Energy Alabama and GASP Weigh In on Clean Energy Incentive Program

Energy Alabama and GASP submitted comments to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to encourage changes to the Clean Energy Incentive Program (CEIP), part of the Clean Power Plan. Specifically Energy Alabama and GASP requested EPA more equitably define what constitutes a low income community, to use existing measurement and verification methods at use in the market, and to not retire emission rate credits (ERCs). We both believe these changes will provide more opportunities for energy efficiency and renewable energy benefits to accrue directly to low income families, the original goal of CEIP.

Our full comments can be read here: https://alcse.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Gasp-EA-Comment-FINAL-DRAFT.pdf

Understanding Energy Performance Contracting

Understanding Energy Performance Contracting

An investment in sustainability can take many shapes, but one unavoidable fact about today’s high-performance technologies is that they usually cost money to implementand most of the time, it’s all up front. But if you’ve been ruling out a sustainable solution for purely financial reasons, we’d like to introduce you to a concept you really ought to know about: Energy Performance Contracting.

It might just change your mind about sustainability. And it might just save you a whole lot of money, too.

Energy Performance Contracting, to borrow the Energy.gov’s phrasing, is a “budget-neutral” method for reducing energy and water consumption while increasing efficiency in your building. In other words, Energy Performance Contracting helps your building use less energy while creating zero negative effects on your bottom line.Understanding Energy Performance Contracting

“Normally offered by Energy Service Companies (ESCOs), this innovative financing technique allows building users to achieve energy savings without up front capital expenses,” notes HUD.gov. “The costs of the energy improvements are borne by the performance contractor and paid back out of the energy savings.”

You get the benefits, while somebody else shoulders the financial burden. Not bad, huh?

“Energy performance contracting isn’t the best choice for everyone. But it can be a major tool for many budget constricted companies or governments,” says Daniel Tait, CEO of Energy Alabama. “At the end of the day, don’t let upfront cost stop a project when you have a tool like energy performance contracting.”

 

So, Where To Start?

The process is surprisingly simple, as outlined here at EnergyStar.gov. First, you competitively select an Energy Service Company (ESCO). This part is completely up to you. Of course, we’re happy to help!

Once you’ve selected your contractor, the ESCO will develop and then execute an all-inclusive energy-saving plan for your facility. The project should include an introductory energy audit as well as some kind of Monitoring and Verification (M&V) process that ensures continued savings. Besides energy efficiency, the ESCO might also focus on water conservation and distributed generation, among other components.

With the plan in place, you’ll work with the ESCO to set up long-term financing through a third party. This could be an operating lease, municipal lease or something else entirely. The idea is that the improvements cost you nothing in capital expenditures up front.

(Lease-purchase agreements are probably the most common method for financing an Energy Performance Contracting project. If you want to know more, that link has plenty more information.)

 

Reaping the Rewards

Finally, the ESCO should offer you a guarantee that your project will pay for itself through the savings generated by that all-inclusive energy-saving plan we mentioned above.

It’s as easy as that. Boost efficiency. Save money. Reap the rewards.

So, what kinds of buildings are ideal for Energy Performance Contracting? Government facilities ara a good choice, since governments generally own their buildings long-term. This makes a 10- to 20-year financing term attractive. But really, any large building could be a good candidate. Hospitals, schools, corporate headquartersthese are just a few of the facilities that could benefit from Energy Performance Contracting.

For more information, or to learn how to get started, contact Energy Alabama CEO Daniel Tait by email at dtait@alcse.org.

Energy Alabama Wins 2016 Air Pollution Control Achievement Award

Energy Alabama was honored to win the 2016 Air Pollution Control Achievement Award (Education Category)! The award application was submitted under our legal name, Alabama Center for Sustainable Energy. We are a non-profit organization accelerating the transition to sustainable energy in Alabama.

The City of Huntsville honored us for our work in the schools to educate K-12 students about clean, sustainable energy. The use of sustainable energy has a positive impact on our air quality.

More information about the award can be found here: http://www.huntsvilleal.gov/2016-air-pollution-control-achievement-awards/

Understanding an Energy Use Index

The North Alabama Buildings Performance Challenge is an initiative to cut energy usage in our community. When you’re using ENERGY STAR’s Portfolio Manager, you’ll be able to calculate the amount of energy your company uses by using the Energy Use Index (EUI). The main benefit of using the EUI is that you can compare your building’s performance to similar facilities across the country. By itself, an EUI is practically useless, but, when you compare it to a statistically relevant data set, it can help you understand how well you perform against your peers. This device is a good way for companies to figure out how their building’s energy usage measures up to other buildings that are similar and to help them set energy usage goals for the future.

