Energy Upgrades—Is Total Cost of Ownership the Best Way?

total-cost-of-ownershipWhen evaluating energy upgrades, the #1 question a business will ask is always, what is the return on our investment (ROI)? How much am I (really) going to save from doing this project? Traditionally in energy efficiency projects, Total Cost of Ownership analysis is the universally accepted way of determining ROI. While total cost of ownership is a good benchmark for evaluating the value of energy upgrades, it isn’t the ‘be all end all’ way of determining the projects benefits. In this blog, I’ll discuss total cost of ownership analysis, as well as additional methods for getting the most accurate ROI projection for your energy efficiency project.

Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) is defined as, “an estimation of the expenses associated with purchasing, deploying, using, and retiring a product or piece of equipment. “ Let’s look at a school system deciding whether or not to upgrade to LED lighting. While the florescent lights the district is currently using has a lower starting price, LED lights may have a better value over an extended period of time. If the total cost of ownership shows an advantage of LED lights over florescent lights in the next 2-5 years, than the LED lights are most certainly the better choice. However, there are complicating factors, such as access to capital, alternative capital expenses, and the current economic situation of that particular school district that should also be considered.

A total cost of ownership analysis takes into consideration multiple factors including initial cost, product lifespan, energy cost to operate, frequency of maintenance, expense of product replacement, hours of operation, utility incentives, and how the product will be used. While this is the go-to method of gauging the value of energy efficiency projects, EPCO likes to take this analysis a step further. It is common practice to determine TCO by using industry standard figures for maintenance, repair and operation (MRO) expenses. EPCO has found this isn’t always the most accurate method for determining ROI in energy upgrades.

At EPCO, we believe interviewing the client and understanding their unique energy fingerprint, is the best method for understanding the true inputs and cost of operational expenses. Some businesses have energy expenses that are higher than the industry standards. For example, manufacturers that operate and run equipment more heavily during second shift will likely have a more unfavorable load profile than their counterparts producing mostly during first shift. This effects avoided cost values. EPCO will always review historical billing and consumption patterns to determine the true value of an energy efficiency project.

Although SB 310 led to the discontinuation of small commercial energy rebates throughout northern Ohio, larger businesses and school systems have the potential to capitalize on remaining incentives and tax credits for energy efficiency projects. One such example is receiving an exemption to costly utility fees and riders that appear on all electric consumer bills. EPCO has the expertise to identify, prepare, and submit exemption applications on behalf of clients. Most energy firms overlook this option, but it has added benefits for many large businesses and school districts.

Total cost of ownership is the standard way of determining the added value of energy efficiency projects. Though this analysis can give an accurate judgement of savings with projects, industry standards are not always the best indicator of true ROI. It is important to take an individualized, case-by-case approach, when evaluating energy efficiency projects. To learn more about how this could help your organization, email EPCO at info@energyplanners.com, or visit us at www.energyplanners.com

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Why Energy Benchmarking Is For You

Energy benchmarking is an extremely valuable tool in today’s energy marketplace. However, many who manage energy portfolios today are not taking advantage of the resources available to benchmark their facility. Anecdotally, I have found, this is due in large part to the fact many do not know or understand what benchmarking is.

When you benchmark your facility, you are tracking the total electricity, natural gas, steam, water and other utility that your building consumes. In many circles, this is also known as your building performance. Once you have collected the requisite data, you can compare your building performance to facilities that are similar in size and operation to your own.

I recently took time to meet with a colleague, Justin Kale of Energility, to better understand the value proposition of energy benchmarking. Justin is a specialist in this field and shared the following thought.

“Benchmarking is similar to the use of a compass when navigating a path. It is a great way to establish where you’re at and monitor your position over time. This enables you to see how far you have come over a period of time with respect to building energy performance.”

Benchmarking provides the busy CEO, CFO or facility management team, baseline information to be able to compare the energy portfolio of their building to other buildings in their peer group. Once you identify areas for improvement, you can begin to craft an energy plan. Benchmarking gives those same professionals the opportunity to prioritize the deployment of capital resources or achieve recognition for past project implementation.

There are a number of great resources that are accessible in the marketplace to help facility managers to benchmark their performance. One of the more prominent tools is the Energy Star Portfolio Manager. It was created by the EPA to be an “online tool you can use to measure and track energy and water consumption, as well as greenhouse gas emissions”.

Benchmarking will enable facilities to make informed decisions on where investments should be made regarding their capital projects. Ultimately, knowing how your building operates and where weaknesses exist will allow you to reduce consumption, costs, and operational expenses. Furthermore, benchmarking is a process that many can do on their own by leveraging the tools in the marketplace. Whether through the EPA and its Energy Star programs or the Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory, the resources exist to manage this process on your own.

The final thought I will leave you with is benchmarking can aid you in staying ahead of impending energy mandates and legislation. Whether federal or local, the energy landscape is rapidly changing. It will prove far less costly to become energy efficient on your timetable rather than someone else’s.

As always, if you have questions or concerns about energy benchmarking, consult an energy adviser to help you make the best and most informed decision.

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