The Role of Buildings in a Low-Carbon Future

Zpryme talked with Ellen Bell, Senior Specialist, Environmental Defense Fund, for her thoughts on the role of buildings in a low-carbon future, the rise of microgrids, and how graduate students in EDF’s Climate Corps program get her excited about energy.

ZP: What do you look forward to the most in your business day?

ellen_bell287x377Bell: We’re tackling something big—creating a new, low-carbon energy system—but we’re doing the practical, “in-the-weeds” work of doing it in individual buildings. Because of that, I look forward to two things: 1) working with great people—like building management and their engineering staffs, and 2) implementing our approach of finding the business case for operational efficiencies in energy management.

ZP: How does EDF fit into the Midwest energy ecosystem?

Bell: The Midwest has a large and thriving energy ecosystem of technology entrepreneurs, dedicated academics, innovative non-profits, utility partners, etc. While this network can be complex to navigate, all of these stakeholders are dedicated to working together to make the right decisions that will shape energy use in our changing world. EDF is proud to be a part of this alliance and dedicated to bringing our expertise through the Clean Energy program and our boots-on-the-ground talent in the form of EDF Climate Corps. We’re all about driving market adoption of the most effective solutions.

ZP: What is the role of commercial real estate in smart energy?

Bell: Buildings account for approximately 70% of all emissions in the City of Chicago, so focusing on decreasing those emissions makes environmental sense. But the infrastructure changes that lead to reductions also lead to fiscal savings that can impact how a building is marketed, how it interacts with its tenants and what those tenants may share with other offices across the country. So the commercial real estate industry has a unique opportunity to bring together the right stakeholders with the newest technology and best practices in energy management and tenant engagement—all of which can influence audiences with unparalleled reach.

ZP: Where do you see microgrids going in the next five years?

Bell: Because of concerns about reliability and the desire for more clean distributed generation, microgrids are poised for rapid expansion. Within the next five years, developers will experiment with a variety of business models that enhance the grid’s flexibility and efficiency.

ZP: What individuals (i.e. thought leaders) get you excited about energy?

Bell: Personally I am inspired every year by the brilliant graduate students who sign up to be part of our Climate Corps program. Individually they are all incredibly different, they come from diverse backgrounds that include degrees in everything from mechanical engineering to finance to urban planning, but they share a dedication to the desire to change the world through understanding how energy efficiency and making the business case for advanced energy management will transform not only the organizations where they spend the summer but the world at large. They apply a unique perspective to the questions at hand and I think of each of them as thought leaders because their fresh approaches to the issues and opportunities that face the energy industry drive the innovations that change the world.

Ellen Bell will be speaking at Zpryme’s ETS@chicago event, July 22-23 in Chicago. To learn more about the ETS@chicago and all of its speakers, please visit ets-chicago.com or contact info@zpryme.com.

This post originally appeared on Zpryme's Energy Thought Summit blog.

Bringing The Pope’s Climate Encyclical to Life, a Church at a Time

Last week’s papal encyclical on climate change galvanized those of us who already see responsible stewardship for the earth as both a moral mandate and business imperative. In the 184-page document, Pope Francis calls for a sweeping overhaul of political, economic and individual practices to halt the degradation of the environment and protect our planet for the long term.

The pope's sweeping vision is sure to prompt churches, people of faith and a whole range of organizations to rethink their actions with regard to use of energy, water and other natural resources. But already, religious organizations have been working quietly and steadily to effectively manage their environmental impact, in keeping with the established theological tradition of moral economic development and use of resources.

(Credit: Sacred Heart)

(Credit: Sacred Heart)

Take Gene Murphy of Prescott, Ariz., as a prime example of someone sitting at the intersection of religion, sustainability and business. As the business manager for the Sacred Heart Parish in the Diocese of Phoenix, Gene has developed scalable solutions for his church and school that could and should be replicated across all churches, schools and relevant organizations.

The church performed a clean energy retrofit covering lighting, windows, waste and solar power that dramatically reduced their utility spending from $94,500 a year to $37,000, or $157 in daily savings and transformed the 32,000 square foot school into a near net-zero building. The solar project alone reduces more than 230,000 lbs of CO₂ per year, and the building is now lit with 97 percent LED lights. Gene is already drafting a template for similar organizations to use in analyzing their opportunities in light of new technologies, regulations and methodologies.

