Category Archives: Uncategorized

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: 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.


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

Quarterly Energy and Environmental News

July 2016

News affecting the US energy and environmental areas happens. CCES will keep you up-to-date on important issues quarterly. We may not cover every issue and jurisdiction. Make sure you work with a qualified professional to determine how such news affects your business and career. But we hope this will help keep you up with changing US trends.

Reducing Methane Emissions

The Obama Administration is entering its final months, and there is concern that they have not properly tackled all options concerning reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in response to climate change. While the focus has been on reducing CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion, it is understood that methane (CH4) emissions (21 times more potent than CO2) must be reduced, as well. There is a debate on how to do this. Recent technological advances, such as fracking, has encouraged conversion of coal and oil plants to natural gas, effectively reducing CO2 emissions. However, increased usage of natural gas means greater leakage and emissions of CH4 such that GHG emissions are not being cut significantly in total. While the Republican candidates for President have not discussed the issue, different factions of the Democratic Party have different strategies, ranging from a total ban on fracking to supporting fracking under certain conditions, such as minimizing water and CH4 leakage. The platform of the Democratic Party deals with this in compromise form, requesting minimizing CH4 leakage, requiring companies to publicly list the chemicals used in fracking, and banning fracking in communities or states that oppose it.

The Obama administration has pledged to reduce CH4 emissions from the oil and gas sector by 40 to 45% below 2012 levels by 2025, and has begun to draft standards for CH4 emissions through the Clean Air Act, although they will likely not become law until the next administration.

US Court of Appeals Delays Hearings on Clean Power Plan

The US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit announced that it was delaying oral arguments concerning the Clean Power Plan until September 27 in front of the entire Circuit. The Clean Power Plan would establish federal standards for CO2 emissions from existing power plants. The timing is such that a decision by the full Circuit would probably be made after this November’s elections. Who becomes the new President may itself alter the landscape and breadth of the Clean Power Plan. The losing party to a Court of Appeals decision after Election Day would likely appeal it to the US Supreme Court which could hear arguments and rule by June 2017.

The Obama Administration and the USEPA believe they have the statutory authority to amend the Clean Air Act to include such regulations. Arguments against the Clean Power Plan include whether the USEPA exceeded its authority under the Clean Air Act to set CO2 emission standards that rely on emissions beyond a facility’s control (if other facilities combust high-GHG emitting fuels or use renewables). The Clean Air Act allows the USEPA to only regulate activities at the actual power plant to reduce emissions (e.g., efficiency improvements). The USEPA responded by stating that the Clean Air Act allows it to take “generation-shifting” measures to determine emission reduction targets.

Obama Administration’s Initiative for Solar for Low, Moderate Income Housing

The federal government announced in mid-July the Clean Energy Savings for All Initiative, aiming to increase the use of alternative energy by 10-fold in low and moderate income housing. See
The program aims to increase solar use by about 1 GW by 2020, covering about 1 million additional low and moderate income homes.

Key elements of the Initiative:

• New guidance to use Property-Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing;

• A “Community Solar Challenge” to award teams in many communities up to $100,000 in cash or technical assistance, to develop innovative models to increase solar installations and reduce low income communities’ electric bills;

• DOE will provide technical assistance to qualified low income housing groups;

• Solar-related job training for low- and moderate-income people; and

• Over 120 housing authorities, rural electric co-ops, power companies, and others in over 36 states have committed to investing $287 million for over 280 MW of solar energy projects in low- and moderate- income communities.

New NPDES Standards for Discharges from Construction

The USEPA is expected to shortly update its NPDES General Permit for Discharges from Construction Activities (GCP) to go into effect next year. The proposed updates to the GCP are intended to clarify current permit language and contain new requirements that non-stormwater discharges from external building washdown not contain hazardous materials such as PCBs, revise current effluent limits, require cover or other appropriate temporary stabilization for all stock or debris piles unused for 14 or more days, require waste containers to be closed or covered when not in use, and impose requirements on the demolition of structures exceeding 10,000 sq. ft. of floor space, which were built before 1980, to limit PCB-containing building materials entering stormwater.

