Your Energy Efficiency Project: 100% Funded with On-Bill Financing

By Mike Eckenroth

What comes to mind when I say “energy efficiency”?

There was a time where energy efficiency seemed out of reach for many organizations. Upgrades were too expensive. Technology was too new or too complicated to implement. Results and success stories seemed too good to be true.

But in recent years, that has all changed. Energy efficiency is now attainable and profitable for manufacturers, retailers and property managers like you.

You can modernize your facilities to be more energy efficient. What’s more, you can do it in a way that will not interfere with regular business operations and (perhaps most importantly) will not break the bank.

Energy efficiency initiatives don’t have to seem pie-in-the-sky. With on-bill financing options through your energy supplier, you can spread out the capital risk of an upgrade over time so the project essentially pays for itself. Your energy supplier fronts the capital for your efficiency project, putting less strain on your organization’s finances. The costs of the project are then paid back gradually per a signed energy supply agreement.

Download: A Visual Guide to On-Bill Financing & Energy Upgrades

On-bill financing options allow you to start your efficiency upgrade projects immediately. The cost savings you receive through reduced energy consumption ultimately offsets the cost of the efficiency project itself. The result is an upgraded facility that’s less costly to manage and leaves a smaller carbon footprint.

On-Bill Financing for Energy Efficiency: How It Works

Your energy supplier fronts the cost for your project. You pay that cost back over the course of your energy supply agreement.

During your initial on-bill financing agreement, a fixed fee is added to your energy invoice. Combined with the reduction in usage provided by the efficiency project, you receive a “net zero” impact to monthly energy costs.

After your on-bill financing agreement has ended, your reduction in usage may lead to an overall long-term reduction in costs. You now have new equipment, happier stakeholders and lower forward energy costs.

Common Energy Efficiency Upgrade Projects

Lighting Improvements

LED lighting and interior/exterior retrofits are some of the most popular efficiency projects we help clients manage.

For one of our clients, Southern Insulation, our team facilitated an LED lighting retrofit of their office and warehouse. This provided better lighting in areas where the brightness of the bulbs and the constant outages was becoming an issue for productivity. From the initial audit through the upgrade, we managed 100% of the project through a chosen supply partner.

During the payback period, Southern Insulation’s costs were still less than what they were paying prior to the project.

Electric Motors & Drives

Another popular kind of project involves reducing consumption on running motors and drives. Our team has advised on high-efficiency motor replacements, as well as the utilization of variable frequency drives.

These types of upgrades are especially popular with manufacturing clients who are looking to improve their overall load profile and meet environmental goals.

Learn More: Ask your Energy Advisor About On-Bill Financing

Water & Sewer Conservation

Water and sewer conservation upgrades also contribute to reducing an organization’s impact on the environment. Property management and senior living communities have come to our team for managing projects like low-flow faucet and showerhead installations.

In 2014, for instance, our team facilitated the “Smart Valve” installation at Newport Condominium in Chicago. We introduced the concept, negotiated the proposal, and reported back on ROI over the 3-year period to follow.

For these properties and others we’ve assisted, the cost savings has been a welcoming sight. They’ve created several positive outcomes – from upgraded amenities (pools, washer/dryer, etc.) to overall higher tenant satisfaction scores.

Building Automation Systems (BAS)/Energy Management Control Systems

Building Automation Systems (BAS) optimize building temperature, humidity, pressure and energy use. Once in place, BAS or control systems give facilities the ability to cut back on their load at will with the flip of a switch.

By reducing usage, these clients reduce the stress they put on the grid and subsequently help systems run more efficiently.

HVAC & BAS projects are often coupled with demand response programs, where organizations like schools have an opportunity to generate additional revenue just by participating. BAS & control systems give these facilities a leg up in their efforts to curtail usage.

Even as energy costs decrease, demand costs can increase. Efficiency projects are a great way to mitigate or offset those costs. By modernizing facilities with on-bill financed efficiency upgrades, your company can make your energy strategy positive and profitable.

Have questions about one of these or some other energy efficiency upgrade options? Give me a call at 443-833-8224 and we can discuss bringing your project to fruition with on-bill financing.


