26 Nov

What to Know, Now: Energy Market Update: November 2018

Dan Levin Energy Markets, procurement

Prices are still high and it’s only November.

The Bottom Line

If you do not have a fixed rate natural gas contract, you could see an estimated 30% increase in your heating and electric bills this winter. Mid-November we saw a significant increase in natural gas prices. Why? You can read more about it here, but the main takeaways: weather drove up demand, the natural gas supply is depleting, and financial speculation of the natural gas market compounded the issue. You should consider short-term winter buys or variable products which may perform better than long-term fixed rates. But you don’t have to go it alone – we can help make those options clear and explain the benefits and risks.

Take Action

Some of you will be more vulnerable to this price hike than others. Contact us as soon as possible if you:

  • Do not have fixed rate natural gas contracts
  • Are on the utility rate
  • Are on a fixed rate contract set to expire before June 2019

We will work with you to determine the best course of action based on your current rates, risk tolerance, and budgets.

What to Know About 2018

November has been one of the coldest on record since 1950, and as a result buildings across the country are using more natural gas than predicted. This is further depleting a supply that is already significantly lower than this time last year. Unsure how to proceed? Our energy markets experts are here to help and provide clear recommendations.

19 Nov

Bright Employee: Daniel Chen

Bright Power Bright Employee

We’re proud of the intelligent, passionate, and hardworking people that make up the Bright Power team. Each month, you’ll get a chance to meet one of them, understand how they contribute to the organization, and what makes them excited to come to work every day.

Daniel ChenMeet Daniel Chen, Project Manager, Western Region.

What are some of the things you like most about working at Bright Power?
I like how Bright Power continues to adapt and innovate our business to meet the constantly changing client needs and incentive program requirements. Combined with working with an intelligent and collaborative team has allowed me to grow my skills quickly. It has given me the opportunity to effectively audit portfolios of properties and implement measures like steam heating controls and occupancy sensor thermostats.

What are some projects and accomplishments you’re most proud of?
I’m proud that I’m one of the few to design and install heat pump water heating systems in the U.S. for multifamily applications. We have now installed a total of 9 systems in 7 different properties – with more to come! I’m helping to install a 150kW solar PV system in Sacramento. I also installed over 40 water heater plants in 2017. 

What’s something people might not know about you and your role at Bright Power?
Since starting in the West Coast office, I feel my role is constantly changing which has allowed me to learn and develop a holistic view of the business. I’m often required to put on different hats. I’ve been able to use a range of my skills like Auditing, Energy Modeling, Retrofit Installation, and Engineering Design. All while ensuring each project meets the requirements of half a dozen incentive programs across California. 

Who are some of the clients and partners you’ve worked with?
I’ve worked with some incredible clients. That picture of me is from my heat pump water heater work on a Mercy Housing retrofit. I’ve also worked with Equity Residential, AvalonBay Communities, AIG, National Church Residences, LivCor, Bayside Communities, MidPen Housing, Sares-Regis, and MG Properties Group.

What’s the one service offering we have that you think is the most beneficial to clients and why?
Providing turnkey design-build retrofits to clients are most beneficial because they result in actual energy and water savings. Our ability to audit, analyze, and execute seamlessly provides a client with a high chance of success in reaching their sustainability goals. It’s also very easy on their end.

You’ve worked with innovative technologies like heat pump water heaters on the West Coast. What do you think would help more building owners get excited about using a technology like heat pump water heaters or other new technologies?
I think the largest benefit of implementing heat pump water heaters is the ability to electrify your entire property. If you tie in solar PV and energy storage it could lead minimal emissions to net zero emissions for the property. With California’s goal to be 100% renewable by 2045, owners can look to incentive programs to reduce any financial hurdles in transitioning to these technologies.

15 Nov

Natural Gas Prices Skyrocket: What it Means for You

Dan Levin Energy Markets, procurement

Yesterday there was an 18% increase in natural gas prices!  If you do not have a fixed rate natural gas contract, you could see an estimated 30% increase in your heating and electric bills this winter.

