Monthly Archives: November 2015

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 (, 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

Case Study: CCES Performs Energy Audit for a Child Care Center

Climate Change & Environmental Services (CCES) performed an energy evaluation for a child care/senior care center in New York. The 20,000 square foot building had energy bills (electricity and gas) averaging about $10,000 per month. Energy costs threatened the financial viability of the center. A determination of potential energy saving strategies – small and large – to reduce energy usage and peak electric demand was needed.

CCES performed a comprehensive energy audit, meeting ASHRAE Level II standards for the center. CCES reviewed 3 years of recent energy usage and performed a walkthrough of the facility, collecting data. CCES developed a list of 10 strategies to reduce electricity and/or gas usage, all with positive payback, ranging from purchasing only ENERGY STAR products to upgrades of their HVAC system and installation of solar PV panels. CCES also recommended avenues to maximize financial incentives to partially pay the cost of implementing many of these suggested strategies.

The child care center was pleased with the long list of potential strategies, and will likely implement most, if not all of them in the near future to dig out of their heavy energy bills.

CCES has the experts to perform an energy audit of your building and develop multiple potential strategies for energy upgrades that will pay back the expenditure in a reasonable amount of time. We can also help you get government incentives to partially pay for this and financing so you pay nothing upfront for the upgrades and pay through the savings you achieve. Take advantage of the energy revolution for your maximum benefit. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or at

Overcoming Skepticism About Energy Upgrades

In my practice, the most difficult problem I face is the skepticism of property owners and managers when it comes to the savings potential of energy upgrades. I usually deal with fellow engineers and scientists who understand options, can assess benefits, and have confidence the technology will work. But the real estate community thinks differently, and, I’ve learned, greatly fears any perceived risk. Even if there is a tiny chance in their minds that a potential energy upgrade may fail, they will stick with the status quo.

Commercial energy efficiency upgrades, therefore, are low priority items. What factors hold the industry back from going forward on definitely beneficial, cost-saving projects?

As I mentioned above, building owners are skeptical that energy retrofits will deliver a strong return on investment in the field. Some worry that a new technology may work “in theory, but not in my building, with my tenants!” But in most cases it is simple math; a 9-watt LED replacing a 60-watt light will save in actuality the appropriate number of kWh.

Owners are also concerned that overworked staff cannot oversee equipment performance and determine whether an upgrade is really achieving optimum energy efficiency gains. Many building owners also believe that energy is a relatively small cost of their business compared to salaries, taxes, and infrastructure. And if you take proposed annual energy savings and divide that by 12 months and the number of tenants, energy cost savings may be small, in their eyes, relative to the rent collected.

It is even a cultural matter, as building staff tend to think it is OK to work longer hours to maintain older equipment until it practically breaks down, rather than upgrade early to save labor. Staff normally address day-to-day challenges rather than think long-term.

How can this be overcome? Some in the insurance industry now offer insurance to guarantee performance. For payment of a certain premium, a building owner will know that its building’s energy upgrades will meet a certain energy cost savings in the first year after being fully implemented. If the real cost savings is less than that guaranteed, then the insurance company will pay the difference. Thus, for a premium, this takes away any concern that a proposed upgrade will fail to meet its stated goals “on paper.”

A second issue is financing. Many real estate owners already borrow greatly just to afford the buildings they own, and may have trouble qualifying for further financing.

Property-assessed clean energy (PACE) and on-bill financing are existing options addressing financing. PACE loan repayment appears on one’s property tax assessment and, therefore, are considered a higher priority than a mortgage. On-bill financing programs allow repayment based on savings based on utility bills. Government incentives exist to allow institutions to issue financing at lower rates than conventional loans, particularly for small buildings or those owned by non-profits. Building owners can also take advantage of competition among financing firms, as the excellent return on investment of energy projects is well known and better assures a loan will be repaid.

Some energy service companies offer financing, such as a power purchase agreement (PPA). Real estate investment trusts (REITs) which own income-producing real estate can also provide energy-related financing.

Between lowered costs, low interest rate financing, existence of government incentives (which are likely to disappear), and improved technology there has truly never been a better time for a building owner or manager to invest in a smart energy upgrade. Believe it; it is real and will benefit you and your occupants greatly!

CCES has the experience to help your building upgrade your energy systems in a smart and reliable way, ensuring success and maximizing both cost reductions and other benefits. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or at

The Importance of Right Lighting

In the last couple of years “everybody” has learned about the great cost savings to be achieved by switching to LED lights, direct cost savings of over 50% with additional savings due to reducing load on AC and reducing O&M. LEDs can be used in so many situations, can be dimmed, and now fit in virtually every type of fixture or ballast.

Thus the temptation is just to go to the store and pick up a bunch of LEDs and begin to substitute. Sure you’ll save some cost. But that’s a big mistake and you can actually harm the productivity of your workers, the ability to do business by your tenants, and the sellability of product by the retailers in your buildings.

In fact, even if you are not changing to LEDs, it is important to review your building’s lighting, as the very way we work has changed, as we have gone from reading and writing on paper exclusively to the common use of computers and other screens. Screens supply some light. Thus overhead lighting needs (number of lumens) of office workers to function well have dropped somewhat. Over-lighting is a potential issue, which increases costs, and may adversely affect worker health, mood, and productivity.

In the “old” days of exclusive working with paper, the recommended lighting levels were as high as 1,000 luxs (1 lux = 1 lumen/sq. meter). However, the US General Services Administration ( now recommends levels such as 500 lux for open offices, 300 lux for conference rooms, and less in other areas.

Therefore, it is useful before and after changing a building’s lighting to perform a lighting study. Have light readings taken to determine whether you are over-lighting an area. It may be tempting to say after an LED upgrade “I don’t care if I over-light my areas. My electricity costs are now so low, I don’t mind over-lighting.” This is a mistake as over-lighting stresses employees, causes headaches and anxiety, and may interfere with sleep and circadian rhythms. In other words, it may affect productivity, which could cost your company more money than is saved by switching to LEDs.

If you find areas of over-lighting, do some de-lamping: remove some lamps to bring the light levels down to the recommended intensities. Not only will you improve the productivity of your workers and tenants, but you will save additional energy costs and O&M having fewer lights using electricity. But make sure you don’t overdo de-lamping.

Finally, take into consideration the time of day. During different times of day, sunlight may enter certain workspaces. During those times, allow the sunlight in. Workers work better under natural light. Either procure/use daylighting sensors to adjust the artificial light to the sunlight entering from outside or turn down or off certain banks of lights when the sun shines in. Again, make the effort not to over-light areas.

CCES has the experts to conduct lighting studies for you and to make determinations of what types and intensities of lights should be brought in to meet standards for different uses and security. We can recommend the right daylight sensors for different parts of your building and where to re-locate lighting to get not the most, but the best lighting for your tenants and workers, based on their job needs. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or at