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.

Metropolitan Energy Center and Grain Valley School District, in conjuction with the national nonprofit Propane Education & Research Council, hosted the “Autogas Answers for Schools Workshop” Friday at the Courtyard Marriott Kansas City East/Blue Springs. The workshop explained the advantages of running school bus fleets on propane autogas and showed Grain Valley’s propane-powered school bus fleet in action.

“When schools choose to incorporate propane into their bus fleets, the whole community benefits,” said Kelly Gilbert, executive director of Metropolitan Energy Center and coordinator of Kansas City Regional Clean Cities. “This event was a fantastic opportunity for Kansas City school transportation officials to see how propane autogas buses are already working for the local Grain Valley School District. We hope everyone who attended left feeling empowered to make the best decision for their fleet, their students and their community.”

During the event, the Grain Valley School District provided a tour of their scalable propane autogas refueling infrastructure. As of January 2019, nearly 30 percent of Grain Valley’s fleet is powered by propane autogas. The Grain Valley Director of Transportation, Shawn Brady, plans to add seven more propane-powered buses by the end of the year.

Propane professionals expanded upon Grain Valley’s testimonial by explaining how propane-powered school buses can reduce a fleet’s emissions and offer the lowest total cost-of-ownership of any fuel, in part because of lower fuel and maintenance costs. Attendees also learned about clean transportation funding opportunities and networked with clean fuel industry professionals.

Nathan Ediger of Ferrelgas discusses propane infrastructure at Grain Valley SD.

The Autogas Answers for Schools Workshop was put on by Grain Valley School District, Metropolitan Energy Center, Kansas City Regional Clean Cities, Propane Education & Research Council, Missouri Propane Gas Association, the Kansas City Area Association of Pupil Transportation, and Ferrellgas. For more information about Metropolitan Energy Center, visit metroenergy.org.

 

About Metropolitan Energy Center: Metropolitan Energy Center is a non-profit and a catalyst for energy efficiency, economic development and environmental vitality in America’s Heartland. It is host of Kansas City Regional Clean Cities, a designated U.S. Department of Energy program, and Central Kansas Clean Cities. Learn more about us and our programs at metroenergy.org.

About PERC: The Propane Education & Research Council is a nonprofit that provides leading propane safety and training programs and invests in research and development of new propane-powered technologies. PERC is operated and funded by the propane industry. For more information, visit propane.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.

So, here we are in mid-winter, with months of seasonal utility bills looming. What to do if you’re looking to take a bite out of energy costs? There are plenty of DIY approaches—whole books of them, in fact. However, this article will cover the existing rebate programs available to KC-area residents if they’re customers of the area’s two main electric and natural gas utilities: KCP&L & Spire. These incentives fall into two major categories. First, major investments in equipment—i.e. furnaces, water heaters and central air systems. Second, incentives for air sealing and insulation. If you’re thinking solar, hold that thought—we’ll be looking at home solar options in some detail in the near future. 

An unfortunate note for those on the Kansas side of the Metro—these programs are, to date, available only in Missouri in each company’s designated services areas. Changes are likely coming in the wake of the Westar/KCP&L merger, but at this point we don’t know what or when. In addition, we strongly suggest that you read through the information available at the main pages for efficiency programs for both KCP&L and Spire for details on eligibility, timelines, process and paperwork. 

Before moving ahead, you’ll want to make sure what you’re doing makes financial sense. For HVAC systems, the Washington State University payoff calculator helps, and they’re not selling anything. 

 

Air Sealing and Insulation 

Doing air sealing and updating your insulation are two processes that go hand in hand. If you ask any home energy efficiency contractor, they’ll tell you that air sealing (closing the cracks and penetrations and chases in a house) is the most cost-effective approach to cutting home energy bills. Air sealing pays for itself in one to two years. Insulation comes next, and it pays for itself in three to four years.   

You may want to consider having a home energy audit done before conducting insulation and sealing. An energy audit (sometimes called a home performance assessment or other friendlier phrasing) will tell you precisely where your home is leaking air and provide a contractor a detailed map of where improvements are most needed. In many cases, the same home energy contractor who does the audit can also do air sealing and insulation and will write off the cost of the audit—typically $300–$400—if you hire them for the entire project. 

