At $0.20/kWh, this alone would save $520/year. Assuming an installed cost of $80 per LED, the upfront cost would be $1,600, for a simple payback of just over 3 years. Not a bad payback. (Again, overestimating costs, underestimating savings) 2 “by the ways”: 1st, this does not include incentives from your state or utility for lighting upgrades, reducing the payback. 2nd, many buildings pay for electricity based on peak demand as well as usage. Reducing demand here by nearly 1 kW would further save costs.

What is often not included in such evaluations of energy efficiency upgrades is that the new lights will likely last for over 10 years. Many LED lights are waranteed for 50,000 hours of usage, which would be 16 years of usage at this rate. So after the investment is paid back, you will continue to save and come out ahead for the next 7 years, maybe 13 years or more. These lights would save >$3,600 in the lifetime on short end of range.

Remember, the savings calculations are just for one area of only 20 lights. Imagine how many lights your building actually uses and, therefore, the potential cost savings! And now add on improvements in your insulation, HVAC systems, etc., and the savings multiply. There is a special value to this. Depending on the size and complexity of a building, energy cost savings can be hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. That’s money in the company’s “pocket”. How else does a company make money? By increasing revenue; by selling more widgets. But if the average widget yields 10% profit, that’s an awfully lot of widgets that have to be sold to make up for energy efficiency savings. And, after a year, you have to go right out and sell even more widgets. Once you make the energy efficiency upgrades, the savings stick around with no additional work for a long time!

But even this underestimates the savings in two ways. Unit electricity prices change and only go up. Assuming the $0.20/kWh rate rises even 2% per year, cumulative savings will grow by about another 10%. Also, the fluorescent bulbs that would have replaced existing bulbs had LEDs not been used have a much shorter lifespan. They would need to be replaced much more often than LEDs, requiring additional capital costs and raising the cost savings of using LEDs.

Hard-to-measure added benefits. Energy efficiency projects also have many significant benefits that are good for a business or residence that are not directly energy-related and hard to quanitify, yet are significant. New, more efficient equipment generally needs less maintenance, freeing up your maintenance workers to perform other needed tasks. A more efficient HVAC system with smart controls (thermostats) will result in a more comfortable work staff, raising worker productivity and resulting in tenants who will complain less. Studies show that well-designed efficient lighting causes less eyestrain, not only also raising productivity, but also reducing sick days and even the number of “coffee breaks” a worker needs. How much this benefits a building owner or a business is hard to quantify and depends on the individual needs of the business; but nobody can deny that these benefits of energy upgrades are real and significant.

Not all energy efficiency projects are created equal. Different types of energy efficiency projects are more cost beneficial than others. According to the McKinsey report: “Pathways to a Low Carbon Economy”, replacing lights with LEDs and installing more efficient appliances and electronics are the two most cost-effective ways to be more energy efficient. According to the report, other strategies are less cost-effective (upgrade motors, retrofit insulation, upgrade HVAC) and some are theoretically not cost-effective at all (renewable energy in absence of incentives, plug-in hybrid fleets), yet have many positive non-energy benefits.

How do you get the go-ahead to pursue an energy efficiency project that is beneficial, but may have a longer payback or reduced return on investment? There are two approaches. In the first one, an entity may concentrate on “low hanging fruit”, such as lighting and appliance and electronics upgrades, have management be aware of the quick reduction in the electricity bills and quick payback. With this money “in the bank” and the confidence that this instills, then begin to address slower payback strategies, using the money saved as upfront cost, a springboard to implementing these strategies.

The other approach is to perform a comprehensive energy efficiency upgrade of your facility and address several strategies at once. Calculate the expected payback and return on investment of the blended project. Average the “good” numbers from a lighting or electronics project together with the worse-appearing numbers for insulation and HVAC upgrades to provide an overall payback and return on investment that management will accept and allow you to do all of the projects and reap all the benefits.

