Research completed by two of our energy analysts was recently published by the U. S. Department of Energy’s Building America program. Energy Savers’ Jenne Farley and Russell Ruch worked as part of the Partnership for Advanced Residential Retrofit (PARR) team to complete a study which determines a time- and resource-effective approach to the process of retrofitting multifamily buildings. The full report can be found at: Evaluation of CNT Energy Savers Retrofit Packages Implemented in Multifamily Buildings.
The study examined three buildings in the Energy Savers program with common heating systems, ages, and construction types. Steam, hot water, and individual furnace heated buildings were all examined. The energy analysts then used energy modeling software to design a comprehensive package of cost-effective energy improvements for each building. These packages included measures such as roof cavity air sealing and insulation, pipe insulation, duct sealing, water aerators, and boiler controls. All measures are expected to save more money over their lifetimes than they originally cost – some even paying back seven to eight times.
The energy analysts then worked with the building owners to have the measures installed through the Energy Savers process. As with all projects, the analysts assisted with soliciting contractor bids, helping secure utility rebates and financing, and conducting quality assurance inspections at the end. CNT Energy analyzes gas bills on an ongoing basis to confirm that retrofit projects are saving as much energy as predicted.
Comprehensive packages like these make it easy for building owners to save money and energy. The Energy Savers team is thrilled to be sharing these proven techniques on a national scale. This study is one of several reports we have done for the Building America initiative as part of the PARR team. Stay tuned, we have more work planned to help quantify and communicate the benefits of energy efficiency
The Chicago City Council recently passed an ordinance requiring energy benchmarking of large buildings. With the energy use benchmarking ordinance, Chicago joins the ranks of cities such as New York City, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Boston, San Francisco, Austin, and Seattle that have all adopted energy benchmarking ordinances.
As in other cities, the Chicago ordinance requires that building owners use ENERGY STAR Portfolio ManagerTM to report energy use. Portfolio Manager is a free, easy-to-use online tool from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Portfolio Manager is widely used across the United States and Canada. As of December 2011, more than 260,000 buildings have been benchmarked in Portfolio Manager. This represents over 28 billion square feet (nearly 40 percent of the commercial market) and all 50 states. The tool is used to track the energy use of a building or portfolio over time and to compare an individual building’s performance with similar commercial buildings nationwide.
Portfolio Manager also makes it possible to track other metrics such as costs, emissions, water usage, and changes from the baseline, while normalizing for weather and operational conditions (such as size of building, hours of operation, and number of employees).
How does it work?
To begin, users set up an account and enter basic building information such as building age, size, and function (see image above). Users then enter 12 months of energy use data. Below, for example, is the information required to enter an office space type. Later, owners can update entries, share information, and run reports.
Portfolio Manager calculates the building’s annual Energy Use Intensity (EUI), a standard metric used to compare buildings. Energy Use Intensity, or EUI, refers to a building’s annual energy usage expressed in kBtu per square foot per year. The lower the value, the less energy intensive the building is. EUI is calculated by converting all reported fuel sources and units (electricity in kWh, natural gas in therms) to thousands of Btus (kBtu). This value is divided by the square footage of the building to allow for easy comparison among buildings of varying size.
Currently, there are fifteen common building types that are also given an ENERGY STAR rating on a scale of one to 100. A rating of 75 or more indicates top performance, meaning that a building performs better than 75 percent of similar buildings nationwide. These properties are eligible to earn ENERGY STAR certification, a distinction that buildings must reapply for each year.
Where can I learn more?
The EPA offers a host of training resources for Portfolio Manager. Chicago will soon offer customized Portfolio Manager training for building owners, in order to comply with the city benchmarking ordinance.
Stay tuned for more information from CNT Energy and other partners for training dates and locations. We’ll also publish a guide to help multifamily building owners benchmark their buildings and a case study of CNT’s ENERGY STAR rated building.
As we approach the end of the year, we thought it a fitting time to look back at where CNT Energy has been.
2000 – 2002: Creating Community Connections
The story of CNT Energy really begins in 2000, when several folks from the Center for Neighborhood Technology formed the Community Energy Cooperative, the organization that later became CNT Energy. At the time, the Chicago area was experiencing periodic blackouts, particularly in areas with growing populations and aging electricity infrastructure. Our goal was to help address these issues by harnessing the power of community connection to reduce demand. We focused our efforts in the Chicago neighborhood of Pilsen, the northwestern suburban community of Elgin, and later, the northwest side of Chicago, making use of neighborhood connections to help these communities control their energy use and benefit from changes in energy technology and regulations. We helped businesses upgrade to energy efficient lighting, and made it possible for thousands of families to swap old, inefficient window air conditioners for efficient, new units.
