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Green Options for Schools – Energy ABC’s #4

Video Transcript

One of the hottest topics on the streets today is about sustainability and green energy.

You’re likely already facing some pressure from your Board members and community to become more green as a District but still maintain that limited budget that you have.

So, in today’s video we’re going to cover 3 green options for schools that can help you become more sustainable as a District and discern which is best and fits best with your budget.

Green Option 1: Solar Power

The reason that solar is such a big deal and a big talking point in Illinois right now is there are new financial incentives to improve the overall ROI of solar installations.

These incentives include:

  • Utility rebates in the form of a check that you get after the solar installation is completed
  • Solar Renewable Energy Credits (or SRECs) that you can sell for money for any power that’s produced from your solar array
  • Federal tax incentives that you don’t really qualify for as a tax-free entity.

Because you can’t take advantage of the tax incentives, you may want to consider a Power Purchase Agreement, or PPA, in which an outside developer takes advantage of the incentives and installs the solar panels on your rooftop or your ground mount. They get paid by you over the course of a 20-25 year agreement.

You don’t have any upfront capital outlay — you simply pay the installer for any power produced by the array over the 20-25 years. So if you have no bond ability, no capital outlay, and you can’t purchase the array directly, this may be an option that you want to consider if the numbers are favorable.

The final question you want to ask yourself is how quickly can you act as a District. Those SRECs that we talked about  — those Solar Renewable Energy Credits — are on a diminishing scale. So you’re getting paid less and less for each kWh of electricity that’s generated the longer you wait to install a solar array.

If this is something you can act on quickly, the can drastically change the ROI on your project and may make it cost prohibitive.

Green Option 2: Lighting

A second option that you can explore is to lower your carbon footprint through lowering your overall energy consumption. This is done by completing efficiency projects.

One of the lowest-hanging fruit in this category is lighting upgrades, or installing LEDs.

The beautiful thing about this option is that the cost of LEDs has come down considerably, but there are still utility rebates available for completed projects.

You can also reduce the lighting portion of your energy usage by as much as 80 percent with an LED upgrade. So it’s definitely something worth considering.

The best part is if you can achieve an ROI under two years, that may be an easier sell to your board than a 20-25 year PPA for a solar project.

Green Option 3: Purchasing RECs

A final option you can take is purchasing green, renewably-sourced power.

For a small premium — usually 2-3 percent of your overall energy cost– you can purchase power that comes from, wind, solar, or water generation sources. So you have the PR to say that you are a District that is powered by 100 percent green renewable energy.

While this isn’t a direct offset of your carbon footprint, it will help appease in many situations any initiatives that your Board or community may have for your District.

 

Hopefully this gives you a great overview of the green options available to you to become more sustainable as a school District. For more information on any of the topics we talked about it this video, check out the links below or certainly reach out if you have any questions.

Thanks for watching, and we’ll see you next time on Energy ABC’s!

See more posts about Sustainability:

 

Energy Buying for Schools – Energy ABC’s #1

Video Transcript

Hi guys! I’m Becky with Nania Energy.

When I talk to school business officials about purchasing gas and electric, I’m often given a lot of questions about how the process works, and there’s a lack of clarity and a lot of misunderstanding around it all.

So I had this idea to release this mini-vlog series called “Energy ABC’s” where we’re going to really hone in on the biggest obstacles that school districts face and give you tangible ways to overcome them.

Right now, we’re going to swap seats. I’m going to act as the school business official and go through some of the biggest obstacles that our clients have told us they face.

Obstacle 1

Energy is so complex. There’s so many layers.

You don’t even know which way to purchase — do you use a consortium? Or do you go directly through a supplier like Constellation?

You’re getting 22 calls a day from different providers saying they can offer you a better rate and more savings.

But how do you know who to trust?

Obstacle 2

You also have a lot of customers that you have to appease in your position. You have school board members, you have other administrators, you have the community. So any decisions you make for change you have to take very heavily and very seriously. And you have to make sure all the boxes are checked.

You also are managing a lot of aspects of school business from teacher contracts to lunch programs to maybe even transportation. You don’t have the time to dedicate to energy, and you’re not an expert in that field.