CCES can help you organize, implement, and verify the success of a robust energy efficiency program to maximize both your financial and non-financial benefits, reduce your upfront costs, and to ensure that all elements of your organization is “on-board” and shares in the benefits. Our technical and policy experts can maximize your benefits and ensure that the projects proceed smoothly with minimal disruptions. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or

DOD Incorporates Climate Change into Planning

The US Dept of Defense (DOD), of course, does long-term planning, anticipating its necessary future actions, strategies, and technologies. A master plan for climate change adaptation was published recently by the DOD, and showed a major concern about the effects of climate change on DOD installations and operations ( Climate change adaptation has now become a major part of DOD planning.

Perhaps the most important aspect of this report is that the effects of climate change are now integral parts of DOD’s organizational structure and planning. Climate change issues will be part of DOD’s normal decision-making processes and of people’s jobs.

The DOD began to address climate change issues after publication in 2010 of its Quadrennial Defense Review, which analyzes long-term strategic defense issues, and first linked climate change to national security by evaluating its impacts in areas around the world, such as disasters and access to water and food. These are issues that can potentially accelerate instability and conflict. The report also indicated that climate change impacts will likely impact DOD facilities and operations, and, unless anticipated and addressed, ultimately military effectiveness.

The latter concern weighs greatly on the DOD which oversees over 500 bases worldwide and operates buildings and infrastructure valued over $850 billion. Damage to such assets by flooding, sea level rise, intense storms, drought, and thawing of permafrost is rightfully a concern of the DOD. As a result, the DOD has determined that climate change issues will be taken into account in future installation management.

The document also recommended that the DOD implement strategies to reduce energy usage, including greater efficiency and to increase the use of renewable energy sources, in order to both reduce its own greenhouse gas emissions and to provide greater operating flexibility, such as to reduce dependence on large quantities of oil, which can be a target of enemy fire or terrorism.

The DOD promised to develop codes for its buildings to reduce the usage of energy, water, and other natural resources, to develop more resilient infrastructure, and to anticipate and plan for rapid recovery from damage that could occur due to severe climate change-driven situations (flooding, storms, etc.).

CCES has the experts to help your company and building plan to minimize your usage of energy and other natural resources and to plan for and be more resilient in the face of future climate change effects in your location. This effort can save you much money and reduce your risks. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or at

Is LED Lighting Right For You? What to Consider

LEDs are all the rage now. LED vendors are beginning to advertise to a wide audience; they are being accepted. There have been great advances in LED lighting technology in recent years. Illumination no longer varies. LEDs can be dimmed or adjusted in other ways. LEDs can be made to resemble the fluorescents they replace and fit into their ballasts with little additional effort, yet reduce electrical wattage significantly.

While LED bulbs are highly energy efficient with a payback often of 3 years or less, it is important to plan out any LED replacement project to get the best financial and operational benefits. Here are some things to consider.

Do an illumination survey. Before you replace your lights, take this opportunity to determine whether changes in lighting are necessary. Are there areas that are relatively dark – in comparison to the need? Are there areas overlit? Have an illumination survey performed to determine levels. And don’t forget exterior space, too. Before you replace, determine where additional or different ballasts and lamps may be necessary for proper illumination and where you can remove some or have fewer lamps in a fixture.

When and where to install LEDs. You might think with such great energy cost savings and incentive programs in some states, it is best to just replace every existing bulb with LEDs. But that is not necessarily financially prudent, as LEDs do have a high upfront cost. Therefore, it may be best to prioritize your replacement program. If you cannot replace all of your lighting at once, then replace, as a first priority, your least efficient types of lighting or the lights used the most hours.

Save even more with lighting controls. Even LEDs use electricity needlessly if they are left on for extended periods with nobody around. Therefore, consider lighting controls, such as occupancy sensors and daylighting, sensors that dim artificial light as sunlight enters a room. LEDs can be installed that are compatible with these control types. Consider which areas of your building get used. In offices, occupancy sensors ensure that lights are not left on all night when nobody is around. In warehouses and storage and utility rooms that often go many hours, if not days, without activity, sensors can save, too. Which places in your facility get sunlight (sky lights or south-facing windows)?