If you live in a leaky home, proper sealing and insulation could dramatically reduce your home heating and cooling needs and allow you to downsize your HVAC systems, so do this step first if possible! 

  • Available Incentives:  Both Spire and KCP&L offer rebates of $300 for home air sealing, and $500 for ceiling insulation. If you are a customer of both utilities, you can combine these offers for a grant total of $1,600 in rebates for home insulation. Detailed information on rebate totals and required levels of insulation are available here. 

Water Heaters 

Water heaters aren’t designed to last beyond 10 or (maybe) 15 years. Regular maintenance can extend the life of a unit, but setting this aside, today’s designs are as much as 20% more efficient than an existing model nearing the end of its useful life. Replacement costs vary, but general estimates range from $750 to $1,350, as of June 2018.   

Central Heating  

For modern gas furnaces, you can expect between 15 and 25 years of service. Like water heaters, modern units are far more efficient than old ones (a 94% efficient furnace rated at 80,000 BTUs puts out as much heat as a 100,000 BTU system that’s only 75% efficient). The key metric is AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency). This is important, as the rebates available through Spire require AFUE of at least 92%. This puts you squarely in the high-efficiency category, and you can expect to spend $3,000-$5,000 for a new system. In return, you can expect about 20% savings every year for the life of the system.   

  • Available Incentives:  $200 for a furnace of between 92% and 95% efficiency; $300 for a furnace with efficiency equal to or greater than 96%. Rebate applications are available online or can be downloaded in PDF format. 

Central Air Conditioning   

You can expect 15 to 20 years from a central air conditioner. And, as in previous categories, new units are substantially more efficient than old systems. In the case of central air systems, you need to look for the SEER number. The higher the number, the higher the efficiency (and the higher the KCP&L rebate). 

  • Available Incentives:  $125 to $400 for replacing AC systems, whether they’re currently working or not. Higher rebates are only available for equipment that is still operating—in other words, pre-failure. General rebate information available here, with detailed breakdowns on categories and rebate amounts available here.   

 David Albrecht, MEC Program Coordinator 

For fiscal year 2019 (July 2018 through June 2019), the Missouri Department of Natural Resources will fund $2.75 million in government truck repower and replacement projects.

Implementation Guidelines

Deadline:  Monday Dec. 31, 2018 at 5 p.m. CST.

Eligibility:  Qualifying applicants include government agencies that own eligible trucks:  “Government” shall mean a State or local government agency.  This category includes a school district, municipality, city, county, special district, transit district, joint powers authority, or port authority, owning fleets purchased with government funds.  It also includes a tribal government or native village. The term “State” means the several States, the District of Columbia, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

Key Program Requirements:

  • Eligible engine model years 1992-2009.
  • Eligible vehicles are Class 4-8 with GVWR greater than 14,000 pounds.
  • Older engine or vehicle must be permanently disabled.
  • New diesel, biodiesel, CNG, propane and all-electric engines are all eligible for funding.
  • The program provides up to 75% of the cost of an engine repower.
  • The program provides up to 50% of the cost of a new vehicle.
  • For this round, maximum request from a single applicant is $1 million.
  • Applications submitted through modnr.force.com.

After 35 years in the heart of Kansas City, Missouri, Metropolitan Energy Center and Kansas City Clean Cities are moving to . . . the heart of Kansas City, Missouri.  We’re upping stakes next week and heading just a bit west and north of our old digs at 38th and Paseo.

Our new office will be located just west of the Bank of America at the southwest corner of 31st and Main.  Our official address will be 31 West 31st Street, Kansas City, MO  64108.  Beyond that, our contact information will remain unchanged.  And just in case you’ve had issues making contact with MEC staff in the past few days – well, now you know why.

MEC Communications Coordinator Beth Pauley hard at work in our new offices.

At the moment, the office is a maelstrom of boxes and cardboard and packing tape and long-forgotten teapots and scuba diving gear (no, seriously – it’s amazing what you find when you’re in the middle of moving).  And while we’ll miss our old home, we’re looking forward to a cool new location.  Fittingly enough, it’s in a building that was restored and rebuilt – just our style.

