What to Expect from a Virtual Tradeshow – TMT

April 14, 2021 – What should you expect at a virtual tradeshow? In this video, Calvin Cornish, CEM discusses the format of virtual events and shares some tips on how to make the most of your experience.

Video Transcript

When it comes to finding information on the latest industry trends and best practices, you likely turn to blogs, articles, newsletters, or weekly videos such as our Two-Minute Tuesdays. 

While these are all good sources of information, few things top conferences and tradeshows for getting current and timely information in an efficient manner. Tradeshows in particular are great opportunities to get live answers to your specific questions on multiple topics.

Obviously, a lot of shows were cancelled last year, and while smaller events are starting to come back,  this year many of the larger ones are moving to online platforms. If you’re like me, you’re probably wondering what in the world that would look like and how to get the most bang for you buck out of a virtual tradeshow.

So in this week’s video, we’ll be talking about what to expect from a virtual event and a few tips for making the most of your experience.

What’s different at a virtual tradeshow?

At a typical event, you expect to have exhibit hall time between presentations when you’ll walk the show floor. You’ll visit a variety of booths, collect information, and ask questions. If you’re lucky, you may even win a prize or two. Afterward, there’s usually a cocktail hour or another networking event where you can catch up with some folks you missed.

At a virtual event, there are virtual booths which are like mini websites hosting a variety of content. You’ll be able to download those same informational sheets, but there may be links to articles and videos in addition to them.

As far as exhibit time, there generally will be time for visiting those booths. But there will often be 24-hour access or even over multiple days of a full conference where you can go back and visit those same virtual booths.

As far as communication, you can expect to see features like:

  • Live chat
  • Video chat
  • Links to private Zoom meetings

within these virtual booths.

Virtual Tradeshow Attendee Tips

Now here are a few quick tips for making the most of your next virtual event.

1) Plan ahead!

Review the directories and presentation topics to help you spur questions. Jot down a list of questions and which exhibitors you think would have good answers.

2) Schedule booth visits with key vendors.

Look to schedule booth visits with key vendors outside of the designated exhibit time so that you can make the most of that time in meeting new folks.

3) Write notes and questions during presentations.

Note question within a presentation so that you can follow up with those when you get out on the virtual floor.

4) Can’t make a presentation?

Schedule a session with the presenter. Then, during the exhibit time, find similar companies to visit and get a second opinion.

Thanks for watching!

Thanks for checking out our Two-Minute Tuesday. And if you’re a property manager, be sure to visit our virtual booth at the CAI Expo starting April 27th!

You can find links on our website for upcoming shows in other industries as well.

If you’ve got feedback or know of some great shows coming up, feel free to share them in the comments, and remember to like and share below.

 

Upcoming Events

Demand Response for Hotels – TMT

March 30, 2021 – Are hotels a good fit for a demand response program? In this video, Strategic Energy Advisor Sam Greenberg explains how hotels can participate in the program and generate extra revenue for their properties.

Video Transcript

Hi! I’m Sam Greenberg, Strategic Energy Advisor with Nania. Did you know enrollment for demand response in PJM is coming to a close for 2021?

Don’t worry — it’s not too late, but spots are filling up fast.

For this week’s Two-Minute Tuesday, I’m going to address whether it makes sense for hotels to sign up for demand response.

What is Demand Response?

Demand response is a program that provides financial payments to power customers for their ability to reduce electricity usage during times of peak grid demand. Think of hot summer days when it is 100 degrees out, and A/C usage is at its peak.

Depending on the amount that you are able to reduce from your average usage, this program could mean additional revenue for your business.

Are hotels a good fit for demand response?

Every commercial property has the ability to curtail their usage, but for some businesses, it may be easier than others.

If you’re a hotel owner, you may think that curtailing is impossible because you can’t tell your guests in their rooms to turn off their air. However, some hotel operators have found creative ways to reduce usage and participate in this program.

  • Does your hotel have on-site laundry?
  • Does it have a heated pool?
  • Do you have a modern building automation system (BAS) that allows you to adjust thermostat temperatures or pre-cool your building?

If you are able to reduce usage for a one-hour test event each year, you qualify for the program and the financial incentives that come with it.

