Earth Day comes only once a year, but helping commercial customers manage their loads and save on operating costs is an ongoing battle for power providers. Large key account managers may want to add this infographic from the Intelligent Utility Community Forum to their arsenal. It is from Zen Ecosystems, an energy management system designer, and it deftly sums up the value of building system controls from both an environmental and economic standpoint.
The post also contains a link to a case study Zen Ecosystems did on installing a multi-site energy management platform for a retail chain with 350 stores nationwide. With a centralized portal to manage building systems, National Stores was able to cut its energy consumption costs by 25 percent. The platform also enabled the chain to remotely program the space conditioning systems in each store. Heating and cooling systems in some locations had been running nonstop, causing equipment to fail from overwork. The avoided maintenance costs sped up National Stores’ return on investment.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Speakers will discuss how to get faster and more frequent approvals for commercial retrofit projects. Participants will learn five tips Noesis has developed to help marketing and customer service representatives deliver the business case for their projects and get more projects approved, faster.
Noesis specializes in working with energy-efficiency equipment vendors, but utility key account representatives might find the information valuable as well. Also, if your utility partners with vendors and contractors, consider getting everyone involved in marketing your customer programs to attend this training opportunity.
Exterior lighting attracts customers to retail locations, enhances safety conditions and improves the perception of safety in spaces where pedestrian and vehicle traffic mix, such as convenience stores with gas pumps.
Gas station canopy lighting operates for long hours in all weather conditions to light the fuel pumping area. Metal halide (MH) lighting has long dominated this application, but LED and induction lighting offer an alternative. These products save energy, reduce maintenance, provide higher-quality light and offer more control options. The biggest unknown is if the technologies can deliver the promised long lamp life in real-world conditions. High-quality fixtures are the key to achieving that longevity.
Better, not more, lighting While energy codes reduce power allowances and regulate light pollution, businesses still want to look brighter than their neighbors to attract more customers. New technologies can provide more light with less energy, and a good retrofit can put the right amount of light where you need it without producing excess light.
Some utility programs promote canopy lighting retrofits with incentives and the promise of energy savings. LEDs can often deliver more useful light for less than half the energy MH lamps use, but there are no standard rules about how many LEDs are needed to replace MHs.
According to the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES), measured and perceived light levels are not directly related. An article by the National Lighting Product Information Program explains that the perceived brightness of a space is affected by the average light level, contrast and distribution, and amount of light produced. For example, a recent retrofit project replaced 56 320-watt MH fixtures with 30 142-watt LED luminaires, reducing energy use by 80 percent.
Different luminaires, different needs A recent survey of canopy retrofits found very high light levels under canopies but not enough area lighting beyond the structures. This high contrast can impair vision. People also feel safer when they can see and respond to what is going on beyond their immediate space.
Many gas pump islands exceed the light level recommendations for these retail spaces in the horizontalplane (see sidebar), while vertical light levels are often much lower. These levels should be the same because vertical light is needed to make people and objects more visible.
A qualified lighting designer can maximize lighting effectiveness and energy savings by using different types of luminaires on different parts of a property. The IES classifies luminaires according to the amount of light that they distribute upward. Full-cutoff fixtures direct all their light down, while semi-cutoff fixtures emit some light sideways. Non-cutoff fixtures may be omnidirectional and contribute to light pollution. Using a variety of luminaires in different locations ensures that there is enough light to meet customers’ needs and it does not create glare or other safety issues.
Realistic energy savings expectations Understanding how much of the total energy bill canopy lighting represents helps in managing savings expectations. Exterior lighting at convenience stores can consume 20 percent of the total energy use. Convenience stores and truck stops have many other significant energy loads, such as refrigeration and heating and cooling. If those systems are upgraded at the same time, or if electricity rates change, energy savings from a lighting retrofit may be obscured.
Many facilities still rely on manual controls, even though photocells and timer controls are available. MH is most efficient when left on for at least 10 hours; in contrast, LEDs and induction lamps can be switched frequently without affecting their lamp life or light quality. Bi-level operation—lamps that come up to full power when customers arrive and drop to a lower light level when customers leave—might offer additional savings at less busy stations.
More savings from maintenance? MH lamps have a relatively short lifespan (10,000 to 20,000 hours) compared to LED and induction lamps (50,000 to 100,000-plus hours), and experience much higher depreciation of lighting quality over time. To compensate for these drawbacks and to avoid frequent expensive replacements, facilities using MH lamps often over-light. LEDs and induction lamps, with their long lamp life and more durable quality, can reduce the need for maintenance and over-lighting. Maintenance savings may accumulate faster than energy savings, improving the payback in spite of high first costs.
As LED performance improves and costs decline, this technology has become competitive in many markets, especially when factoring in total cost of ownership rather than energy savings alone. Induction lighting may also be worth considering.