What Caused the Price Spike?
Two factors regularly impact natural gas pricing: the weather (demand) and the amount of stored natural gas (supply).

Weather Drives Up Demand: November is predicted to be one of the coldest on record since 1950, and as a result buildings across the country are using more natural gas than predicted.

Supply is Depleting: Normally, a strain on storage would not cause this unprecedented price reaction. But, if you saw our market update last month, you know that the U.S.’s stored natural gas supply is 15% lower than this time last year and 16% lower than the 5-year average – the lowest since 2003.

Price volatility in winter months is not unusual, but financial speculation of the natural gas market is compounding the issue, resulting in a 49% increase in just two weeks (see chart below).

Take Action
Some of you will be more vulnerable to this price hike than others. Contact us as soon as possible if you:

  • Do not have fixed rate natural gas contracts
  • Are on the utility rate
  • Are on a fixed rate contract set to expire before June 2019

We will work with you to determine the best course of action based on your current rates, risk tolerance, and budgets.

november 2018 natural gas prices

30 Oct

Energy Management: Trick or Treat?

Bright Power efficiency, energy management

Real estate owners and managers are often spooked by energy and water investment projects for a variety of reasons. Maybe they’re haunted by unsuccessful past projects or maybe the results are just ghosting them. Whatever the reason may be, success lies in the approach. Below are some of our top tricks that will help you reap the treats of an intelligence-driven approach to energy and water management.

Don’t be Caught by Surprise

There’s nothing like an unsuspected scream or menacing shadow to scare the bejeezus out of you. However, scary situations are often avoidable with careful planning and awareness of your surroundings. For example, locking into a fixed-rate energy procurement contract is a proactive way to manage the cost of energy supply against volatile (and sometimes terrifying) market prices. This is a particularly useful strategy to consider in a mild autumn when prices are stable. If you’d like to learn more about this winter’s energy market predictions, check out our blogs on the state of the energy markets here.

Survey the Whole Scene (or don’t just grab the first pumpkin that you see)

When you hit the pumpkin patch, you need to survey your options before landing on the perfectly shaped, sized, and inspirational gourd. That’s how we recommend implementing energy projects too, especially across a large portfolio.

For example, take government and utility financial incentive programs. NYSERDA and ConEdison are offering matching incentives for cogeneration projects in ConEdison’s BQDM zones in New York City. The BayREN program in Northern California is another opportunity to upgrade properties at low cost. But which properties should you choose? By evaluating your entire portfolio, Bright Power can assess where your investment dollars will have the biggest impact and show the highest returns.


Don’t be on the Losing End of Dramatic Irony

If only you could explain to the horror movie lead that answering the door is a poor choice because you know what is lurking on the other side. Alas, they can’t see the whole picture. Buildings are complicated environments with sprawling, interrelated systems and you want someone who can think holistically across all of them in order to effectively manage energy and water. Just because there is a heating problem doesn’t mean that the solution is in the boiler room. In fact, sometimes the source of the problem isn’t related to the equipment at all. In multifamily buildings, residents are as important a factor as any to consider when diagnosing any problem. This is why we recommend whole-building audits and continuous energy management services. Having our engineers go inside a building, speak with residents, and examine all of the systems’ functionality is crucial in diagnosing the root of an issue and presenting an informed solution. Providing continuous expertise and energy management lets us help you anticipate problems and recommend how to avoid them. Otherwise, you’re liable to be frightened purely because you’re operating with incomplete information.

Don’t Jump to (Scary) Conclusions

As any parent can attest, some of the scariest things are the things that we don’t understand. And the only way to combat that is to probe a bit deeper and to figure out what is actually going on. It’s like in the Wizard of Oz when they finally peek behind the curtain…or those big, spooky Halloween displays that make your five-year-old scream and cry until you show him that it is just a toy (with an on-off switch), not a real skeleton coming to life.