2003 – 2006: Promoting Innovative Ideas
In 2003, we had another great idea. We knew electricity prices varied throughout the day based on demand, and some businesses and manufacturers were taking advantage of electricity rates that let them pay less for electricity during off-peak times. However, residential consumers didn’t have that option. We saw value in offering a variable electricity rate to residential customers, so in 2003, we worked with ComEd to launch the Energy-Smart Pricing Plan.
The pilot program proved to be a success. More than 1,200 people signed up for the plan, which let residential customers pay hourly, market-based electricity prices. Participants reduced their electricity use during higher demand times, and they saved money. Based on the success of this program,the state of Illinois enacted a law in 2006 that required the state’s major utilities to offer residential customers an hourly electricity pricing option.
During this period, we also introduced new approaches to how energy is viewed in regional and municipal planning processes. For example, we developed the Kane County Energy Plan. The plan projected how rapid population growth in the county would impact energy use and recommended energy efficiency strategies that could benefit the growing region.
2007 – 2009: Building on Success
In 2007, hourly electricity pricing for residential customers went from being a pilot program to a full-scale program available to households across Illinois. Ameren Illinois selected us to manage their hourly pricing program, Ameren Power Smart Pricing, allowing us to expand our services to households in central and southern Illinois.
Later that year, we changed our name to CNT Energy.
We also partnered with Community Investment Corporation and the Preservation Compact to launch Energy Savers, a one-stop shop that helps multifamily building owners retrofit existing buildings to save energy and money. Over the next two years, the growing Energy Savers team audited 8,250 units in 260 multifamily buildings in the Chicago area. Once recommended energy efficiency improvements were made, participating building owners saw average energy savings of nearly 30 percent.
In addition, in 2008 and 2009, we took steps toward making sure that certified green buildings achieve long-term energy savings. Our research team partnered with the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) to analyze the ongoing performance of 51 buildings that had received Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification through the USGBC. The research team concluded that not all green buildings perform equally well, and that for the best results, building managers should measure energy use over time and look for ways to maintain and improve performance.
2010 – 2012: Accelerating Growth
At 10 years old, CNT Energy established itself as an organization that delivers high-quality programs with impact. Our reputation led to a period of rapid expansion. In 2010, the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) selected CNT Energy to coordinate the implementation of a $25 million dollar federal grant for energy efficiency retrofits for the region’s buildings. CNT Energy worked with CMAP to launch Energy Impact Illinois, a program designed to make it easier for individuals, business, and organizations to invest in energy efficiency in their homes and buildings. In 2010, Energy Savers hit 3,000 units retrofitted, and Ameren Power Smart Pricing surpassed 10,000 participating households saving an average of 15 percent on electricity supply.
During this time, we gained recognition for our research and policy work as well. In 2012 CNT Energy and the American Council for an Energy Efficiency Economy (ACEEE) produced two reports on how utilities can work with multifamily building owners to improve energy efficiency.
Also in 2012, the two hourly electricity pricing programs CNT Energy administers, ComEd Residential Real-Time Pricing and Ameren Power Smart Pricing were given the green light from the Illinois Commerce Commission to continue and expand, saving participants energy and money.
2013 and Beyond: Expanding Our Impact
The lessons we learned from these early days inform everything we do today. We continue to hone place-based strategies that use community outreach, education and information sharing, and technological innovation to impact how people and communities use energy.
During 2013, we focused on managing our growth and positioning ourselves for future endeavors. This year, Energy Savers reached a huge milestone of more than 15,000 units retrofitted and nearly 500 jobs created! We retrofitted nearly 4,000 residences in Illinois through Energy Impact Illinois, and we now support over 25,000 hourly electricity pricing participants across the state.
We’ve also started some fun CNT Energy traditions, including a very serious annual kickball game, and discovered an organizational appreciation for bike maintenance classes, worm composting, after-work yoga, and, of course, potlucks.
We have future goals to support dynamic pricing and smart grid initiatives, expand our Energy Savers program model, and incorporate water conservation into energy efficiency programs.
If that’s not enough, we have even more changes afoot. Stay tuned!