There are other ancillary ways to reduce usage, such as shutting down an elevator or two or dimming LED lights if your system allows for it. The more you’re able to reduce, the greater your payment under the program will be.

Bonus Benefit of Demand Response

Not only is demand response an opportunity to put additional money in your pocket as a business owner, but it also makes your business look good since you’re doing your part to support the grid while prioritizing energy efficiency.

Demand response is not for everyone, but it is a way to capture additional revenue for those who can participate. Given the past 12 months for hotels, signing up for this program before the May 1st deadline could be a great way to ease some of the financial burden that COVID has places upon the industry.

If you have any questions about signing up for demand response, please contact me or any of the advisors on our Nania team.

Thanks for watching, and have a great day!

What is force majeure in energy contracts? – TMT

March 9, 2021 – What is force majeure in energy agreements? In this video, CEO John Nania explains how this contract language impacted Texas energy consumers after the grid failure in February.

Video Transcript

Hi! My name is John Nania. I’m the Chief Energy Officer here at Nania Energy Advisors. I’ve got about 30 years of experience in the energy market, and today the reason we’re talking to you is because in those 30 years, we’ve never witnessed the calamity that is what happened in Texas in the month of February.

So we’re going to talk a little bit about that and how it can affect you and what you can do to prevent any kind of harm from coming to you in the future.

What happened in Texas?

In Texas, we had record cold that shuttered gas supply and made it impossible for electric generators to create electricity. And so effectively, they had an abundance of demand and not enough supply on both gas and electric. The end result is that we had priced that skyrocketed to levels unprecedented in the energy market.

So although this happened in Texas, the effects are being felt elsewhere throughout the country.

Why are we talking about this? Because, ultimately, it’s going to affect how business is done in the energy business going forward.

How can clients with a fixed price be so hurt by this?

This is one of the questions that’s being asked right now. And to answer that, we have to look at what’s in the agreement.

If someone has a fixed price — you’ve contracted for energy for all of your consumption, hypothetically — you should be able to rest assured that in almost all circumstances that’s exactly what you should get.

So what went wrong down there? Mother Nature.

What is force majeure?

In every energy agreement, there’s a clause called force majeure or acts of God. They’re about the same. Acts of God contemplate events that happen in nature that are outside of everybody’s control.

Force majeure incorporates those acts of nature as well as contemplates that there are acts that man created. Think about war, riots, civil unrest, things like that.

In this case, it might be that there was some legislative or regulatory interference in the marketplace that caused this. But regardless, it’s outside of either the supplier’s or the customer’s control.

So when force majeure or an act of God is declared, it relieves the obligation of the parties to fulfill their obligations under the contract and throws everything up in the air.

No one in the supply community likes to declare force majeure.

It’s an evil word for many, but it is what it is. It’s the first time since 2013 or 2014 that it’s been called.

To the extent that it happened in Texas, we’re seeing that in other markets prices rose dramatically. And depending on where the supplier purchased their power or gas for their customers throughout the country, they may have passed along some of those costs to their customers.

So this is a time to be incredibly keenly tuned into your energy bills to look for discrepancies and to challenge whatever is behind the numbers this month. This will help you be better apprised of what happened. And if there is some opportunity to learn from this or to do a better job of hedging yourself, you can do that going forward.

Why is this important to you?

To ensure that this calamity that hit the users in Texas doesn’t happen to you, here are a few tips to keep in mind.

  1. First, it’s important to always use a good supplier that’s well capitalized. You want to make sure that if something like this happens, they’re not going to be in a position where they can’t fulfill their obligations — even if they wanted to.
  2. Second, it’s time to check the fine print in energy agreements about force majeure or acts of God or material change rules or language.
  3. And third, it gets back to the intent of the company that you’re buying from. They may have the best intentions. They may have good finances. But at the end of the day, if they’re not really committed to taking care of their customers, then you may have a problem.

 

So I hope this is all beneficial! And should you need any help with your (in particular) February invoices, please feel free to give us a holler. Thanks!

Energy Efficiency for Manufacturers – MES #5

March 4, 2021 – In the final video of our Manufacturing Energy Success series, Senior Energy Advisor Michael Zaura, CEM talks about the process of choosing an energy efficiency project.

Video Transcript

Hello, and thank you for joining me for our final installment of Manufacturing Energy Success. Thank you for watching!