About The Author

Mike is an energy professional based out of Baltimore, Maryland with a strong engineering and purchasing background. His specialties include energy efficiency and strategic commodity procurement. Growing up in the shadow of Three Mile Island nuclear power plant, Mike has an intimate stake in a grid with safe, reliable, and cost-effective energy generation – which he leverages into an energy strategy that provides security for his clients.

Michael can be reached via email at meckenroth@naniaenergy.com or via phone at 443-833-8224.

Demand Response: What It Is & What It Can Do For Your Illinois School District

By Jim Hammar

January 29, 2018 – The two questions I get asked the most when speaking to public school administrators about demand response are:

  1. What is it?
  2. What can it do for my district?

In short, demand response is a program that helps ensure reliability for the electricity grid by getting customers to reduce energy usage during times of peak energy demand. Demand response matters because it provides monetary incentives for participating organizations (including school districts who are already facing immense pressure to perform).

Demand response also reduces the risk of blackouts by ensuring that demand does not exceed overall capacity (how much power the grid can handle). This boosts reliability of the grid by making sure enough energy is available when and where it’s most needed.

Here’s what it can do for your Illinois public school district, as well as some guidance for getting your school prepared for it.

Benefits of Demand Response Programs.

Demand response is a revenue generator for schools.

Demand response generates revenue for your school by providing monetary payments for participation in the program. When you sign up, you’ll designate a percentage of your usage during the test period that you can possibly conserve. So long as you comply with this amount during a 1-hour planned “test event,” you will be due these monies.

Demand response has significant earning potential for schools.

Enrollment in demand response programs is measured in kilowatts (kW) with a minimum of 100 KW.

Each year over the course of 3 years, school customers can earn about $5000 per 100 kw of enrollment and curtailment (reduction) during events.

Demand response is a low-cost, low-risk way to reduce your energy load.

Since demand response tests are done in the summer, they typically won’t affect normal class schedules. Some schools will have summer school, sports or other extracurriculars going on during that time. But it’s easy for schools to survey those schedules and work testing around them.

READ MORE: Demand Response on EIA. gov

Prepping for a Demand Response program.

Test events last one hour. These test events ensure the enrollment of kW a customer commits to is achievable.

Inventory your school’s summer activities & extracurriculars.

When scheduling demand response tests, your school should survey activities and schedule the tests around those dates and times. This is to minimize (or even eliminate) any impact on any summer school or extracurriculars.

Use a generator or building automation system (BAS) to reduce your school’s energy.

If scheduling around those times is too challenging, there are other ways to work around the demand response testing period.

Using a generator or some kind of building automation system can reduce the demand that your school might have during these periods without compromising on your needs. There are specific rules governing which generators qualify for the program, but energy advisors can assist with getting qualifying generators registered for it.

Keep a building engineer on site.

Having a building engineer on site can help guide you through the demand response testing. From turn down to restart, an engineer can provide an accurate assessment of what your school building can and can’t handle. They can help you make a more accurate estimate of how much you can save – thus putting you in a better position to hit your goal.

Demand response is a valuable offering to school districts, particularly in the summer months. By reducing your energy usage during near capacity events, you can actually reduce your costs and make your school some added revenue.

If you have any questions on demand response programs in your area, I’d be more than willing to help. Call our office at 630-225-4557 and we can discuss how demand response can generate revenue for your district.


About The Author

Jim is a sales professional with a noteworthy background in environmental science and business. Based out of Warrenville, IL, he specializes in sustainability initiatives, energy solutions and customer engagement. Jim believes in making energy easier by recommending energy strategies that are both cost effective and fit organizational goals. In his free time, Jim enjoys the outdoors by fishing and hiking, as well as traveling and writing poetry.

You can reach Jim via email at jhammar@naniaenergy.com or phone at 630-225-4557.

Illinois School Districts on Energy: To Group Buy or Not to Group Buy

By Becky Thompson

January 15, 2018 – As an Illinois public school administrator, you hold an enormous amount of responsibility for your district. You have a finite budget, and what you spend is public knowledge. With that kind of transparency comes the expectation to spend it responsibly. No pressure, right?

Considering that schools in the US spend $8 billion annually on energy (more than textbooks and computers combined), proper management of your energy is essential.

But with so many options available, how do you know what’s best for your district?

We could spend hours explaining different products and buying strategies. But let’s focus for now on one of the biggest questions facing most public schools and how they purchase energy.

