The Wave – April 2016

President’ Letter

Ken Smith
Ken Smith

The world is coming to Saint Paul to talk about energy. Now is the perfect time for this conversation as global energy systems are undergoing historic changes. During June 20-23, 2016, the International District Energy Association’s annual conference and trade show will be in town, and District Energy St. Paul is thrilled to be hosting this important event, with 1000 people expected from across the United States and over two dozen countries. This is an incredible opportunity to showcase our energy system and the region to our peers, other cities and campuses, and over 100 vendors providing services to this growing industry.

We worked closely with our partners at Visit Saint Paul to attract this large conference, and our city was selected because of our outstanding achievements in community energy, and the innovative work happening in the local energy sector. The Twin Cities region is home to dozens of district energy systems serving urban centers, campuses, health care, and private developments. Our region is providing leadership in the crucial areas of energy, infrastructure development, and the environment, with the intent of creating a more efficient, more cost-effective, and more sustainable energy system.

This year’s conference theme is Embracing Change. During the event, we will join local, national, and international leaders to outline the next big ideas to advance the energy future for communities and campuses. We see this conference as a timely opportunity to address important topics such as improving energy system resilience and efficiency, and reducing carbon emissions. District Energy St. Paul has worked for decades to address these topics and demonstrate solutions within our system. Our local facilities will serve as a feature tour for the conference goers, giving us the opportunity to share what we have learned in the advancement of our system and our plans for the future.

As we prepare to welcome the conference attendees to Saint Paul, we hope that our customers and local partners will help us to roll out the red carpet for this important event. Saint Paul and the region have so much to offer between the great restaurants, beautiful architecture, natural resources, and recreation. We can’t wait to share our story with the rest of the world.

Custom House is connected

Custom House
Photo by McGhiever CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Happy move-in week for Custom House tenants. We are pleased to welcome Custom House and their tenants to our local energy system that connects most of downtown Saint Paul. The Custom House is an exciting large-scale renovation project of the former US Post Office and Custom House building. The 1930s vintage, art deco building has been transformed into apartments, a hotel, and self-storage. The renovation highlights many of the building’s historic features which were restored during construction, including the beautiful lobby space that will create a grand entrance for residents and hotel guests. Custom House offers stunning views of the Mississippi River and Saint Paul as well as first-class amenities.

This is the first project in downtown Saint Paul for the Exeter Group. According to Herb Tousely, Chief Development Manager, the group was attracted to the Custom House site because the building offered stunning art deco features and unparalleled views of the Mississippi River and the city. Additionally, the floor plans in the main tower were ideal for housing and hotel conversions. Herb noted that, “There is a lot of positive momentum in downtown, and we have really enjoyed being a part of the renaissance that is happening here.” Herb and his colleagues have enjoyed watching the progress of this project. Herb shared, “The finished product has exceeded our expectations. It has been rewarding to see the reactions of the new residents that are moving into the building.”

District Energy is happy to contribute to this exciting project, providing Custom House with heating, cooling, and snow melt services. Our team has been working closely with Exeter to connect the building to the system and accommodate their needs throughout construction. Herb said, “We have really enjoyed working with District Energy. There are many benefits that come with using their services including 24/7/365 heating and cooling, which helps to eliminate heating and cooling issues in the shoulder seasons. By connecting to District Energy we avoided the need for the large unsightly HVAC plants, required by a more traditional cooling system, cluttering up our rooftop.”

At Custom House, the housing construction will continue through June. Self-storage services that will be located in a portion of the building that originally served as the Postal Service Annex will open in June. The Hyatt Place Hotel is targeted to open in September. The group is working to identify a restaurant that will occupy a portion of the first floor. The Custom House residents, guests, and amenities will be a wonderful component of the Saint Paul River Balcony project, including this September’s Prototyping Festival.

Congratulations to everyone involved in this immense project. We look forward to continued collaboration with the Exeter Group and service to this amazing building. Welcome to the neighborhood.

Customer Appreciation Day – May 24, 2016

District Energy is looking forward to our annual opportunity to celebrate and thank our customers, scheduled for May 24th this year. Customer Appreciation Day will take place in our new offices in the historic Jemne building on St. Peter Street. We will be offering tours of the building to give people a glimpse inside the building’s renovations, HVAC and mechanical upgrades, and to learn more about the history and architecture. Lunch will be served (RSVP is requested). 