A practical use for your EUI is to set energy goals and benchmarks. By monitoring your EUI each year and using the information that it gives you, you can set tough but achievable energy usage goals. Each month, you’ll need to enter the data from your utility bill, making it easier to track improvements over time and giving you the ability to automatically see the difference it had on your EUI.

An EUI isn’t the one and only useful device, but it’s just one of the tools afforded to you by ENERGY STAR and the North Alabama Buildings Performance Challenge. You can have an EUI in the top 25% out of similar buildings around the country, but your work space might be uncomfortable. Don’t sacrifice your employee’s work place comfort just to cut energy usage. The key is not to just reduce energy consumption but to cut the waste and still get your work done.

SIDE NOTE: There is a big difference between site EUI and source EUI. Site EUI is the type of energy use that most of us are used to; it’s the energy use that shows the amount of heat and electricity consumed. That is what is reflected in your utility bill. To see how the energy use for a building changes over time is the reason why we look at the site energy usage. Source EUI is the calculation that accounts for the entirety of energy use. It is the total amount of raw fuel that a building uses to operate, which includes the on-site energy uses.

Ready to see how the Energy Use Index can work for your company? Try it out! It’s free!

 

Energy Audit

Energy Audits: Is Your Building in Top Shape?

Cross-posted to NABPC.org

The North Alabama Buildings Performance Challenge is up and running, which means it’s time to start conserving energy. If you’ve signed up for the challenge, you’ve committed your company to attaining 20% energy savings in your building within 10 years.

Today, we’re continuing our three-part series about the primary steps that facility owners should take in order to achieve that target. By the time you finish all three posts, you should have learned a good bit of the info you’ll need to craft your energy-saving strategy.

Last time, we looked at energy benchmarking, and next time we’ll discuss commissioning. Today, though, the topic is energy audits.

An energy audit, to quote Energy.gov’s rather straightforward definition, is “a survey that shows how much energy you use in your house or apartment. It will help you find ways to use less energy.”

For our purposes, let’s just pretend they didn’t limit their explanation to houses and apartments. Whether the building is a home, business, factory, corporate headquarters or something else entirely, the concept remains the same. By giving your building an energy audit, you’ll be assessing how much energy it uses. And with that information in hand, you’ll know what measures you can take in order to use less energy and make your building more efficient.

Energy Audits vs. Benchmarking

Simple, right?Energy Audit

Now, at this point, you might be thinking that this sounds a whole lot like benchmarking, the topic of the previous entry in this series. The two concepts are indeed similar, but there’s a key difference.

Benchmarking compares your building to similar facilities in order to give you an idea of where it stands in relation to its peers. An energy audit goes one step further and sets out a plan for action.

Or, to use a fitness metaphor, benchmarking only tells you how overweight your building is. An energy audit analyzes your building’s energy usage and gives it a customized workout plan. By following the plan, you’ll whip your building into shape in no time.

Saving Money

And once your building’s energy consumption is on track, you’ll start saving money on your utility bill. How much money? According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Challenge, our national model, most companies can easily capture 20% energy savings. When we say easily, we mean that most businesses can see these kinds of savings with minimal effort and investment.

That kind of reduction to your energy bill would set you on course to conquer the Huntsville Better Buildings Challenge. Plus, it would pretty much make you a rockstar at your company.

So, then, what does an energy audit look like?

In residential settings, weatherproofing and insulation are generally two big areas of concern. For industrial or commercial buildings, audits would be more likely to focus on production equipment, lighting or climate control. In either case, you’ll want to find a professional to conduct the audit for you.

What Will This Cost?

Of course, some of this may come at a cost. Preliminary energy audits, or PEAs, and (usually) Level I audits can be done for free if you proceed with upgrade work–or at least at a very low cost. For more detailed audits the cost will be a little higher.

The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory estimates that detailed energy audits generally run between $0.12 and $0.50 per square foot. We call these Level II or Level III audits. For a great rundown on the difference between the different types of audits, check out this article from Microgrid Energy.

Depending on the size of your facility, that can amount to a serious chunk of change. But it’s not all bad news, as PNNL notes:

A convention center in a major metropolitan city reduced energy costs by almost $80,000 annually by implementing energy efficient changes to equipment, controls and system. Payback for these changes was less than a year, and facility staff predict an additional savings of $174,000 annually if longer-term equipment replacements are installed.

Those figures represent savings that virtually any company could appreciate. And it all came about because of energy auditing.

Naturally, no two auditing experiences will be exactly alike. But in almost every case, you should be able to find ways to increase efficiency–and save money.

With that, you’re ready to take the plunge with an energy audit. Up next, it’s time to talk about commission. See you then.