At EDF, we see Gene and the Sacred Heart Parish as a real-life example of the kind of pragmatic stewardship the pope is calling for, and we got on the phone with him to get some deeper insights into the parish's transformation. Read more

The Business Case for Hiring an Energy Manager

by Jacob Robinson, Program Coordinator, EDF Climate Corps

Here’s a provocative thought: energy managers are worth more than their weight in gold.

We often use that expression in a figurative sense—in this case, to emphasize the value of a dedicated energy manager, whose sole mission is to find financial and environmental efficiencies in a strategic way throughout an organization’s operations and mission. But could it be literally true?

Jacob Robinson

Jacob Robinson

Doing the math

With the average global body mass of a person being 62 kilograms and the current price of a 1 kilogram gold bar hovering around $39,000, an individual’s weight in gold is roughly $2.4 million dollars.

As part of EDF Climate Corps, graduate-level fellows spend 10 to 12 weeks uncovering opportunities for smart energy management, identifying an average of $1 million dollars in savings per fellow. Considering what a year-round employee could do, the annual value to an organization might top $4 million.

Making the case for management

If you’re putting together a budget request for an energy manager (or integrating energy responsibilities into existing positions) and drawing up a job description, this calculation is just a starting point. The business value of energy managers and integrating energy management into existing positions can be fruitful year over year, regardless of an organization’s maturity level at which they are addressing energy management.

Further, new technologies, funding mechanisms and incentives are constantly entering the market, requiring a dedicated set of eyes to analyze the most strategic opportunities.

Read more

Are Energy Managers Making Progress? Introducing a Tool to Help

Energy management can be complicated, and the projects that organizations must tackle run the gamut: from small-scale lighting and HVAC upgrades to whole building retrofits, from baselining energy consumption to data analysis of enterprise-wide energy management systems and from volunteer employee engagement programs to executive-level goal setting.

So if you’re an energy manager, there’s no doubt that you are busy! But, when you’re deep in the middle of so many “weeds,” what’s often not so clear is this: Is your organization making real progress to improve the way it thinks about and manages energy? What does real progress look like?

virtuous-cycle-blog

The Virtuous Cycle of Strategic Energy Management

Several years ago, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and partner MIT started to address these questions through the  development of a framework for strategic energy management that showed the dependency of truly successful programs on a holistic and multi-faceted management approach—one where five focus areas work in concert to create a virtuous cycle of continuous improvement:

This year, we’re taking this work a step further by addressing another question that organizations frequently have: where are we on the journey?

To that end, EDF Climate Corps is proud to announce the launch of a simple and free benchmarking survey called the Smart Energy Diagnostic, designed to help energy managers assess the overall health and progress of their energy management programs. Read more

New Case Studies in Energy Management Show the Path from 'Why' to 'How'

Business leaders have long agreed on the “why” of environmental management: seeing the value in increased profits, reduced waste and a smaller carbon footprint. But the “how” has often been the stumbling block.

Two case studies released today from adidas Group and the Housing Authority of the City and County of Denver (DHA) help to answer that question, detailing energy management strategies that deliver tremendous value and are great examples for other organizations to follow.

Material Handling Equipment at adidas Group

The adidas Group tackled the dual challenge of improving efficiency in existing distribution centers as well as when specifying material handling equipment in new facilities. Recognizing that only reducing upfront costs during design won’t optimize efficiency over the long term, the adidas Group is now analyzing the lifecycle cost of conveyer belts and other equipment. See the full case study here.

Meanwhile, DHA tackled the challenge of expanding renewable energy resources despite limited capital funds. The solution: an innovative power purchase agreement that enabled the installation of a 2.5 megawatt solar project with minimal upfront costs and a stream of lease payments to benefit DHA. If the 3,300 housing authorities in the U.S. duplicated Denver’s success, their rooftops could produce enough solar energy to power more than 1 million homes. See the full case study here.

Solar installation at DHA

Today’s announcement comes on the heels of the recently released case studies of JLL and Urban Innovations, which have risen to the City of Chicago’s challenge to reduce commercial building energy consumption by 20 percent in the next five years. By focusing on education, automation and data, JLL and Urban Innovations each took leaps forward in energy efficiency.

