You have power.   

Your access to energy would have cracked human credulity for most of our species’ time on earth. For millennia, we elbowed away the margins of night with the smoking glow of wood, grass or buffalo chips. Just 200 years ago, whale oil and candles lit the homes of a slowly industrializing world—for those who could afford them. For those who couldn’t, wood remained the main source of light, heat and cooking, along with the coal that drovthat industrialization. Now, in an eye-blink of human history, we have become the beneficiaries of a world in frenzied motion.   

The energy we use never stops moving. It hurtles from point to point at velocities approaching the speed of light. It slowly plows the oceans in ships big enough to dwarf the fever-dreams of Pharaohs. It is explosive coal dust shot into a furnace, feeding flames five stories high hot enough to melt platinum. It is water roaring 600 feet down a pipe, turning a generator the width of a small house 100 times per minute. It is mazes of pipes and conduits, steam and heat, toxic and explosive chemicals, all combining to refine Jurassic sunlight into jet fuel and gasoline. It is today’s sunlight knocking electrons out of their orbits and into batteries and wires. It is the fission of a single uranium atom unleashing enough energy to make a grain of sand visibly jump, triggered by a neutron moving 1.4 miles per second in reactor spaces unimaginably dense with such reactions. This frenzied motion never stops, only occasionally slows, and makes our world—food, music, lighting, medicine, communications, trade, everythingpossible. 

As Americans, how does all this shake out? What drives our nation’s energy system today, and what will that system look like tomorrow? And what kind of future do we face as the consequences of this vast, and amazingly productive disruption become clearer? These are the kinds of questions this continuing series of short essays will try and provide some answers to.   

We are Metropolitan Energy Center. Part of our mission is to present the best information available on energy, its principles, power and drawbacks, whether it’s heating your house or powering your car. We’ll be covering a lot of ground–from the grid to the feedlot, and from alternative fuels to solar technology. We’ll touch directly on the projects we pursue and probe larger questions of energy policy. We hope that in the process we can hold your interest, provide food for thought, and perhaps puncture a few myths about what new technologies can and can’t do.   

Things are already moving fast, and we hope you’ll hop on board for this excursion.

As we all shift our routines in an effort to stay safe and healthy in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Metropolitan Energy Center is exploring ways to adjust to the new normal. We want you to know we share the collective confusion and frustration of our friends, neighbors, and colleagues. Please remember we are all in this together. Be patient, be kind. And if you need us, we’ll be here, because we have been for over 35 years.

What We’re Doing

As the situation evolves, we are continually adjusting our response. At this time, our dedicated staff are working from home, in consideration of the CDC recommendations and in compliance with the KC Metro stay-at-home order, effective Tuesday, March 25. We are finding innovative ways to support our communities and continue our technical support for regional alternative fuels and energy efficiency advancements.

Staff can best be reached by email, though phone calls are still welcome and will be routed to the appropriate staff as soon as possible on the day the calls are received.

For scheduled meetings and events:

  • All in-person meetings and events for the next 8 weeks are postponed, moved online, or cancelled.
  • Scheduled conference calls will go on and will now offer a web connection in case you are unable to join through a phone connection.

For projects and project deliverables:

  • Staff are conducting a COVID-19 risk assessment for all ongoing projects. If you are involved in a project and believe restrictions due to the crisis present a risk to you meeting your objectives, please notify your MEC staff contact immediately.

Hidden Costs and Silver Linings

This pandemic is something new for nearly all of us. Some Americans—those 75 and older—will remember the polio epidemic of the 1940s and 1950s. But for most of us, this means making changes in the ways we work, live and travel that we’ve never experienced before.

If there’s any sort of silver lining to this situation, it’s that finding new ways to work and move in the next months may lead to longer-term solutions that can improve health outcomes for everyone. COVID-19 is a respiratory illness, and good respiratory health is critical—now, in dealing with this disease, and for our community’s overall health in the future. MEC has worked for decades to cut toxic emissions with energy efficiency, cleaner fuels, intelligent transportation and building systems, and a cleaner, more efficient freight network. This work continues, with our diverse community and stakeholders in mind, and is more critical today than at any other point in history.

What You Can Do

#StayHomeKC. On March 21, elected officials in Jackson, Johnson and Wyandotte counties and the city of Kansas City, Missouri, announced a 30-day stay-at-home order. Other counties in the region have enacted various restrictions to help slow the spread of COVID-19. State and local guidelines are changing rapidly as more cases are confirmed.

For the latest information, check your local health department or city/county websites.

If you should venture away from home, please remember: exhaust irritates lungs. For the sake of those experiencing respiratory difficulty, turn off your engine if you will be waiting for a friend carpooling with you, for car-side delivery service, etc.

Take advantage of your reduced commute time to get outdoors more. Biking, walking and hiking can be done alone, with your pets, or in small groups adhering to social distancing practices.

Some outdoor volunteering opportunities may continue, in small groups adhering to social distancing practices, especially orgs doing wildland management, gardening and cultivation, tree planting, and the like. Carefully evaluate your host’s safety and health policies and practices before signing up. Due to the stay-at-home order, many of these events may be cancelled as well, so contact your host to confirm before showing up.

