Category Archives: Energy Efficiency

Interest In New Gensets Is Growing

The number of facilities choosing to generate their own electricity using generators or “gensets” is growing. Companies are recognizing that the physical and business impacts of even one severe storm can undo all the planning a business does and even wipe out or severely hurt the business. In addition, with the acceptance of climate change as real the chances of a severe storm impacting a facility will rise in the future. A facility having its own secure source of electricity independent of the grid and its wires and vulnerable infrastructure can better ensure that basic functions can be maintained in a storm, saving personnel and processes and having electricity to maintain operations during such events. As a result, the genset market has been growing.

Part of this growth is due to another phenomenon, some utilities provide financial incentives for facilities to procure and operate gensets to relieve them as they are unsure of reliable power and don’t want to hurt key users in their area. In addition, several such programs require the genset operator to go off the utility’s grid and operate the genset for distinct periods during peak demand periods (hot weather) to relieve pressure on the grid. These programs, often called “Demand Response” or DR, can be lucrative for facilities. The utility pays most of the capital cost of the genset, the facility fully owns it, and they get paid a fee each time a DR event occurs and a genset is used.

One complication of such programs, however, is environmental. The federal Clean Air Act, followed by nearly all states, specifically exempts from permitting and meeting emission standards gensets that are used only in emergencies (this includes the necessary regular exercising of a unit). However, once a facility uses a genset in a DR program, this exemption goes away. Therefore, facilities entertaining joining a DR program must set aside budget and effort to obtain the proper air permit (or modify its existing one) and comply with any applicable emission standard. Nitrogen oxide (NOx) is the most common pollutant that is regulated. If the NOx emissions of your genset exceeds the regulatory standard, it may be necessary to retrofit the unit with Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) or equivalent technology. The cost of such a retrofit can approach 6 figures. The USEPA designates models as meeting certain “tiered” standards. Tier 4 gensets are the most advanced and will likely currently meet all applicable emission regulations. Tier 3 gensets probably meet most of them. Tier 2 units probably do not meet many of them, again, if applicable. So if you are procuring a new genset, look to invest in a Tier 4 which should meet all applicable NOx emission standards. Particulate matter (PM) is sometimes regulated, too. A sure way to meet any PM standard is to combust natural gas, not to mention it is currently cheaper than oil. Natural gas-fired gensets are particularly selling well these days.

Finally, another variation of the genset that many facilities are considering is combined heat and power or CHP, where both steam and electricity are produced by the unit. The improvement in efficiency can save significant fuel costs. It is important for an experienced engineer to evaluate whether your demand for both steam and electricity and when the demand occurs will make CHP a good investment.

CCES can help your firm determine whether a genset or a CHP can be beneficial for you, as well as manage its procurement, installation, testing, and use to maximize the financial benefits. We can determine likely financial costs and savings. We can perform the needed environmental permitting and determine whether it meets existing applicable emission limits. Contact us today at karell@CCESworld.com or at 914-584-6720.

Underevaluated Source of Energy Usage: Plug Load

When a building owner or manager calls for an energy audit, they are usually looking for ways to upgrade lighting, HVAC, insulation or windows to save energy. The big items. Technology has improved markedly in recent years in these areas to justify upgrades resulting in significant energy use savings.

However, one area that is sometimes overlooked in an energy audit is plug load. According to the US Energy Information Administration, plug load can comprise up to 30% of total energy consumption of a commercial building. It should not be neglected.

Plug load is energy demand (almost always electricity) from devices plugged into electrical outlets (one notable exception is a stove/oven, plugged into a supply of natural gas. These devices include computers, speakers, printers, monitors, scanner, copiers, chargers, TVs, space heaters, fans, refrigerators, microwaves, coffee machines, vending machines, task (desk) lighting, and others. These are mainly small items and taken for granted because they are so commonplace. However, while each item may draw less electricity compared to a large AC, cumulatively they can use significant energy and if not properly planned and controlled, can impact your energy costs.