EDF is thrilled to share these case studies as scalable solutions that companies across a wide range of industry sectors can adopt. Together, they show the diversity of organizations that benefit from EDF Climate Corps, and whet our appetite for the projects on tap for the summer of 2015, including Verizon, Shorenstein Properties and Hill+Knowlton Strategies.

We are seeing the dawn of a new era for EDF Climate Corps, as our eight years of partnerships bear new and interesting fruit, with the potential to save energy in hundreds – or even thousands – of organizations. We are eager to hear how you are making the transition from “why” to “how” in energy management, and how EDF can help. Contact us at info@edfclimatecorps.org.

EDF Climate Corps Continues to Drive Results for Private Equity Firms

The results are in. As my colleague Victoria Mills wrote recently, this year’s cohort of EDF Climate Corps fellows found $130 million in potential energy savings across 102 organizations.

Among the engagements, 12 fellows worked with private equity firms and portfolio companies on a diverse set of projects. Each engagement offers its own story, but we’d like to showcase a few examples demonstrating the value the Climate Corps program can bring to firms of all sizes and at all stages of understanding of energy management.

Energy audits and retrofits for a major manufacturing company

amiHellman & Friedman’s portfolio company Associated Materials, which specializes in exterior building products, hosted two fellows this past summer, its first year with the EDF Climate Corps program.

Fellow Karunakaren Muthumani Hariharan audited two of the firm’s 11 manufacturing locations to identify opportunities for energy efficiency, including lighting upgrades, process equipment upgrades and manufacturing process modifications. He suggested improvements with potential net present value savings greater than $1.4 million and reductions of greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 2,700 tons per year. Hariharan also proposed funding the energy efficiency projects through a new Green Energy and Sustainability Fund.

Krishna Chaitanya Vinnakota analyzed Associated Materials’ total expenditure on energy, over $15 million, and focused on energy saving opportunities in the company’s supply centers, including an approach that could result in energy expenditure savings of 20 to 50 percent in some supply centers. He also suggested strip doors as a simple but effective way of conserving energy during winter. It’s a project that could save the approximately half a million dollars per year if rolled out across the company’s 125 supply centers and 11 manufacturing plants. Read more

Is Water the New Bottom Line for Companies?

On December 11th, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation (USCCF) Corporate Citizenship Center will host The Energy-Water-Food Nexus: Risks and Opportunities for the Private Sector, the second in a series of roundtables based on a report released earlier this year. The USCCF’s report and surrounding events are highlighting success stories, and more importantly, opportunities for the business community to address the energy–water nexus: the idea that energy and water use are Source-flickr-neilsingapore-300x228fundamentally intertwined. In order to accurately address water risks across operations and supply chains, businesses must take a more holistic look at their water and power usage.

The business world is quickly beginning to understand the intersection of these two sectors and the significant impact that they have on business operations.

Business and the energy-water nexus

In the commercial, industrial, and institutional sectors, energy efficiency and other measures could save as much as 15-30 percent of water use without reducing operations. This is particularly important as businesses consider how they manage water risks in areas where they operate. The 2014 Carbon Disclosure Project Water Disclosure Global Report, conducted on behalf of 573 investors with assets of $60 trillion, reported that 68 percent of responding companies say water is a substantial risk to their businesses, but only 42 percent have publicly demonstrated a commitment to water efficiency. Interestingly, 43 percent of reporting businesses said that water stress and/or scarcity was a top risk driver versus 16 percent that said drought was a top risk driver. This indicates that companies are more focused on longer-term risk management, as opposed to reacting primarily to drought conditions and concerns about short-term profits. Read more

Good News for America: Cleaner, More Efficient Trucks that Protect Our Environment and Strengthen Our Economy

jason_mathers2014 is shaping up to be a great year for truck equipment manufacturers. Sales through October are running 20% higher than their 2013 levels. It’s a banner year that continues to pick-up steam. 2015 is looking even stronger, with forecasts suggesting it will be the 3rd strongest year ever for truck sales. There are several factors driving this market. Higher fuel efficiency is top among them.