For example, one of our clients always found water on the floor of their boiler room. Noticing that it appeared to be leaking from the bottom of their water-tube steam boiler, they called the manufacturer’s representative to come out, drain, and inspect the boiler. When he opened it up and saw corrosion on the tubes, the rep said: “it’s all gotta go.” Our client was looking at frightening repair costs, to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Before rushing into anything, we helped our client select a nondestructive testing (NDT) company and supervised a more thorough ultrasonic testing of the boiler tubes. When the results came back, they were surprising. The corrosion had looked bad, but there was actually minimal loss of tube wall thickness. When we leak-tested the boiler, there were just two pinhole leaks and a leaking joint. The root cause was likely that this boiler had run much more than the standby boiler, and therefore experienced many more heat up and cool down cycles. The rep replaced the two leaking tubes, we fixed the control logic so that the lead boiler would rotate weekly, and together we filled, started, and tested the boiler – just in time for heating season.

There is so much to gain from strategic energy and water management. From avoided capital costs to utility bill savings and resident retention, the list of benefits is hard to pass up. But in order to get the treats, it’s important to bear in mind these tricks.

Happy Halloween!

 

This blog was originally posted October 31, 2016. It was updated October 30, 2018, to highlight different incentive programs.

29 Oct

What to Know, Now: Energy Market Update: October 2018

Dan Levin Energy Markets, procurement

Winter is coming. Higher prices are here and they may stay. 

The Bottom Line

Natural gas price volatility continues, and with it comes higher rates. In the last month, there has been a price jump that amounts to $.04/therm increase on a 12-month natural gas fixed rate. It’s not a great time to lock in. And you should try to avoid the high utility default rates. What does that mean? You should consider short-term winter buys or variable products which may perform better than long-term fixed rates. But you don’t have to go it alone – we can help make those options clear and explain the benefits and risks.

What to Know About 2018

What’s the cause of this volatile market? Low amounts of natural gas in supply. The US maintains storage of gas that ensures we have enough gas for winter heating. But compared to this time last year, there is now 16% less gas available. Although production has increased and will continue to pick up, we’re likely to continue to see a volatile natural gas market due to low gas storage. While we don’t recommend having accounts return to utility rates and receive default pricing, it may be beneficial to explore other pricing options before locking in for multiple years at high rates. Unsure how to proceed? Our energy markets experts are here to help and provide clear recommendations.

Temperature Probability Maps

This fall and winter are forecasted to have warmer than usual temperatures. The orange/red in the maps below indicate heat increases from normal. A mild fall that doesn’t require much heating in the North East would improve gas storage conditions and bring down prices. An average cold East Coast and Plains winter would reduce stored gas levels further and raise prices through all of 2019.

November 2018
November 2018
December 2018, January and February 2019
December 2018, January & February 2019
Summer 2019
Summer 2019
04 Oct

Bright Employee: Samantha Pearce

Bright Power Bright Employee

We’re proud of the intelligent, passionate, and hardworking people that make up the Bright Power team. Each month, you’ll get a chance to meet one of them, understand how they contribute to the organization, and what makes them excited to come to work every day.

Samantha PearceThis month, we’re excited to introduce you to a new member of our team, Samantha Pearce, Director of Energy Management Services.

What made you decide to join Bright Power?
Having worked with Bright Power for the last 8 years as a client, I am most excited to actually get to work WITH the people I have a collaborated with over the years. There’s something about the people who choose to work at Bright Power. They are such a talented and passionate group of individuals who genuinely seem to care about their work, and that really inspires me to bring my A-game. It’s getting to work with people who put action behind their words that excite me the most!

What are some projects and accomplishments you’re most proud of?
I am really truly excited about Energy Management Services (EMS) and that I get to provide a much needed, impactful suite of services. I have watched Selfhelp expand their capacity, make smarter efficiency decisions, and save money because of the work and joint efforts of Selfhelp staff and the Bright Power EMS team. I am really proud to have set up this service “on the inside” at Selfhelp working with Bright Power and now am excited to shape what the service will grow into for others to meet their unique needs.