Your monthly energy cost can be thought of as a simple equation: the rate you pay times your monthly energy usage. In today’s video, we’re going to talk about energy efficiency as a permanent way to reduce the usage portion of that equation.

We’re going to talk about efficiency projects and how to identify those in your facility. We’re then going to talk about which projects should be done in order of importance. And lastly, we’ll touch on ways to finance those projects so they can get completed.

Step 1: Undergo an energy audit.

The biggest impact to your energy cost is that kilowatt-hour or therm that is never used. An energy efficiency project helps eliminate that waste from old or outdated equipment. The first step in this process is to undergo an energy audit.

An energy audit identifies how energy is being used in a facility and highlights cost reduction opportunities.

A first-level audit is typically just a walkthrough of your facility. It takes two to three hours, maybe more depending on the facility’s size, to identify those cost reduction opportunities. This could be in the form of LED lighting, HVAC, building automation systems, or maybe a boiler or a chiller.

The auditor will then present a report on which opportunities exist for energy efficiency. This usually includes a list of incentives available as well. There are higher-level audits, depending on how detailed you want to get. Once you review the report that the auditor gives you, it will help you identify which projects to tackle first.

Step 2: Prioritize your projects.

So, your energy audit is now complete. The energy auditor hands you a list of cost reduction opportunities, and you’re wondering which project to prioritize first. Most organizations will use a metric like simple payback period in order to determine that.

Say your organization has a simple payback period of three years or less for any capital improvement projects. You might choose, say, a compressed air system to upgrade or fix the leaks in it versus a boiler system. The simple payback on a compressed air system is much lower due to the utility incentives available, and you can usually fix leaks in a compressed air system at little or no cost.

Another factor to consider when prioritizing your efficiency projects is utility or federal incentives.

A good example of this is an audit that was done for a manufacturing client of ours three years ago. The simple payback on that project was 3.2 years. New federal incentives have since become available, and that proposal was updated just a couple weeks ago to include $60,000 worth of incentives. That took the simple payback from 3.2 years to 1.1 years for an LED lighting upgrade.

So, federal incentives, utility incentives, and simple payback are all factors to consider when prioritizing your efficiency projects.

Step 3: Choose a financing option.

Now, you’ve identified which efficiency project you want to complete first. How do you pay for it?

Two options our clients typically consider. The first is simply CapEx. The have the funds available, they pay for the project, and it gets completed.

Option two — what if you don’t have those funds available or it’s just simply not in the budget for that year. You may want to consider on-bill financing.

With on-bill financing, there’s little to no upfront capital required to complete that energy project. An energy supplier, in exchange for a supply agreement, will pay for those project costs upfront. Over the course of the agreement, you’ll get a line item on your bill repaying those project costs. So, you can pay this back over time instead spending all that capital upfront.

While there are other options available for financing and energy efficiency project, these are two of the options most of our clients consider most often.

Thanks for watching!

Thank you for watching today and over the last four weeks of our video series Manufacturing Energy Success. If you missed any of the previous weeks’ videos, please feel free to click on the links below.

I look forward to any comments, conversations, or feedback you have for me on your unique energy situation. I hope you found these videos valuable, and I hope you have some takeaways to utilize in your energy strategy. Thank you!

Follow us on LinkedIn!

Previous Videos:

MES #1: Kickoff Video

MES #2: Contract End Dates

MES #3: Special Edition – Operational Flow Orders

MES #4: Demand Response

Texas Grid Failure: Could it happen here? – TMT

March 1, 2021 – Could the Texas grid failure happen in other electricity markets? In this video, Senior Vice President Michael DeCaluwe, CEM explains why or why not.

Video Transcript

After the failure of Texas’ electricity market two weeks ago, the question we’re frequently getting is: Could that happen here?

We’ll answer that question in today’s Two-Minute Tuesday.

When we talk about what happened in Texas happening in “our market”, we’re talking about any of the US’ deregulated electricity markets, which primarily consists of Illinois across to Maryland and all the way up to New England.

Now there’s three main reasons why what happened in Texas likely would not happen in these markets.

Reason #1: Texas is its own standalone electricity market.

