energy

Lighten the Load with DEP and Safeway

Lighten the Load with DEP and Safeway
Get up to 3 LEDs and a free reusable bag at an upcoming Safeway event!

Bring in your old incandescent or CFL light bulbs and DEP will exchange them for up to 3 new and energy efficient LEDs. The ENERGY STAR®-certified LEDs we’re giving away offer a warm white light that’s equivalent to a 60-watt incandescent bulb.

Not only will you save money by getting free LEDs, but also you’ll pocket money from lower electric bills. You could cut your utility bill by at least $25 per year by replacing five traditional, incandescent bulbs with LEDs.

LED prices have declined 85 percent in recent years, and bulbs can be bought for as little as $2 to $5.

   

Mondays from 4-6pm at a Safeway near you:


 

  The giveaway is a partnership between Department of Environmental Protection and Safeway. DEP Logo Square Safeway

Updates to ENERGY STAR® building metrics coming this August

Updates to ENERGY STAR® building metrics coming this August
If you benchmark one or more properties in ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager®, you’ll likely see a change in your buildings’ 1-100 ENERGY STAR scores and other source energy metrics after August 26, 2018.

That’s because EPA is updating performance metrics in Portfolio Manager based on the most recent market data available. This is part of EPA’s standard process to keep ENERGY STAR metrics as current as possible, and reflective of current market performance.

 

Which property types will be affected?

Because source energy metrics are being updated, all buildings benchmarking in Portfolio Manager are likely to see a change in at least some performance metrics. The following 1–100 ENERGY STAR score models will also be updated:
  • Bank branches
  • Courthouses
  • Financial offices
  • Hotels
  • Houses of worship
  • K-12 schools
  • Offices
  • Retail, including retail store and wholesale club/ supercenter
  • Supermarkets
  • Warehouses, including refrigerated, non-refrigerated, and distribution centers
 

How will this impact my ENERGY STAR score?

The 1-100 ENERGY STAR score compares your building’s energy performance to that of similar buildings nationwide.

The most recent market data available shows an overall improvement in the energy performance of the U.S. building stock in recent years. So when Portfolio Manager metrics are updated this August, ENERGY STAR scores and other performance metrics will, on average, go down.

Exact score changes for specific buildings or portfolios will not be available prior to the August 2018 release. Your individual building’s ENERGY STAR score may increase or decrease, depending on your energy use, fuel mix, business activity, property type, and other variables.

  ENERGYSTAR score updates overview  

What else is changing besides updates to 1-100 ENERGY STAR scores?

In addition to updates to 1-100 ENERGY STAR score models, there will be two other changes included in the August 2018 metric updates:
  1. Data center estimates: There will be a new option to use estimated energy use for data centers. This option is designed for smaller data centers, within another property type, and where it’s not practical to measure IT energy use.
  2. Source energy factor: The source energy factor helps level the playing field for different fuel types by tracing the energy requirements of the building back to the raw fuel input (coal, gas, steam, hydro, etc.). Based on the national average, the new national source electric factor will be slightly lower. However, performance metrics could increase or decrease depending on the building’s fuel-mix ratio, though changes based on this update alone with be comparatively small in magnitude.

 

What is the new available market data?

For most types of commercial buildings, the 1–100 ENERGY STAR score is based on the Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey, which is conducted every four years by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration.

The latest CBECS data became available in 2016 and is based on the results of the 2012 survey.

 

When will the changes take effect?

The release date for all updated metrics is August 26, 2018. Users will see the updated metrics when they log in to Portfolio Manager on Monday, August 27.

The new calculations will be applied across all time periods, which means your scores and metrics for all historical benchmarking data will change—however if you previously earned the ENERGY STAR for your building, your building will be able to retain that recognition.

After the metric updates are implemented, EPA will not be able to provide “before and after” score changes for individual buildings or portfolios. If you anticipate needing to document changes, you can download your pre- and post-update metrics in Excel using Portfolio Manager reports. Instructions for downloading those reports are available here.

 

Can I apply for 2018 ENERGY STAR certification early?

