Energy Efficiency Goes Commercial

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Verizon recently awarded the city of Charlotte, North Carolina with a Powerful Answers Award to help develop the most environmentally sustainable urban core in the nation. Many cities across the country in the past five years have created initiatives and have pushed to make energy efficiency not only a priority but a reality. Charlotte is no stranger to energy as it is the home of Duke Energy, the largest electric power holding company in the United States.

To pursue energy efficiency on a citywide level, a unique public-private partnership has been formed between Verizon, Duke Energy, and the business and civic leaders of Charlotte. Energy efficiency in many other cities is pursued on a building by building basis, many times through the LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) certification process. Despite the merits of the LEED certification, it is tough to fight for energy efficiency on a case by case basis without an overall collaborative effort. The city of Charlotte’s ambitious plan is clearly a plan of action when you have partners like Verizon and Duke Energy on board.

Energy efficiency is often referred to as the “low-hanging fruit” in sustainability. Although energy efficiency is regularly a better financial investment for buildings and businesses, it does not garner the attention it deserves simply because it’s less “sexy” than renewable energy solutions. The most sensible way to approach sustainability is to first bring your demand down as much as possible through energy efficiency measures before attempting to produce any of your energy on site via renewables.

Unfortunately, we do not always act sensibly and often would rather produce more energy than efficiently allocate the energy currently available. The energy efficiency vs. energy production decision is analogous to saving money vs. making more money. When people and businesses want more money available to them — instead of looking for ways to cut back their spending, they may first look at how to make more. This is perfectly understandable as there is nothing glamorous about saving money, much less energy.

However, it is arguably easier to save money since we are usually acutely aware of how much money we are spending and where it is going. Businesses are normally only able to properly manage their finances thanks to accurate “real-time” accounting. It is through measuring and keeping track of money that we are able to make intelligent financial decisions — energy  is no different, this is where the city of Charlotte is making big progress.

We are all energy dependent but it is only now that we are becoming energy aware. It is this awareness that prompted Verizon, Duke Energy, and the city of Charlotte to come together to build what are essentially real-time energy accounting solutions. By measuring and tracking energy use, energy efficiency suddenly comes to the forefront of our minds. Once real-time energy consumption data is available and visible, people not only think about their energy use but can start to make informed decisions.

The partnership between Verizon, Duke Energy, and the city of Charlotte is called “Envision Charlotte.” Envision Charlotte is a 501c3 charitable organization and boasts a number of heavy hitting partners across the industries of energy, communication, and infrastructure (https://www.envisioncharlotte.com/partners/).

Envision Charlotte is creating “intelligent buildings,” where real-time energy consumption data is gathered through smart meters and sensors and displayed on interactive kiosks. These kiosks can be found in the lobbies of large commercial buildings in downtown Charlotte and encourage people to think about their energy decisions. Over time, this energy data will help educate and inform the citizens of Charlotte, leading to better energy choices.

Energy has long been thought of as an abstract commodity or an endless resource, but through the efforts of Envision Charlotte, energy is being made visible, measurable, and most importantly, actionable.

In many cases, it is not a matter of doing without, as much as replacing old technologies with newer more energy efficient technologies. A good example is the widespread adoption of compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) that have largely replaced their less efficient incandescent predecessors. Another technology is the use of motion detection lights so that “leaving the lights on” is to some degree a concern of the past.

 The type of initiative and commitment shown in Charlotte provides hope for more energy efficient cities throughout the country. Envision Charlotte has been able to garner partners like Verizon and Duke Energy not only because of the environmental benefits of conserving our vital energy resources but also due to the serious financial benefits that are made possible to businesses in this win-win scenario.

Verizon provides their core competency communication services in order to deliver large amounts of real-time energy data that in turn allow people to make more informed energy decisions. These better energy decisions lead to lower energy bills for businesses and the lower energy demand prevents Duke Energy from having to build new power plants. When people conserve energy, everyone wins.

Bill Ehrlich is a Mosaic blog contributor who works in the electrical industry. After graduating from Notre Dame with a degree in Finance he worked on a cattle ranch in Wyoming and then taught English in China. Returning home to the States he worked at Inovateus Solar, a solar integrator in South Bend, Indiana. Originally from Minnesota, he is currently getting his hands dirty doing electrical construction in the city of Chicago. Outside of work Bill enjoys investing, solar power, and most of all, investing in solar power!

The post Powerful Answers: Energy Efficiency Goes Commercial appeared first on The Blog.

Commercial Leaders Go Solar

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Installation of solar systems in America and NC are growing.  The investment in NC has internal rates of return in the 10-15% range and allows business owners to reduce their tax and energy bills.  We field calls every day from business owners interested in solar as an investment.

“For years, the promise of solar was always ‘just around the corner.’  Well, solar has turned the corner and found itself on Main Street USA,” said Vote Solar Executive Director Adam Browning.  “These companies — titans of American business — may have vastly different products, business models, and geographic locations, but they all have something in common: they know a good deal when they see one.”

The companies moving to solar energy is “like a ‘Who’s Who’ of the most successful corporations in America,” said SEIA President and CEO Rhone Resch. “These iconic brands are leading the way.”

Installation of solar systems in America and NC are growing.  The investment in NC has internal rates of return in the 10-15% range and allows business owners to reduce their tax and energy bills.  We field calls every day from business owners interested in solar as an investment.

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“For years, the promise of solar was always ‘just around the corner.’  Well, solar has turned the corner and found itself on Main Street USA,” said Vote Solar Executive Director Adam Browning.  “These companies — titans of American business — may have vastly different products, business models, and geographic locations, but they all have something in common: they know a good deal when they see one.”

The companies moving to solar energy is “like a ‘Who’s Who’ of the most successful corporations in America,” said SEIA President and CEO Rhone Resch. “These iconic brands are leading the way.”

Bob Kingery is the President and co-founder of Southern Energy Management. Read more about him here.

Original Article on Southern Energy Management

The Smaller-Scale Commercial Solar Market

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By transferring a portion of a commercial building’s electricity expenses to its property tax bill, Demeter Power is paving the way for an expansion of distributed solar generation in small- to medium-sized commercial buildings.

Demeter Power, a provider of financing solutions for commercial distributed generation, has been awarded $500,000 through the Department of Energy’s SunShot initiative for its efforts to help commercial buildings overcome a primary obstacle to securing financing for solar power investments: access to credit. SunShot’s aim is to make solar power cost-competitive with other electricity sources by 2020.

“The number-one obstacle that the marketplace is seeing for solar power investments by commercial building owners is credit,” said Demeter co-founder and executive vice president of development Yann Brandt. “For solar financing, credit security is the biggest driver of whether a project can move forward.”

Investing in solar electricity generation capacity is a long-term proposition. Financing models for these kinds of investments, such as leases and power purchasing agreements, tend to have time horizons in the 20-year range. “Like any two-way purchase in solar financing, it’s a guaranteed purchase of electricity for a period of time,” Brandt said.

These long-term agreements require appropriate counterparties, often established through a corporate guarantee provided by a building owner (such as a holding company) with a sufficiently strong balance sheet. But when it comes to smaller commercial spaces, the proprietor could be an individual.

“With smaller companies, sometimes you need a personal guarantee from company owners, which makes the project even more difficult: you’re putting your own personal balance sheet on the line for the transaction,” Brandt said.

Demeter’s solar financing product helps to avoid the corporate guarantee requirement by enabling building owners and tenants to shift a share of the building’s utility bill to its property tax bill. Demeter’s solar financing product builds on the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program, under which solar projects can be eligible for loans which are then paid back through property tax bills over a fifteen- to twenty-year period. When a

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