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Energy Management Changes Coming to DC

See more about energy assessments

Changes are afoot for energy management practices for DC buildings, a cooperatives will be affected. On June 25, 2011, the DC Cooperative Housing Coalition held a seminar at Harbour Square where representatives from Pepco, DC government and an engineering firm discussed the changes and also ways to improve energy budgets.

Throughout the rest of the year Pepco will be installing new "Smart Meters" for all their customers. Smart Meters automatically send readings via wireless communications to the utility, which will enable Pepco to stop giving estimated readings on bills, but instead charge based on actual usage each month. Pepco is sending letters to customer about two weeks ahead of the planned installation in a building's neighborhood.

Next year, Pepco plans to initiate an online monitoring system in which customers can log into their accounts and see daily and hourly usage. This will enable cooperatives to analyze and diagnose how and when they are using electricity.

Pepco is also considering two new programs. First would be time-of-day pricing, which it refers to as dynamic pricing. During peak usage hours such as noon and afternoon during hot weather season prices could increase if the the program is approved.

The second proposed plan would be a program in which Pepco would notify consumers when high electricity usage is expected (for example when 100 degree weather is forecast). If the consumer agreed to and did cut back on usage by a certain amount (in this example they could turn off or turn down their air conditioning chiller or turn off common area lights) the Pepco would pay a small subsidy. In this way cooperatives and other buildings would not only save by avoiding to use the electricity in the first place, but they would also earn a credit for doing so in accordance with the load management program.

Larger cooperatives, as well as other buildings, will soon have to submit energy benchmarking reports to the DC government under a new law. The final regulations are being worked out as of this writing, but basically in the coming months buildings bigger than 200,000 square feet must report how much electricity, natural gas and water they use each month. They would use the energy benchmarking form of the Department of Energy's Energy Star program for buildings. The form can be found at EnergyStar.gov/benchmark.

Under the new law, with each passing year smaller buildings (in decreasing increments of 50,000 square feet) will have to comply until the threshold falls to buildings over 50,000 square feet. That is to say, under the presently published schedule, in 2012 buildings larger than 150,000 square feet must comply, in 2013 buildings larger than 100,000 feet face the requirement and so on.

An industry-standard tool to help cooperatives face these and other is an energy assessment. Robert Burgess of Ted Ross Consulting explained that an assessment is more than an energy audit, which basically looks at the patterns of a building's energy consumption. In addition to this feature, it also does a comprehensive examination of all the building systems and components which effect and are effected by utility usage. The assessment would then analyze how well and efficiently these systems are doing and make recommendations.

One frequently discussed industry protocol for doing this is called the "ASHRAE Level 2" assessment. ASHRAE stands for the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers, and the society has a national capital chapter. However, Burgess noted there are other structures for energy audits, such as the Portland Energy Commission Inc. program.