We hope that this information is useful to you and your firm. Please speak to professionals in the appropriate fields before implementing any strategy or addressing any regulation. CCES can provide the technical advice to help you comply with a new environmental or energy regulation and to help you prosper as you do so. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or by email at And feel free to comment on these articles or suggest topics of interest.

Overcharging on Utility Bills Is Common, But What Can You Do?

As a licensed professional engineer and Certified Energy Manager, I have reviewed hundreds of utility bills and tracked energy consumption of many buildings to determine the feasibility of energy-efficiency upgrades. While I have been successful helping many buildings incorporate common-sense new technologies to save money, there is another, much simpler, risk-free way to save energy costs. In reviewing bills, I have come across seemingly obvious errors, such as incorrect tax rates and delivery taxes for ESCO accounts. With utility costs being a greater percentage of a building’s costs and ever-more complex electric, gas and water bills, there is a growing number of potential errors that could result in overcharging; errors that are difficult for even experienced building managers to catch even if they knew what to look for.

The way to avoid such issues and to not be overcharged on utility bills is a new and growing sub-field in energy services: BILL RECOVERY.

What is Bill Recovery?

It is simply the organized process of having your utility bills carefully scrutinized for errors by experts using complex algorithms that look at taxes, tariffs, meter-read errors, utility rates, and other issues that make up the over 100 components of a typical electric, gas or water bill.

Bill recovery services are generally contingency-based so there is no out-of-pocket cost to you. If no errors are found, the review will not cost you anything, and you will know that you were correctly charged. If errors are found, the company recovers the refund from the utility and sends you a pre-negotiated split of the recovery. Plus, you will have the assurance that you will be charged fairly in the future, and thus save future costs, too, compared to not having the review performed. For larger accounts, it has been shown to be worthwhile to go through the utility bill review process a second or even a third time as errors missed by other bill recovery companies have been found or due to changes in billing that occur subsequently.

I found the argument compelling. You should consider having a Bill Recovery analysis performed. Again, there is no cost to you for the analysis, and potentially much money to be recovered that you would not know about otherwise if errors are found.

However, make sure it is done by an experienced expert, using up-to-date software. You can contact Jean Hamerman at Vantage Energy at with any questions or just to learn more about a potential Bill Recovery program for you. No obligation. Vantage Energy ( has extensive experience in this area, saving its clients millions of dollars in improperly assessed utility costs.

More about Sub-metering: What to Look For

Two months ago I posted a blog article on sub-metering and its many benefits, such as providing a fair measure of what different users use in terms of electricity and other utilities in order to avoid or to resolve landlord-tenant disputes and to get real readings to encourage energy and water savings (when people see what they really use, they readily invest in technologies to save). At least two cities, New York and Philadelphia, have promulgated laws to mandate electricity sub-metering in certain situations. A recent report in EE Reports ( provides robust guides on the basics and how-to of sub-metering.

OK, you have agreed with the arguments that sub-metering will lead to eventual significant cost savings and avoid disputes before they start. There are 3 steps to implement sub-meters, as follows:

• Site Survey. Review drawings and walk the site to understand the layout and the site’s needs. Decide what you wish to sub-meter for. Electricity (the most common) only? Gas, water, other utilities, too? Have in mind the reason(s) you are sub-metering (M&V, demand response, cost allocation, optimizing building performance, and/or bill verification). How many sub-meters may you need, a number based on the number of tenants? Generally one sub-meter can accommodate one single phase or three-phase load and up to 7 connecting wires. An important item to consider is how will the sub-meters interface with your current (or perhaps future) building management or automation system. Wireless? Ethernet? Proper planning is so important.