Should I use a buying group or an energy advisor?

When natural gas (and later electricity) became deregulated in Illinois, the market flooded with options – some good, some not. As with most new things, this opportunity brought uncertainty.

Enter buying groups (aka consortiums).

Making decisions with energy buying groups.

Buying groups offered a host of benefits, including:

  • “Bulk buying” meant leveraging buying power, presumably achieving lower rates.
  • Feeling of less risk through group-made decisions. (i.e. the “group mentality”)
  • Less individual responsibility to watch the market and identify actionable opportunities.
  • Easy transaction. The group coordinators pick a supplier, present options, and school administrators sign and return the paperwork.

Buying group drawbacks.

As the market matured, districts began to shift towards brokers and independent energy advisors.
Former consortium members found that:

  • More buying power did not necessarily mean lower rates, but it did mean socialized costs. Not all accounts in the group received an A+ for their energy use. (Translated: higher costs to all in the group.)
  • They were sometimes put in a position of more risk by not having control over when the group went to market.
  • Advisors still watched the market and kept the responsibility off the district’s plate. But opportunities were individualized and more meaningful to the district.
  • The buying groups focused solely on supply, leaving the district administrators to figure out efficiency measures and revenue-generating demand-side programs.

Do your homework on what energy strategy works best for your school district.

As for whether or not to use a buying group to purchase your district’s energy, that is a decision only you can make for your district. You know your schools better than anyone and have to make choices in your best interest.

Just remember to take into account all factors and do your homework first. If nothing else, speak to an energy advisor to check out all of your options before jumping into any long-term commitments. You might just walk away with a cost-saving strategy that gives your budget some breathing room.


About The Author

Becky is a Strategic Energy Advisor specializing in the public sector, including schools and municipalities. She has been in the energy industry for over five years, working from the ground up as an account manager and then as an electric pricing team lead. Her background knowledge of the inner workings of an energy company helps identify actionable strategies for making her clients’ energy strategies both easy and cost effective. In her free time, Becky enjoys any activity that requires being outside and making her son belly laugh.

Becky can be reached via email at bthompson@naniaenergy.com or phone at 630-225-4561.

How Electric Vehicle Charging Stations Add Value to Your Property

By Calvin Cornish

December 28, 2017 – When it comes to innovation, you can either reject it and try to compete or embrace it and find new ways to grow your business. In my experience, I’ve found that only one of these really ever has any success.

While still in the early elite stages of the product cycle, it won’t be long before electric vehicles (EV) become accessible to the mass public. Bloomberg reported on the surge of electric car sales earlier this year (with some compound growth rates as high as 40%), and The International Energy Agency (IEA) announced that ownership had recently surpassed the 2 million unit mark globally in 2017.

Many homeowner associations, condominiums and co-op communities are already getting out in front of the trend. They’ve begun researching how adding electric car and EV charging stations to their premises can bring value to their organizations and tenants. Property managers are recognizing the value in being first to market with electric car charging options. It’s not just about accommodating for the growing market. It’s about accommodating for your residency and upgrading your amenities standards.

I’m sure you have your concerns reading this – be they budget or space-related in nature. Perhaps you are feeling that you are already falling way behind. Allow me to put your fears to rest. Here are some important points to consider with regards to EV charging at your property.

Making A Property More Attractive to Future Home Buyers

One area where charging stations are making an immediate impact is visibility. They make a remarkable first visual impression on prospective tenants. Furnishing your neighborhood with electric vehicle charging stations injects it with an aura of affluency and environmental sensibility. High visibility is vital to attracting new residents and home buyers, and communities that add and include them are passing by those who neglect to do so in the eyes of public perception.

Complying with Emerging HOA Laws & Building Standards

Laws around EV charging have been developing quickly over the last couple of years, with California at the forefront of this legislation. Early occupancy agreements included prohibition of the installation or use of electric vehicle charging stations in a parking space associated with the property. But in 2016, municipalities began mandating that EV spaces account for at least 3% of parking for any new multi-family facilities with 17 or more units.

It is only a matter of time before similar legislation spreads to other major metropolitan areas. As demand grows, existing facilities will be pressed to fall in line. It might be beneficial for you to get out in front of the trend.

Meeting Condo Owners’ Requests for EV Charging Stations

The first step to meeting owner requests is to have an EV charging policy in place. Owners are often planning for the future. Consider that prospective residents are limiting their decision about where to live based on the available charging.