The Texas market is regulated by a company called ERCOT, which is the Electric Reliability Counsel of Texas. So whereas the Midwest and Northeast markets are connected to each other, if they ran out of power, they could call on each other for assistance.

Texas’ market is not connected to the rest of the US. So you can see what happened — when it ran out of power, it had nowhere to go. That’s one of the main reasons why what happened in Texas likely could not happen in other markets.

Reason #2: Texas has no capacity market.

Capacity markets are programs in the Midwest and the Northeast where the grid pays power generators for simply the ability to produce power. This ability to produce power creates reliability for the grid so that when the generators are called on to produce power, the grid knows that it can rely on these companies.

Now there’s big penalties if these generators are not able to provide the power that they agreed to. So these generators have financial incentive to upkeep their equipment to provide that reliability.

Texas does not have that market, so there is not that same economic incentive for these generators to provide reliable power.

Reason #3: Texas lacks a winter capacity market.

Now a third reason why what happened in Texas likely would not happen elsewhere is that beyond the capacity markets, some markets have winter capacity markets.

As an extra measure of reliability, the US’ largest electricity grid operates a winter capacity market. Prior to 2014, there were only summer capacity markets because the thought was that that was the peak time for electricity usage.

In 2014, we had the Polar Vortex that many of you might remember. And a lot of generators froze — power lines froze up, a lot of the gas lines froze. So PJM created a winter capacity market, and what that meant is these generators had to put in extra money to ensure winter reliability of their grid.

It’s a extra measure of protection that, as we’ve seen, could have helped Texas these past two weeks. So, again, the presence of a winter capacity market is another reason we probably would not see in other markets what happened in Texas two weeks ago.

 

So what happened in Texas two weeks ago, could this happen in our other deregulated energy markets? Likely not. There’s some structural fundamental differences between these markets, and some of our Midwest and Northeast electric markets have additional reliability through our capacity markets that make what happened in Texas extremely unlikely to happen in some of these other markets.

Hope you enjoyed our video this week, and be sure to like it and look for more continued Two-Minute Tuesday videos. Thanks for watching!

Demand Response for Manufacturers – MES #4

February 25, 2021 – Did you know that a demand response program will pay you for curtailing your usage? In this video, Senior Energy Advisor Michael Zaura, CEM explains how this program can serve as an additional revenue stream for your manufacturing facility.

Video Transcript

Hello, and welcome back to Manufacturing Energy Success. Thank you for joining me!

Did you know that there is a program that will pay you for curtailing your energy usage? In this week’s topic, we are going to cover the Demand Response program and the additional revenue it might mean for your facility.

What is Demand Response?

Demand response is a program that was designed to alleviate stress on the grid during critical times.

Think about over the summer. 100 degree weather, lots of humidity, air conditioning and probably your machines working a little harder than normal. Demand response asks you to curtail during these extreme times to help alleviate those stresses on the grid and prevent blackouts.

How do you receive payments?

Now let’s get to the good part: how do you get paid for being part of a demand response program?

There is a one-hour test even that usually takes place toward the end of June to mimic what an emergency event would look like. You’re given three- to four-weeks’ notice in order to prepare for this test event. Most of our manufacturers do a scheduled maintenance day or maybe a lunch so they can curtail as much as possible during that one hour.

After that one-hour test event, a few months are used to evaluate the data of how much you actually curtailed during that one hour. Then, your payments are determined. For one client last week, we estimated that they can earn $50,000 annually by participating in the demand response program.

What’s after the test event?

Now that the test day is complete and you’re enrolled in the program, what’s next?

If a critical day is called, you will be asked to curtail as much energy as possible on that critical day. Critical day sounds a little scary, I know. But there are two positives to keep in mind in regards to a critical day.

  1. If you curtail as much as possible on that critical day, you get extra energy payments for whatever you curtailed that day.
  2. There has not been a critical day or a grid emergency called in over 12 years in our territory otherwise known as PJM. So, your chances are very good that the only curtailing you’ll be asked to do during this program is on that test day.

“There’s no way we can curtail.”

The number one comment I get from manufacturers all the time when it comes to this program is “Mike, there’s no way we can curtail.”

Would $50,000 of new revenue to your facility make an impact? I’m guessing it would.

