3 on Energy Efficiency

TGEink spoke to three unique companies all with one thing in mind: energy efficiency.

Interviews Marish Shah; Editor, Chris Carlson

The U.S. Energy Information Administration, in its Annual Energy Outlook, projects residential and commercial energy prices to increase 16-19% from now until 2040. Such a rise in energy costs is a concern for some, opportunity for others.​ The projected rise in energy bills make efficiency important for individuals and businesses.

  • President and CEO of Lime Energy, Adam Procell. Lime Energy is a direct install firm focusing on helping utilities deliver energy efficiency.
  • Director of Public Affairs at the Danfoss Global Group, Mark Menzer. Danfoss is a worldwide technology engineering firm selling components to original equipment manufacturers to make final products. 
  • Chief Marketing Officer at the SparkFund, Angela Ferrante. The SparkFund is a technology based start up that streamlines the way energy efficiency projects are financed.

Focused on energy efficiency policy and finance across a broad range of industries, these interviews show that the subject of efficiency rests not only with a governmental program, but in the hands of industry leaders. Working in tandem with governmental programs and calling upon financiers to heed the calls of market efficiencies, the green energy sector is, as Ms. Ferrante states, dependent on “public and private partnerships”  

What kinds of projects are you invested in currently, whether they are commercial, residential or utility-scale?

Mr. Procell: Small and midsize commercial businesses focused on making facilities more efficient.

Mr. Menzer: Air-conditioner and refrigerator residential, commercial and industrial projects, with commercial air conditioner and refrigerator projects as the largest investments.

Ms. Ferrante: Financing commercial, industrial and multi-family projects with a focus on commercial size and scope.

What kind of projects are your clients most interested in investing in?

Mr. Procell: Clients are interested in smart meter or smart thermostats that promote energy efficiency by appropriating electricity usage. They also joke the lowering prices for LED lighting. Lime Energy works with utilities through contracts and guarantees for said utilities.

Mr. Menzer: We provide components sold to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), who make the final product, with investments focused on higher energy efficiency equipment technologies. Ms. Ferrante: Financing private capital and capital lease agreements with energy service companies while still maintaining flexibility. “Financiers need to be confident in the energy efficiency predictions that are being made.”

Ms. Ferrante: Financing private capital and capital lease agreements with energy service companies while still maintaining flexibility.

EPA’s BSER (Best System for Emission Reductions)
4 pillars 
  • Make fossil fuel power plants more efficient: Improve equipment and processes to get as much electricity as possible from each unit of fue
  • Use low-emitting power sources more: Use lower-emitting power plants more frequently to meet demand
  • Use more zero- and low-emitting power sources: Expand renewable generating capacity consistent with current trends
  • Use electricity more efficiently: Reduce demand on power plants, which is a proven, low-cost way to reduce emissions

What is one federal policy you see as promoting energy efficiency?

Mr. Procell: In the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, energy efficiency is one of the four building blocks. By promoting energy efficiency as more of a compliance mechanism, this plan can be more effective than it currently is.

Mr. Menzer: Power over Ethernet efficiency regulations is one of the prime directives in appliances, as is HVAC (heating, ventilation, cooling) equipment that promotes energy efficiency. The Clean Power Plan is also important, and specifically section 111(d) of the plan, which calls for the regulation of greenhouse gases for existing industrial power plants to promote energy efficiency.

Do you think environmental policy will be an important issue in the upcoming election and if so, do you have any specific policies in mind that may become a hot button issue in the election?

Mr. Procell: Yes energy policies will be important but it is competing with a lot of other issues. All major candidates have spoken out on it and agree that energy efficiency is cost effective, bipartisan and noncontroversial. The EPA Clean Power Plan will be an important policy issue in the election as it contains very detailed emission reduction goals on a per state basis. On a more general scale, Lime Energy believes overall environmental regulation will be an important talking point in the election.

Mr. Menzer: Yes, environmental policy will be increasingly important as the election approaches. Extreme weather conditions and droughts that are currently taking place throughout the country will be very important in bringing climate change to the forefront of debates and discussions. Candidates will pick up on that.

Ms. Ferrante: Yes, environmental policy will be important because it is a polarizing issue.

What do you see as the most important first step in financing energy or energy efficiency for it to gain traction in the US?

Mr. Procell: Financing will not hold back energy efficiency if the model that is currently being used to finance solar energy—using future energy savings to finance installations—is followed. It is also important to measure and secure energy efficiency to make users more aware of their usage, regardless of the sector.

Mr. Menzer: Financiers need to be confident in the energy efficiency predictions that are being made. In order to make the financiers confident, energy efficiency should be measured on a system-wide basis to allow for standardized measurements. More specifically, efficiency of air conditioners or fans should be measured across an entire system, rather than individually.

Ms. Ferrante: The first step would the integration of capital sources. This will allow for a more streamlined, consistent offering in energy efficiency that will boost demand by having service providers give customers a less burdensome first step in a project.

Is there anything you would like to add?

Mr. Procell: It is important for private capital to finance energy efficiency and to create  markets that value energy efficiency. Economic development that benefits future job creation with regards to energy efficiency is something to work on.

Mr. Menzer: It will be important to move forward on the Montreal Protocol on fluorocarbons and do so swiftly, as aims to gradually reduce harmful refrigerants will have a great environmental impact.

Ms. Ferrante: Public and private partnership through the community will be vital in order to finance energy efficiency. The Connecticut Green Bank is an example of this cooperation, leveraging both public and private funds and activities to let contractors market and sell PACE financing to communities within the state.

These leaders appear to be gathering support from policies such as the EPA’s Clean Power Plan as well as state led efforts like the Connecticut Green Bank. As for private markets, Mr. Procell and Mr. Menzer call upon financiers to be “confident” and to “not hold back” in their investments. While he says that “private capital” is most likely to bring confidence, markets need support from consistent, predictable regulations and incentives that only the public sector can provide. Now is the time for the private sector to view such programs, not as signs of weakness for an industry that needs subsidy and stilts, but as signs of growth as huge energy markets emerge. The green economy can be versatile in its diversity of service, but stabilized by public investment. What the green economy needs now, is the private sector to unleash its unrealized gains and potential, pushing the government to follow.