Friday, March 9, 2012

Honest Buildings Aims to Foster Competition Among Green Buildings

A new startup company called Honest Buildings is striving to heat up the competition between buildings to promote making more of them green. The company has created a web site which aggregates data from a variety of sources including public databases, building owners, and companies which provide green products and services to create transparency and go-to reference for green building information. Their ultimate vision is to create a site where potential building space lessors could compare buildings to find those with lower energy costs due to energy efficiency technologies used within them. They also aim to provide a system which enables building owners to distribute RFPs and contractors and service providers to respond them for energy efficiency projects such as installing building energy management systems.

The website will launch on March 19th, so mark your calendars to head on over there and check it out.

Source: Gigaom

Monday, February 27, 2012

PUCO Revokes AEP Settlement

Good news is out for those with small businesses in the AEP Ohio service territory. The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) has revoked the Electric Security Plan settlement which it had originally agreed upon in December of last year.

“Our decision effectively hits the reset button on AEP’s electric security plan, allows us to start over from the beginning, ensure that we have a complete picture of any proposal, and balance the interests of all customers and the utility,” Chairman Todd A. Snitchler stated. “Ohio remains committed to continuing down the path towards fully competitive markets.”

The result of this decision means that AEP has been ordered by the PUCO, as mandated by Ohio law, to return its rates to levels similar to those effective in December of 2011. Until a new rate plan is agreed upon between the PUCO and AEP, those are the rates which will remain in effect.

The PUCO states that the decision to revoke the settlement was based upon the agency becoming aware of the actual impacts of the agreement and arguments raised by parties who did not sign the agreement. Finding that the settlement as agreed upon "does not benefit ratepayers and is not in the public interest" the PUCO took the action of revoking the settlement.

AEP Ohio now has 30 days to amend or withdraw the underlying application (rate case) which was filed on January 27, 2011. That rate case is now reopened and any and all parties may participate in the proceedings. The PUCO will issue a new procedural schedule once it has received AEP Ohio's response. AEP Ohio also has the option of withdrawing the current application and filing a new one. We'll keep you posted as developments occur.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Tip of the Week

How much you pay for your business' electric utility bill is determined by a number of factors. Most of us are familiar with actual electric consumption being a factor, but many are unaware of an equally important factor called peak demand. Peak demand is the greatest amount of electrical consumption your building requires at any single point in time. The more electric consuming devices and systems you have running at the same time, the higher your demand. More importantly, devices containing power supplies, compressors, motors, or pumps require a higher initial amount of electric to operate until they are up to speed or capacity. An example would be an air conditioner or furnace. On the air conditioner the compressor has to power up along with a motor for the blower which pushes the cooled air through your ducts. With the furnace, even gas furnaces has blowers to push the heated air through the ducts.

The reason all of this applies to most businesses is because the majority of businesses fall within the General Service tariffs (rate plans) for their electric service. These tariffs charge customers based on both electric consumption and peak demand, so it's advantageous to get both factors as low as you can to reduce your bills. The best way to obtain an accurate picture of the devices and systems within your building and how they affect your consumption and demand is by having an energy monitoring system installed. These systems collect real-time data on the electric usage in the building. Once you have the information you need to make the changes to benefit your bills, you can take the next step by having a building management system installed. These systems can control electrical devices and the mechanical systems in your building. They automate the turning on and off of devices and systems based on a combination of sensors, schedules, and events. By doing so you ensure when these devices don't need to be running that they are turned off or setback to more efficient settings...automatically. They can also stage the turning on of devices and systems which provides a lower increase in demand compared to uncontrolled environments. To lower or limit your building's peak demand, take the following steps:

  • Replace old or less efficient devices and systems with more efficient products
  • Remove or turn off unnecessary or unused devices
  • Install an energy monitoring system
  • Install building management systems which can control electric devices (computers, printers, copiers, faxes, vending machines, etc.) and mechanical systems (lighting, HVAC, irrigation, security, etc.)
You should always consult a professional before making changes in your building or its systems. Mechanical systems are complex and require trained professionals to properly work on them. A reputable energy efficiency company, such as EZ-Integration Incorporated, will be able to identify the best courses of action for your building and provide the products and expertise required to implement those plans.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Tip of the Week

When considering energy efficiency projects for your facilities it's important to ensure you're taking all the financial benefits into account. Most organizations have a firm understanding of the savings from a resulting reduction in energy consumed but often overlook or are unaware of less obvious or indirect windfalls created by these types of projects. These oversights can make a significant difference in the ROI and thus potentially cause a feasible project to look unfavorable. Here are some areas of savings to  take into consideration for all energy efficiency projects:

Reduced Demand

Total KWh consumed is not the only determining factor in your utility bills. Peak Demand, the highest level of utility consumption demand by your facility within a time cycle, can also impact the amount you are charged for service. For example, on a hot summer day a building without a control system could have multiple HVAC units turn on at the same time or nearly the same time. This is undesirable as each HVAC unit draws an increased amount of electricity to power up its compressor. The amount of electricity required to keep the compressor running once it is fully powered is lower than the amount required to power it up. This creates a "peak" in your electric service demand while the compressor is powering up. So, if multiple HVAC units power up at the same time the peak is even higher, requiring your utility to have a greater amount of electricity available at all times in order to meet your peak demand needs when they occur. This results in a higher cost to the utility, which gladly passes the costs onto you. A control system being installed in the same building could provide communications between the HVAC units so that their power up is staggered enough to prevent the higher peaks and save you money on your electric bills.