3 Things You Can Do To Lower Plug Load Energy Costs

Use Efficient Equipment

While these may be “small” items one just “runs in” and purchases quickly, there are differences in energy use among similar equipment. The USEPA and USDOE have a joint program called “Energy Star” which compares many plug load items. Brands that are Energy Star-certified generally use at least 20% less energy (usually, electricity) than the average for the item, yet performs the same. Such items have an Energy Star logo displayed prominently on the equipment and box. A McKinsey study lists different strategies to reduce GHG emissions (usually matched with energy reduction), and puts plug load programs like Energy Star at or near the top in terms of economic effectiveness. See page 5 of the report from: https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/sustainability-and-resource-productivity/our-insights/impact-of-the-financial-crisis-on-carbon-economics-version-21. Many Energy Star products may be a few more dollars (or for larger equipment, $50) more expensive than the average one, but the energy savings will pay back that extra upfront cost very quickly, normally in just a few months. And then the savings for the rest of the time you own the equipment is “gravy”.

Another advantage of Energy Star is that it is an energy cost saving approach that does not rely on engineering or any kind of “work.” It is simple: a change in policy by Purchasing to purchase only Energy Star products allow you to lock in cost savings.

Controls

Smart controls allow you to program equipment for, say, “sleep” mode during certain hours or off altogether. For example, software can turn a vending machine’s lights and refrigeration off or reduce them slightly during non-office hours to save energy, yet keep food fresh. Sensors can turn off computers or lights when not in use. Make sure controls can be overridden, when necessary. This allows you to keep energy from being used when not needed, yet does not involve daily manual efforts to do so, which rarely work.

Raise Awareness

Make sure your employees/residents understand the importance of plug load as contributing to energy costs, which affect their costs as employees and renters. In time, they will be motivated to turn off equipment when not in use, saving energy. And they’ll do so at home, saving them costs, as well.

CCES can help your building or company review and analyze your energy use, including equipment, software controls, and operations with the intent of finding common sense and technological solutions to enable you to save significant energy costs while enhancing productivity. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or at karell@CCESworld.com.

U.S. Climate Change News October 2017

Trump Administration Takes Steps To Repeal the Clean Power Plan. On October 10, 2017, USEPA Administrator Scott Pruitt submitted to the Federal Register proposed legislation to repeal the Clean Power Plan, President Obama’s signature legislation to significantly reduce U.S. greenhouse gases (GHG) by developing stringent GHG emission standards for power production. As coal-fired power plants cannot reasonably meet these emission standards. The USEPA believes it is unfair to have legislation to target a particular fuel type, and began the repeal process to encourage growth in coal usage from U.S. mines. This is quite controversial as coal, a high emitter of GHGs, as well as other and toxic compounds, is still a major source of energy in the U.S. electric industry. By encouraging coal production and use, the U.S. would be hard-pressed to meet the Paris Climate Accord goals, although President Trump has already announced that the U.S. will leave the Accord anyway. In addition, much has been written that this move may make little difference, as other economic factors makes coal a non-ideal choice as a fuel for a utility (see below), such as the declining cost of building and operating a renewable plant. The public has 60 days from initial publication in the Federal Register to comment after which the USEPA must respond before making the repeal official.

States, Cities And Private Businesses Put U.S. Halfway To Paris Climate Accord Goal. According to a study released on September 25 by New Climate Institute and the Climate Group, efforts to address climate change by states, cities and corporations have already put the U.S. halfway toward its Paris Accord climate goal despite the current Administration’s attempt to reverse recent federal efforts. The study estimated that such efforts will cause GHG emissions to drop by 12-14% below the 2005 baseline by 2025. The study, based on certified data from the Carbon Disclosure Project, found that U.S. private sector commitments were the biggest factor in reducing GHG emissions. The decline in emissions are being caused mainly by these commitments of switching from fossil fuel combustion to renewable power.

First State-Wide, Economy-Wide Carbon Tax Is Proposed. Earlier this year, a bill was introduced in the Massachusetts House and another in the Senate that would establish a tax on fossil fuels with the goals to reduce GHG emissions and return the proceeds to consumers and businesses. https://malegislature.gov/Bills/190/H1726. Both bills would impose an initial tax of $10 or $20 per ton of CO2 emissions, rising to $40 per ton in the future. Several years ago, the USEPA estimated that the cost of a ton of GHG emissions was about $42 per ton, which was why they chose this endpoint. It was understood it needed to be approached gradually. Both bills require refunding of some or all of the tax proceeds to households and businesses.
It is estimated that should either bill become law the price of gasoline and heating fuel in Massachusetts would eventually rise by about 35 cents per gallon. The bills contain rebate programs to incentivize energy efficiency, rewarding businesses or households that reduce energy usage per employee (or member), not just energy usage as a whole.

