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Case Study: Rhode Island Hospital’s Journey From The Sidelines To Optimized Demand-Side Energy Management

October 03, 2018

When a new EPA law threatened demand-side energy management at the largest hospital in The Ocean State, CPower answered the call.

The moment he learned what the EPA’s law meant for diesel generators participating in demand-side energy management, Marc Leduc figured he and Rhode Island Hospital had a problem.

The largest hospital in its state, Rhode Island Hospital is the only Level I trauma center for southeastern New England and provides expert staff and equipment in emergency situations 24 hours a day. Round-the-clock electricity consumption is both an operational necessity and a huge expense for the hospital.

For Mr. Leduc, the hospital’s Chief Engineer since 2011, executing an optimized demand-side management strategy has proven the best way to offset what would otherwise be a hefty energy spend.

Rhode Island Hospital generates half of the electricity it consumes with its onsite generation plant, consisting of four steam generators and three diesel generators. Even with such self-sufficiency, the hospital still purchases half its electricity from the grid–as much as 5 MW on a hot summer day–which comes with capacity charges that have been on the rise throughout New England for the last several years.

Enter CPower and demand-side energy management.

Since 2007, Rhode Island Hospital and CPower’s Bill Cratty, a veteran of the energy industry since 1964, have collaborated on a demand-side energy management strategy that allows the hospital to save on electricity costs with peak demand management and earn revenue with demand response.

The hospital’s three diesel generators have played a starring role in its demand-side success.

The Challenge: Upgrading to Compliance
Until the Spring of 2017, Rhode Island Hospital used its diesel generator set to power its facilities when the hospital curtailed its load from the grid as part of a peak demand management program, which lowers the hospital’s capacity tag and results in reduced capacity charges the following year. The hospital also routinely fired up its generators during demand response events, which pay participants for using less energy when the grid is stressed or electricity prices are high.

For Rhode Island Hospital, an optimized demand-side energy management strategy utilizing its diesel generators was essential in offsetting its energy spend.

In 2013, the Environmental Protection Agency enacted the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants for Reciprocating Internal Combustion Engines (NESHAP/RICE) to regulate pollutants emitted from stationary diesel engines. Part of those standards allowed for the limited use of backup generators for demand response.

In 2015, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit overturned the specific rules that allowed backup generators to participate in demand response.

Implemented in May 2016, the Court’s ruling mandates that only backup generators that meet the NESHAP/RICE standards are permitted to be used during emergency demand response dispatches. Two of Rhode Island Hospitals three diesel generators, each supplying 2 MW, were non-compliant and could no longer be used during demand response events.

“It [the law] was a big hit for us,” says Mr. Leduc. “Not only [did we lose] the money we generate from the [demand response] program, but the reduction of the peak load for capacity was probably the biggest hit for us, budget-wise. Capacity charges are right now about 25% of our budget.”

Mr. Leduc looked for answers on how to get back into the market and found them when he talked to CPower and Bill Cratty. Mr. Cratty, already intimately familiar with the hospital’s demand-side strategy, stepped in and immediately set a course by which the hospital could upgrade its emissions controls so their diesel generators could return to participating in demand response.

Having worked with Mr. Cratty since 2007, Mr. Leduc knew he could trust CPower’s ideas and suggestions, believing they would lead to the hospital successfully returning to the market. CPower recommended a company that could handle the upgrading and permitting of Rhode Island Hospital’s diesel generators, which are scheduled to return to full demand response participation by Spring 2019.

Selling up with a Little Help from Friends
According to Mr. Leduc, convincing the hospital’s upper management of the positives related to upgrading their diesel generators was “easy.” CPower’s Bill Cratty armed Mr. Leduc with figures that showed a clear return on investment (ROI), with future earnings from demand response covering the cost of the upgrades with a payback period of six months.

“The money we’re putting in to [the generator upgrade project],” says Mr. Leduc, “is ridiculously small compared to what the payback is.”

Advocacy and Guidance
CPower’s additional role as energy market advocates proved instrumental in helping facilitate Rhode Island Hospital’s generator upgrade project. Ray Berkebile, CPower’s Senior Director of Engineering, has led CPower’s approach to helping customers deal with EPA regulations concerning diesel generators, personally reviewing over 3000 generators from 2015-2017.