• Commissioning. After installing your sub-meter (by a certified, experienced electrical contractor), don’t have the attitude of “set it and forget it”. You’ve invested the money and time; make sure the sub-meters provide reliable, accurate, accessible data. Compare values from the sub-meter with that of data measured by BMS software. Take 2 readings around a desired timeframe (ex. 1 hour apart) to determine usage, and compare. Take multiple readings in time. If the sub-meter readings are significantly different, then contact the vendor and/or installer to determine why. It could be faulty wiring or a faulty sub-meter. Perhaps a different model or type of sub-meter is needed to handle the load.

• Evaluate your savings. Now that the sub-meters are installed and operating, collect data to show how the electricity, water, etc. is now distributed among tenants and compare it to past readings (before the sub-meters) to determine long-term savings. Determine usage trends and tie them to location, time of day, building activities, etc. See in what areas your building can focus on to take the greatest advantage in terms of tenant leases, demand management, etc. Are the promised savings being met? Repeat these evaluations at least every year to see how the sub-meters continue to operate and to save your building money.

See to see the full “Metering and Sub-metering 101” and “102” Guides. CCES can help you assess the value of sub-metering your buildings and can plan and manage its complete implementation to maximize your financial benefits. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or at

Energy Risk Expected To Rise in U.S.

There is a growing concern that large sections of the U.S. and other countries will be at greater risk of blackouts or periods of electricity shortages due to a number of factors. This can have grave consequences on the economic growth of many companies. Uneven electricity production and delivery is common in developing countries which have problems with both power plants plus the infrastructure to deliver reliable power to people and industry. Much has been written about countries in Africa, Asia, and South America which are investing in economic growth, but cannot achieve it because of unreliable power. As a result, there is either dangerous (explosions, fires) power supply or limited growth, as investors demand surety in utilities. But even North America and Europe are beginning to show increased risk of disruptions, too. These issues, called “fuel poverty”, have gotten the attention of major governments and power companies.

Increased risk of unreliable energy supply has been influenced by affordability, security, and sustainability issues. Many areas have seen a sharp increase in electricity demand in recent years and the capital cost to upgrade infrastructure to produce and deliver the additional power is very large. In some cases, necessary upgrades are not affordable without large rate increases or government assistance, two areas that politicians prefer to avoid. Many utilities recognize that offering incentives to be more energy efficient is cheaper than implementing full infrastructure upgrades, but will take longer and is a gamble of whether this will be sufficient to reduce the needed investments sufficiently. Thus, more people and business will be at risk of “fuel poverty” in the future.

This is also a long-term issue. While the recent recession tamped down energy demand, it is beginning to rebound. Several think tanks predict a worldwide doubling of energy demand between recent years and the 2030’s, something that cannot be met in terms of development and delivery without R&D and implementation of renewable energy, as fossil fuel availability is limiting, due to political and practical considerations.

What can your company do to reduce your risk of unreliable energy supply?

1. Preparation. Your company and facility should routinely develop an energy plan. How much and what types of energy does your company need to function? How much might it grow in the future? Where do you get your energy from? Are there other, more reliable sources? Looking forward, what energy sources may be more reliable for you in the future, such as renewable or certain sources plentiful near where your operations are? I was involved a few years ago with a confidential client that wanted to build new facilities in Asia, and I performed an evaluation of the energy sources around that region, and determined that wood is expected to be plentiful in the area, but fossil fuels not. Therefore, new boilers and cogen needed to be able to operate as well combusting wood as it does oil and gas, as wood should be plentiful in the next 20 years, but fossil fuels which has to be shipped in to region, may become more expensive in the future.

2. Invest in smart technology that will provide both information on energy use and paths to energy efficiency. Smart metering provides the opportunity for you obtain useful data on your energy usage and demand, which can provide you a truer picture of your costs, risks, and future. Knowledge of usage provides you with ideas to reduce your usage in the most cost-effective manner.

