“Solar energy is one of the key renewable energies of the present and the future.”
Jose Luis Esparza, Gaia Energy LLC
2015 marked a year of changes in the energy sector. There continued to be a shift away from traditional sources of energy like coal toward natural gas and renewables like solar and wind. The Washington Post identified several factors that made 2015 a transformative year for energy. They include:
• A turn away from coal
• The maturation of wind and solar
• The launch of global and domestic climate policy
• Drastically low oil and natural gas prices
Our friends at ACEEE, a national non-profit for energy efficiency, also provided their thoughts on 2015 and what 2016 might hold in store. They see the continued growth of energy efficiency programs at the state and local level as one of the year’s major bright spots. Unfortunately, despite the numerous benefits these programs provide, they continue to face opposition from utilities and political groups.
At the federal level, energy policy is one of the few issues that members on both sides of the aisle can agree. Congress passed some modest energy legislation early in 2015 and an extension of the solar tax credit at the end of the year. Congress will continue to focus on energy issues during 2016 as it works to pass the first comprehensive energy legislation in nearly a decade .
Over the past 30 years, national appliance efficiency standards have helped households across the U.S. reduce their utility bills and the impact they have on the environment. The standards cover a wide variety of appliances and equipment that account for about 90 percent of a home’s annual energy use.
While the first system for establishing standards was passed into law in 1975, it wasn’t until 1987 when the first federal law establishing minimum efficiency standards for household appliances was passed. Since that time, the number of products subject to standards as well as the standards themselves have continually been updated to push for additional energy savings. The standards are estimated to save consumers more than $62 million a year.
This graph from our friends at ACEEE, a national non-profit for energy efficiency, demonstrates the remarkable impacts that efficiency standards have had over the years. While it only focuses on four of the 65 different products that have standards, it is easy to appreciate the impact it has had in other areas as well. It also demonstrates quite clearly why it is a great idea to get rid of that old refrigerator in your garage or basement and replace it with a newer ENERGY STAR model. ACEEE has an article that looks at the amazing decline in home appliance energy use in more depth.
Now that you are equipped with a basic understanding of federal efficiency standards, it’s time to add ENERGY STAR into the mix. Most people know to look for the ENERGY STAR label when they purchase anything from a refrigerator to a computer, but they don’t know what it means. Products that qualify for the ENERGY STAR label go above and beyond the national energy conservation standards. To give you an idea of what this means, take a look at the comparison of the federal standards and ENERGY STAR standards for dishwashers:
The amount of energy savings attributable to appliance and equipment standards will continue to grow in the future. The Department of Energy is expected to begin work in 2016 on standards that will further improve the performance of one of the major sources of energy use in households, heating and cooling equipment. In addition, a number of revised standards for many common household products are also expected to be released in 2016.
For immediate release
In March 2015, the Kentucky General Assembly passed legislation that was signed into law by Gov. Steve Beshear. The legislation, House Bill 100, authorizes local governments to establish Energy Project Assessment Districts (EPADs), which then allows property owners to use PACE financing to fund energy efficiency upgrades, on-site renewable energy projects and water conservation measures. Energy projects financed with PACE do not require subsidy or incentive from the local government sponsoring the EPAD.
PACE financing allows private commercial property owners to repay the funds for an eligible energy project via a voluntary special improvement assessment on the property tax bill. The assessment amount remains fixed for a term of up to 20 years. The special assessment stays with the property when sold or transferred.
The City of Covington worked closely with the Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance to develop the EPAD which allowed the Ivy Knoll Senior Living Community to take advantage of PACE financing.
“According to the national nonprofit PACENow, this is the fastest that an energy project has been approved for PACE financing once a State has passed enabling legislation,” said City of Covington Mayor Sherry Carran. “The City of Covington is excited to have partnered with the Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance which allowed Ivy Knoll to improve such an important property within the City of Covington.”
Ivy Knoll found PACE financing to be a perfect funding solution to make significant building improvements of systems that were outdated or extremely energy inefficient. Through these energy upgrades, Ivy Knoll will be able to improve the comfort and convenience for their senior residents while also reducing the building’s energy footprint. Through PACE financing, the Ivy Knoll owners were able to select improvements that had the highest energy savings but also came with the higher upfront costs for the 7-story, all-electric building. The $750,000 project, funded by Inland Green Capital LLC, includes the following building improvements:
“PACE financing allowed us to make many of the energy related improvements that we might have otherwise deferred,” said Ray Schneider, the President/CEO of Ivy Knoll. “We were able to improve the comfort for our senior residents while reducing the building’s energy footprint by approximately 37%.”
