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Working Successfully with Your Utility: Learning from Better Buildings Partners

By Better Buildings Beat Team on Apr 30, 2019
Electric lines

Partnering with your local utility can be a valuable step towards making your buildings more energy efficient. Utilities across the country offer assistance for energy efficiency, but programs vary and it can be challenging to know what is available and where to start. Through Better Buildings, DOE has created a short guide to help identify opportunities that exist: Working with Your Utility on Energy Efficiency. This guide highlights the following common utility offerings and success stories from Better Buildings partners who have leveraged them to achieve greater energy savings.

Energy Audits and Benchmarking

Utilities often provide access to whole-building energy and water consumption data that allows you to better track your consumption over time and develop informed reduction goals. Additionally, utility-sponsored free or low-cost energy audits can help you identify opportunities for upgrades to lower your energy bills, improve your building envelope, and expand the lifetime of your equipment.

Better Buildings Challenge Partner Success: The Rose Building in Houston, Texas Capitalizes on Free Energy Audits

The Rose Building, a two-story medical office facility, worked with the City of Houston and CenterPoint Energy to conduct energy audits and identify cost effective upgrade opportunities. The audit team came up with a list of eight capital investment energy efficiency measures and four low-cost/no-cost operational measures that The Rose’s facility management staff could adopt to help improve the building’s energy performance by 23%. Learn more.

On-Bill Financing and Rebates

Capital can be a major barrier to implementing energy efficiency upgrades. Utility incentives such as rebates and on-bill financing can help. On-bill financing (OBF) and repayment (OBR) are financing options in which a utility supplies capital to a customer to fund energy efficiency, renewable energy, or other generation projects and is repaid through regular payments on an existing utility bill. Rebates can provide another helpful incentive to upgrade to more energy-efficient products and services, such as ENERGY STAR-qualified appliances.

Better Buildings Challenge Partner Success: Hackensack UMC Partners with Utility for Upfront Energy Efficiency Project Funding

Hackensack University Medical Center participated in PSE&G’s Hospital Efficiency Program which provided upfront funding for hospitals to implement energy efficiency projects, with a buy-down incentive for certain efficiency measures and an on-bill repayment structure of 0% interest. The program started with a free energy audit of the hospital to identify cost-effective efficiency upgrades. Once Hackensack has repaid the designated portion of the investment, continuous utility savings are invested back into the hospital. Learn more.

Demand Response Programs: combining resilience and energy efficiency

Utility demand response programs offer incentives to customers to reduce their energy load during peak hours or extreme weather events. Customers who participate in demand response programs often receive reduced energy rates, rebates, or other financial incentives in return.

Better Buildings Challenge Partner Success: UW Health Participates in Pilot Program with Utility to Reduce Electric Load During Peak Demand

UW Health enrolled in Wisconsin’s Focus on Energy On-Demand Savings pilot program, which offered Madison Gas and Electric customers tools to reduce electric load through their BAS during peak load summer months. By better managing the building demand, UW Health saved more than $9,000 on utility bills from June to September 2016. The facilities also earned another $22,000 in incentives from the On-Demand Savings Program. Learn more.

Demand response programs are an increasingly valuable resource option with expanding capabilities thanks to grid modernization and advanced metering infrastructure. If you are interested in learning more about the how to integrate efficiency and renewable energy, visit the Better Buildings Renewable Integration webpage.

Learn more about these utility partnerships and others that Better Buildings Partners have leveraged in DOE’s guide to Working with Your Utility on Energy Efficiency. Use some of the sample questions to start a conversation with your local utility provider to find out if these services are available to you and how to take advantage of them.