Change Your Light Bulbs
Saving on lighting costs can be as easy as changing a light bulb. Replacing 15 traditional incandescent bulbs in your home with ENERGY STAR qualified energy efficient compact fluorescent (CFL) or LED bulbs could reduce your electricity bill by $50 a year. Another advantage of the efficient bulbs is they don’t need to be replaced as often. CFL bulbs typically last 10 times longer than traditional bulbs, and LED bulbs can last 25 times longer.
Design for Efficiency
When lighting your home, brighter isn’t always better. To avoid wasting energy, select bulbs and light fixtures based on the needs of a particular space. Add task lights such as desk lamps or reading lamps in areas that need to be brighter, and reduce the brightness of general lighting. When possible, open shades to take advantage of natural daylight.
Turn Off the Lights
While turning lights off is an obvious way to save energy, frequent on/off switching can reduce the life span of CFL bulbs. To balance energy savings and bulb life, the U.S. Department of Energy recommends turning off CFL bulbs only when you leave a room for 15 minutes or longer. LED bulbs are not affected by frequent on-off switching and can be turned off whenever they are not needed. Incandescent bulbs are the least efficient light bulbs, and should always be switched off when not in use.
Upgrade Outdoor Lighting
Install energy efficient light bulbs, controls, and fixtures to save on outdoor lighting. LED bulbs work well in most outdoor settings because they are durable, can withstand cold temperatures, and reach full brightness almost immediately. To make sure lights are on only when needed, consider motion sensors for security and utility, along with photo sensors that turn lights off during daylight hours. Fixtures that use shields to direct light where it is needed will reduce glare and improve visibility without the need for extremely bright, energy-hungry bulbs. Finally, look for solar powered outdoor lighting where available.
Celebrate and Save
With the holiday season coming up, it is worth considering the options available for festive seasonal lighting. Decorative strands of LED lights use 70 percent less energy than traditional incandescent strands. They are also sturdier, safer, and last 10 times longer than old standard versions. Decorative LED lights are available in a wide variety of styles and colors and cost about the same as the incandescent versions.
To save even more, consider participating in ComEd Residential Real-Time Pricing or Ameren Power Smart Pricing. Hourly electricity pricing programs can be an especially good fit for people who heat their home with electricity by taking advantage of the lower seasonal price trends found during the fall, winter, and spring. Here’s more on how you can save you money.
Sources: U.S. Department of Energy (energy.gov), ENERGY STAR (energystar.gov)
Congrats to CNT Energy’s CEO Anne Evens, named as one of Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses scholars to help small businesses create jobs and economic growth by providing entrepreneurs with practical business education, access to capital, and business support services. Anne is part of the first nonprofit group of small business scholars.
“We strive for impact every day at CNT Energy,” Evens said. “It’s an honor to be a part of such an impressive group with such a commitment to jobs and growth.”
Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses is a $500 million investment to help small businesses in the United States. Click here to learn more about the program.
At CNT Energy, Anne provides oversight for programs related to energy efficiency retrofits in multifamily buildings, energy performance of commercial and residential buildings, regional energy and climate planning, as well as smart grid and dynamic electricity pricing initiatives.
Anne oversees implementation of one of the country’s largest and most successful programs for retrofitting existing multifamily rental housing. The CNT Energy Savers program has retrofitted more than 15,000 rental units since it began and created nearly 500 jobs. She also creates jobs within our own organization. Under Anne’s direction, CNT Energy has grown in recent years from 12 to close to 70 full-time staff members.
A new paper provides a pathway to document energy efficiency improvements made to existing homes so that appraisers, Realtors®, buyers, and sellers all understand and reflect the value of such upgrades in the real estate transaction. The paper shows how proper documentation, verification, and standardization of energy efficiency improvements can add value to a home that owners can recoup at sale.
Experts from CNT Energy, the Appraisal Institute, and the National Home Performance Council presented the report recommendations that facilitate making the value of efficiency transparent in the real estate market. We outline the paper’s seven steps in this webinar. You can also access it on YouTube.
The outcome of these steps? As efficiency programs create greater transparency around energy efficiency, this transparency will encourage more homeowners to invest in these improvements, since they will have a clearer indication as to how much of the investment might be recaptured at the time of sale.
The complete paper is available for download here.
What do we talk about when we talk about energy efficiency? Often, we talk about energy savings. For example, Energy Savers, a one-stop energy efficiency program for owners of multifamily buildings, has retrofitted more than 15,000 units, saved 10 million kWh hours and 21,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide from gas, and secured $11.4 million in loans from Community Investment Corporation.
