To most outsiders, the world of energy efficiency probably appears static with slow, incremental changes. A furnace rebate here, light bulb swap-out there, maybe an updated building energy code every few years. But it should come as no surprise to industry insiders that this isn’t the case at all. An explosion of new technology across every part of our economy is rapidly changing our energy savings goals and the ways we identify and capture those savings.
In September, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy completed a case study profiling MEEA’s HVAC Savings Adjustment and Verified Efficiency (HVAC SAVE) program, which tells the story of how MEEA partnered with utilities in Iowa to launch a HVAC quality installation and quality maintenance program that has resulted in over 100,000 jobs and substantial energy savings.
Improving energy performance in buildings is a key strategy for the City of Chicago, which has committed to upholding the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. This includes a 26-28% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2025; the city is currently 40% of the way to meeting that goal. Because the energy used in buildings accounts for over 70% of the city’s current greenhouse gas emissions, reducing building energy use is essential to meeting this goal.
If you are like me (or 14.8% of Midwesterners), you live in multifamily housing. And if you’ve ever been a multifamily tenant, then you know it can be harder to get improvements and renovations done than if you live in a single-family home. Dealing with landlords, management companies and condo associations can slow down decision-making, and it’s often unclear what you, as a resident, can or can't do to modify your home.
As we hit mid-summer, I begin to look forward to the things I love about the fall: jackets and sweaters, my kids going back to school and four months of being up to my ears in utility data. This is the time of year that I plan for one of my most challenging annual tasks - updating MEEA’s tracking data to include the latest round of utility annual reporting on energy efficiency spending and savings. It's a labor of love that occupies much of my time September through January so we can release new estimates at our annual Midwest Energy Solutions Conference in February.
On March 22, 2017, the Illinois Commerce Commission passed a resolution initiating the NextGrid Utility of the Future Study. NextGrid will be an 18-month collaborative process to explore the ways in which alternative utility regulatory models, advances in technology, and consumer preferences and engagement can shape the grid of the future. This initiative will build upon the 2011 Energy Infrastructure Modernization Act, the Illinois Statewide Smart Grid Collaborative and the recent Future Energy Jobs Act.
On June 6, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy released a new report on the increased health and economic costs that would result from an expanded industrial opt-out policy in the state. ACEEE found that expanded opt-out would cost Ohio residents billions of dollars due to higher electricity rates, increased utility system costs and medical expenses from increased air pollution.
Net-zero energy (NZE)buildings come in all shapes and sizes and can be found in every climate zone. The Midwest is home to many NZE buildings, and public buildings are helping to lead the way.
The New Buildings Institute compiled the 2016 List of Zero Net Energy Buildings report, which lists the current net-zero energy buildings across the country. Below are a few Midwestern NZE public buildings discussed on a recent MEEA policy webinar.*
Building system controls that automate the use of HVAC, lighting and ventilation systems in commercial buildings continue to become more sophisticated, and the model energy code is keeping pace with these changes. In fact, since 2004, a third of all changes to the model energy code for commercial buildings are related to building system controls. Given this pace of change, it is reasonable to wonder if building professionals are able to ensure that energy systems are designed, installed and configured properly.