Tag Archives: RMI

In an Age of Cheap Solar Does Efficiency Still Matter?

CheapSolarFrom an article written by Peter Rumsey, PE Guest Author for Rocky Mountain Institute Outlet.

The old saws of the building management industry are:

  1. “The cheapest energy you can buy is the energy you don’t use.”

  2. “Efficiency first” – evaluate and conduct energy efficiency measures first and then cover the remaining balance of energy needs with renewables.

But with the costs of renewables coming down, do the old saws still apply? Are there renewable energy benefits that override the emphasis on energy efficiency?

This article, written by AEE’s 2012 Renewable Energy Innovator of the Year and ASHRAE’s Engineering Award of Excellence in 2013, reveals some of the reasons building owners are opting to adopt renewable energy solutions without reducing demand first. Some EE measures are expensive but there are also time and corporate image issues at stake.

In short, “Solar is sexy and people don’t fall in love with efficiency.” (Dian Gruenieich formerly a California Public Utilities Commissioner).

Peter Rumsey, PE is the founder of Point Energy Innovations and is internationally recognized for his innovation and leadership in the sustainability and energy efficiency fields. He has designed more LEED Platinum, Zero Energy, and radiant-cooled buildings than any engineer in the United States. Peter is an ASHRAE Fellow, a lecturer at Stanford University, and has served as a senior fellow of RMI.


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GSA Challenges ESCOs to Retrofit to Net Zero

BuildingEEPerformanceEnergy service companies (ESCOs) have provided billions of dollars worth of energy savings through building retrofits — and inspired even the most reluctant clients to seek out energy efficiency. Yet certain building owners can achieve far greater energy and cost savings through the adoption of deep energy retrofits. – Illustration by Lisa Haney

Roy Torbert  Rocky Mountain Institute Analyst (Buildings)

ESCOs have often maintained that they would deliver deeper energy savings — if only clients would demand them. Well guess what? The General Services Administration (GSA), the largest owner of commercial real estate in the U.S., is poised to use energy savings performance contracts (ESPCs) for deep savings in selected buildings. These ESPCs require little to no up-front capital from the government, as the energy savings will cover costs of the efficiency improvements. Federal projects typically save 15-25 percent of baseline energy use. GSA, like many other federal clients, is now required to meet dramatic energy savings goals specified by the Energy and Security Act of 2007 and President Obama’s Executive Order 13514. According to GSA Administrator Martha Johnson, “The president challenged government to lead by example in environmental, energy and economic performance. Now GSA is challenging the private sector to partner with us to go above and beyond what has been done before in federal building renovations.”

The new GSA Net Zero Renovation Challenge calls upon the 16 ESCOs pre-qualified for federal buildings to develop innovative, broadly applicable and aggressively energy-saving retrofit plans. Each project will not only aim for deeper savings, but also create a plan to reach net zero energy in the building, to assist GSA in developing long-term solutions for its entire portfolio.

The recently released report from the GSA Net Zero Renovation Challenge Charrette, hosted by Rocky Mountain Institute, details how GSA will work with ESCOs to improve the process of attaining deep savings using 30-35 GSA-owned office buildings. Check out the report to learn how both federal agencies and the major ESCOs will modify their approach to catalyze profitable retrofits with unprecedented savings in federal buildings.


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