District Energy demand and energy charges

District Energy heating and cooling service rates are comprised of two primary charges: the demand charge and the energy charge. Demand charges are primarily associated with the system costs for infrastructure, operations, and maintenance. The energy charge is a pass-through of the system energy costs based on our cost to secure fuels and electricity to produce hot and chilled water and does not include a markup. The energy charge varies by a customer’s usage.

District Energy utilizes a variety of fuels, which allows for increased reliability and the flexibility to avoid market fluctuations to keep costs stable. The energy charge is projected by District Energy and shared with customers at the beginning of each fiscal year. Throughout the year, the energy charge may be appropriately adjusted through the fuel adjustment charge to cover cost increases or decreases against the actual cost of the energy purchased.

District Energy customers have seen their hot water service invoices reduced recently, due to decreased energy costs. The March hot water energy charge totaled $20.00 per megawatt-hour (MWh) based on an energy rate of $25.59 per MWh and -$5.59 per MWh for the fuel adjustment. The March chilled water energy charge of $0.087 per ton-hour is based on an energy rate of $0.087 per ton-hour and no fuel adjustment charge. Fuel adjustment charges will change periodically based on changes in energy input costs.

We are glad to be able to pass this savings along to our customers. We are committed to providing our customers the most cost-competitive, reliable, and local energy option.

Welcome Nick Moody

Nick MoodyIn March, Nick Moody joined the District Energy operations team as Director of Production. Nick brings a wealth of knowledge in energy operations and equipment troubleshooting and optimization that he gained as a turbine-generator system engineer at the Xcel Energy at Prairie Island Nuclear Generating Plant and his service as a nuclear submarine officer for the United States Navy.

Nick is looking forward to contributing to the long tradition of providing Saint Paul customers with reliable service. He is also looking forward to applying his technical expertise to find opportunities to increase efficiency while maintaining reliability and reducing system costs. Nick said, “I feel like we have a great team at District Energy. Everybody is highly skilled and works hard to make this plant operate well. I look forward to being part of District Energy continuing to improve.”

Nick has a degree in physics from the University of Minnesota and a 1st Class A Boiler Engineer License.

EcoDistrict partners honored with Sustainable Saint Paul Award

sustainability awardThe partners of the Saint Paul EcoDistrict were honored on April 20 with the Sustainable Saint Paul Award in the category of sustainable partnership. The award recognizes individuals and organizations that have made a commitment to create a more sustainable Saint Paul. The EcoDistrict was made possible by the commitment of neighborhood partners including the Science Museum of Minnesota, Saint Paul RiverCentre and Xcel Energy Center, the City of Saint Paul, Visit Saint Paul, District Energy, Saint Paul Public Library, and Xcel Energy.

The partners’ commitment to sustainability has attracted students, local residents, and visitors from other cities to learn from the environmental innovations and sustainable practices within this four block, walkable area of downtown. From renewable energy to waste reduction, the practices within the EcoDistrict are demonstrated with the intention of encouraging other businesses and communities to explore and incorporate sustainability. Through a partnership with Climate Generation: A Will Steger Legacy, the EcoDistrict partners are finalizing a field trip curriculum to extend the reach, influence, and access to these technologies and applications.

While most people will experience the EcoDistrict through self-guided tours, the partners have hosted guided tours for several groups including the Solar America Cities partners, NOAA, the International Energy Agency, Central High School, and other local schools. Last week partners hosted a group of individuals from Nashville, TN, that are working on issues and opportunities around transit and development in their city. In early May, the partners will be hosting a tour of attendees for the USGBC Minnesota’s IMACT Conference.

Congratulations to all of the award winners that are doing great work in our city, including our customers CHS Field, Regions Hospital, and Landmark Center.

Earth Day clean up with Conservation Corps

Earth Day clean up
Jeff Volovsek, Customer Services Manager

One day before Earth Day 2016, our team members joined Conservation Corps Minnesota for Hands Across the River. On a very soggy spring day we enjoyed connecting with our neighbors while brightening up our corner of downtown Saint Paul along the Mississippi River and the site of the future River Balcony. Visit Conservation Corps’ website to find out how you can get more involved in hands-on environmental stewardship and service learning opportunities in your area.