YES! Apply now for ENERGY STAR certification…especially if your score is close to 75.
  • Applications submitted by July 26, 2018 will be assessed using currently available (pre-update) scores. Applications received before July 26, 2018, and which require no significant follow-up or changes, will be guaranteed to be approved and awarded certification using the existing score models.
  • Applications received July 26 – August 26 are not guaranteed to be approved prior to the score changes.
  • Applications received after August 26 will be evaluated using the updated score models.
All buildings that earned 2017 ENERGY STAR certification will be eligible to apply for 2018 certification using a “Year Ending Date” of April 30, 2018 or earlier. Note that EPA will not rescind prior ENERGY STAR certifications.

 

How can I learn more?

Visit energystar.gov/scoreupdates for details about the updates, guidance on how to prepare for the updates, and a communication toolkit for sharing this news with your stakeholders.

You can also join a webinar or view a recorded webinar at https://esbuildings.webex.comtto learn more.

Montgomery County homeowners with modest income are invited to apply for upgrades under the Homeowner Energy Efficiency Program

Montgomery County homeowners with modest income are invited to apply for upgrades under the Homeowner Energy Efficiency Program
Montgomery County is launching a Homeowner Energy Efficiency Program to benefit a limited number of qualified residential customers. The program provides improvements to reduce electric bills for homeowners with modest income while also reducing the load on the electric grid. County homeowners of all ages may apply, but applicants age 62 or older will receive priority. To be eligible for the program, individuals must:
  • own and occupy the Montgomery County home for which they are requesting services;
  • be a PEPCO customer; and
  • meet certain income criteria (e.g., maximum income ranging from $52,550 for a one-person household, up to $99,100 for a household of eight or more persons.)
Montgomery County manages the Homeowner Energy Efficiency Program and has allocated $1.3 million during Fiscal Year 18, with the potential to allocate additional funds in the future. The County has selected Habitat for Humanity of Metro Maryland to assess the program eligibility of each individual applicant and, as funds are available, to identify needed energy upgrades for qualified households. The County also arranges with contractors to install appropriate materials and equipment in qualified homes. Homeowners benefitting from the program will receive free energy-efficiency upgrades to their home which may include attic insulation, upgraded furnace and air conditioning units, water heater replacement, LED light bulbs, a solar-powered attic fan, a programmable thermostat and new appliances. Interested homeowners can find more information and apply for the Homeowner Energy Efficiency Program   Habitat for Humanity
The Homeowner Energy Efficiency Program is funded by proceeds from the merger of Pepco Holdings Inc. and Exelon Corporation. Montgomery County’s support for the merger resulted in $41 million of funds to the County to create programs benefiting Pepco customers in Montgomery County. Additional benefits include a $100 bill credit per Pepco residential customer; improvement of utility reliability and recreation infrastructure; and investments in energy-efficiency, renewable energy and job creation. These funds are administered by the County’s Department of General Services.

CleanChoice Energy and Takoma Park partner for clean energy community campaign

CleanChoice Energy and Takoma Park partner for clean energy community campaign
CleanChoice Energy, a renewable energy company providing 100% clean electricity to customers, has been chosen by the City of Takoma Park to supply residents and businesses with renewable energy on an opt-in basis. The new partnership reflects Takoma Park’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions citywide. Through the partnership, residents and businesses have the opportunity to support 100% Maryland-based clean energy furthering the regional benefits of clean air, water and jobs.   Enter the TKPK Neighborhood Energy Challenge   The City has long purchased 100% wind electricity through renewable energy credits for its own operations. In 2014, the City adopted a Sustainable Energy Action Plan with seventeen key strategies to reduce emissions. In 2016, the Mayor signed the Global Covenant of Mayors, and in 2017, pledged to uphold the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. Now, the City is helping local residents and businesses to reduce their own carbon footprint by making the switch to clean energy. Electricity use is responsible for approximately a third of the typical American household’s carbon footprint. “CleanChoice Energy can help Takoma Park residents and businesses make the switch to clean energy simply and affordably,” said Kate Stewart, Takoma Park Mayor. “We’re proud of the efforts Takoma Park has taken to reduce our carbon pollution and be a national leader in sustainability. Helping our residents and businesses reduce their own footprint by choosing clean energy is the next logical step.” “CleanChoice Energy’s goal is to make it easy and convenient to switch to clean energy,” said Tom Matzzie, Founder and CEO of CleanChoice Energy. “It will take Takoma Park residents and businesses only five minutes to get off dirty energy, but the impact they will be making is huge. The average family will be reducing their carbon pollution by thousands of pounds a year.”   Image of a wind farm   The City of Takoma Park chose CleanChoice Energy based on an open RFP and by conducting research on rates, business reliability, and contract terms. CleanChoice Energy offers only 100 percent renewable energy products to American homes and businesses. The company has made it easy for people to choose clean energy as-a-service instead of as a home construction project. CleanChoice customers have avoided more than 3 billion pounds of carbon dioxide emissions—the equivalent of not burning more than 1.6 billion pounds of coal. City of Takoma Park LogoCleanChoice has made social responsibility a core value and has provided over $1.5 million in support to more than 50 nonprofit environmental and social impact organizations. CleanChoice Energy’s giving has powered it to the highest level of B Corp certification, with a company score 50 percent higher than the required score for B Corp certified companies. Takoma Park residents and businesses interested in making the switch to clean energy can sign up at CleanChoiceEnergy.com/go/Takoma or by calling 1-800-218-0113.   CleanChoice Energy