Mr. Berkebile met with Rhode Island’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to educate the agency on the benefits up upgrading diesel generators so they may participate in demand-side energy management and help alleviate both grid stress and high electricity prices. Mr. Berkebile was able to demonstrate that properly-permitted diesel generators can have an impact on the grid’s overall balance and health without running for an excessive amount of time.

Toward The Future, Bright with Distributed Energy Resources
Rhode Island hospital’s demand-side energy future is poised to include more than successful peak load management and demand response. With CPower by its side, the hospital is exploring ideas to achieve greater sustainability through distributed energy resources (DERs).

CPower’s Bill Cratty believes hospitals, with their need to be operational 24/7/365, are suited to take advantage of emerging DER technologies. Rhode Island Hospital is currently exploring options for the installation of solar canopies on the hospital’s parking lots, which would add another source of on-site energy generation to the hospital’s current fuel mix. Adding such DER sources contributes to improved sustainability for hospitals that consume power round-the-clock to care for patients and must continue to consume electricity even when the grid is unavailable to deliver it.

With CPower by its side, Rhode Island hospital is set to continue leading the healthcare industry as a shining example of how optimized demand-side energy management offsets energy spend and contributes to increased sustainability.

Download this Case Study (PDF)

Forward Capacity: New Revenue Source for Energy Efficiency Projects

August 30, 2017

Energy efficiency projects are well-known for their long-term cost savings and permanent energy load reduction. In the PJM Interconnection, they can also generate unexpected but substantial revenue streams when offered on PJM’s forward capacity market as a capacity resource. Proper measurement and verification, though, is the key.

How does energy efficiency help regional transmission organizations stabilize the power grid?

When a facility reduces its energy use, the grid no longer has to dedicate as many resources to it and can instead reinvest them elsewhere. Think of the electric grid as an office parking lot, where the grid’s capacity for energy is the same as the parking lot’s capacity for cars. The lot only has so many spaces! If one office can reduce the number of commuters who use parking spaces, then there are more spaces available and the parking lot has a lower chance of reaching capacity. In the same way that a reduction in parking demand can be considered a source of newly available parking spaces, a reduction in power demand can be considered a source of newly available energy.

PJM Interconnection, the regional transmission organization for the mid-Atlantic region,  coordinates the movement of wholesale energy and secures power resources for future electricity demand. The balance between demand and supply of electricity is always critical due to potential generation shortages and grid overloads. In order to assure the stability of the power grid, PJM runs an annual forward capacity auction.

A forward capacity auction solicits bids to meet capacity resource commitments to an amount that PJM estimates as future peak demand (four years ahead for the initial auction). PJM then provides revenues to the capacity providers, such as energy efficiency projects, that can fulfill their expected commitments. The revenues are called “capacity payments” and are competitively determined by the forward capacity market.

Eligible energy efficiency projects, such as lighting retrofits, HVAC upgrades, variable frequency drives, LEED buildings, and many other common energy efficiency improvements can be rewarded for their reduction in energy use through the PJM Interconnection forward capacity market. After a project is completed, the demand reduction must be measured and verified by an authorized provider, such as CPower Energy Management. Accurate identification and analysis of the change in electricity demand that your project generates serves to authenticate its value in the PJM market. Once a project’s eligibility has qualified, CPower can offer it on the forward capacity auction.

For larger projects, this means there could be significant revenue waiting to be captured with very little effort. This revenue can be rolled back into additional energy efficiency projects that produce even more financial value upon completion as well as the long-term savings realized in the permanent reduction of energy use by efficiency upgrades.

If your facility is contemplating energy efficient upgrades, or has completed a project within the last four (4) years, consider seeking capacity payments as an additional benefit from, or incentive for, your energy efficiency improvements. There is usually no monetary risk, and very little action required to learn if your project is eligible. Give us a call at 844-276-9371 to start the process today.


Understanding kW vs kWh (and Meter Data) to Lower Your Utility Bills

March 31, 2017

Many customers as well as my colleagues at CPower often ask me about the benefits of installing reliable metering equipment to access energy data in near real time. I typically respond with a handful of advantages (some listed below), but even before going there I find it useful to explain the full context about why these are important.

No discussion on the topic would be complete without a basic understanding of Demand (measured in kilowatts or kW) versus Consumption (measured in kilowatt hours or kWh). This is key to making the right choices when it comes to reducing energy costs, since electricity use for a commercial/industrial customer is typically billed and metered after taking at least these factors into consideration:

  1. Maximum kilowatt use (or kW demand) during a given period, typically in 15- or 30-minute intervals, and
  2. Total cumulative consumption (in kWh).