Now when we say “curtail,” keep in mind that we don’t mean a complete shutdown of your facility. “Curtailing” could be adjusting the thermostat by a few degrees for that one-hour test event. It could be shutting down an air compressor, a chiller, a rooftop unit, maybe a manufacturing line just for that hour.

The point is, you can curtail as much or as little as you want. But keep in mind: your payments will reflect how much you curtailed during that one-hour test event.

The enrollment deadline is coming up soon!

In closing, demand response is an incredible program to generate revenue for your facility. If you’re interested in seeing an estimate of what payments might be for your facility, I’m happy to help! The enrollment period is coming up fast — it usually ends in late spring, but it could be earlier depending on how many megawatts are accounted for. In this program, there are a certain number of megawatt-hours available, and once those are claimed, enrollment is shut down until next year.

Thank you for watching! I hope you found today’s video valuable. Join me next week for our final video in the series on energy efficiency. Have a great evening!

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Why does incremental usage matter? – TMT

February 23, 2021 – Why does incremental usage matter if you have a fixed rate for natural gas? In this video, Senior Energy Advisor Calvin Cornish, CEM explains why you may be at risk of higher prices even if you have a fixed natural gas rate.

Video Transcript

Thanks for tuning in as we wrap up this month’s theme of answering frequently asked questions. This week’s question: How can I be at risk of higher prices if I’ve already locked in a rate?

The short answer: monthly and daily balancing. The slightly longer answer is this week’s Two-Minute Tuesday.

What is incremental usage?

In an effort to manage risk and reduce cost volatility, the overwhelming majority of gas users regularly lock in fixed rates for some — if not all — of their anticipated usage. The key word there is anticipated.

The difference between your expected usage and actual usage is balanced on a monthly basis. This incremental usage shows up on your bill as a buy or sell based on market rates at the end of the month.

In a typical month, this variance should be minimal; however, large deviations in volume or price can have a noticeable impact. In extreme cases like the Polar Vortex or Winter Storm Uri, the increased volume combined with spiking rates can result in monthly balancing that doubles your supply cost.

Daily Balancing

So, what about daily balancing? When a utility calls a critical day like most did last week, suppliers are subject to very tight daily restrictions, where any deviation from those can result in massive penalties from the utility.

These penalties are in place to protect system stability and ensure that suppliers will purchase and deliver enough gas to meet daily needs, even if they are taking a loss.

A Note on Contract Language

This is where supplier-specific contract language comes into play. Most contracts protect clients against these penalties. Unless you make a huge change, such as shutting down operations without giving notice, you are covered.

As for the extraordinarily high prices incurred on these days, that language varies by supplier and product. It may be very specific, allowing for critical day adjustments. In many cases, it may simply say something like “…price based on a market rate reflecting supplier’s actual costs.”

If you’re not sure about the specifics of your current agreement, react out to your energy advisor.

 

For more information on Critical Days,  check out our recent blog post on how critical days affect your natural gas bills.

As always, thanks for watching, and if you found it useful, please like, share, or comment below.

Special Alert: Operational Flow Order – MES #3

February 17, 2021 – In this special edition of Manufacturing Energy Success, Michael Zaura explains how packaging manufacturers can help relieve stress on the natural gas grid during an Operational Flow Order.

Video Transcript

Hello, and welcome back to Manufacturing Energy Success. This week’s topic was supposed to be on demand response. But, because of the major event that occurred in energy this week, I thought it would be more helpful to cover what has happened and what you can do to help.

What is an Operational Flow Order?

On Monday, Operational Flow Orders (OFOs) were called by natural gas utilities across the country. An OFO or Critical Notice occurs in rare instances when excessive demand puts massive strain on natural gas infrastructure. You may have read about the blackout in Texas and Oklahoma as a result of this.

While we are lucky here to have not experienced anything like that yet, you still may be affected by these orders.

What does this mean for you?

Chances are, you’re going to have higher energy bills not only in February, but possibly in a few months following as well. this is due to extra charges from the utility for any natural gas used above your normal monthly quantities during this critical time.

What can you do?

As a manufacturer, you’re in a unique position — your actions this week can not only reduce your energy usage but also relieve some stress on the grid.