3. Renewables/clean energy is the long-term path to go. Depending on power from fossil fuels will be at risk in the future due to its finite nature, the more difficult it is to find and refine fossil fuels (raising its cost), and the political situation. Even in a positive scenario, fossil fuel costs will go up and down with conditions, and make planning harder. As renewable energy becomes more established and efficient, prices are coming down for installation, and the source of power is plentiful and free. Utilities in the US are being forced to generate more power from renewables; but they are realizing the advantages of these technologies.

CCES has the experts to help you establish short-term and long-term energy planning to increase your efficiency, reduce costs, and reduce risks of unreliable supply and delivery. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or at

Short Primer on Effective Energy Upgrades For You Part 2: Controls

This is the second in a series of articles on smart, effective energy upgrades that will not only save you significant energy costs (if done right), but will also result in many other benefits. In the first article last month, I discussed the revolution in lighting technology in the past few years, highlighted by LEDs, which can reduce electricity usage by two-thirds or more compared to conventional lights and have other benefits. Let me add one more thought. If you are worried that LED lighting is a risk or “experimental”, don’t think so anymore. Major financial firms, such as JP Morgan Chase and Deutsch Bank, have recommended in writing to their clients that they switch to LEDs. The technology works, they stated, is reliable, and the firms who supply them are, for the most part, financially secure. And in addition: those who invented LEDs just won a Nobel Prize. And now a final word: several LEDs have just gone on the market in the last month or so that exceed the magical 100 lumens per watt mark. For more, see:  In contrast, CFLs produce 55 – 70 lumens per watt, and incandescents produce 13-18 lumens per watt.  LEDs work and they are a cost saver!

Reducing electricity costs by two-thirds is great. But how about an opportunity to reduce lighting electricity costs to zero?! That’s lighting controls. Reliable technology has been developed that can control your lighting to levels appropriate for the use of a room or area, turning off or dimming lights when not in use. These are occupancy sensors.

Some claim they don’t need occupancy sensors because the janitors will turn off lights in rooms at night as they clean up. There are many examples of crews who routinely forget to turn off the lights. Occupancy sensors can react to situations and turn off, dim, or light an area quickly. Of course, you first need to do a total assessment of lighting needs. In fact, a simple switch of lights to LEDs is good, but is more beneficial if you also have done a lighting assessment to see if some areas are under- or over-lit. Also, determine which rooms or areas have the longest periods of non-use; these would be the best candidates for sensors. These would include conference rooms, lockers, bathrooms, individual offices, warehouses, and hotel rooms.

Once you determine which rooms or areas should have lighting controls, look for the best controls. Don’t go to Home Depot or Lowe’s and pick up a bunch of cheap ones; they will not be worth it. There are three types of sensors. First, there is Passive Infrared (PIR), which detects heat from humans. These are relatively inexpensive, but may not work well if people are behind partitions. Ultrasonic is becoming most common. It emits and receives sound waves and reacts to changes in reflections to adjust lights. It is programmable, reliable, and can cover an entire room. Finally, a relatively new type is microwave. These appear to work well, but their long-term reliability is unclear.

Occupancy sensors can work effectively if designed well. For example, I was at a multifamily residence recently with hallway lights controlled by sensors. As soon as I stepped out of the elevator – in less than a second – the hallway lights went from off to on. Traditionally, for security purposes, multifamilies have many lights on at full wattage all night even though almost no one uses the area. What a savings to provide security, but also have hallway lights off for over 90% of the long period of night!

And there is more. Controls can also regulate light (and, of course, electricity usage) based on the natural light in the room, known as daylighting. If sunlight comes into a work area, having all of your lights on at full blast is a waste. Let lights only be on when sunlight does not enter the area. Daylighting control sensors regulate lumens of light from fixtures based on light coming in; a consistent amount of light hits the target.