Seeking Solar: Homeowners turn to the sun for an energy assist

Seeking Solar: Homeowners turn to the sun for an energy assist
Easier to install than ever, solar power is proving to be a go-to for homeowners looking to reduce electricity costs as well as their greenhouse gas emissions. Solar power is arguably the cleanest and most reliable form of renewable energy available. As a result, many Montgomery County residents are considering it to help power their homes.  

But how easy is it to go solar?

According to Bala Srini, an area homeowner who has worked for more than a decade as a green building consultant in Montgomery County, the process isn’t too complicated. “I was keen to explore solar to reduce my environmental footprint and also my first energy bills,” he said. “Going solar was an easy answer for me to cut down my personal carbon footprint.” In September 2016, Srini and his family moved into their new single-family home in Clarksburg. “I started to call and talk to solar companies within three to four months of moving,” Srini said. Eventually he narrowed it down to two companies, both of which completed a site survey and gave a preliminary design in March 2017. By August, everything was finalized, although installation didn’t happen until the next January because black mat finish PV panels were requested, which took a bit longer. The new system produced 296.5 kilowatt-hours (kWh) in the first two weeks and will generate about 600 kWh per month, or 7,200 kWh for the year. In 2017, the family averaged about 528 kWh of electricity consumed per month (6,335 kWh for the entire year) – which means the system will meet or exceed 100% of the electricity his family will use.   Solar Unit on House

Ways to Save Energy

If a homeowner wants to have a solar system installed, there are several options. Buying the entire system requires cash upfront, but selling renewable energy certificates (RECs) could help offset the initial out-of-pocket costs. This option also allows the homeowner to benefit from federal and state tax rebates and credits. Using a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) reduces the upfront costs to zero, but many solar companies require homeowner contracts to purchase all the power that the system produces at a locked-in rate. Srini chose this option and was able to get a guaranteed rate of $.08 per kWh, which is better than the Maryland state average of nearly $.13 per kWh. Leasing agreements are similar to PPAs, but the homeowner also pays an additional cost towards the equipment, which they will then own at the end of the contract. If your home isn’t a good candidate for solar, you can participate in the Maryland Community Solar Pilot Program, which allows you to either purchase or lease a “share” in a community solar project or start a project with your neighbors. An energy bill credit is received each month for the energy your share produces. This program also gives renters and apartment dwellers a way to support solar power.  

A close-up view of Srini’s solar readings

  Other solar options include participating in a solar cooperative, where homeowners take advantage of collective buying power to install PV systems more economically. Montgomery County is home to a number of successful solar co-ops, thanks to the organizing efforts of the Solar United Neighbors of Maryland. If your home already has solar, you can add energy storage to your system, which allows for energy storage during the day to be used at night or during a power outage.  And if you install energy storage in 2018, there is a new Maryland state tax credit you can take advantage of for both residential and commercial properties.  