Currently, Massachusetts enforces GHG reduction rules targeted to power plants. However, with electric generation comprising just 28% of GHG emissions in Massachusetts, legislators felt it was time to regulate other sectors, as well, particularly, the transportation sector, which accounts for about 30% of statewide GHG emissions.

While certain business groups are concerned about competitiveness and disproportionate impacts, the bills have many co-sponsors. Therefore, it is likely that some such bill will pass and with a sympathetic governor, a carbon tax would become law in Massachusetts, perhaps signed in 2018, going into initial effect in 2019.

CCES has the technical experts to help you assess your energy needs and help you be more energy efficient, which has many financial benefits, including preparing for future carbon taxes or monetization of GHG emission credits. Contact us today and we can help at 914-584-6720 or at karell@CCESworld.com.

Why Energy Should Be Incorporated As Part of Your Company’s Strategy

It’s approaching the end of the year, which means self-evaluation of your company. What went well; what did not. What can be changed or should be incorporated to ensure growth moving forward? Historically, companies focus on sales and profits. Look at the headlines in major business journals: “XYZ Reports Auto Sales Jumped by X% In 1 Year”, etc. Expenses are pretty important, but the one that most companies seem to focus on is labor, as in how can it be lowered (lay off workers, increase automation, etc.). While companies cumulatively spend billions on energy annually, that expense is considered a fixed expense with little need for managing. This is a mistake. Companies can reduce energy costs and at the same time reduce risk and improve resilience.

Energy should be more important to a corporation given the fixed supply of it and issues involving regulations due to environmental, climate change, and business trends. Companies can now make choices about its energy sources and usage that it could not have made before with impacts on profit, costs, and flexibility. This is exemplified by the shift in the U.S. from traditional industrial manufacturing to more IT, cloud-based services by corporations, where energy costs can be a potential deal breaker.

Sources

Companies now have many more options of where energy comes from than before. A major new force is renewables. Solar, wind, hydro have been around for a while, but major technological advances now make building an operating a solar PV farm comparable to purchasing electricity from the local utility or running your own cogen. With the growing number of states who want to achieve a higher percentage of power derived from renewables and utilities wanting to get more facilities to become independent because of infrastructure concerns, incentives exist to sweeten the pot even more if one wants to invest in renewable power.

Another approach is to look at site-specific approaches and restrictions. You have a specific facility in a certain country or region. What are the sources of energy that are most easily accessible and plentiful in that region? Companies should make sure that equipment is capable of using that fuel or be ready to invest in new plants to secure that energy source. And they should take the long view. Which fuels may be impacted by future climate change rules or by future shortages for political or technical reasons?

Usage

Obviously, reducing usage of a fuel critical for your operations will reduce costs. But doing so will also improve your operational flexibility. If there is a looming shortage of a critical fuel, and you use less of it than your competitors, that flexibility puts you in a more commanding position, needing less. Being able to use more than one type of fuel for critical operations is beneficial, too, and gives your firm tremendous flexibility to ride price upheavals.

An overlooked issue in minimizing energy usage and improve flexibility is treatment of heavy equipment. Boilers, AC equipment, electric generators all need to be maintained and replaced at the appropriate times. It is a positive investment to perform retro-commissioning to maintain that the equipment is operating as you wish it; for you, the owner, to get your money’s worth. Also overlooked is proper training. Sometimes the first to be let go are maintenance workers; they appear not to contribute to the “bottom line”. But good maintenance people and managers (overseeing good procedures) can lengthen the effective life of equipment and keep down usage and costs very effectively.

How-To

A key to getting energy to be taken seriously as a top-of-the-line corporate interest is to have the top person, the CEO, involved. He/she should understand the importance of managing energy in a robust way and what the benefits are to the company’s moving forward. There may be doubters in the C-suite, including people who may not want Energy to “elbow its way” into decision making. But if the CEO understands the ultimate value of considering, tracking, and managing energy sources and usage, then those doubters can be silenced. So invest time in educating the entire C-suite, but particularly the CEO and update him/her on developments.