And one more thing. The same controls that regulate light usage can also control your temperatures, too. A smart building manager can save significant energy costs with controls that reduce the need for heating or cooling an area not being used. The sensor can adjust a thermostat so that an empty area is only heated or cooled when people are using it or if the temperature reaches an extreme. Another major area of cost savings.

CCES has the experts to help you plan out a lighting upgrade to determine where best to put lights, what types of lights, and how they can be controlled to maximize your energy cost savings, but still have a productive work staff. We can plan and buy smart for you, resulting in the greatest benefits to make you look good. Contact us at or at 914-584-6720.

Energy’s Changing Realities: Are You Taking Advantage?

The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) publishes nationwide and regional energy use data ( While changes from year to year are not great, a longer view reveals a lot. From 2007 to 2013, total US energy use dropped 5%, while the GDP rose 6%. The US is becoming more energy efficient.

Our mix of energy sources has changed over this time, too. The percentage of energy from coal dropped from 23% to 19%; oil from 39% to 33%. Meanwhile, the percentage of total energy from natural gas rose from 23% to 27% and from renewables (including hydroelectric) from 6% to just under 10% during that span. These trends will get greater in the future as prices of natural gas and renewables continue to drop relative to other fuels. For example, unit prices on solar panels fell by 80% from 2008 to 2013.

While some of this has been caused by big power companies shutting down units or whole power plants using coal or oil and replacing the demand with natural gas and renewables, another factor is the growth in distributed or decentralized energy (DE). More communities, corporate parks, and industrial facilities are beginning to build their own power plants to become independent of big centralized systems and to better manage power.

Combined heat and power (CHP) is a great example, raising thermal efficiency to as high as 80% or greater and generating electricity from the same fuel combusted. Communities are building microgrids, small power plants serving their needs. Finally, more buildings are using renewable power and/or fuel cells. These forms of DE will be beneficial as they result in much fewer transmission lines and reducing the loss of electricity. More and more states recognize the value of DE in terms of saving existing infrastructure, which otherwise would cost the utility or state many tens or hundreds of millions of dollars to maintain or expand for demand. Therefore, many states and utilities offer incentives for companies or groups to build their own DE plant.

How do these trends affect your company? Do you have facilities that may be fit for a fuel change or installation of DE? In general, switching to natural gas or installing renewables is relatively inexpensive with fairly quick paybacks because the fuel source is cheap (natural gas) these days or free (sun, wind, etc.). DE requires a much larger investment upfront, but it may be spread among a number of users of the technology. CHP, microgrids, etc. often are functional for 20 or 25 years or more. So while the payback of the initial investment may be relatively long, you have an opportunity to save quite a bit of money in total. Perhaps more important is the reduction in risk of costs from losing power in a storm (a tree taking down a faraway line that serves your facility).

What should you do? Perform an energy evaluation of your facilities. What energy source does each facility use for electricity and heat/hot water? Is it feasible to switch one’s boilers to natural gas (is there a natural gas line nearby)? To switch to CHP (room to install it, investment capital)? To install and operate renewables, such as solar, wind, geothermal (proper conditions)? What might the costs be to switch or install CHP, renewables, etc.? What are the potential savings based on current and projected energy prices? What added benefits may you gain from such an energy uplift (reduced risk, lower emission rates and permitting requirements, better productivity or fewer distractions of your workers, such as fewer oil truck visits)? A thorough energy evaluation can lead you in the right path and save you much money.

CCES has the experts to perform a meaningful, cost-saving energy evaluation for your facilities. We can pinpoint benefits of different options, including incentives which your facility may qualify for. We can manage the implementation of any energy upgrades (efficiency, fuel change, etc.) you choose and ensure you get the maximum benefits possible. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or

Preparing for the New Growth in US Manufacturing

Recent reports (, indicate the return to the US of manufacturing after several decades of operations going overseas. “Re-shoring” is being fueled by several factors, including the high availability and dropping costs of diverse US energy sources (i.e., natural gas and renewables), our infrastructure (more reliable than in Asia), improvements in automation and availability of robotics (one estimate states that the American worker is now seven times more productive than the equivalent one in Asia, negating the wage differential), greater ability to respond to changing customer needs and to supply chain disruptions, greater availability of capital, and the ability to perform robust R&D. This trend is also helped by the growth in incentives being offered by a number of states to relocate or expand.