Trimming the Fat

In addition to the solar conversion, Srini did a few other things to help make his home more energy efficient, including changing almost all of the light bulbs from the CFLs the builder supplied to LEDs. He also used a $150 Washington Gas rebate to get a Nest thermostat (final cost was $100) with a second Nest Thermostat provided for free by his solar company. Both of them are controlled from a smartphone, as are outdoor porch and garage lights, the garage door, and the security system. “All of these controls give me more ways to save energy,” Srini said.  

Where to Start

The best way to see if solar is right for you may be to just call a North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP)-certified solar installer and ask questions. “I highly encourage all homeowners to consider talking to residential solar companies, even if you don’t have any idea what is this all about,” Srini added. “The best way to go about it is to contact at least three solar companies, short list at least two to do your roof survey and prepare your design. With that design and offered panels, compare them both and select one company. Also get them to explain all available options to buy/lease or power purchase agreement. Talk to them about warranty issues too.”

Your Story: Homeowner navigates the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR Program

Your Story: Homeowner navigates the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR Program
Interested in lowering your home’s energy bill?  Take advantage of your utilities’ Home Performance with ENERGY STAR program.  If you are new to this program, view our recent blog on the steps to apply. Read Julia Kalloz story below for an in-depth look at the program.   

The cover of your Energy Audit Report

Homeowner Julia Kalloz walked us through her experience with Home Performance with ENERGY STAR. Julia lives in a Pepco service territory so she began the process by finding a contractor from the PEPCO website of specially trained, Building Performance Institute-certified contractors. “You are able to see what certifications and experience they have and that was important to me,” Kalloz said. “It allowed me to vet several auditors and even find out what other people experienced.” The audit cost $100 (a saving of $300) and, Kalloz said, it is easy to schedule. It took about an hour, but appointments can take a little more or less time, depending on the size of the house (most last between 2- 4 hours). During the visit, simple and free incentives to help homeowners start saving energy immediately are provided.  The incentives include LED bulbs, water heater pipe wraps, showerheads and showerhead adapters, as well as faucet aerators and power strips. The contractor also looked at ways to reduce air leakage from Kalloz’s home by evaluating her large appliances, conducting a blower door test to evaluate air loss and a combustion test to see how efficiently the heating system was operating. Ten days later, Kalloz received a Prioritized List of Measurements – or a PLOM (a report detailing the improvements needed to cut home energy usage and what the potential savings could be) – that had been generated from the audit. Some of the contractor’s recommendations might not be in a homeowner’s budget, but the potential for long-term savings as well as the up to $7,500 PEPCO offers in rebates offer important incentives.  

Getting Home Improvement Rebates

Estimated Annual Energy Savings

Once you decide which solutions are the most feasible for your home and your budget, the contractor will have you sign a proposal for the improvements and the PLOM before reserving the rebates on your behalf. Once the rebate reservation is approved, homeowners have 60 days to complete whichever improvements they choose. For Kalloz, improvements included air sealing and insulation in the attic and basement. After the work was  done, part two of the audit – called a Test Out – is done to determine the final energy savings and rebate. When Kalloz’ auditor did hers, a post air sealing test was done which showed less air leakage from the home. Next, the contractor submits the application to PEPCO within 30 days of the installation and the homeowner’s rebate check arrives six to eight weeks later. “I recommend doing the things that are affordable first,” Kalloz, who was able to get about 50% of what she spent on improvements back via the rebates, said. “Do what makes financial sense for you. Even if they are not big dollar improvements, they still make a difference and they are important.” Even after waiting a few months once her audit was done to begin the improvement process, she said the air sealing and installation installed made a drastic difference in the drafts – and her PEPCO bill went down, too.
Written by Kimberly Hodges and Felicia Hodges

From energy audit to energy savings

From energy audit to energy savings
Who doesn’t dread the day the energy bill arrives? For homeowners, the arrival of the energy bill can send blood pressure through the roof, especially if they own an older home or are on a limited income. Thankfully, the state’s EmPOWER Maryland program helps homeowners reduce electricity consumption and save money with the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR Program. As a homeowner, it is quite easy to participate in the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR Program:

Step 1: Call your utility supplier.

Contact Pepco, BGE or Potomac Edison, and schedule the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR Audit. The cost is the same regardless of your utility at only $100 (a $400 value).  Some utilities may let  you choose your contractor.  

