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The (Not-So-Distant) Future of Energy

By Michael Zaura

One question I’ve been asked over the past few weeks is: “What future energy trends are you seeing, and how will they impact my business?”

As an energy advisor, I don’t take this question lightly. Keeping up with energy news and understanding how emerging technology will affect the energy market is important for current and future planning.

Recent energy news stories can give you a sense of where the industry is headed. 3 items you’ll want to keep an eye on are:

  1. Renewable energy generation,
  2. Energy storage technology, and
  3. The US-China trade negotiations.

Renewable energy generation is hitting new highs.

Renewable energy sources are rapidly increasing their foothold in our electricity supply. Just a few months ago, renewables surpassed coal as the top electricity generation source. In 2018, renewables accounted for about 17% of US electricity generation. This number is expected to grow as more solar panels and wind turbines come online.

Renewable energy options are more available and economical than ever before. Users are buying more “green energy” as opposed to traditional “brown energy.” Customers of all sizes — including businesses like Starbucks — are taking advantage of this opportunity in the market. Utilities across the country are offering new incentives for solar projects for both residential and C&I consumers.

Just 5 years ago, renewables were considered too costly and weren’t generating enough supply to make an impact. Overtaking coal this quickly shows us that renewables will be a big part of energy discussions and strategies going forward.

Energy storage is becoming more prominent.

As renewable generation increases, where is the excess generated power going?

The answer: batteries.

Energy storage is important. It’s also important that the stored energy can be dispersed when it’s needed. Think about a facility’s solar panels. Those panels are generating electrical energy while the sun’s out. When the sun goes down, the facility can use its stored energy to keep the lights on instead of going to the grid. However, if the battery can only hold an hour’s worth of power or can’t release the power efficiently, it won’t be very effective.

While the technology is good right now, the research being poured into it will only make the products better by increasing their capacity and flexibility. The “next big battery breakthrough” is coming. And as the companies developing these batteries continue to advance this technology, our energy future is only looking brighter! (get it?)

International events are impacting energy.

One topic the media has incessantly covered is the US-China trade negotiations. As the current world leader in natural gas and oil production, the US has some leverage in these talks. China is the #1 importer of liquefied natural gas (LNG), and the US is one of the world’s top 3 LNG exporters. Energy minds think this is great for trade, but it could also drive electricity and natural gas away from historically low rates.

Our clients usually ask us to look into our “crystal ball” and give our opinion where the energy market is going. No one know when these trade talks will conclude or how they might shake out. Acting now on historically low energy rates has yielded great savings for our clients over the past few years. How long this pricing environment will last is anyone’s guess, but the outcome of the trade talks is something we’re all watching very closely.

Keep these energy topics on your radar.

So, which one of these trends will have the greatest impact on your business? Chances are, it may be all of them, whether directly or indirectly.

  • Depending on your organization’s sustainability goals, buying green energy through RECs or even investing in hard assets for your facility may be a consideration down the road.
  • Having a reliable battery as an on-site source of energy in the future could keep your facility up and running during a blackout.
  • Lastly, whatever the outcome of the trade negotiations, it makes sense to review your current energy purchasing strategy now while the markets continue to produce historically low pricing.

The chances of rates declining much further are far less than them increasing at a faster pace. Feel free to give me a call or comment below if you’d like to share your thoughts on the future of energy.

 

About the Author

Michael is a Senior Strategic Energy Advisor in the Chicagoland area. He specializes in manufacturing, hospitality, transportation, and renewable/green energy. Michael helps his clients craft energy strategies specific to their current and future situations. He is passionate about renewable/green energy and its growth, continuously learning through reading and sharing publications. He enjoys spending his spare time with his wife, daughter, and triplet boys.

Michael can be reached at (630) 225-4556 or via email at mzaura@naniaenergy.com.

How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

By Michael Zaura

What do beer, iPhones, and Wrangler jeans have in common?

They’re all made by companies who have pledged to have 100% of their electricity supplied by green energy by 2025.

And it’s not just companies adopting green energy policies – cities such as Chicago and San Francisco have also pledged to be powered entirely by renewable energy sources within the next 20 years. In fact, 70 cities across the US have adopted 100% renewable energy ordinances, nearly doubling the number from 2017.

So, what counts as “green” energy, and why are so many people talking about it?

What Is Green Energy?

Green or renewable energy is energy that is not collected from fossil fuels (coal, natural gas, and oil). Renewable energy sources are naturally replenished over time.

Sources of green energy include:

  • Wind power
  • Geothermal energy
  • Solar power
  • Hydroelectric energy
  • Biomass
  • Hydrogen and fuel cells

A recent study by the Department of Energy concluded that these resources have the potential to provide 80% of US electricity by 2050.

The introduction of solar incentives into the Illinois and Mid-Atlantic markets has sparked the recent interest in renewable energy sources. And with premiums being as low as 1%, going green is an attainable option for many types of business, not just manufacturers.

Who Benefits from Green Energy?