But there are other positive consequences of energy efficiency improvements not reflected in the amount or cost of energy saved. These benefits, which are not related to energy savings, are called non-energy benefits. Non-energy benefits affect utilities, tenants, building owners, the environment, and society.
CNT Energy is researching non-energy benefits, with the goal to quantify and measure benefits and demonstrate how energy efficiency work preserves affordable housing. CNT Energy surveyed tenants at three multifamily buildings owned and operated by Bickerdike Redevelopment Corporation that have gone through the Energy Savers program.
Both building owners and tenants surveyed said they benefit from Energy Savers in ways beyond energy savings. This includes financial security, tenant retention, and safety and comfort.
Increased financial security is a notable non-energy benefit. Tenants reported that they felt more confident paying electric and gas bills after energy efficiency improvements had been made to their building. Most tenants reported that they struggled with paying heating and cooling bills in the past, but now noticed lower electric and gas bills.
Michael Burton, the asset management director with Bickerdike Redevelopment Corporation, explained another non-energy benefit of Energy Savers: savings allow building owners to look beyond immediate operations and short-term management costs and increase the financial security of the building as a whole. When Bickerdike’s older buildings were underwritten years ago, expenses increased 4 percent year over year while income increased by 3 percent annually, Burton said. And, until recently, expenses like taxes, insurance, and gas outpaced these rates. “So basically they’re now on a little better footing because of a capital infusion to replace capital improvements and also they do a little better in terms of setting money aside for reserves for repairs and capital replacements,” Burton said.
Tenants also like to discuss the improvements made to their building. When moving to a new building, tenants said overwhelmingly that they would now inquire about any energy efficiency measures in place or underway. Which means: efficiency has value for tenants. Building owners can capitalize on this value when marketing their properties, helping to improve tenant recruitment and retention.
Many tenants reported that they were unaware that energy efficiency work was happening at their building. Minimal disruptions from improvements contribute to increased tenant comfort. One tenant reported that after her building underwent improvements, the conditions in her unit during the winter were “warmer and not as drafty.” Tenants also reported that they felt safer in their building after energy efficiency improvements had been completed. For example, improved lighting in common areas can increase safety.
Congrats to our own Peter Ludwig, winner of the Association of Energy Engineers (AEE) Young Energy Professional of the Year award for Region III, which includes Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin. AEE Awards are presented to energy professionals who have achieved international, national, regional, or local prominence in their fields.
Peter Ludwig is the director of energy efficiency buildings at CNT Energy and heads up Energy Savers, a one-stop energy efficiency program for building owners. Under Peter’s direction, the Energy Savers team has retrofitted over 15,000 units since 2008, created 473 jobs, and provided over $11 million in loans from Community Investment Corporation.
For more on Energy Savers, and to watch an energy assessment in action, check out this video.
Energy Savers helps building owners in northern Illinois tame high utility costs with a practical approach to energy efficiency and water conservation. With our partner Community Investment Corporation, we’ve helped hundreds of building owners improve their buildings and increase net operating income by reducing costs.
But don’t just take it from us. Hear what a building owner has to say about his experience and watch an energy assessment in action. Thanks to our summer multimedia intern, Max Kobold, for his work on the video.
First, we explained just what hourly pricing is and how it can save you money. Most residential electric customers in the state are on a standard fixed rate, meaning no matter when you use electricity, it costs the same amount. But, you’ve got choices here in Illinois. Programs like Ameren Power Smart Pricing and ComEd Residential Real-Time Pricing provide an option to pay hourly electricity prices set in the wholesale market, rather than the standard fixed rate. Shifting electricity usage to lower priced hours can lower bills.
Anyone can chose to join an hourly pricing program, and some consumers, like electric vehicle owners or those who heat their homes with electricity, are an especially good fit. Many electric vehicle owners charge their cars at home. With hourly pricing, consumers pay less for electricity during off-peak times such as nights and weekends. By plugging in vehicles during these off-peak times, electric vehicle owners pay lower prices and reduce the overall cost of car ownership. People who heat their home with electricity can also take advantage of the lower seasonal price trends found during the fall, winter, and spring.
Ready to try hourly pricing? Join a short, lunchtime webinar hosted by the Ameren Power Smart Pricing team at noon on Tuesday, September 10, to find out if it’s right for your lifestyle. Register here.