The Wave – September 2013

Letter from the President

On September 27, 1983, District Heating and Development Company (now District Energy St. Paul) began service to customers in Saint Paul, Minnesota.  This was an important day for our organization and this city.  Many members of our team remember the years of planning, engineering, customer development, financing, and construction that led to that milestone.  In keeping with the vision of a national model, District Energy has developed into one of the most advanced systems in its industry, hosting visitors from around the world to learn about the technologies and the development of community energy systems.  We are fortunate that visionaries, including George Latimer, Bill Buth, Bob Lowe, Barbara Lukermann, Bill Mahlum, and Alice Murphy, encouraged Hans Nyman to move from Sweden to Saint Paul to lead the development of this system.  Since then great leaders within our organization have worked tirelessly to see the vision realized.  After 30 years, we still have many employees who helped start-up this system and have led District Energy to enjoy great success through reliable service and stable rates.

From its inception, District Energy envisioned a future using multiple technologies integrated with local, renewable energy sources.  Over the years we have successfully integrated cooling, thermal storage, solar thermal, and waste heat from the biomass-fueled combined heat and power plant.  Wood residuals and waste heat makeup the majority of the contribution to our heating system.  In September, we were fortunate to have our innovations recognized with a Global District Energy Climate Excellence Award.  We are the first non-university system in North America to earn this honor. For 30 years we have evolved our systems to compete with and stand out from the best of the best, globally, and it is inspiring to be honored for these efforts.

Behind all of it, this story has always been about our people.  Our employees, our board, and our partners have helped us create a community energy landmark with a central focus on providing the best service to our customers.  We continue to grow and thrive because of our people.  And I am tremendously excited about our future because of our people.  I am grateful to be a part of this tremendous legacy and to see what is next for our company and for Saint Paul.

District Energy Selected for Global District Energy Climate Excellence Award

District Energy St. Paul is pleased to announce its Global District Energy Climate Excellence Award.   The International District Energy Association (IDEA) and Euroheat & Power sponsor the award to promote district energy’s critical role in helping our communities meet their sustainability goals.  According to award organizers, “we need solutions that make it possible to combine sound economic growth with little environmental impact and customer convenience.”  District Energy St. Paul exceeded these expectations and was selected from dozens of global applications by an international panel of experts led by the International Energy Agency.  The company is proud to receive such an immense honor for our promotion of energy conservation, commitment to customer service and careful attention to environmental concerns. Visit our media room for more information about the award.

District Energy Assigned an A- Rating

Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services (S&P) has assigned its long-term rating of ‘A-‘/Stable to the Housing and Redevelopment Authority of the City of Saint Paul’s 2013 bonds issued for District Energy St. Paul, Inc. (Series A-D) and District Cooling St. Paul Inc. (Series A-E).   The rating review reflects a series of credit strengths including well-managed assets, stable revenue under long-term contracts with a diverse customer base, base rates adjusted annually to fully recover costs (including debt service), and an adjustable energy charge to recover changes in the cost of fuels.

District Energy and District Cooling pursued the S&P rating as part of a financial restructuring of debt for the utility operations.  These long-term financing mechanisms have helped keep the utility rates below the rate of inflation for decades.  The proceeds from the pending refinancing will refund all existing debt and fund capital projects to continue the maintenance and advancement of the utility operations. District Energy and District Cooling have maintained stable rates for our customers, remaining below the rate of inflation for decades and keeping rates level since 2011.

Board Spotlight – George Fremder

George Fremder

George Fremder joined the board as a publicly appointed member in February 1999. Fremder is the retired second vice president, corporate services, at Securian Financial Group, the company he worked for his entire career.  While at Securian, he provided top management leadership to eleven support departments and was responsible for Securian’s corporate property management.   Fremder said, “what attracted me most to District Energy was the fact that they were providing energy to Securian at a very, very competitive price and I was interested in being a part of maintaining the benefits of those energy dollars.”

Fremder has been thrilled to serve with an organization that is so dedicated to people.   He often promotes the saying, “people are known by the company they keep, and companies are known by the people they keep.”   He is proud to serve as a chairperson for District Energy because he sees that the good people at District Energy enjoy working for the organization, value the system, support the vision, and live out the commitment to the customers, community and environment.

A modest man, Fremder suggests his leadership and strategic role on the board does not influence the direction of the organization.  In response, Ken Smith, President and CEO lauds, “George’s long history with District Energy St. Paul combined with his exceptional management and leadership skills combined with his understanding of corporate finance and property management provides the foundation for vetting new ideas and growth of our local district energy system.”

