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Food Bank Offsets Rate Increase with Energy Efficiency Savings

Linda Hardesty

Roadrunner Food BankRoadrunner Food Bank of New Mexico did some major energy efficiency upgrades in 2010, which helped the non-profit survive big rate increases of Public Service Company of New Mexico.

The food bank raised about $350,000 in grants from a private donor and the Walmart Foundation, among others, and, the organization got about $20,000 in energy efficiency rebates from Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM) to do the retrofits of its large facility.

As a result, the organization saw a decrease of about 19 percent in its electricity usage. But, the timing coincided with a rate increase of 18.5 percent for large commercial customers.

“We didn’t see our electricity bill go down much, but in a period when everyone was experiencing 18.5 percent increases in electricity prices, our bill stayed flat,” said Teresa Johansen, COO with Roadrunner.

Before the upgrades, Roadrunner’s 166,000-sq-foot building, including a 15,000-sq-foot refrigerator/freezer, cost the non-profit $130,000 to $150,000 per year for electricity.

The group worked with a representative at PNM who provided it with energy efficiency ideas as well as information about obtaining rebates and grants. It was critical to find money for the upgrades because the agency was not allowed to spend any donor money on programs unrelated to the food bank’s core activities.

Under the state’s Efficient Use of Energy Act, PNM is required to meet targets for energy savings, and one of the utility’s most cost-effective ways to do that is to help its commercial customers – including non-profits – save energy.

Roadrunner used its energy money to insulate the warehouse ceiling in order to reduce food spoilage from extreme summer temperatures. It removed 150 old 400-watt metal halide lights and replaced 110 of them with energy efficient T-5 fluorescents that provide three times more light. Motion sensors were added that activate lights on an as-needed basis in rarely used areas of the warehouse. Eight 20-year-old heating and air conditioning (HVAC) units in the office area were replaced with more efficient units. And Roadrunner replaced three uninsulated roll-up doors in the freezer.

In addition, Roadrunner signed up for PNM’s PowerSaver program that earns the non-profit more than $1,000 per year in exchange for curtailing air conditioning during peak demand periods.

For its part, PNM has requested permission from the Public Regulation Commission (PRC) to increase its budget for commercial energy efficiency programs from $5.7 million in 2012 to $7.3 million in 2014 and $8.1 million in 2015. The PRC is currently reviewing PNM’s new Energy Efficiency and Load Management Program Plan.



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