Today we are highlighting a winner of the 2021 Inspiring Efficiency Innovation Award, ComEd Energy Efficiency Program’s Fix-It-Now Compressed Air offering. This award was presented to them because of their ability to implement a new and innovative program with impressive results. ComEd’s Fix-It-Now Compressed Air program aims to directly address compressed air leaks, a common issue for many industrial customers. Read on to see why they chose this area to address and how they made it happen.
Q: Why did you choose to address compressed air leaks as opposed to other industrial issues?
The Fix-it-Now Compressed Air offering was developed to address a significant pain point for industrial customers – air leaks in compressed air systems. Compressed air leaks present the following challenges: waste energy, impacting the overall performance of the compressed air system; and degrade system performance, impacting production and quality.
In the past, the cost to fix compressed air leaks had been the responsibility of the customer, but leak repairs are often a low priority and seldom get completed. Compressed air service providers wanted to engage customers with smaller systems in energy efficiency projects. Even for dedicated compressed air service providers, it was hard to convince customers to repair leaks since the cost would compete with other priorities.
Prior to Fix-it-Now Compressed Air, only systems with greater than 200 HP qualified for a free survey to identify leaks. However, more than 70% of industrial customers have compressed air systems with less than 200 HP, which prevented many customers from participating. The goal of Fix-it-Now Compressed Air is to identify and fix compressed air leaks for all industrial customers with the most cost-effective and timely solution possible. We also wanted to open the door to other projects for customers. The Fix-It-Now Compressed Air offering provides an easy entry for facilities into ComEd’s energy efficiency program.
Q: What sort of preparation went into the development of this program? Was there extensive research or collaborative partnerships?
Definitely. A panel of industry experts from the service provider network gathered to design a solution from the ground up. We worked closely with service providers to make sure the structure worked. The creative process resulted in a design that is:
- Scalable to work for any size compressed air system from 25 HP or greater
- Separate from the qualification for a comprehensive study
- No-cost to the customer for most all leaks repaired
- Fixed in incentive amount to provide clarity to service provider
- Simplified so the Service Provider can identify and repair leaks on the same day
- Easy to sell to customers. The only requirement is access to their site
- Easy through the application process. A standardized workbook and calculations reduces the work needed to submit for incentive payment
- Open to Service Providers other than just compressed air companies
- A quick win for the customer. They are able to see the impact of energy efficiency and consider other measures at their plant
- More cost-effective for ComEd than many other energy efficiency measures
Q: What did you learn through the implementation of the program, be it challenges you overcame or strong results?
There were challenges being able to forecast energy savings and incentive budgets. We had to rely on past trends. Also, there could be challenges finding the right balance between what is possible to repair at the site and what is possible to incentivize. It is important to manage customer expectations and the cost-effectiveness of the program equally. We resolved that by continuously learning about how the offering was received in the field and implementing improvements.
Initially, we relied on customers to fix leaks. The biggest improvement occurred when service providers were motivated to fix leaks on the spot by delivering the incentive directly to them. That helped with speeding up projects and getting them into our pipeline.
Q: What other industrial issues are you hoping to tackle in any upcoming programs?
We have expanded the offering into other areas including process cooling, industrial refrigeration and wastewater treatment.
We have also implemented a monitoring program for Fix-It-Now Compressed Air. Monitoring your compressed air system gives you instant feedback. If there's a problem, you'll know right away so it can be fixed, increasing system reliability and uptime and reducing energy waste.
ComEd saw a need from their utility customers, and they worked diligently to implement an innovative program to address it. Through a multi-faceted program design that addressed cost concerns and eased the application process, ComEd confronted the problem of compressed air leaks head on. Do these qualities remind you of another cutting-edge program implemented in the last two years? Enter it to be considered for a 2022 Inspiring Efficiency Innovation Award. Applications are open until September 17th and you can find the forms here. For more Innovation Award inspiration, view our previous blog - and stay tuned for the rest of our IEA winners series!