When you drop by, feel free to park in the lot immediately east of the office – just don’t park among the U-Haul trucks on the west wall of the lot.  There are spaces right in front of 31 West 31st, but it can get a bit tight backing out when leaving during rush hour.

We look forward to welcoming you to our new space, and to more great years ahead!

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CELEBRATING 35 YEARS – Metropolitan Energy Center is celebrating 35 years of energy transformation in the heartland

Join us to celebrate 35 years of energy efficiency achievements, and to support the future of energy conservation and clean transportation in the heartland.

Media contact:  Beth Pauley, beth@metroenergy.org

402-469-4091

Monday, October 22nd

MEC 35th Anniversary Gala

Lifted Spirits Distillery

November 9th, 2018

5:30 – 8:30 p .m.

1734 Cherry Street

Kansas City, MO 64108

Kansas City, MO – Metropolitan Energy Center has a long history of providing energy efficiency resources at the local and regional levels.  This year, we are celebrating 35 years of energy transformation achievements in the heartland.  MEC invites the community to celebrate alongside the stakeholders who have made these achievements possible.  Additionally, attending this event will serve as a launch pad to support the future of energy conservation and clean transportation.

Some of the notable accomplishments and partnerships MEC is celebrating include:

  • Participation in Electrify Heartland and collaborating with KC P&L and Black & Veatch to establish Kansas City as the healthiest ecosystem for Electric Vehicles in the country.
  • Participation with the City Energy Project to develop a set of policies and programs to encourage energy efficiency.
  • Launched The Energy Solutions Hub, an energy resource center that is a continuation of The City Energy Project. The Energy Solutions Hub aims to cut energy use in Kansas City by 4 percent in the next 2 years, which would save over $40 million annually in consumer energy costs.  Additionally, it would offset as much CO2 as burning 37 million gallons of gasoline.
  • 20 years of Clean Transportation projects advancing the use of alternative fuels with the Kansas City Regional Clean Cities Coalition. Recently, we worked with the Kansas City International Airport to deploy the first fleet of electric buses at an airport in the country.

Both our programs are public and private partnerships that join together businesses, public agencies and the community to combine resources and transform fuel and energy practices.  Although it has been a productive 35 years, the demand for these programs continues to grow.  Our staff is committed to continuing these projects that promote healthier air quality, cost-saving resources, and overall sustainability.  Through these efforts, we can work together to ensure Kansas City will be livable for future generations.

To register or sponsor the event, visit www.metroenergy.org or contact Beth Pauley at beth@metroenergy.org.

We can’t wait to celebrate with you!

The three organizations who contributed to Kansas City’s #1 rated Electric Vehicle ecosystem in the US celebrate National Drive Electric Week

Media contact: Beth Pauley, beth@metroenergy.org

Tuesday, September 4th

402-469-4091

Kansas City, MO – Metropolitan Energy Center is joining Kansas City Power & Light and Black and Veatch to celebrate National Drive Electric Week!  Black and Veatch will be hosting the event at its World Headquarters in Overland Park on Thursday, September 13th from 10:00 AM until 2:00 PM.  National Drive Electric Week is a national celebration to raise awareness about the availability of plug-in vehicles and highlight the benefits of all-electric and plug-in hybrid-electric cars, trucks, motorcycles, and more.

Black and Veatch, Kansas City Power & Light, and Metropolitan Energy Center have worked together to implement charging stations and further the necessary infrastructure to establish Kansas City as the best ecosystem in the country for electric vehicles.   This collaboration is the local result of Electrify America, which is an initiative of the Volkswagen Settlement that will invest $2 billion over the next 10 years in Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) infrastructure, education, and accessibility.   Find out more about the event and register here.

Attendees will have the opportunity to learn more about Electric Vehicle resources and test drive electric vehicles from local dealerships.  Additionally, volunteers will be displaying a variety of models of Electric Vehicles, including modern models and classics with conversions.

The Black and Veatch headquarters is the perfect place to celebrate National Drive Electric Week.  Not only is Kansas City the best city in the country for EV infrastructure, but Electrify America selected Black and Veatch as one of the two companies to continue the installment of electric vehicle chargers across the United States.  Soon, more cities across the U.S. will get to experience the luxury of widespread charging ports like Kansas Citians do.