Putting more energy into sustainability
Educational institutions, state and local governments, businesses, and other organizations worldwide are striving to achieve the triple bottom line of economical, ecological and social responsibility. These values for measuring organizational success can be secured by embracing a commitment to sustainability.
As citizens of a global community, it is the social responsibility of companies, organizations and institutions to collectively minimize energy consumption, reduce carbon footprints, protect air and water quality, and build a stronger society. In short, they must work together to achieve sustainability worldwide.
Many organizations are finding that they can dramatically accelerate their progress by combining on-site renewable energy generation with energy efficiency measures.
A symphony of sustainability
Coupling renewable energy and energy efficiency multiplies economic, environmental and social benefits. In many states, excess electricity generated from clean energy installations can be sold to utilities, creating an additional stream of revenue. Solar electricity in some states is already at or lower than the electricity from the grid. Energy efficient facilities and equipment can also help lower utility bills, freeing up disposable income to help stimulate local economies.
Implementing a suite of energy-saving measures enables organizations to reduce the size of their carbon footprint and decrease air pollutant emissions. The impact on water resources is also minimized because solar and wind energy do not require cooling water, like some non-renewable energy sources do.
On-site renewable energy and energy-efficiency programs also create healthier indoor and outdoor environments where people live and work. Additionally, these initiatives help improve the reputations of these organizations with citizens, employees and other stakeholders, while demonstrating economic and environmental leadership.
Managing financing options, incentives and legal considerations
Pairing on-site renewable energy installations with energy efficiency improvements spurs sustainability progress, but it also adds complexities to these projects. The process can require technical and management experience beyond that of an organization, as technology selection, funding and project management should be considered.
Organizations have found that the most effective way to measure these complexities and attain their end goals is to work with an energy services company (ESCO), such as Johnson Controls, to bring significant experience in energy efficiency and renewable energy to the partnership. An ESCO can help ensure the overall success of an initiative from start to finish, by following five steps:
- Develop the plan. Evaluate the overall feasibility of a project and then create a detailed financial proposal for the organization to consider and act upon.
- Select the means. Determine the appropriate technologies to use and develop a comprehensive project development agreement (PDA), while considering project objectives, capabilities, scalability, and lifecycle costs,
- Execute the plan. This phase includes the development of a construction and commissioning schedule, management of project partners and subcontractors, and installation of equipment and controls.
- Sustain the plan. Once construction is complete, operation and maintenance of the facility begins and continues for the term of the contract.
- Guarantee the plan. Throughout the term of the contract, the performance, payback and other results listed in the PDA should be guaranteed to provide peace of mind to the organization.
Using this development process, organizations can fast track their journey on the road to sustainability and achieve their green goals. Energy efficiency and renewable resources depend on each other to produce clean and secure energy, while energy efficiency keeps demand growth in check so that alternative energy sources can help cut emissions and oil imports. The synergies between energy efficiency and renewable energy use the strengths of one to complement the weaknesses of the other, thereby advancing both.
Bill Guiney is the Director of the Solar Thermal Business at Johnson Controls, Inc. His areas of responsibility have included both Photovoltaic and Solar Thermal technologies. Bill is currently developing the Solar Water Heating program and building the internal capabilities of Johnson Controls.
Bill has provided many Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency training programs and has been an instructor for solar thermal energy systems at the North Carolina and Florida Solar Energy Centers. Bill is on the solar thermal technical committee of the North American Board of Certified Energy Professionals (NABCEP) and Chaired the Entry Level Solar Thermal Committee.
image: Windwarts Energie GmbH via Flickr cc (some rights reserved)