Energy efficiency: Big deals and new ideas

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Elisa WoodBy Elisa Wood
January 9, 2013

The economic premise behind energy efficiency –  that it’s cheaper to save a unit of energy than to make one – has caught on in the US.  Energy efficiency spending is up, and our energy use is declining, measured both per capita and per dollar of gross domestic product, according to government figures.

So it is not surprising to see the year begin with several energy efficiency deals in traditionally responsive markets, as well as some good proposals on how to reach  more elusive customers.

Big deals (or small but interesting)

Here are some of the recent deals that came across my desk.

  • Ameresco, one of the big players in energy services contracting, was out of the gate in early January with two contracts.

First, the Massachusetts-based company signed a  $6.8 million energy performance contract with a housing authority in Fall River, Massachusetts for more than 1,500 housing units. The work includes cogeneration, control and monitoring systems, and upgrades to water, lighting, temperature controls, and mechanical space heat and domestic hot water systems. The housing authority expects to save $13 million over 20 years.

Second, the company struck  a  $5.2 million deal with Austin Energy, the nation’s eighth largest community-owned electric utility. Under an energy performance contract, Ameresco will install a new 24,000-ton-hour chilled water storage system at the utility’s district cooling plant that will shift electricity use to hours when energy is less costly.

  • EnerNOC , which according to a live ticker on its site has saved customers more than $545 million (and counting),  is providing demand response and energy efficiency for the Denver Public Schools. The project includes 24 school buildings that total 4.5 million square feet. The deal comes after Denver Mayor Michael Hancock challenged private building owners, nonprofit organizations, and public schools to meet President Barack Obama’s push for 20 percent energy savings by  2020 across 1.6 billion square feet of office, industrial, municipal, hospital, university, and school buildings.
  • World Energy Solutions, a Massachusetts-based energy management services firm with $30 billion in energy, demand response and environmental commodities transactions, installed Telkonet’s EcoInsight thermostats in 187 assisted-living apartments in the state. The thermostats are the first step toward introducing a more sophisticated energy management system.
  • American DG Energy began operating two 75-kW combined heat and power (CHP) plants at the Cumberland County Jail in Portland, Maine, under a $2.4 million deal over 15 years. The company uses a business model that it calls On-site Utility, in which American DG Energy owns and operates CHP units, and the jail pays only for the energy it uses. American DG Energy guarantees that the jail will pay less than what its local utilities would charge.

New ideas

Meanwhile, some interesting reports came out around the first of the year that offer ways for energy efficiency companies to reach new or sometimes indifferent customers.

For example, the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Market Transformation (IMT) has advice on bringing efficiency to multi-family housing. The institute released a report in early January that promotes benchmarking of multi-family housing. Benchmarking provides data on a building’s energy use, the equivalent of a nutritional label for food.  IMT points out various benefits to the approach: It leads to better crafted programs and incentives that encourage owners to make upgrades. The upgrades lead to lower tenant energy bills, create a more comfortable indoor environment, and can give owners better cash flow. In addition, during real estate transactions buyers better understand the building’s energy profile and can value the property accordingly. IMT sees $9 billion in potential energy savings from America’s multifamily buildings.

“As a general rule, greater transparency is a positive development, helping markets work better all around,” said Julia Stasch, vice president of U.S. programs at the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Meanwhile, the Connecticut Fund for the Environment (CFE) and Environment Northeast released a report, found here, on creating successful energy efficiency financing programs for residential customers.

“A well-designed residential energy efficiency financing program can help expand access to capital and smooth the way for increased program participation,” said Roger Reynolds, senior attorney for CFE.  “This report indicates that there are a whole host of program design elements that are essential for the success of energy efficiency financing products and, consequently, the programs as a whole.”

And last, the Clean Energy and Bond Finance Initiative (CE+BFI) issued a financing model that  leverages bond financing to secure  low cost capital for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.

“As the clean energy industry matures and grows, it needs to become less reliant on federal tax credits as the key source of financing,” said Lew Milford, President of Clean Energy Group.

Called Industrial Development Bonds, or IDBs, they provide tax-exempt interest rates to private borrowers who meet certain public benefit requirements. Borrowers must be small- or mid-sized American manufacturers.

The paper on the IDB model is one of a series published on financing by CE+BFI. They are intended for state and local governments. See

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About Elisa Wood

Elisa Wood is the chief editor of She has been writing about energy for more than three decades for top industry publications. Her work also has been picked up by CNN, the New York Times, Reuters, the Wall Street Journal Online and the Washington Post.


  1. Vilas Khadse says:

    A very nice article. Thanks a lot.

  2. Peter Asplund says:

    United Services work with energy and resource savings in gas turbine operations

  3. Another great article from Elisa!

    Transparency is a fundamental requirement for market transformation as it rewards excellence rather than making it competitive DIS advantage. I think we are rounding the bend on transparency of utility data, which will make understanding opportunity easy for the average homeowner.