If you’re a volunteer and miss in-person group volunteering events, stay engaged through GlobalGiving. GlobalGiving’s virtual skilled volunteering platform, GlobalGivingTime, can match you with interesting opportunities from vetted nonprofits around the world, from the convenience of your desk.

Stay Informed

Metro KC officials are keeping PrepareMetroKC.org updated as new information becomes available.

As you know, this situation is continually shifting. We will monitor developments to adhere to federal, state and local advisories, and support the region’s efforts to protect the health and safety of the public.

Guest Blog by Jane Hinds; Edited by Natalie Phillips

City of Columbia, Missouri Water & Light was recognized as one of the Department of Energy’s 2019 ENERGY STAR Partners of the Year. The City also achieved this award in 2018. This prestigious accomplishment recognizes Water & Light’s innovative and inclusive approach
to energy efficiency and its efforts to iterate and expand offerings to reach new clients, and improve more homes and rental properties. Applicants are evaluated based on collaboration with other utility providers, the accessibility of their programming and
the extent of the “whole-house approach” being accomplished.

“We are very excited to earn this award for a second year,” Director of Utilities Tad Johnsen said. “Since we initiated our Home Performance with ENERGY STAR program, we have been tailoring our programming to better coordinate with our partners and meet community needs while supporting other City initiatives. Receiving this recognition validates our efforts and incentivizes us to work towards higher goals.”

The 2019 ENERGY STAR Award winners are industry leaders in the production and sale of energy-efficient products and services, and in the development and adoption of strategies that provide substantial energy and money savings in the buildings where we live and
work. Columbia’s Home Performance with the ENERGY STAR program uses a whole-house approach to energy efficiency and offers rebates and low-interest loans to help residents achieve their energy efficiency goals. Average Home Performance participants see a twenty-five percent savings on their heating and cooling costs.

This program was initiated in 2008 and the Utility has since introduced additional programs such as the Employee Outreach Program which offers employees free home energy efficiency assessments, Enhanced Home Performance and Enhance Your Attic which focus on increasing access to income eligible residents, and Attic Plus which incentivizes landlords to insulate attics in smaller duplexes and condos with less attic space. Water & Light staff members also provide a Building Performance Institute certified contractor training
program, and partners with local co-op Boone Electric, to create consistency to ensure that all Columbia’s residents have the opportunity to benefit from energy efficiency improvements.

For more information about the City’s programming, visit ColumbiaPowerPartners.com.

By: Mary English

Those that have been in the lighting business a long time can probably remember the struggle of energy efficient lighting: The product came into the market higher priced than their older cousins, the fluorescent light bulb. They were too bright. Too white. What was the benefit?

The benefit, it turned out, was energy savings. Lots and lots of energy savings. (Some would say the aesthetics have since caught up to this benefit as well.) However, since the habit was to change out light bulbs once the old ones aged and burned out, the lighting retrofit took a while to gain traction.

We now find ourselves in the same situation with a new product package in the commercial market: the humble motor, fan, and VFD packaged retrofit for HVAC and refrigeration.

HVAC takes up to 30-50% of your utility bills according to the US Department of Energy and field experts — and the vast majority of commercial properties are wasting money on inefficient equipment. This is due to manufacturers cutting costs with the original cheaper components to boost margin. One of these main components is the motor that drives the air flow in forced air systems.

There has been a new kid in town for quite some time, but it remains virtually unknown to those in the energy efficiency business: electronically commutated motors (ECM). These motors are 70% more efficient than their older cousins, the shaded pole motor.  This technology has been around for decades, but has remained virtually unused since it hasn’t been mandated by code.

The mandate for brand new equipment is about to change from the DOE this June for brand new installs, but this still leaves almost 90% – including relatively new systems – in HVAC and refrigeration installed with these old motors that burn through your utility dollars much like the old incandescent light bulbs. Most people upgrade their equipment when it breaks down, just like businesses waited until their light bulbs burned out in the old days. This thinking is short sighted, especially when you see how much impact on energy use a new motor retrofit can have on your bottom line.

A Kansas City based company – FridgeWize – is out to change minds and bring awareness to this opportunity in the commercial market.  They are uniquely positioned in that they are the only company in the U.S. with a business model to retrofit high efficiency ECM’s to end-user businesses and property owners nationwide.

Founded in 2010, they have already done retrofits nationwide in major chain restaurants. One such nationwide retrofit saved over 5-million kilowatt hours (kWh) over 450 restaurant locations – that is the equivalent of a 2 megawatt solar field (at almost five times less the cost of renewable installs). For energy wonks, the numbers are fun to see. In refrigeration, FridgeWize consistently sees 80-90% energy savings when retrofitting an old shaded pole motor with an ECM and their own carbon fiber blade where they have a patent pending (see Image 1) on the walk-in cooling units.

Image 1. Testing measurement of energy pull via amps from old motor (Base Line) to new ECM and carbon fiber blade for walk-in storage refrigeration.

