Electric savings produce fresh results for Holy Cross consumers

When Tom Clark Jr. sized up the grocery store space he’d leased in Snowmass Village, Colorado, last year, it was clear Clark’s Market needed a soup-to-nuts overhaul to take advantage of today’s advanced heating, refrigeration and lighting systems.

Tom Clark in Clark's Market, Snowmass Village, Colorado

Tom Clark was determined to reduce energy use at Clark’s Market in Snowmass Village, Colorado, so he turned to Holy Cross Energy for help. (Photo by Holy Cross Energy)

Gutting the 14,000-square-foot space and installing new super-efficient systems were going to cost more upfront, but, “Going with the standard was never really an option for us,” said Clark.

Clark’s Market turned to member-owned Holy Cross Energy and its We Care energy efficiency program for help, just as hundreds of other businesses and households served by the electric co-op have done over the past nine years.

A rebate of $15,000 from Holy Cross made the market’s investment in high-efficiency upgrades a lot easier to swallow. “These things aren’t cheap, but once you get them in place the benefits are numerous,” said Clark, who opened the market for business in July 2014. “When you are operating with energy-efficient equipment, it runs cooler, runs longer, there’s less maintenance and you can put out a superior product. It has been such a runaway success for us.”

Clark is focused on quality, but the high-efficiency systems are also saving energy. From September 2014 to March 2015, Clark’s Market used 155,000 fewer kilowatt-hours (kWh), cut the store’s electric demand in half and saved $13,268 on electric bills compared to bills tallied by the previous grocery store in the same space.

Results at Clark’s Market prove that energy efficiency is a solid investment, and Holy Cross Energy is working to help more of its business and household consumers benefit from similar paybacks.

Joseph Clark stocking shelves

Joseph Clark pitches in to stock shelves. Holy Cross Energy helps small, family-owned businesses like Clark’s Market succeed by keeping energy costs down. (Photo by Holy Cross Energy)

One of 1,000 upgrades
Seeking deeper energy savings from its We Care program, Holy Cross Energy set a five-year goal in 2013 for its consumers to save 33,000 megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity per year by 2017. That is equal to all the electricity used per year by 2,457 homes in the Holy Cross service area, spread across Eagle, Pitkin and Garfield counties.

Last year, 829 Holy Cross consumers completed more than 1,000 energy upgrades that will save 10,106 MWh of electricity per year, according to Mary Wiener, energy efficiency program administrator for Holy Cross. “This is on top of 6,241 MWh of annual savings from projects done in 2013, so we are halfway to our goal in the first two years,” Wiener said.

The first half of 2015 builds on that trend with the co-op paying out rebates for 667 measures. Wiener estimates that the annual savings from this year’s projects so far will total more than 3 million kWh. “And these savings will continue for years into the future,” she added.

Rebates offset project costs
Holy Cross Energy provides expert help and rebates to help its residential and commercial consumers make these upgrades.

“We understand that people appreciate getting help to make smart decisions, and the rebates show our consumers that we are their partner in energy efficiency,” said Wiener.

Holy Cross paid out more than $1.1 million in rebates in 2014 to consumers to offset a portion of their investments in energy savings. A 2-percent surcharge added to electric bills provides funding for the rebates.

Holy Cross staff visited more than 200 homes to provide complimentary home energy assessments. The co-op also helped pay for 68 Energy Smart Colorado home assessments. A total of 592 households made energy upgrades in 2014, said Wiener. “LED lights and recycling old refrigerators were by far the most popular upgrades,” she said. “People also replaced leaky windows, switched to programmable thermostats, swapped out their old holiday lights for LED strings and installed heat tape timers.”

Holy Cross also continued its partnership with the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments (NWCCOG) to offer a home weatherization program to income-qualified households. In 2014, the NWCCOG crew made upgrades for 22 households, using a $46,000 contribution from Holy Cross.