Make sure that energy is tracked as well as other business items, such as sales, workforce, profits, etc., and is included in business reports. Make sure that gains and benefits are explained and recognized.

CCES can help your company develop a robust energy program to serve your company. Its infrastructure, as well as technical evaluations of strategies to raise its value in the company and to demonstrate financial benefits. Contact us today at karell@CCESworld.com or at 914-584-6720.

New, Supplemental and Complementary Green Building Standards: WELL

The most widely used green building rating system in the world is LEED, created by the US Green Business Council (USGBC). LEED certification is a globally recognized symbol of sustainability achievement, and the standards provide guidance to help building owners and managers conserve energy and water, reduce waste, and minimize building and occupants’ environmental impacts. LEED has been well received and more and more new and renovated buildings are becoming LEED certified. Building owners are beginning to reap real, significant financial benefits of their LEED-certified buildings.

However, for some LEED is a standard with limited benefits. Some company and building owners realize that their tenants, whether residents, employees, shoppers, or students, are more concerned with their health. Can buildings contain features that will improve the health and welfare of occupants, making them happier and more productive, as well as raising the asset value or driving demand for the space?

The USGBC has addressed this by publishing such unique standards called WELL Building Standards, or “WELL” for short. WELL consists of features across seven concepts that comprehensively address the design and operations of buildings as well as how these features impact and influence human behaviors related to health and well-being. The seven concepts addressed in WELL standards include:

• Air
• Water
• Nourishment
• Light
• Fitness
• Comfort
• Mind

Like LEED, WELL standards contain mandatory pre-requisites across these areas that all WELL-certified buildings must meet at a minimum, as well as a point system that must be satisfied for WELL certification. These standards to improve the health and well-being of occupants include, but are not limited to, proper ventilation, reducing the level of indoor air pollutants, improving drinking water quality, reducing infiltration of water, promoting the use of natural light, and having specific building areas devoted to improve fitness and relaxation. Like LEED, WELL has a system to accredit professional practitioners, so having an accredited WELL professional on your certification team means being professionally guided to achieve WELL certification. Innovation in design and building operation to optimize meeting WELL standards is also rewarded.

WELL is a new program, and the first initial projects are being undertaken now and the first professionals accredited. How much will a WELL-certified building benefit a business, in terms of worker health, reduced sick days, improved productivity, etc.? The data will be collected and we will soon be able to validate the claims. However, there is no question that the common sense standards can only succeed in reducing sick days, improving both health and morale, and raise confidence and motivation, critical in sales.

If you are interested in learning more about WELL standards, learning whether this is the yardstick that is best for your building or business, and determining what it takes to become WELL-certified, contact Ms. Bonnie Hagen of Bright Energy Services today at bonnie@brightenergyservcies.com or at 914-425-1376 or Marc Karell of CCES at karell@CCESworld.com or at 914-584-6720.

Future of the Clean Power Plan Under Pruitt

September 2017

It is well known in this first year of the Trump Administration that many existing rules – particularly those promulgated during the Obama Administration – are being weakened, delayed, or repealed. One example is the Clean Power Plan, meant to regulate emissions from coal-fired power plants. The Obama era rule is being litigated in court. USEPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has used this as justification to state that the agency would not object to any state delaying its implementation of the Clean Power Plan and not follow any part of the schedule stated in the promulgated Plan. A number of state attorneys general have issued a letter warning Pruitt that these actions are ill-advised and potentially illegal. This matter is heading to court. After all, Congress has not amended the rule, no court has not called the Plan unconstitutional, and the US Supreme Court continues to cite greenhouse gases as legitimate pollutants that the USEPA must regulate. A presidential executive order earlier this year for the government to not enforce the law apparently has no legal standing.

The Clean Power Plan would require reductions in CO2 emissions from 2005 levels by 32% by 2030. Ironically, the US is already about half way there, independent of the rule, mainly because of market forces encouraging many power plants to switch from coal to natural gas as its fuel; gas combustion results in much lower CO2 emissions than coal.