In more traditional HVAC air delivery – such as roof top units, air handlers and VAV fan boxes – the kWh savings are not as aggressive, but still better than any other more common retrofits in the industry; and roughly 10% the cost of replacing an entire HVAC system. FridgeWize in several case studies has seen roughly 60% reduction in kWh’s on the power needed to operate the blower fans when using ECM’s along with a variable speed drive (VFD). This is illustrated in Image 2.

Image 2. Before and After an ECM plus VFD and smart card install on a roof top unit at a large manufacturing facility in the Kansas City area.

FridgeWize has seen validation in the last several years through international awards won in the industry. In 2016 they won the illustrious Energy Efficient Product of the Year for HVAC&R. The firm’s CEO, Ryan Grobler, was presented the award in London after beating out high profile products from the likes of Mitsubishi and Samsung manufacturers.

“We are excited to be in Kansas City as this community thrives in sustainable leadership. We have been flying below the radar, but with the aggressive rebates being offered by KCP&L for our products, we don’t think we will be a secret much longer,” said Grobler. “With the rebates, we’re looking at return on investment for these retrofits in 1 – 2 years max.”

The rebates Grobler mentioned are the 75% HVAC bonus rebate being offered by KCP&L through September of this year, or when the money runs out – whichever comes first.

For more information on FridgeWize and their retrofit products, they can be reached at 913-579-8484 or info@fridgewize.com.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

ENERGY SOLUTIONS HUB with Metropolitan Energy Center can help you save on energy costs and live in a more comfortable climate year round.

“Speed Greening” – Speed Dating, Energy Efficiency style!

Media contact: Beth Pauley, beth@metroenergy.org

Tuesday, August 21st

402-469-4091

 

Kansas City, MO – Metropolitan Energy Center is joining Kansas City Power & Light, Spire Energy, and fellow energy enthusiasts to host a “speed greening” happy hour!  Speed Greening is the energy efficiency equivalent of speed dating, where guests will have the opportunity to meet their choice of energy solutions vendors in a quick, informal round-table.

Kansas City residents are becoming accustomed to extreme weather patterns, and these energy efficiency measures will decrease the overall environmental impact your energy use has in the community.  Best of all, they are cost-efficient and will eventually pay for themselves.

This is a great way to simultaneously tackle your costs and slow the future effects of climate change by reducing your building’s greenhouse gas emissions.

This event will also introduce you to the MEC’s Energy Solutions Hub, which is a metro-wide continuation of the great work the Kansas City Energy Project began to improve the energy efficiency of buildings in Kansas City. Ticket price includes admission as well as refreshments, including happy hour beverages.

Although our Energy Solutions Hub is new, we have been local leaders for energy efficiency for 35 years. If you cannot attend the networking event and want more information on how you can live in a comfortable climate without burning your pocket book, contact Sara (Sara@metroenregy.org). We can help you develop a request for proposals to send out to potential auditors, evaluate their responses, schedule your audit, and file your rebate.

Time/Date:

Thursday, November 16, 2017 from 10:30 AM to 1:00 PM (CST)

Location:

MARC Boardroom | 600 Broadway Blvd #200 | Kansas City, MO 64105

Description:

Energy Efficiency and Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) provide increased support for strong local economic development. This event will provide economic developers and municipal leaders information on Kansas City Power & Light’s energy efficiency offerings, specifically who can take advantage of them and what the expected local impact of these offerings can mean for your community. Additionally, hear about PACE’s impacts on your community and how you can use it to increase economic development locally. Join us for this free event!

Speakers:

PACE for commercial properties

  •    Show Me PACE – Commercial PACE (Josh Campbell)
  •    Missouri Clean Energy District – Residential PACE (John Harris)

Energy Efficiency for commercial properties

  •    Kansas City Power and Light (Kevin Brannan)

PACE Case Studies

  •    Municipal Speakers (Dennis Murphey, City of Kansas City; and City of Independence invited)
  •    Residential PACE (John Maslowski, Renovate America)
  •    Commercial PACE (Rob Shear, PACE Sage, and property owner)

 

 

Metropolitan Energy Center invites you to our second Home Energy Open House on Saturday, October 21st from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM at 917 Emmanuel Cleaver II Boulevard in Kansas City, MO  64110.  It’s is all about home energy efficiency, and how you can make it a reality in your home.  This free event is open to the public.

Anyone interested in learning more about home energy efficiency, long-term utility savings and how efficiency lets you live more comfortably is welcome.  You’ll be able to meet with energy efficiency experts and contractors, get up to speed on utility rebates for home energy improvements, or learn about adding solar power to your home.

You’ll also be able to tour Project Living Proof,  MEC’s energy demonstration site.  This 100-year old house was completely gutted and rebuilt with multiple energy-saving and renewable energy technologies. It’s a fascinating look at what’s possible with an existing property, and we enjoy introducing it to our guests.

We’ll also feature free drinks and snacks.  Parking is available at the Anita B. Gorman Discovery Center, 4750 Troost, Kansas City, MO  64110.  From the Discovery Center parking lot, look for the wooden walkway to Project Living Proof and enter through the back door.

Please contact David Albrecht at (816) 531-7283 with any questions.  Hope to see you there!