Light locations. Do you currently have lights in inconvenient places that take a huge effort to replace? If so, prioritize LED bulbs in these locations to save you labor, storage space, and equipment rental expenses. I had a client that rents a cherry picker once every third year to replace burned out bulbs from a very high ceiling. As luck would have it, the day after the job was done one time, a light went out! With LEDs generally lasting well over 10,000 hours, the frequency and cost of replacing lights from an inconvenient spot drops markedly. Remember that reduced light replacement activity gives your maintenance crews more flexibility to perform other needed tasks. And fewer trips by your personnel up the cherry picker or ladders mean lower risk of an accident for you.

CCES has the experts to perform an evaluation of your lighting needs – to perform an illumination study and assess the right priorities for a lighting upgrade to give you the maximum financial benefits. We can manage and implement a complete turnkey lighting upgrade for you. Besides our technical expertise, we can help you apply for and get applicable incentives for such an upgrade. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or at

Some Environmental Compliance Rulings of Feb. 2015

FTC issues warning to manufacturers of “biodegradable” dog waste bags.

The FTC recently sent letters to 20 dog waste bags manufacturers warning that their environmental claims that their products are “biodegradable” may be deceptive. ( This is part of the FTC’s enforcement of the revised “Green Guides” of 2012 with changes to what is considered acceptable environmental claims for consumer products. Under the revised Green Guides “[i]t is deceptive to make an unqualified biodegradable claim for items entering the solid waste stream if the items do not completely decompose within one year after customary disposal.” The FTC is concerned and issued the letters requesting clarification of the claim because most waste bags end up in landfills where plastics biodegrade in much longer than one year.

The FTC also raised concerns about the manufacturers’ compostability claims. The revised Green Guides specify the degree that a product is compostable if the item cannot be composted safely in a home compost device and if the necessary municipal composting facility is unavailable to a “substantial majority of consumers or communities where the item is sold.” Dog waste is generally not safe to compost at home, and very few facilities accept this waste, according to the FTC.

These letters are merely warnings. The recipients – to continue to make their claims – will need to show professional, reproducible scientific evidence that their products will completely biodegrade within a reasonably short time period after customary disposal and, for compostable claims, show competent scientific evidence that the entire item will become usable compost in a safe, timely manner after being placed in an appropriate compost facility or home compost pile. Otherwise, they need to alter their claims.

This should be a warning to all marketers and product manufacturers to be careful about environmental claims and that the FTC is enforcing the Green Guides.


Federal court finds no violation of ESA or Eagle Protection Act for wind farm.

A federal court in Maine rejected a challenge to a permit issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the Oakfield wind power project. The court determined that the Army Corps did not violate the Endangered Species Act (ESA) or the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (Eagle Protection Act) in issuing the permit. A number of recent court decisions has allowed agencies to permit projects and not be limited by these rules.

A lawsuit was filed against the Army Corps over the issuance of a Clean Water Act Section 404 permit that allowed the Oakfield wind project developer to fill in certain wetlands during project construction. In short, the permit was challenged the permit on the grounds of ESA and EPA, arguing that the Army Corps improperly relied upon incomplete data to analyze the impact of the project’s construction on Atlantic salmon. The court denied the claims, stating that ESA requires use of best data available, which can include incomplete data. EPA was cited as the Army Corps issued the permit without first requiring the project developer to secure an incidental take permit given the project’s potential for taking a bald eagle. The court rejected this argument. The Eagle Protection Act imposes penalties on those who illegally take protected species. A take is defined as a purposeful action against a protected species; but the court ruled that issuing such a permit was not purposeful harm.

A number of recent court decisions state that federal agencies are not obligated to obtain permits under EPA or the Migratory Bird Treaty Act when issuing permits for private projects. This trend is a positive development for developers of both renewable and conventional energy projects, allowing them to proceed more smoothly and reducing the litigation risk faced by developers.

CCES can help your firm or entity determine the viability of future projects and products with technical analyses of potentially applicable rules and regulations. Any firm or entity should get competent legal counsel. However, CCES can assist in performing technical assessments of rules and how to most cost-effectively comply. Contact us today at or at 914-584-6720.