Read More: Chargepoint EV Charging Stations in Condo Business Spaces

With that in mind, you’ll want to have a clear-cut policy in place – one that you can readily provide to an inquiry that will show how your association is forward thinking, well run and inviting. Will the charging be community or is private charging available? What products will be accepted? How will costs be handled for both installation and charging? Answering these questions now will allow you to show demos and robust capabilities that will put inquiring minds at ease and give you a leg up over others.

Properties that offer an electric car charging option are going to help usher our society into a new era. We’ll need the charging stations to accommodate the cars, and we’ll need cars to validate the need for EV charging stations. That said, it’s not going to happen overnight. While the industry continues to make inroads, property managers are getting out in front of it so that they are prepared once EV’s are the norm.

The first step in that process is to sit down with your energy advisor to discuss the potential options for your building. Developing a plan for the future and establishing a policy will put your association in the best possible position going forward.


About The Author

Calvin has served as a Sr. Energy Strategy Advisor at Nania Energy Advisors since 2010. He specializes in preparing property management boards to make informed decisions on energy efficiency through proper industry education. His clients include apartment complexes, condominium associations and senior living facilities. In his free time, Calvin enjoys music and coaching youth sports.

Calvin can be reached via email at ccornish@naniaenergy.com or phone at 630-225-4554.

Winter Is Coming: Finalizing a Short & Long-Term Natural Gas Strategy

By Michael DeCaluwe

November 27, 2017 – The energy industry is dynamic. It can be intimidating, especially when you consider that energy costs can account for as much as 15-20% of the annual budget for many manufacturers, property managers and/or municipalities. It takes a true expert – someone who has been around the industry long enough to understand the market and the trends associated with it – to really hold your organization’s hand and walk you through it without fear.

Natural gas is king during the winter months. The winter of 2017-2018 is going one of two ways – 1) warmer than usual or 2) colder than a Charles Dickens novel. Not only should you account for your costs in the short-term, but you’ll need a long-term (5 years and longer) approach to ensure the decisions you make with regard to fixed/indexed billing rate, usage, storage, etc. are the right ones.

What’s more, you’ll need to be honest about what kinds of risks you’re prepared to take (or for that matter, which ones you’re not prepared to). Understanding your risk tolerance in planning for energy needs is really half the battle. So here are a few things to consider when planning your natural gas strategy in both the short and long-term.

Short-Term Energy Planning for Natural Gas.

Understand the pricing structure of your current energy plan.

For each pricing structure, there are benefits and risks that can save you money. Reconciling your pricing structure in the short-term can help you plan in advance and maximize savings (or minimize damage). Fixed rates save you money in a particularly cold winter (especially if you’ve locked in early and/or participate in a pooled billing system). For a warmer season (like what we have seen in the past couple of years), you potentially run the risk of overspending. In this case, we’d recommend a variable rate in the short-term (especially if you can hop into a pool and help mitigate risk). Another way to address it might be a fixed rate swing plan. A swing gives you a range or tolerance that you can use over or under (determined by a two-year monthly usage average) and still pay the same fixed rate. In any case…

Lock in your gas prices now.

Due to the dynamic nature of our industry, there’s a lot of “hurry up and wait” in our business. What do this mean? It means that deciding on a natural gas energy strategy requires both thought and urgency. Whether it be a fixed or variable rate, single or dual billing, we advise our clients to be opportunistic – give thought to which product and plan are most appropriate for their business and the season and move on it.

Long-Term Energy Planning for Natural Gas.

Consider long-term market trends when deciding on term length.

It’s important to know and review long-term market trends when deciding on a term length of your current gas service. One major market influencer of the natural gas market is our country’s export of natural gas. As our nation’s volume of exported gas continues to climb in the coming years, it will be important to see if the worldwide price of gas (which is 3 to 4 times what it is in the U.S.) starts to influence gas prices here. These long-term market influencers help determine a proper buying strategy and term length for your gas needs today.

Look for efficiency opportunities.