LED lighting is project of choice
Partnering with Energy Smart Colorado has enabled Holy Cross to reach more businesses and multi-family housing properties. Energy Smart Colorado is administered by three local energy organizations, Clean Energy Economy for the Region, Community Office for Resource Efficiency and Walking Mountains Science Center. The partnership also provides free building walk-throughs and energy coaching to business and rental property owners.

Because such facilities use so much more electricity than single-family homes, projects at 177 of these properties delivered 93 percent of the total electric savings from 2014 projects.

For these projects, LED lighting was the upgrade of choice, delivering the added benefit of reduced maintenance. “LED lighting is the hot ticket for businesses, lodges and condos,” said Wiener. “These projects deliver immediate energy savings and rapid payback on your investment. We expect to see a lot more lighting upgrades as people see the excellence of these new LED fixtures and bulbs.”

More rebates available
Saving energy through efficiency upgrades and generating energy from solar panels means Holy Cross Energy is passing up sales of electricity. “Why would a utility want its consumers to use less electricity? Because it actually saves Holy Cross money,” explained Holy Cross CEO Del Worley. “In fact, we expect the savings from this past year’s efforts to save Holy Cross $1.8 million in power costs over the next five years.”

Worley pointed out that energy conservation is a cost-effective alternative to investing in costly new power plants, and it reduces the peak demand charges utilities pay their suppliers. Conservation is the most cost-effective investment we can make,” he added.

Members have shown that they support that investment by their participation in the co-op’s rebate program. Holy Cross Energy will continue to support their members—and its five-year goal—with rebate funding and technical assistance to home and business owners.

Source: Holy Cross Energy, 7/1/15

Electricity savings bear results for Holy Cross consumers

Out-of-date lights at Bear Paw Lodge Redirecting to a non-government site in Beaver Creek, Colorado, were eating up not only electricity, but also staff time to replace burned-out bulbs. To tame the lighting system’s bruin-sized appetite, the managers of the luxury home and condo resort turned to Holy Cross Energy Redirecting to a non-government site for help.

Over the last nine years, the cooperative’s We Care energy-efficiency program has helped hundreds of businesses and households in the Roaring Fork Valley upgrade to more efficient systems and equipment.

Retrofit delivers lower costs, less maintenance
The slope-side resort invested in high-efficiency LEDs for the common areas, parking garages, stairwells and ski lockers. The Bear Paw homeowners’ association can expect savings on their energy bill of about $23,000 per year. LEDs, or light-emitting diodes, also provide better light and last significantly longer than conventional lamps. Tim Schwartz, chief engineer for the lodge, said he is looking forward to working until retirement without having to change a single light bulb.

Replacing conventional lighting with efficient LED lamps not only reduced the electricity bills for Bear Paw Lodge, it also made life a little easier for Chief Engineer Tim Schwartz. (Photo by Holy Cross Energy)

Replacing conventional lighting with efficient LED lamps not only reduced the electricity bills for Bear Paw Lodge, it also made life a little easier for Chief Engineer Tim Schwartz. (Photo by Holy Cross Energy)

A rebate of $31,500 from Holy Cross, plus $2,500 from Energy Smart ColoradoRedirecting to a non-government site made Bear Paw’s total project investment a lot easier to swallow. The lower, out-of-pocket costs give the whole project a payback period of less than three years.Results like Bear Paw’s prove that energy efficiency is good business sense. Member-owned Holy Cross Energy is working to help more of its business and household consumers realize similar paybacks.

Savings pile upHolyCrossSideBar
Seeking deeper energy savings from its We Care program, the utility set a five-year goal in 2013 for its consumers to save 33,000 megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity per year by 2017. That equals all the electricity used annually by 2,457 homes in the Holy Cross service area, which spreads across Eagle, Pitkin and Garfield counties.

In 2014 alone, more than 1,000 energy upgrades done by 829 Holy Cross consumers will save 10,106 MWh of electricity per year, according to Mary Wiener, energy efficiency program administrator for Holy Cross.

“This is on top of 6,241 megawatt-hours of annual savings from projects done in 2013, so we are halfway to our goal in the first two years,” Wiener said. “These savings will continue for years into the future,” she added.