What’s something people might not know about you and your role at Bright Power?
I think this role, and my career trajectory, was a bit more fortuitous than it might seem. I have a degree in and had wanted to be an Architect since I was probably seven. But then I decided it wasn’t the best fit for me. So, after a short stint as an AmeriCorps member with Habitat for Humanity, I ended up working at Enterprise Community Partners on their Weatherization team, without even knowing what the program was really about when I took the job. It was the best happy accident and introduced me to working on sustainability initiatives to help owners. Not all journeys follow a straight line – and for this hyper-organized planner that was a tough lesson to learn! I became a LEED AP about 10 years ago because I love the environment, and I worked with Bright Power when there were only 12 or so employees, so perhaps the universe was telling me something all along.

Why are energy management services so critical to the health and long-term performance of a building?
Think about a building like a body. The same way you need to get checked out by a general physician, a building needs to be checked out holistically as well via EMS. If you have a cough, you do not go directly to the lung specialist and ask them to diagnose the ailment. That would be ridiculous and expensive! Instead, you visit your primary care physician who not only listens to your lungs but also takes your temperature, checks your throat and perhaps even ends up diagnosing you with a sinus infection  not even in your lungs at all! 

This sounds extreme, but I think that is how most current operators oversee their buildings. Most owners aren’t themselves ‘primary care physicians’ yet they call in a specialist as soon as there is an issue. No one is monitoring or keeping track of how the systems are functioning, or training the owners how to diagnose issues on their own. And while a direct problem might be fixed when a specialist is called, often larger systemic issues are left undiagnosed because no one is looking at the whole building as a system.

Keeping all the systems in a building working well together helps keep operations costs down and preventative maintenance costs manageable, if not highly predictable. All of this leads to a building that is more efficient to manage and can, therefore, keep costs stabilized.

02 Oct

Resiliency for Real Estate

Danielle Brocker Resiliency

Before the last week of October 2012, the notion of resiliency was largely an afterthought for the New York City real estate industry. Then Superstorm Sandy hit.

Lights went out.  Basements and boiler rooms flooded. A lack of diesel fuel rendered emergency generators silent. Apartments were left without the basics: electricity, running water, elevators, heat, and general access to the outside world. Remembering lower Manhattan in a complete blackout still sends chills through the spine of the Oculus.

By Halloween, Sandy was gone but owners, managers, and tenants alike had already begun thinking about how to make their commercial and residential buildings resilient enough to stand up to the next Superstorm.

Resiliency makes your building stronger — and more profitable.

How do you make your building more resilient? With technologies like solar, cogeneration, and battery storage,* you can produce and store cleaner power at your buildings and provide site-level power security against utility outages. By carefully selecting, configuring, and operating the right set of technologies, a resilient power system can even pay for itself through demand reduction, peak shaving, and reduced supply cost. Bright Power’s Resilient Power Hub integrates solar, batteries, and cogeneration to provide:

  • Energy cost savings
  • Reliable, efficient onsite power generation
  • Cleaner backup power
  • Power security
  • Reduced risk

A resilient building is a more profitable building. Being prepared for superstorms like Sandy is critical. But so is having clean and efficient systems to help your daily operation. Peak demand shaving? Yes. Cheaper electricity? Check. Safer and healthier residents? You got it!

How are real estate owners prioritizing resiliency?


Located steps from the Atlantic Ocean in Rockaway, New York, Arverne View was not originally built to withstand major storms like Sandy. L+M Development Partners acquired the property soon after Sandy, and worked with Bright Power to revitalize the community and develop a long-term resiliency and sustainability strategy.