This is wonderful news for the US economy. Manufacturing is the opportunity to take raw material of relatively little value and turn it into something of much greater use and value, allowing a markup and greater profit, in many cases, than in the service economy. Some have estimated that new US manufacturing startups and expansions can grow manufacturing sector jobs by 4 million in the next few years alone.

Having hundreds of new manufacturing plants and processes in the US has many implications, one of which is the environment. Compared to other countries, the US has relatively strict environmental rules. Most such rules are enforced at the state level, but contain minimum standards based on the Federal Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act.

I will focus on Air since that is usually the most time-consuming. If you are building a new plant from scratch or performing a major expansion of an existing one, the first matter to consider (the bottleneck) is a rule called PSD, a pre-construction permit. One is forbidden legally to even begin construction until a PSD Permit is issued. PSD is a lengthy process, often taking many months to over a year for full approval by both the State agency and the USEPA (with public comment). So if your company plans to build or expand, it is important to address this fully and early. Simply put, PSD states that if you propose a major increase in emissions of certain compounds, proper control technology must be installed and modeling performed to estimate how much ground-level concentration will increase to determine whether standards may be exceeded.

The CAA also requires facilities that exceed a threshold of “potential to emit” to apply for and maintain a “Title V” air permit. These permits are legal documents and open to the public, so care is needed to make sure it is prepared properly and, once issued, compliance maintained. The hallmark of a Title V permit application is a listing of all Federal and State air regulations that are applicable to the operations you plan to perform at the new site (or modified existing facility). While the Title V application requires a list of regulations that are applicable to the operations and why, it is just as important to prepare – at least internally – a document explaining why certain rules are not applicable and need not be listed in the application.

Finally, most states have air pollution rules pertaining to specific types of operations, such as boilers and furnaces, coating and painting, pharmaceuticals, iron and steel, and others. Do a thorough review of the laws in your state and determine whether any are applicable (and if not, why) and how best to comply. Also, federal NESHAP rules for toxic compounds are process-specific, as well, and should be reviewed.

Yes, your company may join others in moving manufacturing operations “home” soon and that’s good news for everybody. And yes, that means work for you as the environmental professional to comply with applicable rules. But good preparation and planning can make the situation proceed smoothly and the costs relatively low to the eventual long-term savings and safety improvements.

CCES has the experts to help you estimate emissions from new plants or processes, to research and advise (technically, not legally) on State and Federal air and other environmental regulations that may be applicable to such new operations, and can manage the implementation of strategies and obtain the proper permits to allow you to comply with environmental rules and begin operations quicker and seamlessly. Please contact us today at 914-584-6720 or at

How To Answer Sustainability Program Doubters

We’re coming to the end of the year – the time that companies consider future change. Financial performance data is in; you know where you stand. You begin to think about improvements. If your firm does not already have an energy or sustainability program or has a middling one, there may be no better change to make in the new year than to get a quality one off the ground or grow the one you have. There will be doubters in management as energy/sustainability is a foreign concept to many (this will change; sustainability is becoming a staple in business schools – I lecture on the topic at one!). Here are some arguments sustainability doubters may make, and good responses.

Companies that spend effort on being sustainable are losers. Not true. Some doubters think that doing anything different from core product or services is wasted effort. Would those people not have a Legal, Accounting, or HR staff, too? In fact, companies with robust sustainability programs have come out to be winners. Published papers have shown a correlation in Fortune 500 firms: those that address sustainability issues, such as reducing energy and water usage, had higher valuations than those that did not. Is this a coincidence or have these become better performing companies? Finally, it is true that some projects to reduce water, energy and waste production have long paybacks. However, many have additional, hard-to-measure benefits to consider, such as reducing O&M costs, freeing up workers to perform other needed projects and raising worker productivity. While hard to quantify, these benefits are real and should be recognized.