Consumers get on board
To encourage residential and commercial consumers to make energy-saving upgrades, Holy Cross Energy provides expert help and rebates. “We understand that people appreciate getting help to make smart decisions, and the rebates show our consumers that we are their partner in energy efficiency,” said Wiener.

In 2014 alone, Holy Cross paid out more than $1.1 million in rebates to consumers to offset a portion of their investments in efficiency. Funding for the rebates comes from a 2-percent surcharge added to electric bills.

Holy Cross energy coaches visited more than 200 homes to provide complimentary home energy assessments, and the cooperative helped pay for 68 Energy Smart Colorado home assessments. A total of 592 households made energy upgrades in 2014, said Wiener.

“LED lights and recycling old refrigerators were by far the most popular upgrades,” she said. “People also replaced leaky windows, switched to programmable thermostats, swapped out their old holiday lights for LED strings and installed heat tape timers.”

Holy Cross also continued its partnership with the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments Redirecting to a non-government site (NWCCOG), which offers a home weatherization program to income-qualified households. In 2014, the NWCCOG crew used a $46,000 contribution from Holy Cross to make upgrades for 22 households.

LED lighting is project of choice
Bringing the benefits of efficiency to businesses and multi-family housing properties is a challenge for all utilities. Holy Cross partnered with Energy Smart Colorado to offer free building walk-throughs and energy coaching to this hard-to-reach market. Locally administered by the Community Office for Resource EfficiencyRedirecting to a non-government site Clean Energy Economy for the Region Redirecting to a non-government site and Walking Mountains Science CenterRedirecting to a non-government site Energy Smart Colorado provides program services to help utilities and municipalities meet energy-efficiency and carbon reduction goals.

Because businesses and lodging use so much more electricity than individual homes, projects at 177 businesses and 51 multi-family properties delivered 93 percent of the total electric savings from 2014 projects.

LED lighting was the project of choice—not surprising, given the added benefit of reduced maintenance. “LED lighting is the hot ticket for businesses, lodges and condos,” said Wiener. “These projects deliver immediate energy savings and rapid payback on your investment. We expect to see a lot more lighting upgrades in 2015 as people see the superior quality of these new LED fixtures and bulbs.”

Installing LEDs in public spaces, like the parking garage at Bear Paw Lodge, offers businesses a quick return on investment. (Photo by Holy Cross Energy)

Installing LEDs in public spaces, like the parking garage at Bear Paw Lodge, offers businesses a quick return on investment. (Photo by Holy Cross Energy)

More rebates for 2015 projects
So why would a utility want its consumers to use less electricity? “Because it actually saves Holy Cross money,” explained Del Worley, Holy Cross CEO. “In fact, we expect the savings from this year’s efforts to save Holy Cross $1.8 million dollars in power costs over the next five years.”“Energy conservation means we don’t need to invest in costly new power plants, and it reduces the peak demand charges we pay our supplier. Conservation is the most cost-effective investment we can make,” he said.

Holy Cross Energy members agree, and have expressed support for these programs. They can expect more rebate funding from Holy Cross this year to help them invest in energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Source: Holy Cross Energy, 3/12/15

Education of an energy-efficiency program manager

[Editor’s note: This story was originally published in the January 2013 issue of Energy Services Bulletin.]

 Holy Cross Energy recently chose Mary Wiener, a former energy advisor with Boulder County EnergySmart, to head up its energy-efficiency program. Throughout the year, Energy Services Bulletin will follow Wiener in her first utility job, as she develops programs to reduce members’ energy use and reach Holy Cross’s ambitious goals.

Reinventing savings
Utilities with established energy-efficiency programs must perform a balancing act. On one hand, offerings and strategies must be updated to reflect changes in technology, fuel prices and load and market conditions. On the other, few consumers have the time or inclination to follow an ever-changing menu of rebates and incentives.