Reduced Maintenance

Equipment breaks down as it ages and becomes less reliable and less efficient, requiring more frequent maintenance and replacement of parts. More frequent maintenance requires more of someone's time to keep things running which either takes away from the person's time to work on other equipment or eventually leads to the need to hire additional staff. It all means higher expenses. Over time new technology provides superior equipment with longer life, efficiency, and reliability. Even if it costs more for equipment containing the new technology the reduction in maintenance costs for it compared to the existing equipment may justify the additional cost or even lead to savings. An example of this would be comparing the cost of florescent lighting to LED lighting. LED lighting has a much higher purchase cost but it also is more efficient, has 4 times or more life, and doesn't require ballasts. In most cases the costs of LED lighting over the life of the product compared to florescent lighting are lower and the longer life frees up maintenance staff.

Another example would be in the case where a control system that provides alerts and notifications when equipment is not working properly is installed in a building. By having a system which notifies maintenance staff when issues occur, the need to have staff spending time surveying the building for equipment issues can be reduced or eliminated altogether. Not to mention the utility savings realized when an issue causing additional consumption or demand is caught and addressed in a timely manner rather than being caught and addressed whenever someone happens to notice it. Maintenance staff can't be everywhere at the same time, but a control system can be.

Increased Equipment Life

Energy efficiency projects can also have components to them which result in increased life of equipment in a building. Doing things like turning off lighting and electronic devices, or setting back thermostats when a building is unoccupied reduce the number of hours that equipment is running leading to it lasting longer before needing replaced or repaired. Other measures such as dimming lighting when sufficient natural light is available lead to increased life of equipment as well.

As you can see there are many savings opportunities and benefits to be derived from and accounted for when determining the total impact an energy efficiency project can have on a business' bottom line. Finding someone who can identify these items is crucial to making a fully informed decision on the viability of an energy efficiency project. Firms such as EZ-Integration, Inc. provide the services and control systems which help businesses and building owners get the most out of their projects. For more information on all the benefits an energy efficiency project can bring to you visit , email us at, or contact us by phone at 1-877-928-4111 or if you're in the State of Ohio at (614) 495-3700.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Electric Prices Continue to Increase Even in Bad Economy

Many Americans and American businesses have been feeling the pinch of the recession and extended economic downturn. Every increase in prices from fueling up our cars to the cost of groceries is making it that much more painful. AEP residential and commercial customers in Ohio can add their electric bills to that list. From December 2011 to January 2012 residential rates of AEP's Columbus Southern Power customers rose 4 percent and AEP's Ohio Power customers by 5 percent. Worse yet, small business (commercial) customers are seeing even higher increases.

These increases are part of a negotiated settlement between AEP and the PUCO on AEP's most recent rate case. This won't be the last, nor the biggest of the increases, covered by the settlement which sets AEP's electric rates for Ohio customers between this year and 2016. In the coming weeks those of us here at the ESP blog will feature a series of articles breaking down the specifics of the rate case and what AEP Ohio customers can expect as a result.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Tip of the Week

The best ways of making our businesses and homes more energy efficient are the ones which cost little or nothing to implement and do not effect the comfort of our environment or the use of devices we rely on. One of the devices most commonly used in people's daily lives, computers, are a significant source of energy consumption. But, it's not like we're going to start using them less or stop using them altogether to save energy either. Fortunately when it comes to computers there is a painless, cost-effective solution; use laptops instead of desktops whenever possible.

The average desktop computer consumes between 150 and 250 watts of electricity when in use compared to the average laptop which only uses between 15 and 60 watts of electricity. That's as much as a 90% reduction! Plus, the 150 to 250 watts consumed by a desktop computer doesn't count the devices connected to it. You can add another 15 to 75 watts for an LCD monitor, or if you're using an old CRT monitor that number could be 80 watts or more. Now consider that laptops when put into sleep mode consume even less, as little as a fraction of a watt, and the savings keep stacking up. Of course there's also the benefit of laptops being portable too.

So the next time you're looking to replace a computer in your home or business, choose a laptop and enjoy the savings that come with it.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Illinois Tells Utilitites to Prove Smart Grid Benefits or Pay

The Illinois state legislature recently passed a bill requiring utilities to prove they can deliver on the promises they made regarding Smart Grid projects in the state. It will still allow the utilities to add a $3 per month charge to consumers' bills, but if they fail to meet certain benchmarks in the areas of reduced outages, energy theft, and inactive meters, the state will assess them penalties. It also places requirements on utilities to reduce estimated billing by 90 percent, and bad debt and unpaid bills by $30 million. Failure to meet the goals established in the bill will result in financial penalties, including a portion of their profits. Illinois is the first state to tie financial penalties to Smart Grid projects and their smart meter systems. To read the full article, go to