We must wait for government rules about sustainability or else we will need to repeat the effort once they come. While sustainability is not required by any government (except, in California), many agencies are incentivizing sustainability through tax credits, grants, and indirect rules. While these may appear changeable, it is not a good idea to wait and hope that policies and incentives will become uniform. Take advantage of what is right for you. Similarly for procedures, it may be awhile before government sets precise policies on how to become more sustainable, such as an energy audit. However, existing standards (ASHRAE) will likely be part of any future requirements.

Sustainability has no effect on our business. In the US, this may be true in sales. Only a small block of consumers consider sustainability reputation in making purchase decisions. However, more investors take this seriously. A growing number of lenders and shareholder groups have investment or loan policies which favor those with positive energy or sustainability records. Such groups certainly affect company performance.

There are no or there are too many metrics to measure sustainability. Yes, sustainability achievements are difficult to quantify because they often affect parameters that are hard to measure (productivity, company culture). But do note that sustainability metrics exist, such as the Global Reporting Initiative, to measure sustainability. It is important to research the right metrics for your company. But it has been done successfully.

Sustainability is just low-hanging fruit and is of little true importance. This is simply not true. Sustainability is all about conserving resources before they become scarce and expensive. It is a risk hedging program. For example, if your company produces a product dependent on water, and your manufacturing plant is in an area that has either a contaminated water supply or one it must share with residents, farmers, etc., then you know that its price rise and even availability may become an issue. This can become an existential problem for your business. Ways of minimizing water needs would, therefore, have major positive risk outcomes for your business. Also, it is now acknowledged that climate change has and will have major effects on our way of life which, of course, affects business. May the greater frequency of extreme storms, hot weather, and droughts affect your cost of or even the ability to do business, such as access to energy, water, etc.? Might climate change bring on a global depression or at least affect consumer tastes? A sustainability program puts you ahead of the curve in terms of evaluating and addressing such risks.

There is no accepted standard for sustainability. This is true. There is no single standard that says this product is sustainable, and this one is not. This is why it is important that your sustainability program have a strong communication element. Goals, strategies, and practices need to be established and publicized in-house and to the public, easily seen on one’s website or other communications. The public can see the full case you have made about what you are doing to achieve your goals (reduce energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, water use, waste generation, etc.) within the parameters you control. You can quantify such achievements and undeniably say that you are working toward a sustainable future for the world and for yourself.

CCES has the experts and experience to help you develop a robust sustainability program to achieve maximum benefits (and to answer all doubters). We can help you with the technical, policy, and economic phases and develop and achieve goals seamlessly. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or at

Short Primer on Effective Energy Upgrades For You Part 1: LED Lighting

This is the first in a series of articles on smart and effective energy upgrades that will not only pay for itself and save significantly on energy costs (if done right), but will also result in other economic and productivity benefits. These articles will discuss technical issues, but will emphasize benefits, economic and others. There has been – literally – a revolution in energy technology in the past few years. If you have not had an energy audit done in the last 4 years, there’s a lot to gain by doing a comprehensive one.

For most, a great “low hanging fruit” for energy savings is lighting. Facility managers are increasingly turning to LED lighting technology to reduce energy costs. You probably already know that LED lights use well under half of the electricity of incandescents and T-12 fluorescents for the same amount of lumens. LEDs now can be adjusted and dimmed and come in a variety of colors (CCT ratings) to optimize their effectiveness. New LED fixtures can now fit right in place of the fixture being replaced. And cost savings are not “down the road”, but start immediately upon replacement.