The US Court of Appeals last year upheld the objections of some parties to the Plan, and subsequently allowed the delay of some aspects of it. But that court substantiated that the Plan is still the rule of law and only some deadlines can be bypassed.

In addition to a number of states objecting to the delays in administering the Clean Power Plan, a number are also promulgating their own new rules and standards to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and from other sources in response to the Trump Administration announcement that it would withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement. They are using Paris goals for their own new rules. Many Fortune 500 companies are also creating and implementing their own plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, understanding the financial benefits from doing so. With the states and major corporations together achieving major greenhouse gas emission reductions, it may not matter what the courts rule about the validity of the Clean Power Plan, the US involvement in the Paris Agreement, and other climate change rules.

Please note that this article is not meant in any way as a legal briefing or discussion. Please do your own research in terms of the future of climate change or any environmental legislation. CCES can help your company reduce your “carbon footprint”, achieve long-lasting greenhouse gas emission reductions, and do so in ways to benefit you financially, from reduced utility bills to improved productivity to reduced maintenance costs to higher asset values. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or at karell@CCESworld.com.

Research Finds Proper Lighting Lowers Worker Stress

I recently submitted a great proposal for an upgrade to LED lights for a warehouse. Solid utility rebates, an excellent reduction of energy costs and return on investment (existing lights were very inefficient). Yet, the company’s Board of Directors was split. I presented the facility manager a summary of all the benefits, including that it will likely raise worker productivity. He questioned all of the findings (even as he said he was in favor of the project!), and I only then realized that this company just did not want to deal with change – even if the numbers showed it was beneficial.

After he questioned the ability of proper lighting to improve productivity I decided to look deeper into the notion of lighting influencing workplace stress. A major research study at RPI (found in the journal Sleep Health, June 2017) found that office workers who receive a significant dose of circadian-effective light in the morning, from either electric lighting or daylight, experience better sleep and lower levels of depression and stress, than those who spend their mornings in dim or low light levels. The research team investigated the connection between circadian stimulus (CS), a measure of light’s impact on the circadian system, and sleep, depression, and stress in and better overall sleep quality and mood scores, in both summer and winter seasons.

Further study has pinpointed the likely mechanism. Humans, of course, lived and evolved under the Sun. Natural sunlight contains all wavelengths of visible light and ultraviolet and infrared radiation, as well. Common office or factory fluorescent lights typically emit visible light in a fairly tight range of wavelengths. Many wavelengths our eyes and, therefore, our brains are used to dealing with are absent. This affects our circadian rhythm, as we have not dealt with such a narrow range in evolutionary history, and therefore raises stress and sleeplessness. LED lights more closely mimic the wider range of visible light, reducing the change from our natural system and, thus, reducing circadian disruption and stress.

A 2016 study of the effects on the productivity of garment workers in India working under LED lights vs. fluorescents also showed increased productivity (www.anantnyshadham.com/storage/AKN_LED_may2016.pdf). The authors believe at least some of the effects is due to the reduced heat given off by the LEDs and thus, the more comfortable temperatures in the shop. But the improvement was demonstrated.

CCES has the experts to help you implement a lighting assessment to both save significant energy costs and to raise comfort and productivity of your employees. While saving energy costs are itself great, improving worker productivity (fewer errors, more work done, fewer sick days) can make a business even more money, as well as reputation. We have lighting experts not just to replace existing lights, but to assess if lighting can be made better for your workers or to show off your products or any other reason. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or at karell@CCESworld.com.

Our Hang-up With Energy Rebates

I can’t tell you the number of times I have approached building owners or managers with great opportunities to upgrade energy systems (lights, HVAC, etc.) saving money right away and paying back the investment in a short time, and the first question I’m asked is “Are there any rebates?”. When I tell a client there are none for that or it is paltry, the building owner/manager actually ignores the many other benefits and is reluctant to do the project. If the payback of an upgrade is under 3 years and the ROI of investment is double digit percent growth per year anyway, why should a rebate “make or break” a project? I guess some people really enjoy “free money”, of part of the cost being paid by a government or utility. While a client and the engineer should look for all available applicable rebates, it is unreasonable to actually squelch a project due to its absence.

