In my time with District Energy St. Paul, I have been frequently engaged in conversations and forums about how the energy system is changing. Utilities, policy-makers, academics, and others are examining the way our society produces, consumes, and pays for energy. Significant system changes can often seem disconnected from the general public and more importantly, from the customers served by the system. In Saint Paul, energy consumers are using design, renovation, and construction methods to save energy and save money. At District Energy, we have carried forward a long history of working directly with customers to meet these goals. Now more than ever, they are interested in tracking their energy information and managing their usage. Many are also taking extra steps to improve building performance and in some cases, they are using these improvements to showcase their building for a market advantage or to share their commitment to the environment, while also saving money.
Several of our customers have already implemented plans to improve their energy and environmental profile, including the 5 buildings on our system that are LEED certified. The Saint Paul RiverCentre not only features the District Energy solar installation but has been pursuing their 80-20 in 3 program to reduce the operational carbon footprint of the entire convention and entertainment complex by 80%. Two of our newest customers, 213 E. 4th Street (home of the Bedlam Lowertown and CoCo) and the Lowertown Ballpark, are featuring creative sustainability practices. The Bedlam Lowertown restaurant and bar are making strides to source products from local vendors, reducing the cost and environmental impact of trucking while investing in the local economy. The Lowertown Ballpark will be installing solar panels for electricity generation and capturing rainwater for field irrigation and toilets.
I believe Saint Paul’s building owners and managers are part of a trend to create “smarter buildings” that are indicative of the technologies and practices we will commonly see in buildings of the future. Some buildings may not be positioned for major upgrades or initiatives, but they can still make small changes in building energy management to save money while making a difference. As a start, our customer buildings have the benefits of efficient and renewable energy from our services, so they are already above the norm compared to most other communities. Our team at District Energy is committed to helping our customers identify opportunities and technologies to improve energy efficiency. One of the ways that we approach this is to invest in the education and training of our customer service staff. Recently one of customer service engineers, Jonathan Martens, became a Certified Energy Manager. Please read Jonathan’s “Ask the Engineer” feature on saving money through load limiting.
In the effort to balance sustainability, efficiency, and cost-savings, I want to share the good news that we will not be increasing our heating or cooling demand rates for 2015. This is the fourth consecutive year that our demand rates have remained unchanged. At District Energy we are committed to providing reliable, value-driven services at cost-effective rates and we understand that this is also important to our customers. I look forward to continuing our efforts to partner with each of our customers to help them save energy and save money.
Saint Paul is brimming with anticipation as construction begins on the Lowertown Ballpark, future home of the St. Paul Saints, our local minor league baseball team. With 7,000 seats, the ballpark will also host youth and amateur baseball teams from across the region, as well as hosting over 100 non-baseball events each year. District Energy St. Paul is proud to be supplying the stadium with both heating and cooling services. Connecting the ballpark to our system provides renewable, reliable energy to the facility and leverages the efficiencies of our production and distribution system. Our team is particularly excited to incorporate emerging technologies customized to help the ballpark minimize both construction and operational costs. Our technologies and services also maximize the customer’s operational flexibility to manage the variability expected from their exciting event programming. Ballpark construction is expected to be completed in spring 2015.
213 East 4th Street
District Energy St. Paul is pleased to welcome our new customers at 213 East 4th Street. Originally a warehouse space, the office building is now home to business tenants, CoCo collaborative work space, the Bedlam Lowertown, and other businesses. Coco is a membership organization where independent workers, small businesses, and corporate workgroups can gather to share ideas, team up on projects and work — an alternative to working from home or meeting at the coffee shop. The Bedlam Lowertown celebrated their grand opening on May 31 and they are already very busy, sometimes hosting three events a night. The performance club features a variety of theatrical productions, music, dancing, and info-tainment, while the bar and restaurant feature locally sourced ingredients. The 21-year-old theater company will continue to work throughout the Twin Cities, but their primary performance space is their new Lowertown location. Building co-owner, Jeff Heegaard said, “The CoCo Building works to create increased sustainability, which impacted our decision to convert to District Energy. We are exploring further improvements to support our vision.” District Energy St. Paul is proud to be supplying the building with both heating and cooling services.
