Our friends at the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) have published another source report worthy of a post on this blog. The title of this report is Frontiers of Energy Efficiency: Next Generation Programs Reach for High Energy Savings, which can be found here.
The report is quite a detailed whomper, but I gravitated to the commercial and industrial sections of the Executive Summary to see what they have to say. They are singing our (Michaels) song all the way baby, and we can hum to that tune. Only my dogs will listen to my lyrics in some sort of multi-tone delivery. The only song I can sing really well is Pink Floyd’s “One of these Days”.
For commercial, ACEEE’s tune is completely in line with recent post “End of Lighting”. Cost effective LED lighting is not there yet in terms of cost effectiveness as an alternative to linear fluorescent sources. Wonderful. Instead, pay dirt is in systemic designs that a simpleton could not mess up. These include single zone systems such as ground source heat pumps, variable refrigerant flow, and “efficient” rooftop units. Papers presented on our website and one presented at the ACEEE Summer Study, as luck would have it, are available for more detail.
They go on to say that for new construction “design tools and standardized designs of common building types have been developed to achieve higher performance for a greater number of new buildings.” Well, by golly! This too sounds familiar. However, I would add that programs need to foster and guide market players through these cookbooks as normal people, including contractors, don’t live and breathe energy efficiency on a daily basis. The options need to be boiled down into distinct recipes for design builders for construction. There are also, as outlined in the above linked ACEEE paper, systems that should be avoided because they are easy to dork up operationally, and there are others for which efficient heating and cooling sources are just not available in the market. These include packaged rooftop units, which serve something like 70% of commercial building space in the country.
Continuing on with existing facilities, ACEEE promotes systems commissioning, retrocommissioning, and “strategic energy management”, the definition for which can be boiled down to setting targets, working toward them, and keeping an eye on things. Yes, indeed, these are no brainers, but not normal.
Commercial buildings can be split into two groups: those for which there are great energy-saving opportunities and those that have little opportunity. The latter group is cheating. They don’t provide ventilation. They may not have air conditioning (lots of schools in the Midwest). They simply don’t maintain facility spaces meeting ASHRAE standard 62 ventilation and ASHRAE standard 55 comfort conditions at all times.
Similarly, ACEEE says the big money for energy savings for industrial end users is with process optimization. I would add to this supporting system optimization. Industrial customers are extremely reluctant to mess with their direct process, as this could affect their product quality. Instead, typically a huge amount of energy is consumed and wasted by supporting systems: cooling water systems, fans, pumps, blowers, refrigeration, compressed air, as a few examples, and especially the control systems that serve these systems. They say the next generation of programs must move beyond equipment replacement – well, hallelujah!
Lastly, just as I mentioned in November, utilities, but especially regulators, need to get off their fuel-switching-fixation horse and promote programs like combined heat and power (CHP). As ACEEE states, backing my post, CHP reduces costs for all customers. Possibly, they explain why in the rest of their tome, I explained why in Bait and Switch. Nearly all new power generation plants are fueled by natural gas. They generate electricity and dump huge amounts of heat to the surroundings (rivers, lakes, air, whichever the case may be). The conventional wisdom is that CHP incentives for electric customers would benefit gas utilities by driving up gas demand. Oh really? Where does the electricity otherwise come from anyway? Natural gas! Get over it.
For this week’s “I told you so” finale, The Wall Street Journal reports that the budget deficit for the first quarter (October-January) shrunk compared to a year ago, “partly as a result of a surge in individual income-tax revenue in December.” And, “The revenue boost might have been a one-time event. The Congressional Budget Office earlier this week said an increase in withholding taxes in December might reflect early payment of some compensation, because people were anticipating higher tax rates in 2013.”
Just following through on a promise from a mere three weeks ago, taxes matter.
 On the margin that is, and on the margin is where utility programs operate. It’s all about the last kWh or kW to be provided.