Curtail whatever you can this week. It’s tough to shut off the heat or shut down completely, especially with this weather. But, if you can:

  • Reduce the thermostat a couple of degrees in your facility
  • Turn off some extra lights
  • Idle a production line until the weekend.

These small actions can be a big help to the grid during this time and ensure that energy is delivered to places like Texas and Oklahoma that need it the most.

 

Thank you for watching! If you have any questions about OFOs or ways to curtail your usage this week, please feel free to reach out.

I’ll be back next week with our regularly schedule programming where we talk about another form of curtailment in the form of demand response. This program is a great way to get some of those dollars back into your budget. Stay warm out there!

Energy Tips for the Hospitality Industry – TMT

February 16, 2021 – In this FAQ February video, Strategic Energy Advisor Sam Greenberg tackles a question he’s been asked frequently over the past year by our hospitality clients: “What are other companies doing to stay in business?”

Video Transcript

Over the past 12 months, one could argue that the industry most negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic has been the hospitality industry. In this week’s Two-Minute Tuesday, we’ll be tackling the number one question we were asked by our hospitality clients during this past year: “What are other companies doing to stay in business?”

Two Energy Strategies for Hospitality Clients

2020 was painful for all businesses, but the hospitality industry was one of the hardest hit. Revenue plummeted due to both shutdowns and to lack of demand from people traveling.

Many of these businesses had to get creative to save money. Specific to energy, the two opportunities that ultimately provided the biggest return for our hospitality clients were demand response and electricity agreements.

Let’s take a deeper dive into how these two strategies supported our hospitality partners in 2020.

Demand Response

Let’s start with demand response. As a hotel owner, if you haven’t looked in to signing up for a demand response program, I highly recommend doing so now.

Depending on the area of the country and your utility, demand response programs can pay you money for curtailing your usage in a planned one-hour test event. We’ve seen annual payments for our hotel clients between $5,000 and $30,000 for participating in the program.

Energy Agreements

Along with demand response, the past 12 months has put an extra focus on electricity and gas agreements. Several months of 2020 saw natural gas rates fall to their lowest level in 20 years.

Our hospitality clients took advantage of that market opportunity and were locking in these lower rates for longer terms, some up to 48 months. This was helping them reduce their energy costs, creating budget stability regardless of increases in the market, and ultimately ensuring that their rate was going to be lower than most of their competing hotels who were not taking the same approach.

 

Even if you missed out on the low prices of 2020, there are still opportunities in the current market to fix either natural gas or electricity rates. There is a consensus forming around a bullish energy market in 2021, so being proactive and fixing rates now can protect your budget from these possible increasing costs.

If you’d like to hear more about the topics we covered today or ideas around saving money on your energy, please contact me or any of our Nania Energy Advisors today. Thank you for watching!

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What does an OFO mean for your gas bill?

By AJ Brockman

February 15, 2021 – Our nation’s recent frigid temps have created some changes to the US energy markets.

Due to the high demand for natural gas caused by severe weather conditions, utilities across the country are issuing Operational Flow Orders (OFOs) or Critical Notices.

What is an OFO?

Under an OFO or Critical Notice, every natural gas customer must adhere to their monthly usage quantities indicated on their natural gas agreement/schedule. Any incremental usage above this quantity is subject to extreme market rates, which will impact your bill and ultimately your bottom line.

It’s important to note that these charges are not under your supplier’s control; your supplier is complying with the order that is coming from your local utility. Your supplier remains dedicated to providing you the natural gas you need in accordance with your contract terms.

What does this mean for you?

For those customers who are expecting to use more gas this week for heating, these OFOs could mean increased costs associated with your natural gas. Both your utility and supplier will do their best to protect you from these additional costs, but the risk remains for all gas customers in affected areas.

What can you do?

There are a few basic actions you can take:

  • If you have a zonal building management system and any vacant areas, you can reduce natural gas usage by lowering your heat temperature in any unoccupied area.
  • Turn down thermostats in any unoccupied areas.
  • Try to modulate your temperature settings whenever and wherever possible to reduce gas usage.

While this is directly impacting natural gas rates, electricity rates will likely also be affected. For those clients on an index power product, we would recommend curtailing power usage if at all possible to minimize cost increases.

 

Our offices are open today and our advisors are available, so please reach out to us with any questions or concerns.