There is nothing small about the impact that small commercial buildings have on energy use in the United States. In fact, the 4.6 million small buildings across the nation consume 44% of the overall energy use in buildings, presenting an enormous opportunity to cut costs, energy use, and greenhouse gas emissions. Despite this potential, small building owners and operators face unique challenges that have historically impeded the adoption of widespread energy efficiency solutions. A new report developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) examines these barriers and suggests a path forward to support cost-effective energy savings for the small buildings and small portfolios sector, which typically has limited resources to pursue energy efficiency solutions.
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Small buildings have been left behind in the energy efficiency marketplace because financial and technical resources have flowed to larger commercial buildings (PGL 2013). DOE’s Building Technologies Office (BTO) works with the commercial building industry to accelerate the uptake of energy efficiency technologies and techniques in existing and new commercial buildings (DOE 2013). BTO recognizes the SBSP sector’s potential for significant energy savings and the need for investments in resources that are tailored to this sector’s unique needs. The industry research and recommendations described in this report identify potential approaches and strategic priorities that BTO could explore over the next 3–5 years that will support the implementation of high-potential energy efficiency opportunities for this important sector.
A recast of a presentation done for the Fairfax Chapter of Association of Energy Engineers in November of 2013. Presentation focuses on the the Advanced Energy Design Guides published by ASHRAE with association of AIA, USGBC, and IES with funding and technical support from DOE, NREL, and PNNL. In addition, the DOE Advanced Retrofit Guides are also discussed. Both sets of guides are available for download from this resource database.
This document lists a set of resources that can help small business owners make informed decisions about their energy use and identify opportunities for long-term financial savings from energy efficiency improvements. These resources include case studies, energy savings and investment calculators, technical guides and information on state and federal incentives programs.
Argonne’s Energy Efficiency Decision Support Calculator is a simple tool that small business owners can use to quickly analyze the high-level economic impact of investments in energy efficient products, retrofits or capital improvements. This tool requires minimal input data and is accessible to anyone, regardless of their experience with energy issues. It is intended to complement many of the more involved, technology specific calculators that are referenced in Argonne’s “Resources for Informed Small Business Energy Efficiency Decision Making.”
NorthBay VacaValley Hospital completed lighting retrofits to their 150,000 square foot parking lot and its 225 parking spaces. They did so with help from The California Lighting Technology Center (CLTC) at the University of California, Davis. The project has achieved 65% savings and received a 2014 Lighting Energy Efficiency in Parking (LEEP) Campaign’s award for best use of lighting controls. In addition, the retrofits improved lighting maintenance operations and end-user satisfaction.
The lighting retrofit included replacing roughly 50 induction luminaires with new LED fixtures with embedded lighting controls.
The new LED fixtures were coupled with various kinds of lighting control systems, including a radio frequency (RF) connectivity control system that was installed in dedicated zones with passive- infrared (PIR) and long-range microwave sensors to achieve energy savings. An “ultra-smart” lighting control network was also put in place, giving facility managers the ability to adjust lighting schedules, light levels and time-out settings, monitor the system’s energy use, and receive automated alerts when luminaires require maintenance.
This guide covers each major step in procuring a solar photovoltaic (PV) system:
- Conducting technical and financial studies
- Financing a PV system
- Project execution
- Operations and maintenance
- Assessing benefits
The guide provides information on the basic steps, key considerations, and where to go for more information. It is intended to provide an overview and some level of detail, with pointers to highly detailed information and resources.
A net zero-energy community (ZEC) is one that has greatly reduced energy needs through efficiency gains such that the balance of energy for vehicles, thermal, and electrical energy within the community is met by renewable energy. Past work resulted in a common zero-energy building (ZEB) definition system of “zero energy” and a classification system for ZEBs based on the renewable energy sources used by a building. This paper begins with a focus solely on buildings and expands the concept to define a zero-energy community, applying the ZEB hierarchical renewable classification system to the concept of community. A community that offsets all of its energy use from renewables available within the community’s built environment and unusable brownfield sites is at the top of the ZEC classification system at a ZEC of A. (A brownfield site is where the redevelopment or reuse may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant or contaminant.) A community that achieves a ZEC definition primarily through the purchase of new off-site, Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) is placed at the lowest end of the ZEC classification but is still considered a good achievement.
The small buildings and small portfolios (SBSP) sector face a number of barriers that inhibit SBSP owners from adopting energy efficiency solutions. This pilot project focused on overcoming two of the largest barriers to financing energy efficiency in small buildings: disproportionately high transaction costs and unknown or unacceptable risk. Solutions to these barriers can often be at odds, because inexpensive turnkey solutions are often not sufficiently tailored to the unique circumstances of each building, reducing confidence that the expected energy savings will be achieved. To address these barriers, NREL worked with two innovative, forward-thinking lead partners, Michigan Saves and Energi, to develop technical solutions that provide a quick and easy process to encourage energy efficiency investments while managing risk.
The pilot project was broken into two stages: the first stage focused on reducing transaction costs, and the second stage focused on reducing performance risk. In the first stage, NREL worked with the non-profit organization, Michigan Saves, to analyze the effects of 8 energy efficiency measures (EEMs) on 81 different baseline small office building models in Holland, Michigan (climate zone 5A). The results of this analysis (totaling over 30,000 cases) are summarized in a simple spreadsheet tool that enables users to easily sort through the results and find appropriate small office EEM packages that meet a particular energy savings threshold and are likely to be cost-effective.
Dollars saved through energy efficiency can directly impact your bottom line. Whether you are planning for a major renovation or upgrading individual pieces of building equipment, these improvements can help reduce operating costs, save on utility bills, and boost profits. This fact sheet provides a guide for small businesses to find the resources to increase the energy efficiency of their buildings.