One great efficiency program, five Illinois companies, and a triple win for jobs, pocketbooks and the environment.

How did Jeff Holt, Commercial Property Manager for Fridh Corporation of Rockford, save $60,000 a year on energy costs at the Fifth Third Tower?  The answer is that a convergence of technology and state energy policy made possible a successful collaboration between five companies to unleash the power of energy efficiency.

Jeff’s largest operating expense for this property is the cost of energy to power, heat and cool the building.  Jeff reached out to Alpha Controls and Services to explore options for reducing his energy costs, while continuing to provide the same or better levels of comfort and functionality.  Alpha Controls knew that Jeff’s building would benefit from technology made locally by Schneider Electric, and knew that he could make the project’s upfront costs affordable through a program offered by ComEd’s Smart Ideas, and implemented by a third-party contractor called KEMA.  The project came together in large part because of a state law that requires utilities to meet an increasing portion of their customers energy needs through energy efficiency, rather than through selling more units of electricity.  We interviewed all the players and toured their facilities and you can hear them tell their story below.

What is the technology that made this possible?  It’s called “building automation systems,” or BAS, an intelligent system of installed devices and monitoring equipment, designed to help the energy user: you and me, better manage our usage and control comfort.  You can watch Jeff Holt and the team at Alpha Controls talk more about the technology in our video interview above—but take my word for it when I say, not only is the technology useful for saving green, but it takes turning on and off the lights to a whole new level.  During our interview, I had the pleasure of not only touring the property which Jeff Holt manages for Fridh Corp., but also Schneider Electric—their facility in Rockford where the technology is being manufactured—right here in Illinois!

What are the costs and savings from the project?  The upfront costs of $140,000 dollars, was partially offset by a $40,000 rebate from the Smart Ideas program.  So, Jeff paid $100,000 and will save $60,000 per year, which means the project costs will be recouped in less than two years, and every subsequent year that $60,000 savings will get pumped back into the local economy.

What is the state energy policy that made this program possible?  Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard (EEPS) passed in 2007 with the leadership of Senator Don Harmon.  It requires the utilities to lower their sales to all delivery customers by an increasing amount each year using energy efficiency.  The policy treats energy efficiency as a resource that utilities can use to meet their customers energy needs.  The goal is to reduce bills over time.  While energy efficiency costs 2-3 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) on average to achieve, it displaces resources that cost 6-10 cents per kWh to generate, transmit and distribute for the same amount of power.  Customers save 2-5 cents for every kWh saved.

This is the kind of story we're hearing all over the region, as states implement policies to ramp up efficiency.  Energy efficiency means good jobs, lower bills, less pollution, and in this bleak economy, it's a rare success story to be celebrated. 

This fall NRDC is going to highlight the energy efficiency industry in Illinois by using a video blog series to show the benefits from a vital—yet often overlooked sector of our economy.  The goal is to show people how robust policies that promote energy efficiency put people to work, save people a ton of money, and happen to be one of the most cost-effective solutions to curb our emissions and slow the tides of climate change.