How Tech Can Limit the Pain of High Energy Costs
Connecticut has some of the highest energy costs in the nation, particularly for electricity.
As of October 2016, commercial electricity cost 15.93 cents per kilowatt hour in Connecticut, which is more than any other state, excluding Hawaii and Alaska, based on data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Last fall, CBIA hosted its annual business energy conference and discussed the state’s Comprehensive Energy Strategy.
The state’s deputy commissioner of energy spoke at the conference, saying that the overarching goal of the CES would be to improve sustainability, especially by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Yet many attendees wanted more of a focus on affordability, according to CBIA.
Based on live polling at the conference, 51% were unclear as to why the state’s energy rates are so high, even compared to other New England states, and 49% said the top priority for the state’s energy policy should be lower costs.
“In the new CES, the focus very much is on clean, safer, more reliable energy. Our focus is on affordability,” said Carl Gustin, president of the New England Coalition for Affordable Energy.
“Within the business community, regional competitiveness is a major concern. If we don’t build more infrastructure, we will see significantly higher energy costs by 2020,” which will primarily be felt in 2019.
However, CBIA disagrees with many of the state’s energy infrastructure decisions, such as forgoing natural gas pipeline expansion and large-scale hydropower projects.
Although businesses may be frustrated with state energy policy, there are ways they can increase affordability on their own, thanks to advances in energy-related technology.
More Independence with Microgrids
Rather than relying on the traditional power grid, organizations can set up their own microgrids to save money and gain more control over their energy usage.
A microgrid is powered by distributed generation technologies, which are often renewable and/or more sustainable. For example, a microgrid can generate power from PV solar assets and store energy with large-scale battery technologies.
Microgrids can connect to the main grid, so businesses can easily switch between the two in order to receive energy.
For example, a microgrid can still power a business or community in situation like natural disaster, or in other cases, if the cost of grid-supplied power has increased to the point where it’s less expensive to utilize self-generated energy, an organization can capture these energy arbitrage opportunities.
Businesses can improve both affordability and sustainability by deploying microgrids, and Connecticut has even developed a microgrid grant program to help spur these projects.
How to Save Energy with EAS
In addition to physical technology installations, organizations can turn to energy management software to improve affordability.
Specifically, energy analytics software provides companies with the necessary data on their energy management that they can use to find meaningful energy savings.
If a company has a microgrid, for instance, EAS can inform them when it would be cost effective to switch from the main grid to the microgrid.
But even if microgrid installations are too much of an upfront cost, EAS can be a good starting point on its own, because businesses can use it to figure out ways to limit consumption and operate more efficiently.
The average commercial building wastes 30% of energy consumed due to inefficiencies, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
So, while kWh or kW costs are high in Connecticut, businesses can still lower costs simply by reducing waste.
Taking advantage of the energy diagnostics from EAS can bring businesses’ energy costs more in line with the rest of the nation, rather than waiting for state policy to bring down energy rates.
About the author: Chris Pieper is vice president of marketing with Connecticut-based Artis Energy.
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