The improvements implemented were focused on both maximizing utility savings and allowing the property to better withstand another Sandy-like event. These included installing new storm-proofed HVAC systems, and exterior wall insulation that both makes it easier and less costly to maintain desired indoor temperature and provided much-needed facade improvements. More recently, Bright Power worked with L+M to install 36 kW of battery storage and 36 kW of solar PV at the property to power onsite offices, emergency indoor and outdoor lighting, booster water pumps, and a community room in the event of an electric utility outage. On a regular basis, the solar and battery systems will provide peak demand shaving to reduce electric costs throughout the year.

Now, Arverne View is well-equipped to keep essential systems operating in the face of storms and grid outages while also keeping energy costs low.

 

Community Access is in the final stages of construction on their 126-unit affordable and supportive housing building on East 172nd in the Bronx. As with many affordable or supportive developments, it was important to build housing with low long-term operating costs. With a priority on operating efficiency and resiliency, Community Access worked with Bright Power to install a Resilient Power Hub (RPH) – a combination of a 53 kW solar PV system, an 18 kW battery storage system, and a 10 kW cogeneration unit.

The solar PV and cogeneration systems would create much-needed cost savings while the battery system, during an electric grid disruption, would run critical equipment to keep residents safe.

By installing the RPH, the project team was able to use a small emergency generator to meet code-required loads. Without the RPH, the building would have needed to install a larger, more costly backup generator. While a large generator would have powered critical equipment in the event of an electric grid disruption, such a system would have provided no operational savings to Community Access.

With these technologies, Community Access will not only be able to avoid peak demand times, but in the event of a power outage, they will have backup electricity to power an elevator, water pumps, lighting to the corridors and exit stairwells, and the fire alarm. Importantly, the RPH will produce ongoing cost-savings so Community Access can provide resilient power that pays for itself over time, unlike the traditional generator.

“Managing energy consumption efficiently is better for our world, and reducing energy costs means more can be spent on programs and facilities for our tenants.”- Steve Coe, CEO of Community Access.

Protect your properties and residents

Resiliency improvements arm buildings with consistent, efficient, and reliable power on a day-to-day basis. And they keep the building operating during an emergency. Technologies like the Resilient Power Hub can maintain your ROI and help you contribute to the fight against climate change through the use of renewable and cleaner energy systems. Not sure where to start? Find out if your new development or existing building is a good fit for resiliency solutions by contacting one of our experts today!


*Solar harnesses the energy from the sun, producing site-level electricity. Battery storage captures and stores electricity for later use during peak demand pricing and grid outages. Cogeneration systems use natural gas to produce power onsite, generating electricity and pre-heated domestic hot water (a byproduct of electric generation). These systems power electrical systems such as common area lighting, elevators, pumps, and laundry and help reduce costs in areas where electricity rates are high.

26 Sep

What to Know, Now: Energy Market Update: September 2018

Dan Levin Energy Markets, procurement

Today’s prices are inflated. Next week or next month may likely be a better time to buy.

The Bottom Line

Volatility has returned to the market. Natural gas prices have fluctuated by nearly 10% each month since May. Recently, we’ve seen a change that would amount to an increase of ~$.03/therm on your 12-month natural gas fixed rate. Imagine how that could impact your whole portfolio! Historically, the shoulder months of October and November are the best times to buy energy. We recommend waiting until pricing softens if you are able. For those of you who need to lock in your budget now, give us a call and we’ll help you decide the best next steps to avoid risk. 

What to know about 2018

What’s the cause of this volatile market? Low amounts of natural gas in supply. The US maintains storage of gas that ensures we have enough gas for winter heating. But compared to this time last year, there is 20% less gas available. Although production has increased and will continue to pick up, we’re likely to continue to see a volatile natural gas market due to low gas storage. While we don’t recommend having accounts return to utility rates and receive default pricing, it may be beneficial to wait until October to lock in your winter and 2019 rate. Unsure how to proceed? Our energy markets experts are here to help and provide clear recommendations.