Besides the immediate electricity cost savings, LEDs have other major advantages resulting not only in more money, but also in greater productivity. LED lights do not burn (unlike the other types mentioned) and last much longer. Typical office LEDs are warranteed for as much as 50,000 hours of operation. Given 12 hour/day, 5 day/week operation, that’s a little over 10 years until they have to be replaced; a lot longer than standard types. That frees up your office maintenance crew to do other things and reduces their number of trips up the ladder (reducing risk and inconvenience to staff).
In addition, the light from LEDs (if the right ones are procured) is whiter without the tints that other lights may have and has less glare. LEDs do not flicker, unlike fluorescents, reducing eyestrain. LEDs improve workers’ productivity. Here’s proof. A worker working through the morning will need to take at least a short break just because of eyestrain from the glare / flicker of fluorescents. The actions of an added break – walking down the hall to get water or coffee, returning, sipping the water/coffee, resting – before resuming work must take at least 5 minutes, and more likely 10, which is 2% of a typical workday. Avoiding such a break in the afternoon, and now you have a 4% improvement in productivity right there. And if the person taking a break stops to talk to a colleague, … Workers with lower eyestrain need to take fewer breaks and are thus, by definition, more productive and effective, all because of improved lighting – a significant and real added economic benefit to installing LEDs.

Of course, there is a cost involved. While LED prices are dropping, for a large office, warehouse, or multifamily residence, the upfront cost may be six figures. However, in many places, incentives exist to pay you back some of these costs and low interest loans are available so you can install LEDs without having to pay anything upfront. You can pay back these loans from the cost savings as they are earned. Waiting for LED prices to drop further is not a good idea. Incentives do go away and the energy cost savings (70% or greater) that you will achieve will likely be greater than the probable future reduction in LED prices. If you wait even one year, that’s one more year of high electricity costs to pay. So now is the time. If you think you can only afford to convert only part of your facility to LEDs right now, then consider which areas currently have the oldest and highest energy usage lighting and have the greatest number of workers who will benefit from reduced glare and no flickering.

A word on economics. Most companies want to know the payback of the upfront cost of LED procurement and installation. It will vary based on the number and the types of lights being replaced and can range from under one year to over 4. Some companies have policies on payback (they will not approve a project if the payback is more than X years). But remember, payback is only one way of measuring economic benefits. Let’s say there is a proposal to replace lights with LEDs at an upfront cost (after incentives) of $120,000, and the payback is on the high end of the range, say 3 years, beyond company policy. In 3 years the company will have gotten its $120,000 back. But the company has at least 7 (and likely more) years to reap extra money. If anything, the energy savings later on will be greater than $40,000 per year for two reasons. One, the future unit cost of electricity (cents/kWh) will likely increase, by 3-4% per year typically. So, in 7 more years, you will have avoided at least $280,000 (and more likely between $350,000 and $400,000) in costs. Even assuming the lower figure, by implementing this project (and spending the $120,000) your company will have saved $280,000 minus $120,000 or $160,000 over a 10 year period. The rate of return would conservatively be 13.3%/year. Tell me, does your company earn a rate anything near this for its cash? The second reason is that your existing lights will need to be replaced anyway – likely several times during the 10-year period. You will need to pay that capital cost, which could easily exceed the $120,000 for the LEDs – and you won’t get the cost savings.

Finally, buy smart. There are a growing number of manufacturers of LEDs. Some produce better quality lights than others. Do not buy on price alone. An energy professional can help you assess just what your lighting needs are, exactly what lights need to be replaced, the best LEDs to do so, manage the installation, and help you get the proper incentives and financing (if needed) you are entitled to. Maximizing these and the other benefits and ensuring reliability is worth the cost of an experienced expert.

CCES has the experts to help you plan out a lighting upgrade to maximize not only your energy cost savings, but also the productivity improvements and maintenance reductions. We can help you design the right lighting to maximize productivity with the least interference. We can plan and buy smart for you, resulting in the greatest benefits to make you look good. Contact us at or at 914-584-6720.