For more than a decade, Vermont has been contributing energy efficiency to the New England electricity grid in the Forward Capacity Market (FCM). As a consumer, whether business or residential customer, we think of efficiency improvements as a personal gain, reducing our overhead costs, improving our building’s performance and helping our own pocketbook. Seldom do we think about the impact of energy efficiency on the electric grid, where it actually has a trickle-up impact of our actions onto the bigger picture. But energy efficiency is part of the “supply” for the grid, just like oil, natural gas, solar and other sources. Ben Fowler’s post last month showed a graph of the Generation Fuel Mix of the Philadelphia electric utility. What that doesn’t show is how much is taken off the grid by energy efficiency projects. States take this unrequired energy into account in planning of future energy and infrastructure needs. This has led to avoiding building or expanding substations, transmission lines, and power plants.
Topics: Energy Efficiency
Chilled beams have been common in European building HVAC systems for decades, but they are just getting popular in the U.S. These units fit in a drop ceiling or can be hung flush to the ceiling and contain a chilled/hot water coil and, in the case of active beams, a duct bringing in ventilation air.
Vermont is a small, hilly state in the northeast corner of the US, and is often claimed to be the “second cloudiest” state in the nation (a subjective statistic). Although our state has been adopting solar in leaps and bounds, there is a debate over whether solar is an applicable technology in our state and, nationally, if solar should be subsidized now that the production costs have decreased dramatically. I decided to research the history of subsidies and production costs of various fuels to determine if solar deserves to be an incentivized fuel source for electric generation.
Image via Wikipedia.
There are two ways to operate a building: passively or actively. Operating passively means the building performs its intended function – the lights are on and the building is temperate – but no one is monitoring and analyzing the operating costs or planning for equipment issues. Actively operating a building involves close monitoring of the building operating costs, thoughtful maintenance of building systems and their operating schedules, and capital planning for future equipment replacements. There is a new (relatively inexpensive) tool emerging on the market that can help both of these types of building managers move toward simple, effective, and knowledgeable operating oversight.
During the Kyoto Protocol meetings, the world thought governments were going to lead the carbon-emission reduction efforts. But the foremost carbon-emitting countries (US included) didn’t sign this protocol and, until recently, seemed content with sidestepping any commitments. Now 25 years later, the world itself is calling for change, and governments are finding grassroots support from the public as they go into the Paris Climate Change discussions. Companies world-wide are initiating energy and waste reducing measures and promoting renewable energy procurement themselves, without mandates, because they see the economic benefits. The tide has turned.
Topics: Public Policy
Is the energy efficiency field growing up? I am cautiously optimistic that the answer to this question is “yes.” From the discussions of the major carbon producers - China and USA – regarding limits to their emissions, to building codes ever increasing minimum building efficiencies, and efficient technologies being accepted by the market, it seems promising. Another positive sign is that energy efficiency programs are starting to go deeper into more complicated measures. This means we’re moving energy efficiency programs past the “low-hanging fruit” that the market understands, and administrators are looking towards new areas and technologies.
Topics: Energy Efficiency
The effectiveness of an energy efficiency program is measured in large part by the actual savings realized by the efficiency measures installed. Every program is accountable to the state’s Public Utility Commission (PUC) and utility rate payers, to ensure that public money is being invested wisely. The wise investment of public money is dependent upon how the efficiency measures are installed and operated.
Commercial and industrial businesses spend a great percentage of their building costs on creating hot and cold water and pumping it around their facility. This infrastructure includes chillers, boilers, cooling towers, and pumps used for heating, cooling, process cooling, and domestic hot water. Considering how much money is spent on this portion of the business, it is not surprising that there is an increased focus on determining the correct amount of water required to meet the needs of the business. This blog post aims to explain the differences between the various flow meters currently on the market.
In business, as in life, there is risk with every complex project you begin. In retrocommissioning (RCx) projects, the main risks for commercial building owners and managers are threefold: the savings will not be realized, the scope will increase, and the savings will not be persistent after the job is complete. These issues are also on the minds of every engineer who accepts a retrocommissioning project. Managing the level of risk is complicated to say the least, but there are common sense ways to protect yourself, your partnership with the retrocommissioning engineer, and the project.
Topics: Building Cx & Design Review
Part of a marketing stumbling block in our commissioning field is the lack of quantifiable benefits to our work. People understand commissioning will enable their systems to work more smoothly, generating less maintenance issues and longer equipment life. People understand that commissioning will benefit their building with more comfort for their tenants and finer temperature and humidity control for their processes. But quantifying any energy reduction attributed to commissioning is usually not in the project’s budget and is all too often forgotten when everyone moves on to new projects.