EDF Climate Corps fellow | April 1, 2013
“Knocking down a brick wall by yourself with your bare fists is next to impossible. But organize a team equipped with sledgehammers and a plan, and it gets a whole lot easier,” said Gwen Ruta in a Fast Company Op-Ed explaining the concept behind EDF Climate Corps.
This blog post is the eighth in a series, highlighting our team of ‘sledgehammers’ – the 2012 EDF Climate Corps fellows– and their plans for breaking down the barriers to energy efficiency at their host organizations.
Name: Yolanda Allen
Host Organization: Texas A&M University, Kingsville
School: University of Texas at San Antonio
Opportunity: Texas A&M wanted to target its College of Engineering Complex for energy efficiency improvements
Barrier: The lighting in the College of Engineering hadn't been updated in four years. The buildings had a mixture of efficient and inefficient setups, such as rooms with occupancy sensors, several computers rooms with too much lighting, and security lighting left on 24 hours a day.
Solutions Identified: Allen recommended placing daylight sensors on security lights in rooms with windows, installing more occupancy sensors – in crucial rooms – and delamping other security lights. She also was asked to look at the same issues in the College of Agriculture buildings.
Potential Savings: As a group, Allen's recommendations, which span 191,000 square feet of real estate in the engineering and agriculture colleges, could save Texas A&M nearly $250,000 and 1,200 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions over the project lifetimes.
Quote: “I am very impressed that A&M-Kingsville’s actually encouraged students to get involved in sustainability projects on campus.”
Name: Evan Kantor
Host Organization: HCA Healthcare
School: MIT Sloan School of Management
Opportunity: When Kantor arrived at HCA, he was excited to find that HCA’s cutting-edge corporate energy team had already started conversations with Bloom Energy about installing fuel cells in two of its hospitals in California. Bloom Energy manufactures fuel cells that enable commercial customers to generate their own electricity. The “Bloom Box” can be fueled by either biogas or natural gas, which has potential as a relatively clean (compared with other fossil fuels like coal and oil) “bridge fuel” until renewable energy sources become cost-competitive.
Barrier: HCA’s energy team wondered about several sources of uncertainty or variability associated with the fuel cell: the value of avoided electricity, the cost of natural gas, and the purchase method. Investigating the fuel cell option thoroughly was important because hospitals require a fairly consistent level of power.
Solutions Identified: Kantor evaluated the option of installing the Bloom Energy fuel cells focusing on the benefits and risks the fuel cell poses. He found that Bloom Energy fuel cells are an appealing option for HCA because:
- They generate a constant one megawatt of power.
- With the uncertainty of future electricity prices, they could reduce risk by effectively locking in the cost of a substantial portion of the energy used at the hospitals.
- Bloom allows customers to lock in natural gas prices for up to ten years.
- Bloom offers several different purchase options that do not require an up-front investment of add debt to the balance sheet.
Potential Savings: Installing these fuel cells could save HCA $1.8 million in operating and utility costs, as well as 1,100 metric tons of annual carbon dioxide emissions.
Quote: “The EDF Climate Corps fellows hosted by HCA in 2010 and 2011 identified opportunities for combined savings of $30 million in net operating costs through traditional energy efficiency projects. As the third EDF Climate Corps fellow hired by HCA, I knew I had big shoes to fill … no pressure.”
Name: Rich Grousset
Host Organization: RBS Citizens Financial Group
School: University of Michigan
Opportunity: For companies with numerous, geographically dispersed facilities, mastering “small data” is just as important as “big data” when it comes to overcoming barriers to energy efficiency. Described in GreenBiz’s most recent State of Green Business Report, "big data" is a reference to “data sets too big to be accessed with traditional databases and spreadsheets.” “Small data” is data that can easily be managed by today’s databases and tools, but that is not necessarily easily collected or presented in charts and graphs.
Barrier: While “small data” can be very useful, staff can spend a great deal of time gathering and analyzing it.
Solutions Identified: Groussett identified that a great deal of valuable worktime would be saved if this “small data” had been available in one place, preferably in electronic format.
Quote: “The challenge is consolidating data into a single, easily accessible system. But it's worth the costs incurred in time, energy and money.”
About EDF Climate Corps
EDF Climate Corps (edfclimatecorps.org) taps the talents of tomorrow’s leaders to save energy, money and the environment by placing specially-trained EDF fellows in companies, cities and universities as dedicated energy problem solvers. Working with hundreds of leading organizations, EDF Climate Corps has found an average of $1 million in energy savings for each participant. For more information, visit edfclimatecorps.org. Read our blog at edfclimatecorps.org/blog. Follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/edfbiz and on Facebook at facebook.com/EDFClimateCorps.
About Environmental Defense Fund
Environmental Defense Fund (edf.org), a leading national nonprofit organization, creates transformational solutions to the most serious environmental problems. EDF links science, economics, law and innovative private-sector partnerships. For more information, visit edfbusiness.org. Read our blog at blogs.edf.org/business. Follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/EDFbiz.