Friday, September 07, 2012

'Envision: Charlotte' program a model for urban-area energy use

John Downey
Senior Staff Writer- Charlotte Business Journal

The meter is running on the Envision: Charlotte effort to cut electricity use in uptown Charlotte 20%, but Duke Energy Carolinas says it’s too early to have any useful statistics from the program.
Vincent Davis, director of Smart Energy Now, says it will be September or October before meaningful figures can be derived from the technology designed to track and report electricity use in 64 of uptown’s largest buildings.
The technology is designed to provide hard numbers on how much power is being used and to quantify how much is saved. Duke also intends to adjust the raw figures to reflect unseasonable weather, building vacancies and other factors.
“You can’t manage what you can’t measure,” says Tom Shircliff, chairman of the board for the nonprofit Envision: Charlotte. The organization has expanded the project from focusing on energy efficiency to include sustainable practices for water consumption, waste disposal and air quality.
The work on the energy-savings element of the project is the farthest along. Smart Energy Now, set up by Duke to deliver the energy savings promised when the project was announced in 2010, is organized under Duke’s Save-A-Watt program. It must demonstrate energy savings to qualify for compensation from the utility’s ratepayers.
Realizing the program’s goals involves changing the behavior of office tenants and landlords. So while Davis doesn’t have firm numbers to demonstrate any achievements, the work on changing behavior is well under way.
From the Mecklenburg County jail to Johnson & Wales University and the Bank of America Corporate Center, Duke has held training sessions for 600 uptown workers designated by their companies as “energy champions.” It’s their job to come up with creative ways to encourage fellow employees to save energy.
Rob Phocas, energy and sustainability manager for the city of Charlotte, says the city has trained almost 200 employees as part of its participation in the program. Programming has ranged from straightforward efforts to figure out what percentage of lights are turned off when rooms are empty to efforts such as “Crab, You’re It!” That involves designating energy wasters by leaving a plastic crab — crabs move toward light — at their work stations.
The city has boosted the percentage of lights turned off to 90% from 50% at the start of the program.
Envision: Charlotte also is working with building owners and operators. But that effort will become more involved once the organization has firm figures to analyze.
Most uptown buildings already are using many of the best practices and advanced equipment to conserve resources. “Changing behavior doesn’t require a capital investment, and that is a lot of what we are concentrating on,” Shircliff says.
The Carillon building, owned by Houston-based Hines, participated in one of the energy audits Smart Energy Now offered. Hines’ general manager at Carillon, Mike Delev, says the audit confirmed the company’s equipment programs are delivering the efficiencies they expected. But he expects to be able to learn additional ways to use energy more efficiently from the practices of other participants.
“We will do our utmost to continue our program of saving energy and looking for additional ways to save,” Delev says. “A lot of things will be learned from this experience and will be valuable from understanding the consumption patterns of buildings and how to promote savings to stakeholders in the market.”
That will come down the road as Duke, the Envision: Charlotte team and the participants are able to evaluate the hard data.
Smart Energy Now recently conducted a breakfast session aimed mainly at building owners and facilities managers. At that session, the group addressed some technical issues on energy accounting, rate structures and what data the owners and operators can assess to guide decisions on energy use and equipment purchases.
“That’s a different conversation than we are having with the employees,” Davis says, although he considers both approaches important.
And Envision: Charlotte will move more into that technical side going forward.
“We’re still in the early stages,” Davis says. “When we have nine months or so of operating under our belt, we can strip out the weather anomalies and normalize the data. Then we will be able to take a better look at patterns.”


Duke Energy Carolinas’ efficiency program saved more energy at a lower cost last year than any other investor-owned utility in the Southeast, says an analysis by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.
The environmental group issued a brief study that shows Duke saved more than 500 gigawatt hours of electricity through its Save-A-Watt efficiency programs in 2011. That amounts to 0.7% of its sales last year.
“This is significantly more than any of the other utilities in the Southeast,” the alliance says in a report, Energy Efficiency: The New Energy Superhero of the Southeast.
“Much of the savings from Duke Energy’s program came from lighting programs,” SACE’s Natalie Mims notes in her report. “Moving forward, Duke Energy is working on diversifying its programs to achieve more non-lighting savings.”
Duke has given away compact fluorescent bulbs to encourage residential customers to use efficient lighting.
The report notes Duke also exceeded its own energy-efficiency goals in 2010 and 2011. The 2011 total was about twice the gigawatt-hour savings Duke had set for itself in filings with regulators in the Carolinas.
And Duke achieved those savings at a cost of less than a penny per kilowatt hour, SACE estimates. That is about half of what efficiency programs cost Progress Energy Carolinas last year per kilowatt hour and well below the nearly 9 cents paid by Florida Power & Light.

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