Focus, Government, and Sustainability

Energy Savings Performance Contract leads to award for Battle Creek

The Grand Rapids office of Ameresco coordinated the projects at city facilities.

January 16, 2015
| By Pete Daly |
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Energy-efficiency improvements at Battle Creek city facilities earned the Cereal City a 2014 Michigan Economic Development Corp. Energy Services Coalition Award, according to Ameresco Inc., a nationwide firm with an office in Grand Rapids.

In recognition of significant investment into energy-efficiency systems and demonstrable energy cost savings at public buildings throughout the state, the Energy Service Coalition Michigan Chapter announced in November five recipients of the Leaders in Efficiency award. Honorees at the Energy Service Coalition Fourth Annual Awards event in Lansing also included Lenawee County, Oakland University, St. Clair County Community College and Detroit Zoo.

Collectively, the recipients, which oversee energy consumption in a municipality, county, college campus and at the state’s largest zoo, have invested nearly $18 million and saved more than $1 million annually as a result of implementing energy-efficiency and performance contracting methods, according to the MEDC.

“These award winners have demonstrated leadership and stewardship in their commitment to reducing wasted energy, shrinking their carbon footprint, and improving the work and learning environment for building occupants,” said Scott Kuhn, president of Michigan Chapter of ESC, which is hosted in Michigan by the Michigan Economic Development Corp.

The Energy Service Coalition is a national nonprofit public-private partnership that advocates utilizing energy performance standards and building upgrades to improve efficiency and reduce energy costs.

The awards event included presentations by John Quackenbush, chairman of the Michigan Public Service Commission, and Robert Jackson, director of the Michigan Energy Office, which promotes energy efficiency and renewable energy resource development to the state’s businesses and public institutions.

A key focus in the process are Energy Saving Performance Contracts, or ESPCs.

“Energy saving performance contracting enables building owners to use future energy savings to pay the upfront costs of energy-saving projects, eliminating the need to tap into capital budgets,” said Jackson.

The city of Battle Creek ESPC projects represent investments totaling more than $4.4 million, according to a news release from Ameresco. Diane Mills of Ameresco’s Grand Rapids office managed the projects, which included major improvements in HVAC and lighting efficiencies at the Kellogg Arena Event Center and the city’s Full Blast Recreation Center. The improvements are guaranteed by Ameresco to reduce energy costs by more than $84,000 a year for at least 15 years.

According to Ted Dearing, business manager at the Battle Creek Parks and Recreation Department, ESPCs are authorized by Michigan state law to help municipalities finance energy improvement projects through the long-term savings from reduced energy consumption and less maintenance.

“We knew we would save roughly $84,000 a year over the next 15 years,” said Dearing.

Battle Creek was recognized by the Michigan Chapter of the Energy Services Coalition at an awards event in Lansing, where Battle Creek City Manager Rebecca Fleury accepted the award on behalf of the city.

“The city of Battle Creek is honored to be recognized by the MEDC and to receive this sustainability leadership award,” said Fleury. “Our entire community is committed to reducing our energy usage and to being more efficient, and our ongoing partnership with Ameresco has allowed us to effectively upgrade our facilities while utilizing taxpayer dollars in the most efficient and environmentally responsible way.”

Under Mills’ management, Ameresco performed several projects at Battle Creek public facilities. Those included replacing the roof at Kellogg Arena, LED exterior lighting retrofit, instituting water conservation measures, enhancing the building envelope and replacing windows.

Some of the energy conservation measures at the Full Blast Recreation Center included a new central hot-water heating plant; a new open protocol controls system; and installation of renewable energy features such as solar energy for the outdoor pool.

Fleury said it was important the city “take a proactive role in reducing our energy consumption, and it’s rewarding to have been recognized for our commitment.”

Founded in 2000, Ameresco Inc. (NYSE: AMRC) is a provider of comprehensive services involving energy efficiency, infrastructure upgrades, asset sustainability and renewable energy solutions for facilities throughout North America. Services also include development, construction and operation of renewable energy plants.

Mills, a certified energy manager, said projects like those in Battle Creek are also economic development tools because much of the investment goes back into the local economy in the form of construction wages and materials purchasing. She estimates the aging facilities in Michigan’s K-12 education system could benefit from more than a billion dollars worth of energy improvements.

Mills worked to support PA 625, which was signed into law by Gov. Rick Snyder in January 2013. According to Michigan.gov, PA 625 was originally House Bill 5727, sponsored by Rep. Joe Haveman, R-Holland. It allows state departments and agencies to receive upfront funding from an energy service provider for energy-efficient improvements. The provider then is repaid with a portion of the savings from the improvements.

Mills is continuing her activity in Lansing by supporting HB 5806, which would extend the minimum length of time from 10 years to 25 years for a community college to repay an energy-savings performance contract. According to the House Fiscal Agency, HB 5806 would also allow a contract for a project where the energy savings would not cover the entire cost.

Mills said the goal is to “make all the legislation consistent and implement best practices that other states are using successfully.”  She said it has passed the House and is in the Senate.

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