Mark Pikus, Senior Vice President of Inland Green Capital states, “We are excited to be a part of this historic PACE transaction in the state of Kentucky. As PACE financing gains traction throughout the country, we look forward to continue working with the Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance and other PACE administrators to provide capital for properties just like Ivy Knoll”.
The Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance is currently working with several local governments to make PACE financing available for more property owners within the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky areas. Additionally, the Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance provides education and outreach to contractors and property owners who want to learn more about PACE financing.
“We are excited to bring PACE financing to Northern Kentucky,” said Andy Holzhauser, the CEO of the Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance. “This is a big step forward in that PACE financing allows property owners to reduce their energy consumption with no down payment and with fixed, long term payments via their property tax bill.”
Ivy Knoll, located in Covington, offers independent living, personal care, and short-term (respite) stays. They offer the most competitive rates along with the largest one-bedroom apartments available in the area. Each day three home-style meals are served table side to residents. A variety of activity offerings ensures an engaging and healthy social experience for residents that promotes friendships and a higher quality of life.
www.ivyknoll.com; Sam Cunningham
Inland Green Capital LLC is an environmental finance and investment company. It provides capital for PACE project initiatives throughout the country. In addition to our enthusiasm for PACE from a business perspective, Inland is excited to provide leadership in advancing the energy-efficiency and sustainable movement sweeping the country.
www.inlandgreencapital.com; Mark Pikus
The Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance is a nonprofit economic development agency that promotes investment in energy efficiency in Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky communities by providing education, project management, and innovative financing solutions like PACE.
www.greatercea.org/commercial/ky-pace; Chris Jones
Chris Jones, Client Relations Director
Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance
513.621.4232 x121 | email@example.com
The DOE estimates that homeowners can reduce energy usage by up to 9 percent through proper usage of a programmable thermostat. This requires setting back your thermostat 8 to 10 degrees when you are away from home. Unfortunately, only 30 percent of American homes actually have a programmable thermostat installed. Of those homes, a majority of the thermostats have not been installed or programmed properly. The Energy Alliance has a great article on thermostats and the role they play in energy efficiency.
Reducing the amount of air that leaks into your home is a great way to cut heating costs. Most homes have gaps and penetrations to the outside that when taken together can be the same as leaving a window open all winter. The stack effect allows cold air to enter your home near the foundation and forces warm air out through your attic plane. While insulation can help, sealing these penetrations is the best way to prevent warm air from escaping your home. The DOE and ENERGY STAR both have helpful resources outlining do-it-yourself tips for air sealing.
Each winter many people look forward to sitting around the fireplace with family and friends. However, when not used properly, fireplaces can contribute to significant heat loss. Lower the temperature on your thermostat when you have a fire to prevent warm air from being pulled out of your home. Make sure that the fireplace damper is closed and sealed tightly when the fireplace is not in use. If you do not use your fireplace, then it is a good idea to have the chimney plugged and sealed.
Winter brings with it shorter days and more time spent inside. Installing energy efficient lighting is a great way to reduce electricity consumption. LED bulbs use 75 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs while providing the same amount of light. LED prices have dropped significantly over the past several years and there are now a variety of options from which to choose. ENERGY STAR has a great infographic that explains everything you need to know about light bulbs and can help you make smart decisions the next time you venture down the lighting aisle.
The best way to determine how your home is using and losing energy is with a home energy assessment. It provides a comprehensive overview of your home and identifies opportunities to reduce energy consumption and improve comfort. The Energy Alliance offers basic and advanced home energy assessments for homeowners. In addition, many private companies are also beginning to offer energy assessments. Make sure whoever you select is certified by the Building Performance Institute or another certifying body to complete energy assessments. If you are feeling adventurous and want to conduct your own assessment, then the DOE has some great guidance on performing do-it-yourself energy assessments.
In addition to these tips, there are a number of other simple things you can do around your home that can help you save even more energy. By reducing the amount of energy you use, you can reduce your carbon footprint and save money without sacrificing comfort this winter.