Temperature Probability Maps

This fall and winter are forecasted to have warmer than usual temperatures. The orange/red in the maps below indicate heat increases from normal. A mild fall that doesn’t require much heating in the North East would improve gas storage conditions and bring down prices. An average cold East Coast and Plains winter would reduce stored gas levels further and raise prices through all of 2019.

October, November, December 2018
October, November, December 2018
Winter 2019
Winter 2019
Summer 2019
Summer 2019
11 Sep

Bright Employee: Paul Banel

Bright Power Bright Employee

We’re proud of the intelligent, passionate, and hardworking people that make up the Bright Power team. Each month, you’ll get a chance to meet one of them, understand how they contribute to the organization, and what makes them excited to come to work every day.

Paul BanelMeet Paul Banel, Front End Developer.

What are some of the things you like most about working at Bright Power?

I like working with bright, like-minded people who care about the impact of their work and who can see beyond the small steps that lead to that impact. It’s great to create software to enable that work and to help find ways to promote energy efficiency and reduce waste on a large scale.

What are some projects and accomplishments you’re most proud of?

One of my early projects was to create custom Microsoft Office software to streamline the process of creating energy audit reports. Now our engineers spend less time writing and more time fixing and improving buildings. In another project, we created a small web application to work with building system designs from an ancient engineering software. That application reduced design time from hours to minutes and allowed us to scale those projects quickly.

What’s something people might not know about you and your role at Bright Power?

Paul runningI kind of founded Bright Power Boulder, an unofficial outpost. Another software teammate moved here in the summer. I moved to Colorado for running. I train with Run Boulder AC to race anything from 1500 meters on the track to 100 miles in the mountains of Leadville.

When I started at Bright Power I worked with a lot of different people to solve their random problems and created process improvements that have saved hours of work and are still used today. I aim to reduce waste in all aspects and I love using data and scripts to do that.

You work remotely in Colorado. How do you stay connected to folks in the NY and CA office?

I started working for Bright Power in the New York office and was there for a little over a year before I moved, so having those relationships helps. We use Slack and it allows me to stay in the loop. I can find the information I need to easily and if I need to reach out to people, they are there. It’s almost like being in the office with them and Slack is fun to use. 

What’s the one service offering we have that you think is the most beneficial to clients and why?

I think MoBIUS, our energy management service, has the potential to be the most impactful service on a day-to-day basis. Seeing what’s happening at a building in real time allows issues to be fixed before a resident notices and before it becomes a major problem for a client.

20 Aug

What to Know, Now: Energy Market Update: August 2018

Dan Levin Energy Markets, procurement

Winter rates begin to rebound.

The Bottom Line

As we mentioned last month, something had to give. A combination of hot weather and low storage amounts can’t result in low pricing forever. Now, in the last two weeks, pricing has finally ticked up. The January gas rate has increased from $2.96 to $3.17/mmbtu since 7/18. Opportunities to lock in year-to-year savings are still available, they will become more difficult to capture as the month progresses.

What to know about 2018

After the increase, wholesale natural gas prices are now just 6% lower than 2017 on average. Last month, that number was 8%. Above normal temperatures continue to cause increased demand for electric generation for air conditioning, which reduces the gas we have in storage. At this time, we strongly recommend all customers who use Natural Gas for heating to evaluate their replacement supply contracts and consider switching off volatile utility rates if they are served by the utility.

Why Act Now

As we close out summer and head towards winter, the lower amount of natural gas in storage is a clear signal that market volatility will occur as 2018 progresses. Prices have already begun to rise, and capturing savings now compared to your last contract or to the utility rates is a safe maneuver.

Temperature Probability Maps

August and September will continue to be hot, highlighted by the West Coast and Northeast. This summer may end as the hottest on record. An El Niño effect is forecasted for this winter, which may lower rates by creating milder temperatures. The orange/red in the maps below indicate heat increases from normal. Continued hot summer weather will cause upward pressure on pricing, while a mild winter can mean low demand and low prices.

August, September, October 2018
August, September, October 2018
Fall 2018
Winter 2019