    It is happening in Florida already:

  4. Katherin Bowen says:

    Thank you, Elisa! I’m new to the energy industry and appreciate the bigger picture. The industry has grown by diversifying energy generation, and your perspective shows commonalities.

  5. Today we are prisoners of past when (1) many thousands pounds of over 250 millions USA vehicles are accelerated by gas or magnet field too slowly that necessary to increase motor power in many tens times; (2) continue to use only huge motor size or power is directly connected to working organ(s) or to ignore using gear-transmission-levers in the propulsion of vehicle and other motorized machines ; (3) continue to use transmission as second brakes to motor acceleration system (vehicle) that wastes up to 80% mechanical energy in the form of motor heat; (4) continue to use method of shift gearbox designs that provides excessive number of gears and maybe shafts and only manual shifting mechanism. In addition, the excessive electric motors powers of USA 3,000,000,000 machine tools indirectly create excessive fossil fuel consumption and, therefore, create additional number of power plants.
    The super storm Katrina did not change mind to stop unnecessarily increase power of machines motors by before destroying economy of USA that had nothing reaction to prevent increased number of disasters when the scientists of world have disclosed the carbon dioxide already governs the earth climate from long years ago instead the sun.
    Next super storm Sandy again told about excessive carbon dioxide amount by destroying many towns including part of huge city as New York at 2012.
    Too old machines powertrain designs continue to ignore the Creator’s Physics laws of Lever and Inertia as are the improved shift gearbox designs.
    How do we preventive opportunity to destroy economy, our health and life on Earth from next super storms of environment in nearby future? There brand new business that has advantages for both manufacture and customer.
    There is simple idea to change speeds by levers as is improved shift gearbox design that produce all needed speeds; eliminate acceleration system or uses only idle speed or one maximum torque of existing motor according to Creator’s Physics Laws of Lever and saves energy above 2 times.
    We can replace the existing motor too by cheapest smaller motor size up to 0.75 horse power as was the first steel vehicle of Carl Benz at January 29, 1886, Germany (patent #37435) dependent to a chosen gearbox apparatus from above 1,000 designs (USA patent 8,011,274 at 09/06/2011) for additional economy energy and additional reducing manufacturing cost of a propulsion for new machines.
    This innovation is finalist at Cleantech and Energy of 2012 Minnesota’s TEKNE AWARDS (see an article which appeared in 2012 Minnesota’s TEKNE AWARDS magazine). It does non-accelerated super propulsion comprises a state-of-the-art MDUFEE gearbox apparatus and revolutionary design of motor with limited or without acceleration system to control speeds by gas or magnet field.
    Non-accelerated super propulsion is available when, for example, the existing transmission of Jaguar XFR-S 2013 is replaced by a state-of-the-art cheapest gearbox apparatus that provides 300 mph speed and all others for 0 second from stop in comparison to existing its propulsion that increase speed from 0 to 100 mph for 5 second by 550 hp motor that we can replace by 4(four) horse power motor if its weight is 3,000 lb.

  6. Hello all,
    I’m looking to developing the below.
    By use my invention it is possible to enhance the productivity of wind farms by at least 15-20 % before they will achieve a rated power thanks to newly designed blades. Each section of these blades has an additional impulse. The power coefficient Cp at this method is the closest to the Betz’ limit. As known from the blade theory the more an airflow deflection behind airfoil section, the more the driving force of wind turbine in whole. Leading edge slats installed at the roots of blades of horizontal – axis wind turbines allow to reach that. The additional impulses ensure to increase a number of rounds per time unit by wind turbine within speed-in and rated wind speed. After the rated power has been achieved, the rounds will be constant like at the prototype. For example, there is a developed wind turbine with the rated output power of 100 kW at the appropriate wind speed of 13 m/s. Start up of this wind turbine is at 3 m/s. Straighten root area of blades (0-0 through X-X cross-sections), while the remainder zone is with its own relative twist angle. Install slats within named sections. What do we watch? First of all, start up of this turbine will be at lower wind speed compared to a prototype, at 2-2,5 m/s. Rated power of that wind turbine can be reached already at the wind speed of 10 m/s. This invention is working within named winds, cut-in and rated ones. That is enough I think, because not often the winds blow at which designed the prototype of wind turbine taken as an example above.
    In addition, it can be seen that at the high value of relative tip-to-root twist angles it is possible to use blade’s area swept by the slats only, ignoring “pure” blade at the tip. Why for? In order to use both smaller tower and turbine compared to a prototype.
    This invention was filed on March, 1995 and published on February, 2000, bulletin 1, under #27062 and since then has priority with respect to any similar patent applications.
    E-mail to: