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MEEA Webinar: Better Buildings, Better Plants – 3M Company Spotlight

MEEA Unplugged Blog - October 22, 2014 - 9:03am

Join MEEA on Thursday, October 23, 2014, 1:00-2:00pm CDT for a U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Buildings, Better Plants Program, with a spotlight on 3M. Register here. 

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Better Buildings, Better Plants Program is a voluntary partnership initiative to drive significant energy efficiency improvement across U.S. industry. More than 140 leading manufacturers are partnering with DOE through Better Plants to improve efficiency, cut energy costs and carbon emissions. Through this program, leading manufacturers partner with DOE to improve their energy intensity by 25% over ten years, develop energy management plans, and track and report their annual progress.
Join MEEA as we take a deeper look into the Better Buildings, Better Plants Program and 3M’s industrial efficiency accomplishments. Andre de Fontaine, with DOE’s Advanced Manufacturing Office, will provide an overview of the program, share benefits of joining, and highlight successes to date. Steve Schultz, Corporate Energy Manager for 3M, will discuss the company’s participation in Better Plants and ISO 50001, and present a review of recent company energy efficiency initiatives.

MEEA Webinar: Energy Efficiency Appliance Standards

MEEA Unplugged Blog - October 21, 2014 - 9:33am
Join us Wednesday, October 22, 2014, 1:00 – 2:00pm CDT for a webinar on Energy Efficiency Appliance Standards. Register here. 

National energy efficiency standards for appliances, lighting products and equipment specify the minimum energy and/or water efficiency levels of specific products. The U.S. Department of Energy is responsible for reviewing and updating all national efficiency standards to keep pace with technological change. While national standards apply to products manufactured or imported for sale into the U.S., state legislatures can also set standards that apply to products sold or installed in a given state.

Marianne DiMascio, with the Appliance Standards Awareness Project, will present an overview of national appliance and equipment standards finalized this year. In addition, she will provide an overview of state standards activity, the energy savings achieved from existing standards, and the potential for additional savings from new and updated standards. Rich Hackner, with GDS Associates, Inc., will provide a Midwest perspective and demonstrate how federal appliance standards impact Ameren Illinois’ energy efficiency program offerings for C&I prescriptive and custom programs.

DOE’s New Solution Center Shares Proven Energy Efficiency Program Strategies

MEEA Unplugged Blog - October 20, 2014 - 10:39am

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is launching the new Better Buildings Residential Program Solution Center which highlights successful strategies and solutions used by residential energy efficiency programs across the country. Through the Better Buildings Neighborhood Program, Home Performance with ENERGY STAR®, utility-sponsored programs, and other initiatives, hundreds of communities have been working to promote energy efficiency upgrades in homes and multifamily buildings. To share the innovations and lessons learned from these efforts, DOE has compiled a one-stop shop for residential energy efficiency program administrators and home performance professionals.

The Solution Center is organized into a series of handbooks—concise online resources with step-by-step guidance for planning, operating, and evaluating a residential energy efficiency program. Each handbook draws on the experiences of multiple programs and contains resources such as tools, calculators, publications, videos, presentations, and case studies.

  • Market Position & Business Model handbooks describe how to assess current and potential demand for energy efficiency products and services (e.g., home energy assessments and upgrades; loans or financing products; contractor training) and what factors influence this demand.
  • Program Design & Customer Experience handbooks explore how to create a customer-centric process by bringing together marketing and outreach, incentives, financing, contractor coordination, and data collection to provide products and services that customers want.
  • Marketing & Outreach handbooks discuss ways to spur demand for home energy upgrades by understanding target audiences and using effective messaging, marketing and outreach tactics, and attractive program offers to motivate them to act.
  • Financing handbooks provide guidance for creating loan products that help customers pay for home energy upgrades in ways that are also affordable for programs and contractors.
  • Contractor Engagement & Workforce Development handbooks describe how to design a program that provides value for contractors by aligning with their business cycles and supporting workforce training.
  • Evaluation & Data Collection handbooks outline ways to develop effective data collection and evaluation strategies in order to understand the effects of a program.

To ensure the Solution Center remains a valuable resource for programs and home performance professionals into the future, DOE invites users to explore the new tool and suggest additional content or materials for possible inclusion by emailing BBRPSolutionCenter@ee.doe.gov.

DTE Energy Efficiency Summit Today

MEEA Unplugged Blog - October 14, 2014 - 10:13am

MEEA member, DTE Energy, will host an Energy Efficiency Summit for businesses today in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The summit is free to attend, and will be held at the Eberhard Conference Center at Grand Valley State University.  The purpose of the summit is to help business owners improve their bottom line. DTE Energy plans to aid businesses by informing them of the energy efficiency programs and incentives that are available to them.

With last year’s severe winter, including record-breaking lows, DTE Energy wants to support their business customers in preparing for the winter. This means taking advantage of available energy efficiency programs and incentives.  At the Summit, DTE Energy will provide information on low-cost energy efficiency solutions that save natural gas, as well as high-impact improvements such us HVAC system upgrades, insulation, and boilers. Business owners across all sectors will learn about low-cost and high-impact improvements that can make any business more efficient and comfortable.

Summit participants will also hear about the latest updates to DTE’s Energy Optimization Program and find out how they can participate in 2015. The summit will explore a large range of energy efficiency solutions in three categories:  popular improvements, bundled measures, and proactive steps.  Popular improvements include rooftop and boiler unit tune-ups, insulation, and pipe wrapping. Bundled measures include combining efficiency measures to achieve larger savings through DTE’s multi-measure bonus incentive. Proactive Steps prepare customers for winter weather with low-cost and simple steps to ensure facilities lower their heating costs. More information on DTE Energy can be found at www.dteenergy.com, more information on the Energy Efficiency Summit can be found at www.dteenergysummit.com.

MEEA Member Wins Prestigious DOE Award

MEEA Unplugged Blog - September 24, 2014 - 10:35am

MEEA is proud to announce that Green Energy Improvement, a MEEA Member and Participating Contractor with the Illinois Home Performance with ENERGY STAR® program, has been recognized with a Housing Innovation Award by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The winners were announced on September 25 at the Excellence in Building Conference put on by the Energy and Environmental Building Alliance (EEBA) in St. Louis, Missouri. According to the DOE, the awards “recognize leaders from a number of Building Technologies Office residential programs including the DOE Zero Energy Ready Home, Home Performance with ENERGY STAR®, and Building America Top Innovations.”

Working in partnership with Illinois Home Performance with ENERGY STAR, a program sponsored by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) and coordinated by MEEA, Green Energy Improvement has become a leader in innovative marketing and outreach strategies.  This women-owned business is led by a family with a long history of success in the construction, financing, and real estate industries, and has been a Participating Contractor with Illinois Home Performance with ENERGY STAR since program launch, earning the very first Illinois Home Performance Silver Certificate of Completion.

MEEA and DCEO nominated Green Energy Improvement for their strong leadership in promoting a whole-home approach to home performance in the highly competitive Chicagoland region, as well as their commitment to advancing the Illinois Home Performance program’s most innovative features, such as the Certificate of Completion and outreach to the real estate community. Read more about the Housing Innovation Awards and Green Energy Improvement by visiting energy.gov/eere/buildings/housing-innovation-awards and greenenergyimprovement.com. For more information on the Illinois Home Performance with ENERGY STAR program, visit www.illinoishomeperformance.org.



MEEA Presents at ACEEE 2014 Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings Conference

MEEA Unplugged Blog - August 25, 2014 - 3:30pm

Isaac Elnecave, MEEA’s Senior Policy Manager presented at the 2014 ACEEE Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings . This year’s conference theme was “The Next Generation: Reaching for High Energy Savings,” and Isaac presented his paper entitled, “I Want CANDI: Establishing a Utility Code Compliance Program in Illinois”.  CANDI is an acronym of the program participants – ComEd, Ameren, Nicor, DCEO and Integrys.  The paper was co-authored by Hammad Chaudhry, of Nicor Gas, and Stefano Galiasso, of the Energy Resource Center at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Isaac’s presentation discussed the establishment of an Illinois utility claimed-savings program that applies a consistent approach towards measuring energy code compliance, attributing savings, allocating costs, as well as determining savings and cost effectiveness. This program allows utilities to invest in energy code compliance enhancement efforts and then claim a portion of the energy savings created from the more energy efficient buildings being constructed due to the program.  It is one of the first energy code compliance claimed-savings programs in the country.  It is also the first program in Illinois to involve all investor-owned utilities and the state energy office.  The paper and the conference presentation discuss how these various issues were addressed and how the initial idea was formed into a coherent, comprehensive program.  The paper is available in the Proceedings of the 2014 ACEEE Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings.

Retrofit Chicago Commercial Challenge Program Updates with Impressive Statistics

MEEA Unplugged Blog - July 29, 2014 - 11:12am

The City of Chicago’s Commercial Buildings Initiative is a voluntary program launched in 2012 as part of the overall Retrofit Chicago program. This Challenge provides support and recognition of existing commercial buildings over 200,000 square feet that commit to a 20% energy reduction within 5 years. On Friday July 18, members of the MEEA staff attended the two year update of this program led by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chief Sustainability Officer Karen Weigert. Other attendees included advocate organizations, building owner participants, and stakeholder partners.  Notable highlights included a 7% energy use decrease across all buildings (where data is available) when compared to the 2010 baseline, and a tripling in participation from 12 buildings covering 14 million square feet in 2012 to 48 buildings covering 37 million square feet as of July 2014.

Buildings participating in the program range from 7-117 years old, and include 24 commercial office spaces, 10 hotels, 11 university buildings, 2 cultural institutions and 1 residential multi-family building. Through participation and completion of the program, these buildings will utilize cross-sector outreach and technical resources of program partners, tailored peer support, as well as utility energy efficiency incentives in order to realize the cost savings and avoided greenhouse gas emissions associated with permanent reductions in energy consumption.  On the whole, participating buildings have received over $2 million in utility incentives resulting in annual savings of 21 million kWh and an equivalent of $1.5 million in utility bill reductions.

By using benchmarking to track energy use in existing buildings and target opportunities for efficiency improvements, MEEA supports the efforts taken by the City of Chicago and applauds its progress in realized energy savings and participation recruitment. Many participants have utilized the Building Operator Certification, a MEEA-administered training program for building operators that leads to an average energy savings of $12,000 per facility. While these training services are offered to participants in the Commercial Buildings Initiative, MEEA also administers these trainings throughout the entire Midwest region.

Best practices from the Retrofit Chicago Commercial Buildings Initiative were highlighted at the program update event and available in an on-line document, but perhaps most noteworthy was testimony from a participating building owner who made the business case for participation by emphasizing the relatively quick return-on-investment for these energy efficiency upgrades.  For buildings this large, a 20% reduction in energy use represents a major cost with savings that add up quickly when compounded over the lifetime of the upgrade investment(s). As participants begin reporting on these savings, MEEA hopes more and more Chicago building owners will jump on board.

For more information on the Retrofit Chicago Commercial Buildings Initiative or other challenge programs, contact Greg Gillette, Policy Intern, at ggillette@mwalliance.org, or Steve Kismohr, Senior Technical Manager, at skismohr@mwalliance.org.



Michigan Moves Forward With Updated Statewide Residential Energy Code

MEEA Unplugged Blog - July 22, 2014 - 3:05pm

The Michigan Residential Code Review Committee has voted to approve a new statewide building energy code for residential buildings, with an expected effective date of January 2016.  The new code is based on the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), with some modifications listed below.

MEEA has analyzed the economic potential of adopting the 2012 IECC, with the Michigan-specific modifications.  We have found that a newly constructed 2,400 square foot home in Detroit will use an average of 725 fewer kWh and 358 fewer therms per year if built to the 2012 IECC, as modified in Michigan, compared to the current energy code.  This would result in the average homeowner saving around $320 annually in utility bills.  It is important to note that these energy and cost savings will continue for the life of a building, which can be 50 – 100 years or more.

In addition to yielding economic benefits to homeowners, the proposed energy code will result in higher quality, healthier, and more comfortable buildings.  In particular, the requirement for buildings to have air tight enclosures and well-sealed duct systems, verified with diagnostic tests, will help realize these benefits to air quality.  A building enclosure that is tightly sealed, combined with a proper ventilation system, will prevent unwanted movement of air into and out of the building.  This reduces the load on space heating and cooling equipment and increases the indoor air quality of buildings.

The efficiency improvements in the new code include: a requirement for tight building enclosures, tighter duct systems, diagnostic testing to verify the air infiltration and duct leakage rates, higher efficiency windows and added crawl space insulation.  Importantly, all of these measures and their energy efficiency improvements are most easily incorporated during the design and initial construction phase.  It can be cost prohibitive to improve these measures in existing buildings, which is why it is crucial for these measures to be addressed in the building codes that regulate new construction.

Using the median number of one and two family residences built annually over the previous ten years in Michigan (12,915 homes[1]), multiplied by the potential annual energy savings per home in Detroit (37.1 MMBTU), there would be an annual statewide energy savings of around 480,000 MMBTU from building to the new 2012 energy code for residential buildings.  That is equivalent to the amount of energy used by almost 2,500 homes, and utility bill savings would be over $4 Million annually for homeowners.

In 2013, the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs convened the Residential Code Review Committee to address the issue of updating the statewide energy code.  The committee was comprised of code officials and others in the state’s building industry to consider the entire International Residential Code, including Chapter 11 on Energy Efficiency.  MEEA supported this process by providing educational materials to the committee and attending several of the meetings when energy efficiency was on the agenda.  MEEA provided comparisons that showed differences between the current and proposed codes, energy savings analysis, and third party reports from Department of Energy.

Below are the amendments Michigan is planning to incorporate into the residential 2012 IECC:

  1. 1.      Wall Insulation (prescriptive table only):
  • Climate zones 6 and 7: R-20 or R-13 + 5


  1. 2.      Basement Insulation:
  • Climate zone 5: R – 10 / 13


  1. 3.      Ceiling Insulation:
  • Climate zone 5: R – 38


  1. 4.      U-factor Table (R402.1.3):
  • Modified to reflect changes to prescriptive table


  1. 5.       Air Leakage:
  • Requires blower door test to confirm air leakage of less than 4 ACH50 (prescriptive)


  1. 6.      Duct Leakage:
  • Requires duct leakage test when portion of duct system located outside conditioned space. Must meet one of the following leakage requirements:
    • o Postconstruction Test:

- Total Leakage: 4 CFM25 / 100 sq ft.

- Leakage to Outside: 4 CFM25 / 100 sq ft.

  • o Rough-in test:

- Total Leakage: 4 CFM25 / 100 sq ft.


[1] http://www.census.gov/construction/bps/stateannual.html

MEEA Releases Residential Energy Efficiency Research

MEEA Unplugged Blog - July 17, 2014 - 2:18pm

MEEA recently released a publication titled, “Evaluation of Missed Energy Saving Opportunity Based on Illinois Home Performance Program Field Data: Homeowner Selected Upgrades vs. Cost-Optimized Solutions.”  This research was conducted in partnership with the Department of Energy’s Building America program, which MEEA participates in as a team member of the cold-climate focused Partnership for Advanced Residential Retrofit. The study evaluates what is actually being done, within specific housing types, when homeowners choose to participate in the Illinois Home Performance with ENERGY STAR® (IHP) program, sponsored by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and administered by MEEA.

This publication expands on previous research and compares the measure packages installed during the first 800 IHP retrofits to the measure packages recommended as cost-optimal by Building Energy Optimization™ (BEopt) modeling software. The cost-optimal measure packages were identified in previous research for fifteen Chicagoland single family housing archetypes, called housing groups.

In this study, 800 IHP homes have been matched to one of these fifteen housing groups. The typically-installed measures for each housing group have been modeled using BEopt to estimate energy savings. For most housing groups, the differences between recommended and actually-installed measure packages are substantial. By comparing actual IHP retrofit measures to BEopt-recommended cost-optimal measures, missed savings opportunities are identified in some housing groups; in addition, valuable information is obtained regarding housing groups where IHP achieves greater savings than BEopt-modeled, cost-optimal recommendations.

Overall, the study finds not only that for some housing groups, the average IHP retrofit results in more energy savings than would result from cost-optimal, BEopt-recommended measure packages, but also that linking home categorization to standardized retrofit measure packages provides an opportunity to streamline the process for single family home energy retrofits and maximize both energy savings and cost-effectiveness.

This research is valuable to MEEA’s programs team because it represents an instance where primary data has been extracted from the program and analyzed to provide valuable feedback. To read the full report, please click here.

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