Energy efficiency projects have particular benefits for your long-term energy costs. Not only do many of these projects have great ROI (return on investment) periods, but there are utility rebates in place to help fund many of these types of projects. Outside of raw energy costs, investing in new energy-efficient equipment can also cut maintenance costs and provide reliability to your operations, providing you peace of mind. But again, the decision regarding whether to invest in efficiency opportunities lies in having a sound long-term energy strategy that takes these types of projects into account as you attempt to lower and control natural gas costs.

It bears repeating that once you’ve found the right natural gas strategy for your business, you should act without hesitation. This means understanding your product pricing and the terms it includes (rate, usage, storage, contract length, etc.) and being decisive. This is underscored by the necessity to keep an eye on those outside forces that affect the natural gas market (like exports and foreign trade). Of course, not everyone has time to do that. So when planning your natural gas solution, look for someone who can act as a partner and resource for you while you’re focused on other things – like running your business.

Whatever your energy budget may be, we can help work with you and our supplier partners to tailor a natural gas solution that is friendly. Contact us at 630-225-4557 and we’ll help you go over your current and future energy strategy to maximize its value to your organization.


About The Author

Michael has served as the VP of Commercial & Industrial Sales at Nania Energy Advisors since 2007. He believes that understanding clients’ energy needs is vital to becoming a thought leader in the industry and forming a mutually beneficial business relationship. In his spare time, Michael enjoys being a dad, staying active and playing basketball.

Michael can be reached via email at mdecaluwe@naniaenergy.com or via phone at 630-225-4552.

NYC Benchmarking

The waves created by New York Mayor de Blasio’s announcement revealing new mandates of NYC’s 14,500 least efficient buildings on September 14, 2017 are still being felt throughout the energy industry.

The new rules will force building owners to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions through boiler, heat distribution, water heater, roof, and window upgrades, or they will face sharp financial penalties.

The announcement followed Mayor de Blasio’s pledge to adhere to the Paris Climate Agreement earlier this year at a local level if President Trump backs out at the national level.
The mandates apply to all buildings over 25,000 square feet, striving to reduce citywide greenhouse emissions by 7 percent by 2035.

Penalties for non-compliance will be issued annually starting in 2030 and will vary with building size and level of non-compliance.

Early predictions estimate penalties to average $2/square foot each year a building is operating over the fossil fuel use target. A 30,000 square foot building would face a bill of $60,000/year until they are compliant with their target.

Expect similar cities who voted to upload the Paris Climate Agreement, including Chicago and Baltimore to follow suit and issue mandates following benchmarking initiatives currently underway.

What does this mean for you? If you have facilities located in areas that have general benchmarking reporting requirements now, you will want to review the efficiency of your buildings NOW to make sure that they are operating most efficiently. Right now there are great ROIs and utility rebates to make these projects financially attractive without any city requirements.

By waiting, you risk being MANDATED to make these changes. This will likely mean higher contractor costs and lower utility incentives available when these projects are forced upon the market.

If you would like to review the efficiency of your building, call our office we can present both project and funding/financing options to both increase the efficiency of your building and save you money.

The Moving Target of Capacity: What Does It Mean for Your Budget?

Capacity has been a topic of conversation in the energy community for a while now but what exactly is capacity as it relates to your electricity, and how does it affect your business?

Imagine you have a garden hose, and when you turn on the water full blast, the total amount of water that can flow through the hose at one time is limited by the diameter of the hose. The only way to get more water from Point A to Point B is to use a wider hose or add more hoses.

Capacity works the same way. The amount of electricity that can flow through the transmission lines at any given time is limited. To ensure reliability of the power grid, power generators and transmission companies by law have to have the infrastructure in place to meet the needs of the grid when usage is at its maximum for all end users.

To make this possible, a capacity charge is passed through to consumers as part of their total energy cost.

While the cost of capacity has always varied based on metrics of supply and demand, since the Polar Vortex of 2014 and the continued retirement of coal-fired generation, capacity costs have grown substantially over the past three years. Capacity now makes up over 25% of your total supply costs, where it was previously only about 7-10%.

To combat these higher capacity costs, you can do two things:

  • Enroll in a “PLC Management” program that provides alerts on peak days of the summer when your capacity costs will be set for the following year.
  • Take energy efficiency measures such as LED lighting retrofits or HVAC upgrades that will reduce your energy usage and demand-based capacity costs.

Higher capacity costs likely are here to stay for the next few years. By acting now, you can help reduce this now significant component of your energy cost.