The Wave – March 2021

Note from our Team

We have some exciting news related to customer services to share with you. Before I get to that I would like to discuss the energy cost implications to our system during the month of February. This month customers saw an increase in their heating fuel adjustment on their February invoices. This was a direct result of the extreme cold weather from February 5th through the 18th resulting in significant nationwide natural gas curtailments and cost increases. Many utilities saw significant increases in cost, and while District Energy was also impacted, our fuel flexibility mitigated that impact for our customers. We anticipate our March heating fuel charges to decrease 10% from the February high. District Energy fuel costs are directly passed through to customers. We understand the impact any increase can have on customer budgets and work very hard to mitigate and protect against even short term increases in cost. Please get in touch with me if you would like additional information, my contact information is below.

This month we are rolling out two new programs for customers that we hope will support their building operations, access to data, and customer experience. First, we are in the final stages of design implementation for our Customer Portal, and we are very excited to provide you access to it. Developed in collaboration with a Saint Paul-based company, the Customer Portal will provide customers with an easy way to access their meter and account data with a variety of features to generate customizable reports to help customers visualize their information. A few customers are testing the platform this week, and we will continue to register customers on a rolling basis over the next month. Customers can expect to hear directly from our team about getting registered.

We are also launching a new application for our energy efficiency program. Customers can now apply for engineering support and project funds through an online application process. The application will serve as a screening tool to narrow down qualified projects. Selection will be made on a rolling basis, as resources allow, so there is not an annual deadline. Over the past several years we have provided support to customers working to improve their chilled water Delta T and hot water return temperatures to benefit overall system efficiency. We have also provided support to customer energy efficiency projects on a case by case basis, and we are now formalizing the application process in an effort to reach more customers.

Finally, like everyone, we are looking forward to more people returning to downtown Saint Paul. As your building occupancy increases or if you are planning to make changes to your building’s HVAC system, our team is here to help you work through any questions you have about your District Energy connection. Please reach out to me with any questions steve.rambeck@districtenergy.com or 651-925-8115.

Steve Rambeck
Director of Business Development

New Opportunities with Energy Efficiency Program

District Energy is deeply committed to helping our customers run efficient and high-performing buildings. During our nearly four decades of service to Saint Paul, our team has worked directly with customers to identify opportunities to save energy and operate building energy systems more efficiently. As a small, local utility, this program has been made available through regular communication with our customers and working one-on-one with customers to identify opportunities for improvement. With growing interest in saving energy and reducing carbon, now is the time for us to make sure that all of our customers can apply for engineering and financial support for their energy efficiency projects.

An energy efficiency program application is now available on our website. This form will serve as a screening tool to narrow down qualified projects. Selection will be made on a rolling basis, as resources allow. All customers who apply will be contacted by our customer service team to better understand the goals of their project and how our team can support efforts to save energy with new or existing resources. We encourage our customers to apply today. Contact our team with questions 651-297-8955 or info@districtenergy.com

New Customer Portal

Customer Portal landing page screen shotWe have entered into the final stages of development of the District Energy Customer Portal. The platform will provide customers with quick access to their energy usage and account details. The energy data will be available in various time increments, from monthly to 15 minute intervals, and updated at midnight each day. The Customer Portal provides charting and comparison tools that will provide customers with several ways to analyze their energy trends. In the next few months, we will be in touch with representatives from customer buildings about Customer Portal registration.

Engineering Support Saves PHA Time and Money

With building operators balancing a variety of responsibilities, District Energy engineers can provide specialized support related to the district energy mechanical interface, HVAC systems, and controls. Recently Jeff Volovsek, Senior Account Manager at District Energy, noticed an increase in energy use at the Wabasha Hi-Rise during a regular review of customer data. He reached out to the Public Housing Agency (PHA) to discuss the energy changes and suggested that a valve may be stuck on the customer-side system. PHA’s Maintenance Director Tim Angaran confirmed that Jeff’s intuition was right, saving PHA time completing the repairs.

When a phone call is not enough to answer a question or solve an issue, our engineers will visit a customer building to provide support. During building walk throughs and conversations with building operators, our team often finds no-cost and low-cost solutions for pressing issues and also opportunities for system optimization. This approach paid off for the PHA project. Tim said, “During this work, District Energy provided additional information to aid in the performance of our HVAC system. Their guidance led to other low-cost adjustments to maintain peak performance.”

Energy efficiency helps our customers save money and reduce carbon. We continue to improve efficiency in production and distribution while making strategic investments in equipment, controls, and metering. Providing customers direct access to meter data points through their BAS systems, and the new customer portal helps us tailor our approach to a building’s specific needs.

Jeff Volovsek and Tim Angaran
Jeff Volovsek and Tim Angaran

Tim describes this experience at PHA, “We consider our partnership with District Energy as an important part of our team to maintain the operation and performance of our HVAC systems at buildings served by District Energy. District Energy personnel offer a wealth of knowledge that is essential to understanding the services they provide and how to make the most of their sustainable energy source. We value their input on our shared goals to save energy and plan for the future.”

Call the District Energy team for help with your questions and energy projects. We can serve as the first line of assistance to guide building operators as they engage vendors and contractors, saving customers time, money, and energy. We can provide engineering support and potentially project funding. It was a pleasure to work with the team at PHA and in a small way support their mission to help families and individuals with low incomes achieve greater stability and self-reliance by providing safe, affordable, quality housing, and links to community services.

Snow Removal Made Easy

Snow melt system in sidewalkAlthough this March may not be one of the snowiest, it is a good time to remember that snow melt services are a great way to combat slippery sidewalks. Snow melt technology clears surfaces making them safer while eliminating the need to shovel snow, chip ice, or apply salt and chemicals. Snow melt systems warm sidewalks, streets, stairs, and parking lots by circulating a warm water and glycol mix through tubing installed below the pavement. The system can be set up to operate automatically based on conditions outside, making your snow removal hassle free.

New Director of Marketing and Public Relations

Jenae Batt and Nina Axelson
Jenae Batt and Nina Axelson

As we transition to spring weather, the District Energy team has another transition in the works. As of March 21, Jenae Batt has been promoted to Director of Marketing and Public Relations. Jenae joined the team in April 2014 and is recognizable for her work in storytelling, local planning, and developing tools, training, and education resources for our customers and the community. Jenae will be extending her work with customer-centric operations to some of Ever-Green’s other projects, but considering her status as our number one Saints fan, we are certain she will still be very involved with District Energy and our partners.

With one transition, often comes another. March 31 will be the last day for our Vice President of Sustainability and Outreach, Nina Axelson. Nina is taking on a new adventure as the founder of a clean energy accelerator, Grid Catalyst, which will be focused on northern climate solutions. We hope this new initiative presents opportunities for District Energy to demonstrate emerging technology in support of its carbon neutrality goals. We wish Nina the best of luck in her new venture.

Annual Report 2020

District Energy’s 2020 annual report has been published and is accessible on our website. In case you missed it, you can read the report here.

Ken Smith quote graphic