Rates Remain Stable for 2015 Outlook
District Energy and District Cooling have a long history of stable rates, with our combined demand and energy rates staying below the rate of inflation throughout our years of service. Over 3 decades for our heating service and 2 decades for our cooling services. District Energy and District Cooling will continue this commitment to rate stability by holding demand rates level for the fourth consecutive year entering into our 2015 fiscal year. As the energy markets continue to be volatile, we are proud to provide a predictable rate to our customers and a balanced energy rate from our mixed fuel basket of biomass-derived waste heat, natural gas, coal, and oil. Our rates have fluctuated less than the industry as a whole, and are lower than the industry average in our region.
As part of our annual budget cycle, we are in the mist of preparing each customer’s budget outlook, which will be shared with customers by late August. The budget outlook is based upon a building’s historic use of energy and helps our customers plan for their energy costs over the upcoming 12 month period from October 2014 to September 2015. The actual energy charges will fluctuate based upon usage. Please look for additional, direct correspondence regarding your 2015 budget. We will be hosting a customer meeting on September 11th, which is open for all customers to discuss the budgeting process. Please contact us if you have any questions about rates, terminology, or billing processes.
Ask the Engineer – Load Limiting: How District Cooling Meters Can Help Save You Money
Record cold this past winter left nearly everyone feeling the pinch of higher energy bills. With the cooling season now in full swing, many building operators are looking for opportunities to mitigate the impact to their operating budgets. To help our customers with these efforts, we would like to share one particular opportunity for savings through the reduction of their cooling demand.
District Cooling demand is based on the average of a building’s highest cooling peaks using a rolling 1-hour window recorded over the past two years. Demand is established as a fixed cost on the bill over 12 months, so small, incremental reductions can add up to big savings. The type of space usage within a building (residential, office, commercial) will often dictate which methods are available to reduce demand. However, it is true for all buildings that you cannot manage what you do not measure.
Thankfully, the new District Cooling meters can assist in doing just that. Coupled with a building’s automation system, District Cooling can provide an output from its meter that will show up-to-the-minute readings of exactly how much cooling demand (aka “tons”) a building is using. With minimal programming, the building operator can set a limit on how much cooling the building is allowed to take. This limit, along with some minor temperature resets in non-critical areas, can result in real reductions in overall demand.
If you think your building could benefit from additional programming and improvements or if you would like more information regarding best practices and available outputs from the District Cooling meter, please contact the customer service team Jeff Volovsek at email@example.com.
EPA Administrator Consults Saint Paul Experts
The Environmental Protection Agency Administrator, Gina McCarthy, visited Saint Paul, MN, to discuss the proposed Clean Power Plan that will limit carbon emissions from existing power plants. A draft of the federal regulations has been released for public comment. On May 28, 2014, the City of Saint Paul gathered a panel of experts, including District Energy President Ken Smith, to talk with McCarthy about the relevant work in our region. Smith noted that, “We are seeing a growing interest across the US in systems that use combined heat and power and microgrids to increase resiliency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” District Energy St. Paul is participating in these conversations to share our lessons learned from integrating technologies such as combined heat and power (CHP) into our system to maximize the efficiency of the fuel inputs, reduce costs, and lower the greenhouse gas emission profile for electricity and heat from our system. Video of Ken Smith’s comments.
IDEA Awards and Conference Participation
District Energy St. Paul received two Gold Space Awards at the 105th Annual International District Energy Conference in Seattle (June 2014). The first award recognized the Greatest Number of Buildings in North America, and last year District Energy St. Paul newly committed or recommitted 40 buildings totaling 8,568,194 square feet. The second award was given for the Most Square Feet Added in North America.
At the IDEA Conference, District Energy St. Paul had great opportunities to share our industry and project experience. Ken Smith, District Energy President and newly appointed IDEA Chair, participated in panels on the future of community energy and the industry as a whole. Smith also provided an overview of a recent State of Minnesota examination of condensing boiler efficiency. Mike Burns shared the company’s start-up and operational experience with biomass as part of the Woody Biomass, CHP, and District Energy Workshop. The company is excited to see how this year’s conference influences another year of transformation for the industry and is looking forward to hosting the conference in Saint Paul in 2016.
Ken Smith Named Chair of IDEA
Ken Smith, District Energy President, was named 2014-2015 Chair on June 10 at the 105th Annual International District Energy Association Conference in Seattle. He is the fourth leader from our organization to hold this esteemed position. Smith will continue promoting the community energy agenda for the industry with a focus on Inspiring the Next Generation. This theme refers to the next evolution of the power grid (microgrids), the continued modernization of district energy systems (ecodistricts and community energy), the platform for technology innovation, and the changing generation of people in our industry.