Step 2: Go through the Home Energy Assessment

A certified contractor will visit your home and perform a Home Energy Assessment. They will walk through your home with diagnostic equipment to perform a comprehensive home energy audit and determine how improvements throughout your home can work together to maximize energy efficiency and savings. Some of these tests may include:
  • A blower door test that uses the combination of pressure and airflow measurements to determine your home’s air leakage, which contributes to higher energy costs.
  • Thermographic camera tests that use infrared images to assess the effectiveness of your home’s insulation, which directly affects your home’s comfort and energy efficiency performance.
  • Combustion and safety testing to detect carbon monoxide and natural gas leaks.
  • Verification of adequate ventilation, which is critical to reducing indoor air pollutants, moisture and odors in your home. Without proper ventilation, some household contaminants can cause health problems, while excess moisture can lead to mold growth and physical damage to your home.
 

Step 3: Receive recommended energy-savings improvements

After the audit, a home energy expert will provide you with a comprehensive report with a Prioritized List of Measures to help you determine the best improvements for your home.  It will also provide a list of available rebates. The expert will help you identify energy efficiency improvements that may qualify you for 75 percent of the costs — or up to $7,500** — to cover energy-saving home improvements, including air sealing, duct sealing, insulation
 and HVAC equipment upgrades.  

Step 4: Schedule the work with a participating contractor and start seeing energy and cost savings.

“I have recommended [the program] to many people because people don’t realize how much energy they are losing – especially in older homes,” Murray said. “[The contractors] walk you through what will make your home more efficient and how you can save in the long run.”  

Seeing Results

For Kathleen Murray of Silver Spring, starting the process was mainly about making her drafty house more comfortable. “All the houses in [my] community are mostly older and big and…we all say we are freezing to death,” she said. “So I decided to have the audit to see what changes I could make to better the heat situation in my home.” Even after waiting a few months once her audit was done to begin the improvement process, she said the air sealing and installation installed made a drastic difference in the drafts – and her PEPCO bill went down, too. “I have recommended [the program] to many people because people don’t realize how much energy they are losing – especially in older homes,” Murray said. “[The contractors] walk you through what will make your home more efficient and how you can save in the long run.”   For a more detailed story on a resident’s experience with the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR program, read this blog.
Sections of this article written by Kimberly Hodges and Felicia Hodges

DYK: You can choose your energy supplier in Maryland?

DYK: You can choose your energy supplier in Maryland?
It is very common for Montgomery County residents to think that their only choices for an energy supplier are Pepco, Potomac Edison, or BGE. In reality you have many more options and freedom of choice. The state of Maryland began offering their residents the power to choose their own electricity provider in 1999. With this change, comes the ability to choose your retail energy provider, all of whom attempt to offer the most competitive rates and packages for state-wide electricity consumers. As a consumer, you can not only save on your monthly energy costs by shopping for lower rates, but you can even take advantage of green energy options, and choose to have your electricity come from renewable energy sources. When searching for a new energy supplier, you should make sure you do your research as my family recently learned.  
Chad's family

Chad’s Family

Lessons from a new MoCo resident

When I first found out my family and I would be moving to Montgomery County from Orlando, Florida, I knew I would miss the sunshine, but not the electric bill.  My electricity bill easily reached well over $300 per month starting in June and lasting into September; and it was not that much lower in the months before and after. However, when I came to Maryland I discovered a benefit I had never experienced. For the first time, I would be allowed to choose my own utility company. In Florida, residents do not have the option to shop around for utility providers. Instead, one is assigned according to the current address or zip code in which one resides. You can imagine what a benefit it can be for an energy provider to have no competition. As an energy consumer, being able to select an energy provider allowed me the ability to choose where the source of energy comes from. You can choose non-renewable sources like coal, gas, and nuclear, or renewable sources like wind, solar, and hydro. I could even decide to mix and match sources or select a provider based on price and location of the company. The pricing for my residence ranges between $0.0729 and $0.089 per kilowatt hour (kWh), which gives me a great price scope to choose what best works for me. There were two resources I used while trying to make a decision:
  • Maryland Clean Energy  provided a clear, simple, user-friendly formatted guide to make my selections, breaking down the necessary information for me to easily understand.
  • Clearly Energy  also provided a clear, and easy way to understand where my energy costs are going and how I could save. All I had to do was put my zip code into the search engine and I could find the best rates for my home.
Now, my monthly energy bill is not only less than what I have paid in the past, but lower than I would have ever expected.  It’s amazing how the needs of the consumer are catered to in such a beneficial manner here in Montgomery County.  It certainly makes me wonder why all energy consumers nationwide are not granted the same benefits.
Chad Baisden is a new Montgomery County resident who resides in Gaithersburg with his wife and two wonderful daughters.