Holy Cross’s carbon reduction program has successfully walked the tightrope since the Glenwood Springs, Colo.-based cooperative introduced it eight years ago. In the fall of 2012, Wiener joined the utility as its first energy-efficiency program administrator to take the program through its next evolution. “People are familiar with WE CARE, but the rebates are changing,” she explained. “We’re relaunching the program Jan. 2 with a new marketing plan and logo specifically to communicate those changes to our customers.”

The biggest change in Holy Cross’s program is its focus on the commercial sector. The utility’s plan to save 33,039 megawatt-hours (MWh) over five years is committing 60 percent of the WE CARE funding to an energy efficiency portfolio, and two-thirds of the portfolio funding to commercial programs.

Holy Cross will continue to offer incentives to help residential customers make their homes more comfortable and efficient, but the commercial sector uses far more energy. “Recreation and tourism are the biggest industries in the Roaring Fork and Vail valleys, and ski resorts are Holy Cross’s biggest customers,” Wiener pointed out. “If we are going to reach our goal of 6,600 megawatts of incremental savings annually, we have to reduce the biggest load.”

Opportunities in every business
The program takes aim at those customers with rebates for refrigeration, motor and lighting upgrades. “Lighting is a great place for businesses to reduce energy use, and it opens doors to talk about other improvements because it’s everywhere,” notes Wiener. “Ski resorts, hotels and restaurants may call about lighting upgrades, but learn that upgrading to more efficient motors or refrigeration systems offers even more savings.”

Motor loads may not be as obvious to a hospitality business as lighting, but they are just as important to saving energy. Improving motor efficiency in water treatment systems, air handlers, agricultural pumps and even cooling equipment could give Holy Cross a big push toward its goal. Coming from Colorado’s Front Range, and EnergySmart’s generous rebate for rooftop cooling units, Wiener learned that air conditioning in the mountains in the summer is a bigger load than most people realize.

One issue that is the same on either side of the Continental Divide is that commercial lighting has plenty of room for improvement. Wiener recalled that about 90 percent of the rebates EnergySmart paid out were for efficient lighting upgrades. Lighting became her specialty, and she has applied that expertise to developing more sophisticated incentives for Holy Cross. “Customers can still get rebates for LEDs and controls, but the rebates are for watts saved, rather than one-for-one lamp replacement,” she explained.

Wiener added that her experience is also helpful when dealing with contractors. “I can look at quotes and suggest different solutions,” she said. “Sometimes, contractors need a little push to think outside the box; for example, using low-wattage 28-watt T8s instead of 32-watt units.”

Unique residential challenge
Wiener admits to being less familiar with residential efficiency, but is learning fast from Holy Cross Energy Auditor Eileen Wysocki. Holy Cross offers residential customers complimentary walk-through audits with an infrared camera, and she has joined Wysocki on several occasions. The audits will continue to be part of Holy Cross’s residential efficiency program.

Even if she had more residential experience, Wiener would be encountering a different challenge in Holy Cross’s territory—the large, second-home property. Unlike primary residences on the Front Range, these homes sit unoccupied for long periods. With multiple refrigerators and freezers, entertainment systems, heating and cooling systems, spas, incandescent lighting, heat tape and snowmelt systems, these homes can use more energy than a small business. “It takes more than an understanding of building science to reduce the energy use in big vacation homes,” Wiener acknowledged. “We are actively working with property managers and homeowners to help minimize energy use in these homes when they are unoccupied.”

Ropes to learn
Wiener has set some other goals for the next year, both personally and professionally. Because she is new to the Roaring Fork Valley, as well as to the utility industry, she plans to get acquainted with as many businesses as possible. “Holy Cross has a reputation as a utility that cares about its customers, and I’m going to build on that,” she said.

Another priority is to make it as easy as possible for customers to submit rebate paperwork for prescriptive measures, or to design their own custom efficiency packages. “We’re in the market to buy ‘negawatts’— or more simply, we are paying for energy savings,” she said. “If they are already making the effort to reduce their energy load, they should be rewarded for their efforts.”

The biggest hurdle for Wiener, however, is just getting the word out and hitting Holy Cross’s goal. Western wishes Mary Wiener and Holy Cross good luck with the new energy-efficiency program and looks forward to following their progress.