Focus on Energy helps companies save energy – and money
Despite the current slowdown in spiking energy prices, businesses in the New North are still actively looking to improve energy efficiency and reduce costs. Many turn to Focus on Energy, a Wisconsin collaborative of investor-owned utilities and energy efficiency experts, for technical and financial assistance.
“Energy costs are volatile,” says Amanda Wollin, marketing manager for Focus on Energy’s business programs. “Even though they’ve stabilized recently, overall they are likely going up. Helping businesses – large or small – understand their energy costs are controllable helps their bottom line either way.”
Focus on Energy works with Wisconsin businesses to identify and install cost effective, energy efficient and renewable energy projects. In 2007, more than 12,000 businesses participated in Focus on Energy programs. The organization also has a residential services arm. Focus information, resources and financial incentives help implement projects that otherwise would not be completed, or complete projects sooner than scheduled. Focus on Energy’s technical and financial aid services are free to those who meet eligibility requirements.
“Helping businesses implement smart, energy efficient decisions is our mission,” says Wollin.
When the assets of the former Badger Paper Mills of Peshtigo were sold in 2005, and the company re-started operations as BPM, it joined forces with Focus on Energy and utility provider Wisconsin Public Service to find efficiency improvements.
“It really started with us questioning how we were using energy, and how we could do things differently and better,” says BPM’s plant manager Jim Koronkiewicz. “Our staff, along with Focus on Energy and WPS reviewed plant operations, examined equipment and identified projects that would make an impact at the mill. We identified a variety of projects, put a plan together and moved forward.”
BPM received $94,000 in financial incentives from Focus on Energy to conduct the study, and ultimately installed a more energy efficient boiler system. BPM invested $1.25 million in the new system that is capable of delivering 85,000 pounds of steam per hour to two large paper machines.
The energy-efficient equipment reduced BPM’s natural gas consumption by more than 15 percent. That translates to about $745,000 in energy savings annually. Additionally, it eliminates more than 5,500 tons of carbon dioxide emissions, equivalent to taking more than 800 cars off the road.
BPM also replaced a steam drive with a variable speed electric drive on one of its paper machines, improved mill facility lighting and found ways to run existing equipment with significant energy reductions. The company received funding from Focus on Energy to help finance each of these energy projects. And, there are more energy projects on the horizon at BPM. From paper machine steam studies to pump studies, the company continues to seek out energy-saving improvements that will impact the bottom line.
“These efforts will help us keep BPM a strong, competitive specialty paper company right here in Wisconsin,” says Koronkiewicz.
SUITE LIFE MADE SWEETER
Hotel Sierra of Green Bay, formerly the Regency Suites Hotel, leveraged Focus on Energy’s expertise and $10,500 in financial incentives to complete energy efficiency projects that will save $25,000 in annual energy costs.
“When we underwent a name change to Hotel Sierra, we also completed an extensive remodel to increase the luxury of our suites, which is important for a full-service, all-suite hotel,” explains Blaze Brigman, general manager of Hotel Sierra. “The energy efficiency projects are our way of being environmentally responsible, while enhancing the comfort of our suites to match their aesthetic appeal – giving our customers the ultimate in what we call comfortable luxury.”
Projects completed at the 242-room all suite property in downtown Green Bay include:
» Guest room energy management controls, which reduce energy use in rooms not occupied by guests.
» Kitchen exhaust ventilation which delivers the appropriate fan speed required to match the input air, resulting in less energy used.
» Chiller and boiler controls that ensure all hotel spaces are heated and cooled adequately, but only as needed.
» Bathroom ventilation controls that optimize the ventilation rates in bathrooms and operate only as needed, as opposed to 24 hours a day.
“All types of businesses, large and small, can benefit from Focus on Energy’s expertise, and we try to make it as easy as possible to get started by offering an initial consultation via our toll free number or through our website,” says Wollin.
Advisors with expertise in sectors such as agri-business, industrial/manufacturing, commercial or consumer services, education and government facilities can help businesses identify their needs, conduct energy evaluations and identify potential funding sources to implement capital projects.
Since it was founded in 2001, Focus on Energy has helped Wisconsin businesses save $120 million in annual energy costs.
“Although we face some economic challenges in the coming year, we will continue to offer the same incentives as in the past for lighting, HVAC, boiler system and other upgrades,” says Wollin. “And, there are new incentives for ground source heat pumps (geothermal), as well as programs targeted to information technology centers and call center providers. Whether business owners are driven by a desire to reduce costs or protect the environment, energy efficiency is a win-win, and we are here to help them achieve it.”