So that you understand why rebates may or may not be available in your area, here is some background. It is certainly contrary to business sense for a utility to pay a building to install and utilize technology that will cause it to use less energy (natural gas or electricity). Utilities offer rebates for either of two reasons. One is they are forced to by the state’s government or watchdog agency. These elected officials or people beholden to them know that being able to say that they saved a certain amount of a resource or utilized it more efficiently is what people want and a good thing for a politician to boast. A second reason is that the more energy a region uses, the greater the infrastructure costs are for the utility. In even modest utility districts, utilities are forced to spend billions of dollars in capital costs to upgrade, expand, or replace existing infrastructure (utility lines, gas lines, etc.). And, of course, to ensure they are up-to-date and safe. If infrastructure fails, and a power blackout results or a gas line explodes, the negative headlines, the anger of residents and businesses, and being hauled into legislative hearings over the failure, is something to avoid at nearly all costs. Therefore, the less energy used, the less that infrastructure needs to be upgraded and at a lower cost.

Therefore, it is important to do research on rebates. The availability and amount for different programs vary between utilities. In general, most rebates are universal for a utility. A rebate for LED lights resulting in decreased electric usage is valid throughout a utility’s district. However, some utilities designate some rebates as greater in different areas within the district. For example, in New York City, Con Edison’s Demand Response Program encouraging building owners to use their own generators and be off the grid during peak demand periods, has greater rebate payments for buildings located in a certain area which has seen the greatest growth in electrical demand (gentrification) and weakest infrastructure. And lower incentives everywhere else, including zones where infrastructure is fine. So look carefully at the conditions of a rebate.

Part of your research should also be on timing. Utilities and the commissions that oversee them often decide annually on rebates. They decide if they are effective or not, look at market conditions, and then adjust for the next year. A rebate at a certain level this year may go down (or up) next year or be eliminated altogether. For example, some utilities are reducing or eliminating LED lighting rebates. The price of LEDs has droped recently, plus it is more accepted. Many feel an incentive is no longer needed; savings and payback are sufficient without it. Your engineer (including this one!) should keep up with the latest trends and talk to those managing rebates.

I should add that I have seen the opposite reaction (occasionally) of building owners and managers feeling almost guilty about receiving a rebate for an upgrade. Nobody should feel this way. Most rebates come from charges that are in your monthly utility bill. You pay into a fund used for rebates. Therefore, when you do an upgrade, you are simply taking back the money that you have put in!

In summary, research or have your engineer research and go forward with any energy rebates that an upgrade qualifies for. However, don’t be hung-up on it. If a rebate (or tax deduction or other financial benefit) does not exist or is only worth a small percentage of the upfront cost, let it not stop you from doing the project. The vast majority of energy upgrade projects are very financially beneficial for building owners for a long-period of time even without utility or government rebates.

CCES has the experts and experience to help you get the maximum financial benefits from an energy upgrade, including being up to date on potential rebates and to get you through the application process. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or at karell@CCESworld.com.

Plain Talk: What Is An Energy Audit? Why Do One?

What Is An Energy Audit?

A professional energy audit tells you how much energy you use, its cost, in what functions in your building, and provides multiple recommendations that will result in significant energy usage and cost savings, if implemented.

Some Of The Many Direct Financial Benefits

Real life examples show that properly-performed energy audits can provide a building owner direct financial benefits, such as:

• Significant energy cost savings beginning quickly, that grow in value as rates rise, and continue for a long time; (one upgrade saves costs for many years)

• Tenant attraction/retention, and, therefore, higher rents than less efficient space

• Greater worker productivity/buyer comfort (retail), all adding to tenant satisfaction

• Rise in of asset valuation (which would a buyer prefer, a building demonstrated to be energy efficient or a dark, leaky high oil/gas usage one?)

• Achievement of building certification standards, which will further raise the value

• Potentially obtain utility rebates, state grants and federal tax incentives. More and more entities want buildings to be efficient and will pay for verified achievements.

Simple Example

A simple example of energy efficiency is lights. LEDs can produce the same – even more – light for less than half the wattage of an incandescent or fluorescent. For example, if you replace one 40-watt fluorescent light with a similarly-sized 18-watt LED, then the bulb will use 22 fewer watts to create the same light. If it is used 10 hours/day, 5 days/week, 50 weeks/year, then electricity savings is 55 kWh per year. At $0.20/kWh, the savings is $11 per year. From just one light! If your building uses hundreds of lights, then the savings is so much more. There is no risk of failure; 18 watts means 18 watts.