So how do you know what the right choice is to make? And how do you know what the opportunity cost is by waiting until your contract expires versus looking at it sooner?

Obstacle 3

And finally: how do you make your district more green? How do you become more sustainable and keep up with the Joneses, so to speak?

You’re being asked to bring in more green initiatives to your district while simultaneously being asked to cut your budget and reduce your spending. How is that supposed to work?

Learn how to make energy work for your district.

So, over the next couple of weeks we’ll release some videos that really show you how to address these concerns and make them work for your school district. If there’s something that we haven’t talked about today, shoot me a line or drop us a note and let us know of something you’d like us to discuss.

Otherwise, we’ll see you next time on Energy ABC’s where we’ll dive into the 3 main ways that schools purchase energy. Thank you!

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Green Energy 101: How to Go Green in 2020

By Michael Zaura

January 13, 2020 — The end of a decade and the start of the next is the perfect time to reflect on the past and plan for the future.

Green (renewable) energy has already made a significant impact on the energy industry, and it’s going to play a huge part going forward. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) predicts that renewable sources will generate almost half of the world’s electricity by 2050.

Green Energy 101

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, International Energy Outlook 2019

Have you been thinking about green energy for your facility? In this post, we’ll:

  • cover the basics of green energy,
  • answer some FAQs, and
  • explore a couple ways you can incorporate renewables into your energy strategy.

What are sources of renewable energy?

Renewable energy is energy that is not generated from fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas). Sources include:

  • Sun (solar energy)
  • Wind
  • Underground heat (geothermal energy)
  • Water (hydroelectric power)
  • Biomass
  • Hydrogen and fuel cells

These sources are naturally replenished over time, which is why they’re considered renewable.

Is nuclear energy green?

Yes…and no.

Nuclear energy produces far fewer greenhouse gas emissions during electricity generation compared to coal or natural gas. It’s also more reliable in generation from an efficiency standpoint. Some suppliers even market nuclear as a “carbon-free” product. In those regards, it could be considered “green.”

However, nuclear energy contains uranium, which is not a naturally-occurring resource. Also, the radioactive waste created from the generation process is definitely not environmentally friendly.

Fore more on nuclear, check out these articles:

How to Buy Green Energy

When you’re looking to “go green,” you have two primary courses of action:

  1. Purchasing RECs
  2. Owning a renewable asset

What is a REC?

A Renewable Energy Credit (REC, or SREC for solar) is proof that 1 megawatt-hour of electricity has been generated by a renewable resource. Buying RECs ensures that renewable electricity is being generated on your behalf and delivered to the power grid.

Many clients choose this route as a more affordable alternative to owning the asset outright.

Owning a Renewable Asset

Examples of renewable assets include:

  • A solar array on a rooftop or plot of land
  • A wind turbine
  • A geothermal system in the floor of a building

Investing in a green asset for your facility requires the right amount of space, capital, and the right situation.

If you’re interested in owning a renewable asset, a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) is one of your financing options. A PPA is a contract between a developer and an electricity consumer. These agreements typically last between 10 and 25 years.

“How do I know that the energy I’m getting to my facility is really green?”

I get this question from clients all the time. And the short answer is: unless you own the asset tied to your facility, you won’t know.

The grid contains both green energy and “brown” (non-renewable) energy. If you purchase RECs, you do ensure that green energy gets to the grid. But you won’t know for sure what part of the mix coming from the grid to your facility is truly green.

Is there green gas?

While most green energy talk revolves around power generation, green or renewable natural gas (RNG) does exist.

Green gas comes from biodegradable materials (think of a landfill) that emits a usable biogas. This biogas is purified and turned into biomethane. Biomethane can then be injected into gas pipelines for end user consumption.

One reason RNG isn’t as prevalent as renewable electricity is because most of the U.S. currently lacks the infrastructure to clean and transport the gas. Once more pipelines and refineries are developed, we will see an increased use of RNG.

Green energy can be in your future.

Is going green part of your plan in the next 30 years?

If renewable sources are going to fuel half of our electricity, more facilities will need to invest in renewable assets. Some countries, corporations, and individuals have already set sustainability goals. As new technologies surrounding green energy continue to evolve, these goals will be easier to achieve.

Cheers to a greener future!

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.