So, what’s the big deal between kW vs kWh?

An analogy using traditional light bulbs can help: Consider a single 100W bulb lit for ten hours versus ten 100W bulbs lit simultaneously for one hour. In both scenarios, the total cumulative “consumption” is 1,000 watt-hours (or 1 kWh). In the first case, however, the single light bulb will “demand” 100W or 0.1 kW from the electric supplier. Thus, the utility must have that 0.1 kW ready whenever that bulb is switched on. But note how the second scenario impacts the utility from a “demand” perspective. The electric supplier in this case must be ready to deliver 10x as much ‘capacity’ in response to the demand of the 10 light bulbs burning simultaneously!

Quite simply, here’s the difference. If these two scenarios reflected the behavior of two different customers, and if they were each billed for only their consumption, then both would get the same bill (for 1 kWh of energy used) even though the burden placed on the utility to meet each customer’s energy requirement is very different. Among other reasons, this is primarily why C&I (as opposed to residential) customers are typically metered and billed based on both their hourly “consumption” patterns and their peak “demand” for energy.

Demand-side energy management in near real time

CPower’s savvy demand response (DR) customers effectively leverage the energy they consume as a facility asset. Our diverse customer base covers mid- to large-sized electricity users in commercial, industrial, government and institutional organizations, including water/wastewater pumping and treatment facilities, colleges and universities, public agencies, office campuses, cold storage, data centers and a wide range of manufacturing facilities, to name just a few.

Many of our most active DR participants nationwide additionally leverage real-time metering for its clear advantages, including more visibility and control over load reductions as well as better overall energy management and sustainability benefits. The image above shows just two of the many views available to users via the CPower App (the graph on top shows 7-day hourly interval consumption while the one below shows demand on an intra-day 1-minute interval chart).

Key reasons to get real-time metering installed at your facility:

  • You can identify unusual or erratic equipment behavior to help avoid catastrophic failure. This is from a recent real-world example: Our team at CPower was working with the operations team for a large commercial real estate and property management firm, and picked up on unusual/erratic daytime usage patterns at one of their facilities. A look at the major systems of the building revealed that a chiller which had been recently serviced was to blame. Further investigation revealed that during a recent service call the chiller had been severely over-charged with refrigerant. Having a near real-time window into their energy usage enabled the facilities personnel to identify the unusual usage pattern, and proactively remedy a potential chiller issue that could have resulted in thousands of dollars in repair costs and possibly escalated their demand charges had it gone unnoticed.
  • Similarly, you may discover unusual, wasteful patterns or aberrations in overall facility energy usage as well as specific areas (e.g., an BAS reset inadvertently switches on all lights in an unoccupied underground parking garage at 2 AM).
  • Simplify on-site event planning (e.g., for K-12 schools or colleges) and/or production line scheduling (for manufacturing) with day-ahead pricing and forecasting at your fingertips.
  • Quickly and accurately substantiate the impact of your energy efficiency initiatives and sustainability programs (and share results with your team and management).
  • Avoid setting a new annual or monthly consumption peak, enabling you to manage demand charges for next year. Click to see more on Peak Demand Management in New England and Texas, for example.
  • Immediately evaluate the efficacy of (and fine tune as needed) new load curtailment strategies.
  • Further leverage your building automation systems and curtailment planning while minimizing impact on occupants (students, staff, employees, tenants, etc.).
  • Facilitate optimized participation in multiple DR programs, including Emergency Capacity, Economic DR, Ancillary Services, and more.
  • In addition to monitoring real-time utility load, several customers (i.e. a manufacturer of water valves and a supplier of military components) also view sub-meter data in the CPower App to provide them with a more granular, process-level picture of the energy usage in their facility.

The Bottom line

Real-time metering ultimately increases your DR earnings and savings to fund additional efficiency initiatives, while complementing your facility’s energy conservation and sustainability efforts. There are no out-of-pocket costs, since fees to install hardware, support software provisioning and enable data measurement & verification (M&V) are typically covered by DR program earnings.

By giving you near real-time visibility and analytics of your energy consumption, enhanced metering techniques provide more earnings and savings via greater control over your DR participation and greater awareness of electricity usage patterns (remember kW vs kWh!)