Using green energy benefits

  • The environment. Using renewable resources reduces the amount of carbon dioxide emissions caused by the burning of fossil fuels.
  • The US economy. Most green energy investments are spent on materials and maintaining generation facilities within the same state or city from which they are sourced. This creates 5 times more job opportunities than fossil fuels and reducing the need t import other energy sources.
  • Your company. Many consumers look at an organization’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) practices before purchasing from the company. They are more likely to do business with companies that support an issue they care about. Environmental efforts is a major CSR tenant, and a company reducing its carbon footprint is favored by consumers.

How Do I Buy Green Energy?

When you choose to buy energy from renewable sources, you buy your energy in the form of Renewable Energy Credits (RECs or SRECs for solar energy). A REC is proof that 1 megawatt-hour of electricity has been generated by a renewable resource.

Your green energy does not have to come from only one type of renewable resource. For example, one of my customers is a hand soap company whose primary manufacturing facility is in Illinois. The company makes environmentally-friendly products, so having environmentally-friendly energy was essential to their brand identity.

We presented them with four different energy product options:

  • National wind energy
  • Local wind energy (generated in Illinois)
  • Solar power
  • General (a mix of different renewable resources)

They elected to use a 100% national wind product for their electricity. While these are just some of the green product options available, the option you choose should align with your company’s values and energy initiatives.

You Can Make a Difference.

How important is renewable energy to you and your company?

Reducing our customers’ carbon footprints is a major goal of Nania Energy Advisors. Last year, we procured 25.5 million kWh in green energy, which is the equivalent of removing greenhouse gas emissions from over 4,000 cars.

I’m passionate about green energy solutions because I want my kids to be able to see the beauty of the environment as I experienced it growing up. Whether it was camping or hiking while I was in the Scouts or my various summers being a caddy or umpire, I’ve always loved being outside and seeing what the environment had to offer. There is nothing like enjoying the beauty of our surroundings, and I hope we can help others share those experiences now and with the generations that follow.

A green energy strategy is easily attainable for your business, and I want to help you discover yours. Contact me to learn how your organization can make a difference.

About The Author

Michael is a Strategic Energy Advisor in the Chicagoland Area.  His work in energy specializes in manufacturing, recycling, law and renewable/green energy.  Michael helps his clients craft Strategic Energy Advisors Michael Zauraenergy strategies specific to their current and future situations.  He is passionate about renewable/green energy and its growth – continuously learning through reading and sharing publications. He enjoys spending his spare time with his wife, daughter, and triplet boys.

Michael can be reached via email at mzaura@naniaenergy.com or phone at 630-225-4556.

5 Things You’ll Need to Take Your Illinois Business Solar

By Michael DeCaluwe

May 14, 2018 – Solar energy initiatives have been in the news a lot lately – from requirements to install solar on new homes in California to community solar projects in the Midwest.

Illinois is poised to become a leader in new solar power. There are excellent new economic incentives to install solar at your facility that can lower your electricity costs for the next 20 years.

ComEd and Ameren agreed to create a fund to incentivize building over 3000 MWs of solar and 1000 MWs of wind power in the state as part of the bailout of Exelon’s nuclear fleet by the State of Illinois in 2016. These incentives take the form of rebates. Combined with federal tax credits, most rooftop solar projects in Illinois now have an estimated payback period of 5 years or under.

The lifespan of most solar units is 20-25 years. This means that after the initial payoff period of 4-5 years, customers would essentially be getting “free” power for years 5-25 of the system. This can amount to millions of dollars to some customers (depending on the unit’s size).

Not all sites are good candidates for rooftop solar units. Here are parameters to help you decide if your site is a good fit.

Illinois Solar Program Guidelines

  1. A Newer Roof. You’ll ideally need a roof that has 20-25 years left on its life rating. You don’t want to incur the expense of disassembly and re-installation of the solar array if you need to replace your roof in the next 20 years.
  2. A Large Energy Bill. You need to spend over $130,000 a year on electricity to make solar economical for you.
  3. A Large Roof with Unobstructed Views. A medium-height building (under 5 stories) and large rooftop footprint are also important. Solar panels will be facing south with a 10-degree tilt, so you’ll need a clear view facing that direction.
  4. An Owned (NOT Rented) Facility. Since the array will sit on the roof, the client should ideally own the roof space and expect to occupy it for the next 20 years.
  5. A Federal Tax Liability. Many of the solar incentives come in the form of federal tax credits and accelerated depreciation rules (IRS Code). You’ll need a federal tax liability to offset.

Other Important Things to Know about the Illinois Solar Program

  • The Illinois state solar incentives are provided on a sliding-scale. Companies that enroll in the program first will get the most incentives.
  • There is only a set number of MWs that ComEd and Ameren are funding as part of this program. Once these MWs are used up, the program ends.

If you are at all interested in how much money a solar unit would save your company in energy expenses, call our office now. We will walk you through the process, provide an on-site review of your facility to determine the feasibility of installing a solar unit, and provide an informative proposal that will walk you through the numbers.

This is a big opportunity for businesses in Illinois to reduce expenses and increase your competitiveness. If you fit the parameters outlined in this article, call to see how solar can benefit you.


About The Author

Michael has served as the VP of Commercial & Industrial Sales at Nania Energy Advisors since 2007. He believes that listening to and 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.