November 24, 2014
It seems that every time fossil fuels get cheaper, people lose interest in solar deployment. However, today as oil prices drop, solar electricity is predicted to be as cheap as, or cheaper than, average electricity bill prices in 47 U.S. states by 2016. That’s right, after years of competing against cheap oil and natural gas prices, solar seems to be going mainstream according to a recent Bloomberg article based on a new Deutsche Bank report.
“Grid parity” describes the point in time at which a developing technology will produce electricity for the same cost to ratepayers as traditional technologies. That is, when the new technology can produce electricity for the same cost as the electricity available on a utility’s transmission and distribution “grid.” According to the article, solar has already reached grid parity in 10 states that are responsible for 90% of U.S. solar electricity production.
Prices for solar will continue to drop as the technology and financing becomes more affordable, pushing 36 more states to reach grid parity by 2016. This downward trend is because solar is a technology, not a fuel. As such, efficiency increases and prices fall as time goes on. It will soon undercut even the cheapest fossil fuels in many regions of the planet, including poorer nations where billion-dollar coal plants aren’t always practical. The price of limited fossil fuels, however, tend to go the other direction and only get more expensive.
So while today solar is only responsible for less than one percent of energy capacity worldwide, a recent estimate by the International Energy Agency claims solar will be the world’s biggest single source of electricity by 2050.
For more information and detailed charts, read the complete Bloomberg article.
November 12, 2014
Did you know Americans throw away enough office and writing paper each year to build a 12-ft high wall stretching from New York City to Los Angeles? If that paper were recycled, 100 million tons of wood could be saved each year. Change requires action so celebrate America Recycles Day on November 15 — a national initiative to help keep America beautiful.
At some point, landfill diversion efforts run up against common opposition such as infrastructure or budget restrictions, and many facilities are left wondering how they can realize the next breakthrough on the path to Zero Waste. Implementing complex collection and disposal procedures or driving end-user participation through education and outreach can lead to diminishing results.
To break through this, facilities services vendors such as ABM have developed large and impactful recycling programs, and work with customers and recycling vendors to create effective landfill diversion programs.
For example, ABM has helped numerous organizations through its On-Site Trash Sorting program, a proprietary janitorial service in which employees sort recyclables from trash safely and sanitarily by hand. ABM is pleased to be helping a major tech company in the Seattle area by sorting roughly 3,150 pounds of waste each day for the organization and diverting nearly 30 tons of waste each month from local landfills as measured by hauling vendor records. In addition, ABM is currently in negotiations to expand the program, which creates a growing number of full-time positions making a quantifiable impact on the environment.
It is important that everyone does their part! Spread the word about America Recycles Day by joining the #americarecyclesday conversation on Facebook and Twitter. Learn more about ABM’s recycling solutions at https://www.abm.com/pages/green-recycling-programs.aspx.
October 30, 2014
With October being Energy Awareness Month, energy efficiency and sustainability are top of mind for commercial building owners and property managers. As demonstrated by the many articles and posts — such as this info graphic — found in the media this month, there is a wide range of things that can be done to help with your energy management programs.
There are simple tasks you can implement – such as switching to CFL light bulbs, using smart power strips, changing cleaning and maintenance schedules, and more. And there are more sophisticated energy solutions available as well — such as installing automated controls, improving your technical building infrastructure, and leasing your rooftop or land to solar developers, to name a few.
One thing you might not know, however, is how much control occupants directly and indirectly have over your building’s energy use. According to ENERGY STAR, between 60% and 80% of the energy used in most office buildings is consumed by tenants within their spaces. And, plug loads typically total 30% of building energy use.
With this in mind, tenants can be a great untapped resource for improving energy efficiency. Educating them and changing their behavior can be key to the success of your energy management programs.
To help you engage your building occupants in your energy management plans and make them more effective, here are some simple, proven strategies you can explore:
- Be Open — Transparency is critical for tenant participation. Share your plans and goals with them. Also, provide them with timely, current energy information. Some ideas include:
- Provide a web portal they can access to track their energy usage profile and data
- Display building scorecards
- Create newsletters, email blasts, or other regular communications that keep tenants current with the progress towards the goals
- Raise Awareness — Improving tenants’ understanding of their energy use and the impact of their actions can go a long way. Increase their general energy awareness and provide them with specific steps and actions to follow. Examples include:
- Create educational programs and informational letter campaigns and email blasts
- Display building signage, such as light switch covers that remind tenants to turn off the lights
- Develop a web-based resource portal
- Assess Current Practices — Determine your tenants’ current energy use and identify opportunities for improvements. For example:
- Perform Tenant Sustainability Assessments to determine as-is state
- Provide plans and checklists so tenants know what they can work on and improve
- Create a Sustainability Improvement Manual for tenants
- Empower — Allow your tenants to take an active role in improving the efficiency of their building. Examples include:
- Create a joint tenant/owner/management council and collectively establish performance goals
- Nurture energy champions among the tenants
- Welcome tenant ideas and encourage them to participate and make suggestions
- Incentivize — Be sure and express what you are trying to achieve and the tenants’ role in accomplishing it. Offer rewards (food, cash, prizes) and recognition for their participation. Ideas include:
- Sponsor Lunch & Learns, Bagel Breakfasts, or Ice Cream Socials to educate, inform, and encourage innovation and idea sharing
- Give plaques or trophies for tenants who participate in surveys or complete projects
- Create friendly competitions
- Communicate — Create an all occupant communication plan, establish a dedicated budget to host events and create materials, and connect with tenants in ways that have the most impact. For example:
- Host events, display posters and info in the building lobby, or offer building tours
- Regularly contact tenants with reminders, tips, and updates
- Promote and celebrate successes
- Leverage Energy Star — ENERGY STAR is recognized by 80% of Americans, and is a respected authority on energy efficiency. They have many ready-to-use tools, templates, and materials you can leverage including:
- Tenant benefits letters
- Office posters and materials you can co-brand
- Certifications, competitions, and awards
For more on this and other ways you can improve your energy efficiency, check out the ENERGY STAR website.
October 22, 2014
ABM will be at the 2014 Greenbuild International Conference & Expo in New Orleans.
If you are attending the show, be sure and stop by Booth #2531 to see our integrated facility sustainability solutions including:
Get more details at our website. See you there!
October 20, 2014
Every year the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) designates October as Energy Awareness Month. This national effort was established by the DOE in 1991 to emphasize the importance of energy to the nation’s prosperity and environmental well-being, as well as inspire everyone to step-up their conservation efforts.
Commercial buildings waste up to 30% of their energy, according to ENERGY STAR. With that in mind, there is a lot building owners, property managers, and even occupants can do to improve their efficiency and reduce energy usage.
In honor of Energy Awareness Month, check out this informative Infographic. It includes some great energy-saving actions that require minimal time and resources.