30th Anniversary Celebration

Employees and special guests enjoyed a celebration of District Energy’s 30 years in Saint Paul.  During the celebration, guests were treated to a video highlighting employees, leaders, and board members.  Board chairs, Ken Smith and Anne Hunt (Environmental Policy Director for Mayor Chris Coleman) reminisced about the cutting-edge public-private partnership developed in the late 1970s and shared their vision for the next thirty years of this national model for community energy.

Latimer Award

John Taylor was honored with the prestigious Latimer Award at the District Energy 30th anniversary celebration for his commitment to and visionary leadership for renewable and community-based energy.  Taylor was invited by then chairperson former Mayor George Latimer to join the newly formed District Energy St. Paul Board of Directors.   He served on the District Energy and District Cooling boards for 18 years, including several years as board chair.  Learn more about John in our affiliate publication – EGE News.

District Energy Customers Elect Dr. Rassoul Dastmozd to the Board of Directors

Dr. Rassoul Dastmozd was elected in August to represent District Energy’s medium-sized customers.  Dastmozd is the president of Saint Paul College.  Prior to joining Saint Paul College, he served as vice president of instruction and workforce education at Clark College, the second largest community college in Washington State.  Dastmozd is a first-generation college graduate who emigrated from Iran in the late 70s. His secondary educational journey, launched at El Reno Junior College in El Reno, OK led him to Colorado State University in Fort Collins, CO where he completed his Ph.D. in 2006. His teaching career began at Indian Hills Community College in 1985, and he became a department chair in 1992.  Between 1999 and 2006, he served as an academic dean at Eastern Iowa Community Colleges District. Since 2005, Dr. Dastmozd has served as a mentor for the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) Mentor Link program. With an unwavering focus on student success and promoting diversity, Dr. Dastmozd believes that today’s colleges must “encourage a collective vision, promote collaboration and develop sustainable partnerships.”

Ask the Engineer – Transition from Cooling to Heating Season

A planned preventive maintenance program in the fall is the best way for operating engineers to avoid surprises during the heating season.  Proper preventive maintenance will extend the mechanical equipment’s service life, enabling it to operate at maximum efficiency.

  • Clean external surfaces of the heating coils, radiation elements and reheat coils.  Even with the best air filters in the fan units, dirt and lint lodges between the fins, plugging the coils and reducing proper heat transfer.
  • If draining the cooling coils, make sure they are completely dry on the inside by ducting warm air from the pressure side of the unit through the coil for several days/weeks.  Moisture droplets inside the coil are a breeding ground for bacteria that can wreak havoc on a piping system and damage copper coils.
  • Adjust or replace air-handling unit fan belts.  Fan belts should not be loose over the pulleys and sheaves.
  • Adjust fresh and return air dampers.  Check the gaskets on the damper blades to reduce air leakage through fresh air dampers when in the closed position.
  • Lubricate fans and motor bearings according to manufacturer recommendations.
  •  Inspect plate-and-frame heat exchangers for leaks and abnormal bulging of the gasket material.  Check uneven tightness on the individual bolts holding the frames and compare it with the recommended measurement on the shop drawings.  Bolts will loosen over time due to expansion and contraction.  Caution: a heat exchanger with constantly dripping water from the bottom or sides needs immediate repair.  Check the pressure drop through the heat exchanger. If it exceeds the noted shop drawing pressure drop, isolate and backflush the unit to improve flow and heat transfer.
  • Check the pneumatic controls, air compressor, and refrigerated air dryer for water log.  Provide an automatic water drain on the compressor tank or schedule a daily blow-down.
  • Check the control valves and the valve packing.  Replace the packing when water appears at the valve stems and clean the stems to remove grit buildup.  Adjust the valves and controls to eliminate “hunting.”  Check the primary and secondary loop temperature reset schedules and adjust them to maximize efficiency.

With preventive maintenance, you can protect your investment, enjoy reduced energy costs, and reduce the likelihood of a crisis.

Operating Engineers Seminar

Our Operating Engineers’ Seminar is planned for Tuesday, October 15.  We look forward to a great turnout, an excellent presentation, and the opportunity to network.  For more information, contact us.

Franchise Agreement Renewed

Saint Paul’s City Council unanimously approved the renewal of District Energy’s citywide franchise agreement at its meeting on Wednesday, September 25.