How To Get Good Ideas For Savings? Have A Professional Energy Audit Done.

The professional group ASHRAE has defined 3 levels of professional energy audits.

Level I

• Brief analysis of the building’s historic energy bills

• Brief on-site building survey to gather basic information about energy use and systems (i.e., very rough count of lights, basic nameplate information about units)

• Listing of potential energy use- and cost-saving strategies, known as Energy Conservation Measures (ECMs). Rough savings and cost analysis for each one.

Level II

• Detailed analysis of the building’s energy bills, preferably previous 24 months.

• Detailed on-site building survey to identify more thoroughly the building’s energy systems and equipment (i.e., more thorough, accurate lighting count, more details about boilers, rooftop units, etc.)

• Identify, describe ECMs and provide a more detailed savings and cost analysis, including estimating payback (time it will take for energy cost savings to equal outlay plus operating costs of ECM) and return-on-investment.

• Discussion of any changes to building operations and maintenance procedures by each listed ECM, including secondary benefits (i.e., reduced maintenance).

Level III

Includes the components of a Level II Energy Audit, plus:

• More extensive data collection, particularly of the physical building, such as leak points, doors, and windows.

• Use of approved, site-specific energy computer models to estimate heat losses and infiltrations throughout year

• More refined energy and financial analysis from multiple vendors, including upfront costs, incentives, savings, and ROI.

• Evaluation of long-term energy savings and operational cost trends.

Smartest Way To Get Started

So now you will look for great long-term energy savings opportunities for your company. Count how have many buildings you wish to audit and their complexity. If your company manages many buildings, it may be useful to perform a Level I energy audit on all of them. While the ECMs may contain rough estimations, at least you can compare energy efficiencies leaving yourself with a group with greater opportunity to focus on. If you have a smaller number of buildings and/or they are complex (involve many functions or have many specific energy systems), then you may want to have Level II audits done to get good estimates at a reasonable cost. Level III audits are very expensive and generally do not justify the extra expense and effort unless such accuracy is necessary.

Hire An Experienced Pro

“You get what you pay for.” Why skimp and save a few thousand dollars on an energy audit if that means hiring someone without a professional engineer’s license or equivalent certification (i.e., CEM). They can provide numbers that are plain wrong or lead to missed opportunities or pursuing projects that are not worthwhile; lost money! This can cost your company much, much more than the savings of a “cheapo” firm. Hire a qualified energy auditor; there is a lot riding on it. Make sure the professional is experienced in buildings similar to yours.

As you can see, there is no magic wand that can be waved to bring instantaneous, substantial energy cost savings. One must invest time and money and bring in smart, experienced professionals to do it right. But once done right, the savings and the direct financial benefits are tremendous. Most good energy projects have ROIs better than what is achieved on Wall St. Good luck!

CCES has the technical expertise to perform all types of energy auditing for diverse building types to maximize your financial benefits. We can get you the applicable incentives you deserve and can project manage ECMs you choose as most relevant to your building. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or at karell@CCESworld.com.

Proof of Benefits of Going Green: How To Get Started

Last month I wrote an article highlighting the growing proof that making a building more “green” and energy efficient has many financial benefits, beyond just saving utility costs. Scientific research has shown “green” buildings lead to greater asset value, larger revenue, and fewer sick days and greater productivity and attention span of workers.

If this has convinced you to look into “greening” your building, here’s how to get started. Here are crucial items to consider as you move forward, usually overlooked:

1. You know what “green” is, but you need to explain fully what it is to the building owner or corporate manager. Develop realistic expectations for all stakeholders. What does the group want to achieve? Are they achievable? Any limitations? I once performed a preliminary “green” evaluation of a company’s headquarters building, including a complex analysis of potential energy efficiency strategies. A high-level contact was surprised; he literally thought that the project’s goal was to recommend where to plant trees! (He hadn’t read the Scope of Work!) Make sure all involved have unified goals, and understand the project is a complex process.