Gaithersburg: Partner in Energy

Gaithersburg: Partner in Energy
At DEP, we truly believe that our partners are key to making Montgomery County as green as it can be. This “Partners in Energy” series profiles a local leader, advocate, or trailblazer who is dedicated to improving energy efficiency and helping the county realize its goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by the year 2050. Find out more about them in their own words.  This installment highlights Dyan Elizabeth Backe, Sustainability Coordinator for the City of Gaithersburg. Want to be featured as our next Partner in Energy? Send us an email!  
My Green Montgomery: When did you first become interested in energy and climate change?
Dyan Backe: My interest was first developed more broadly in the environment (before my interest more specifically in energy and climate change) … I grew up in both Florida and Maryland and spent portions of all of my summers on a lake in New Hampshire.  As a child, I was incredibly lucky to be exposed to the natural world in Florida, the mountainous regions in Virginia, and New Hampshire. My interest in working in an environmental field developed from an appreciation of the wonders found in the natural world.  
MGM: What do you find most interesting about energy issues in Montgomery County?
BACKE: I find energy issues fascinating due to the rapid pace of change in the industry and the role of innovation.  Our ability to problem-solve and find new solutions for energy efficiency is inspiring – and many of these developments occur quite literally in our backyard at places such as NIST and Goddard Space Flight Center. One of Gaithersburg’s newest Environmental Affairs Committee members (Melissa Goodwin) works at the American Geophysical Union and she has already shared sustainable building practices that the AGU is incorporating into their net-zero energy redesign at the headquarters in DC.   City of Gaithersburg Logo
MGM: Can you describe what you do in your role as Sustainability Coordinator?
BACKE: I work in the Office of the City Manager and coordinate with departments within the City on various sustainability initiatives, including energy, waste, and the tracking of greenhouse gas emissions. The City is a member of the Maryland Smart Energy Communities program and we are actively engaged in reducing our energy consumption at City facilities and in reducing the petroleum usage of the City fleet vehicles. During the upcoming year, one of the projects I will be working on is going to be exploring food waste collection and composting options for the City.  
MGM: How does your day-to-day work impact the City of Gaithersburg?
BACKE:  I endeavor to include the lens of sustainability to the work of the City. As one person, I can realistically work on a finite number of projects at any given moment; however, there are multiple partners both within and outside of the City workforce that inform and assist with my efforts. Internally, I work closely with the City’s Facilities team, the Stormwater Division, and with our Environmental/Forestry Planner. Externally, some of my partners include Montgomery County DEP, the Maryland Energy Administration, the Urban Sustainability Directors Network, the University of Maryland’s Environmental Finance Center, and the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.
Photo by Bob Drzyzgula

Photo by Bob Drzyzgula

MGM: What has been your proudest moment in your position?
BACKE: I am most proud of the work that a team of us completed in updating the Environmental and Sustainability Element of the Master Plan in 2015. I am also proud for the City of our certification as a Sustainable Maryland Certified community.  
MGM: What projects are you working on now that we should be watching?
BACKE: The City is very excited that we recently adopted Montgomery County’s benchmarking ordinance. This will enable us to encourage energy conservation on a broader scale – beyond the facilities owned by the City – and to make strides to reduce the greater community’s carbon footprint.  
MGM: What’s your favorite way to save energy in your home or workplace?
BACKE: I am a big supporter of solar power, which I have at my home. I would love to add a geothermal system, but my lot is constrained…so that will have to wait.  
MGM: Outside of your role, what other activities or interests do you have?
BACKE: I enjoy cooking, reading, traveling and being outdoors with my family. We like to visit Florida as often as we can and spend time on the water – fishing, paddle boarding, kayaking, and swimming. Dyan Kayaking