Efficient Buildings

Demand Side Management refers to managing how electricity is consumed.  That can be done through managing the behavior of consumption (conservation) and through efficiency (changing mechanics to use less energy without changing behavior).

Fort Collins is home to over 65,000 buildings which use 85% of our electricity and 82% our natural gas. According to the RMI Stepping Up Report:

We could save 31% of energy and $140 million dollars by 2030 by maximizing our building efficiency potential.

 We have made progress, but still have a long way to go to get there.  Cforse is concentrating on pragmatic approaches to help consumers in all sectors use less energy without sacrificing quality of life.

Fort Collins can mandate efficiency from new buildings.  Maximizing the potential of efficiency in existing buildings requires action from the consumers – residents, tenants, and owners.  Consumers must be motivated to take action, the action must be affordable, and the action must be accessible.

Fort Collins has a decent program to help make buildings more energy efficient.  The pages in this section detail some of the options we need to pursue to improve our programs:  Targeted marketing, On Bill Tariff, Time Of Use Rate, and Building Codes.

Motivating Efficiency

The best available technology and program design doesn’t work if we don't use it.  Consumers do want efficient homes and work spaces, but we might not know it.  We need education.  We need to know how inefficient our buildings are and how much better they can be.  We need to know the financial, comfort, and community benefit that can be gained.  We need to know how to go about getting the work done.  And the benefit needs to be worth the cost. Fortunately there is help, Efficiency Works is the Fort Collins, Loveland, Longmont, Estes Park one stop shop to get your house efficiencized! 

Once a consumer is motivated and educated they need to be able to afford the efficiency retrofit (remodel) and it needs to be easy for them to do.  The On Bill Tariff is a tool we need for affordability.  

Financing Efficiency

Once people are educated and motivated to get efficiency retrofits, they need to be able to afford it. That’s where the On Bill Tariff comes in.  On Bill Tariff (OBT) is a tool which pays for efficiency remodels using the money saved on energy bills.  Utilities have a unique potential (if they choose) to offer 0% interest financing over extremely long terms because (in the long run) people consistently and reliably pay the electric bill. Midwest Energy in Kansas has a good OBT program:  Energy$mart.

How it works:  Let’s say that you want to get an energy efficiency retrofit package for your home which adds insulation and sealing, and replaces your ancient water heater and furnace (Fort Collins Utilities can help make this happen).  The project total cost is $10,000.00 and results in an average monthly combined electric and gas savings of $50 per month.  With OBT, you pay 90% of that savings to pay off the project.  From day one you are saving $5 per month (on average) and have a more comfortable home.  The project is paid off in 20 years. Not living in this house for 20 years?  No problem. The payments are attached to the property so the next homeowner gets the benefits and picks up the payments where you left off.  There is no loan to pay off before you sell.  No addition to closing costs.  No lien.  No bank.  No interest rate.  No credit report.  The payment is simply a line item on the electric bill (called a tariff).  

OBT an essential program for rental properties where the tenant pays the energy bills and the landlord pays for building improvements.  This is called the split incentive.  The landlord has little incentive to pay for efficiency improvements to lower energy bills.  The tenant has little incentive to pay for improvements to a property they don’t own.  With OBT, the tenant pays for improvements through the electric bill but gets lower total energy bills and a more comfortable home or commercial space.  The landlord gets free property improvements.  Again, because the payment is part of the electric bill, the next tenant picks up where the previous one left off.  Over 36% of the housing in Fort Collins is rented and over 50% of the commercial space is rented.

Cforse generated hundreds of letters to city council over a 5 year period asking for the adoption of an On Bill Financing mechanism for energy efficiency retrofits.  FTC currently has, quite possibly, the best program in the country:  2.5% interest over 20 yrs. means that you can finance a lot of improvements for less than what you save in utility bills... positive Return On Investment! It doesn't cost more to do the right thing! 


Time of Use Rates

Time of Use Rate (TOUR) provides consumers with a discount for using energy during off peak hours.  Fort Collins Utilities can inform you about when electricity will be cheap.  You can then run appliances during cheap times (dishwasher, clothes dryer, new refrigerators and A/C).  If you have an electric car you can tell it to charge when electricity is cheap, and conversely, tell it to supply power to Utilities when electricity is expensive.  Your car can make money as a power plant!  The Smartmeters recently installed allow TOUR.

TOUR is a tool meeting the sustainability test by saving individual consumers money on bills, reducing the need for natural gas electric generation, and saving money for the community as a whole by delaying the need for another power plant.

FCU has a goal to start a pilot TOUR project by mid 2014.  We will be following progress and holding our city employees accountable to meeting goals and establishing a quality product.  Councilman Wade Troxell is a big proponent of TOUR.  If you live in Council District 4 (southwest FTC) you can email Wade, wtroxell@fcgov.com,  and ask for an update on Time Of Use Rates.

Codes and Requirements

Energy efficiency building codes and standards are needed because consumers don’t know what to ask for and so have no power to demand energy efficient design from builders.

A reputable sustainable building standard and rating system has already been established, called “LEED” from the U.S. Green Building Council.  Fort Collins should adopt the silver level of LEED qualifications as a requirement for all new buildings.

One of the major reasons consumers don’t have the power to demand efficiency is that they don’t know what to ask for or what they are getting when they buy or lease a building.  The city should require that every building have an energy audit on record to be disclosed at time of sale or lease.  This is a $60 cost and well worth the investment.  A grading system for building efficiency, E-A, needs to be established to give prospective buyers and tenants a comparative analysis tool.