This point was brought home recently by the lead transportation analyst for investment firm Stifel, who noted that “the superior fuel efficiency of the newer engines” was a key in getting fleets to buy new trucks now.

The CEO of Daimler Trucks, the leading producer of class 8 trucks for the U.S. market, acknowledged recently that their most efficient engine and transmission combination was “already sold out for 2014” and that the “demand is beyond their expectations.”

It’s not just Daimler that is having a good year.

2014 is a banner year for truck sales; and 2014 trucks are the most efficient ever.  2014 trucks are the most efficient ever because of smart, well-design federal policy.  This is the first year of the 2014-2018 heavy truck efficiency standards that will:

  • reduce CO2 emissions by about 270million metric tons,
  • save about 530 million barrels of oil over the life of vehicles built between 2014 – 2018,
  • provide $49 billion in net program benefits.

The 2014-2018 heavy truck fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas program demonstrates that climate policy benefits businesses, our economy, and human health, while also cutting harmful climate pollution.

Or, as Martin Daum, president and CEO of Daimler Trucks North America noted, these standards “are very good examples of regulations that work well.”

In its first year of existence, the 2014-2018 fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas program is boosting sales for manufacturers, reducing operating costs for fleets, and cutting climate pollution for all of us. It is clear that well-designed federal standards can foster the innovation necessary to bring more efficient and lower emitting trucks to market.   That is very good news, because we have an opportunity to further improve and strengthen these standards – creating more economic and environmental benefits in the process.  For this, we all can be thankful.

Leadership on Sustainability Must Include Helping Shape Smart Policy

This past year, we’ve seen some bold action by companies in what we’ve dubbed the business-policy nexus, and it’s taking several different forms. Some have been calling for state or federal action on environmental impacts, while others are taking far-reaching voluntary efforts that could help support policy advocacy in the future.

Whether you view engagement on public policy as risk mitigation, providing market certainty, supporting corporate sustainability goals or securing competitive advantage, leading businesses are increasingly stepping up their efforts to support smart policy reform that will benefit the environment and economy.

Keeping toxic chemicals out of supply chains

Walmart shopper

Walmart and Target are moving to proactively get harmful chemicals out of their supply chains, even though the nation’s main chemical safety law, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), is outdated and hasn’t been reformed in nearly two decades.

Earlier this year, our long-term partner in this area, Walmart, took a big step forward by announcing a new sustainable chemicals policy focused on cutting 10 chemicals of concern from home and personal care products it sells. Chemicals of concern – for example, formaldehyde, a known carcinogen – have been found in about 40% of the formulated products on Walmart shelves, including things like household cleaners, lotions and cosmetics. Read more

New Report Supports Jurisdictional Approaches to Ending Deforestation in the Amazon

Andrew Hutson EDFThe world’s attention has been on Brazil lately.  With an exciting World Cup this past summer, an election season full of drama (including a plane crash), and the coming Summer Olympics in 2016, it has been easy to overlook the piece of news that has the greatest impact on all of our lives: the remarkable decreases in rates of deforestation in the Amazon.  With little fanfare (at least from the general public), deforestation decreased 70% since 2005 and Brazil has become the world leader in reducing greenhouse gas pollution.

But while this progress impressive, it is important to note that we’re still losing over 5,000 square kilometers of forest a year in the Amazon. More importantly, we’ve seen a slight uptick in the rate of deforestation over the past two years, with an increase of 29% from 2012-2013. That number looks likely to increase again this year.

As the number of companies, governments, NGOs, and indigenous peoples who signed the New York Declaration on Forests last month demonstrated, there is an eagerness to address this issue across all sectors of society. Among other goals, signatories to the Declaration seek to halve the rate of loss of forests globally by 2020 and end natural forest loss by 2030. To get there, we need a scalable and systematic approach to meet this ambitious, yet achievable goal. EDF believes one solution is the creation of Zero Deforestation Zones (also referred to as jurisdictional approaches) – nations or states that are able to demonstrate reductions in deforestation within their borders as the most effective way to save forests the scale of entire landscapes, rather than individual parcels of land.

A new report by Datu Research, Deforestation in the Brazilian Beef Value Chain, supports this notion.

Read more