States Helping Drive Energy Efficiency Initiatives

December 11, 2015 By Carl Weinschenk

state governmentState governments can make it easier for businesses to become more energy efficient and save money directly — through grants and loans – and in more indirect ways. Both approaches are happening in Tennessee, New York and California.

Tennessee: The Volunteer State has awarded first round grants aimed at enabling state-run facilities to run energy efficiency projects, according to CleanEnergy.

The EmPower TN program will provide $33.6 million to 33 projects and shave $4.42 million off energy bills annually, the story said. The return on investment (ROI) period will be 15 years. During that time $66 million will be saved.

The projects are not official yet, however. “Each project will be on its own timeline as they require State Building Commission (SBC) approval,” Michelle R. Martin, the Senior Manager of Communications for the state, told Energy Manager Today. “Once projects are scheduled on the SBC agenda and if approved, they are able to move forward with implementation activities. Since some projects may require seeking competitive bids for contracted services to implement this project, this is another factor that affects individual project timelines.”

The projects in the program are valued from more than $7 million (lighting at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga) to $36,000 (replacement boiler at the Mid Cumberland Regional Health Office in Nashville). They include HVAC systems, new chillers and boilers, a direct digital control replacement for a building automation system (at South Central Regional Health in Columbia) and others.

The most expansive, at least in its description, is slated for the Andrew Johnson Office Building in Nashville. The $697,000 grant will finance new boilers and cooling towers, installation of a heat exchanger for outside cooling and retro commissioning. New controls will be installed as well.

New York: The New York State Public Service Commission is giving Sustainable Westchester access to data necessary to create the state’s first Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) program. The information details the total number of homes and small businesses that are purchasing energy from the utilities – compared to those that purchase from the free market — as well as the amount of energy consumed monthly by each user and the amount that these homes and small businesses consumed during the highest stress hour on the grid earlier this year, according to Sustainable Westchester.

This data is vital to CCAs’ success, according to Sustainable Westchester. Laws enabling CCAs have been enacted in 25 municipalities in the county, which is north of New York City. About 150,000 homes and virtually all the small businesses in the communities are participating, the group says.

It is anticipated that the winning energy services company (ESCO) bid will be for bulk electricity for more than $100 million, which will be followed by a natural gas purchase of about the same size. “Sustainable Westchester will be responsible for making the bid with an ESCO and it will use the aggregated energy data it recently received to make that bid,” Mike Gordon, Co-Chair of Sustainable Westchester and CEO of Joule Assets, told Energy Manager Today. “The 25 municipalities do not interact directly with the ESCOs.”

Elsewhere in New York, the State University in Oneonta has received a $75,000 grant to increase energy efficiency by retro-commissioning 10 buildings. The grants were awarded through the New York Power Authority’s Operations and Maintenance Acceleration Program (OMAP) competition, which is part of the state’s BuildSmart program, according to the Oneonta Star.

The college is contributing $25,000 toward the re-commissioning. The buildings collectively use about 588,750 kWh of energy per month. The work is expected to save approximately 88,312.5 kWh during that period.

Four residence halls and six other buildings will be re-commissioned. The specific steps taken in each case will be based on an analysis of the buildings’ energy management, HVAC and electrical system. The goals are to identify equipment or systems that must be replaced, opportunities to save energy and cut costs and improve indoor air quality and thermal comfort.

California: The California Energy Commission has approved a variety of loans and grants, according to the Central Valley Business Times. Among the recipients are the Lamont Public Utility District (for a photovoltaic system) and the Oroville Union High School District (photovoltaics). Kern County, the Kings Canyon Unified School District and the South Coast Air Quality Management District got grants for various vehicular operations. Four companies – H2 Frontier; Air Liquide Industrial US LP; Air Products and Chemicals and FirstElement Fuel — got grants for the operational maintenance of 17 hydrogen refueling stations.

Another initiative in California will indirectly help save money in existing buildings. The California Energy Commission this week said that it has awarded $4.5 million to the Center for Sustainable Energy. The funds will be used to train apprentices from disadvantaged communities to install advanced systems in commercial buildings. Those systems, according to the press release, will enable buildings to respond to changing grid demands.

Recruits and current apprentices will be trained on automated demand response (AutoDR), a family of technologies that enable buildings to respond agilely to utility requests to temporarily reduce energy use at times of peak stress on the grid.

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