2. Determine your ultimate “green” goals. There are many types of “green” projects. Determine what is right for your building or company based on needs, budget, etc. You may wish to have your work officially certified under the LEED or WELL program. Or you may wish to bypass any official certification, and perform small, focused upgrades. That’s fine, too. What does management want most to achieve: reduced costs, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, better work environment? Do you want to be a leader in your field or “just a player”? There is nothing wrong with reduced goals if you have budgetary constraints. There is something to be said about watching others and learning from their mistakes. These approaches need to be thought through and decided early on.

3. Make sure the contact understands that there is no formula to become green. No shortcuts. No “magic wand.” It takes an understanding of the specific building, its physical structure, the equipment within, the people and productivity inside. Anyone promising you a quick fix will not produce the fix for you, and it’s likely not quick either. Therefore, hire an experienced pro, preferably an engineer.

4. Be prepared to work a little. After you hire the experienced pro, don’t just sit back and expect him/her to do everything. Work with that person to ensure that the work is done to meet your needs. First, begin by providing the pro with the data needed to perform the analysis. Nearly all “green” projects will require the engineer to evaluate current and historic data: concerning the physical building, its history, size, uses and 24 months of recent energy, water, and sewer bills. You should begin to prepare this information as you are reviewing proposals or performing the administrative work to bring the engineer in. Be prepared to field questions from the engineer because while the building may be second nature to you, it is new to the engineer. Time can be saved by anticipating such questions and providing the engineer with information you think is important.

5. Site visits. It is likely that the engineer will need to make multiple visits to the facility to perform counts of equipment and to assess how equipment is operating in order to determine which items things could improve or be more efficient. Ensure that a person knowledgeable about the building and its equipment and operations is with the engineer at all times to answer questions or fill in on procedures. The site visit may involve testing of all major equipment. For a robust energy evaluation, it is important to test both the heating equipment (boilers) and cooling equipment (AC) for a building. For one energy audit, I was asked by building management to “get it over with”: to test both on the same visit. So on a 95°F day, we tested the building’s boiler! (We did it during lunch hour when many employees were out of the building!). But it is crucial for you to work with your “green” engineer to enable all goals to be met and data to be gathered.

6. Ask for and review interim reports. Sometimes building managers then step back and wait for the “green” professional to perform the analysis and develop the strategies and conclusions. But there is nothing wrong with asking the engineer for an early, interim report to make sure the professional has not strayed from the agreed-upon goals. When reviewing an early draft report, remember there may be gaps in it or certain calculations or conclusions you are interested in that are missing. But do review it and speak up if the direction it is going, you feel, is not what you want. Having such a discussion ultimately saves the engineer time and aggravation to be steered in the right direction early.

OK, OK, A Word About Costs

It is probable that as a “green” evaluation is being implemented, you are thinking about money. Good projects are not free and you may have had to put yourself on the limb to get the upfront cost for this project, not knowing what the exact results will be. Yes, it costs money to study your building before the design, procurement, and installation of smart strategies which, at that point, you have a better idea of the financial benefits. Remember, there is growing evidence that all green projects done right will pay back initial costs in a reasonable timeframe. I have seen numerous such projects pay back initial investment in terms of utility cost savings alone (not including the secondary benefits) by 15, 20, 30, and even more percent per year. Yes, the equivalent of putting that money in the bank and making this much interest. No bank nor Wall Street investment pays like a good energy project, without risk (a 20-watt bulb replacing a 60-watt one will save you two-thirds the energy; nothing magic; it’s the numbers!). So be confident working with your engineer to implement smart upgrades.

Also, a growing number of utilities and governments offer financial incentives or tax breaks to install and operate energy efficiency technology. IRS Section 179D (tax deductions for energy upgrades) has expired, but a new version was recently co-sponsored by 30 US Senators from both parties. 179D should return and be retroactive. Also, lenders see that there is a reduced risk on lending for an energy or green project because the financial benefits will be there and the borrower should be able to pay the loan back. This results in more competition to loan money, and lower interest rates.

CCES has the experience and expertise to help your building become more energy efficient and “green” and will work with you to meet your goals, however humble or extravagant. Work with us to get the maximum financial benefits from going green. Contact us today at karell@CCESworld.com or at 914-584-6720.