Getting Charged Up About BMW’s Solar Charging Carport

June 25, 2016 by
BMW Solar Carport

Image Credit: BMW

In 2014, BMW revealed plans for a solar carport, and sunny South Africa will be the first country to bring it to market this July.

Designed to complement its earth-friendly and sustainable i series line of electric cars, the solar carport was created to keep the vehicles topped up on free and clean energy. It guarantees a supply of green power (producing an average of 3.6 kilowatts) and creates electricity independence for BMW i owners. The use of solar power also optimizes the life of the vehicle’s battery.

Read the rest of this entry »

Finding New Ways for Healthcare Facilities to Fund Energy Efficiency

May 10, 2016 by

The High Cost of Energy in Healthcare

Typically, hospitals spend  one to three percent of their total annual operating budget on energy. That’s 15 percent of their profits! With budgets and resources so tight these days, it’s no surprise that many of them are seriously looking for ways to be more energy efficient.healthcare setting

Improving their facilities — with high-efficiency lighting and building systems — is one of the best ways hospitals can so this. Benefits can reduce energy use by as much as 20 percent and save millions of dollars in energy and operating costs.

Options for Removing Sustainability Barriers

However, despite the proven benefits, there are significant barriers that are keeping hospitals and healthcare facilities from committing to energy efficiency projects. The biggest barrier, according to Health Facilities Management’s  2015 Health Care Facilities Sustainable Operations Survey, is funding. Competing investments and spending priorities tend to push energy efficiency initiatives to the bottom of the list. Employee time limitations and not enough staff also hinder such projects the survey found.

To help hospitals and healthcare facilities remove some of these barriers, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, Health Care Without Harm, and Practice Greenhealth recently released  “Energy Efficiency Financing for Hospitals: A Discussion of Both Tried-and-True and New Opportunities.” This informative paper explores four financing alternatives that hospitals can leverage — from the most common to creative — to more easily fund and accelerate their sustainability projects.

Read the rest of this entry »

How Cities Are Beginning To Address Mounting Infrastructure Challenges (Part II)

April 16, 2016 by

Rob DuncanRob Duncan is a Solutions Consultant for ABM Building & Energy Solutions.

Last week in Part I, we explored some of the common financial challenges facing cities, towns, counties, and municipalities, and their fears regarding investing in much needed infrastructure improvements.

In Part II we’ll investigate how forward-thinking local governments are overcoming their fear and using creative financial solutions to fund their necessary infrastructure, maintenance and energy efficiency programs.

Moving Past the Fear of Funding with Creative Solutions

City of Kissimmee Lakefront

City of Kissimmee Lakefront Courtesy of City of Kissimmee

The first cities who are overcoming their fears of investing in infrastructure have experienced an early recovery, diversified revenue streams, have development partnerships, and strong economic development results. The City of Kissimmee, Florida is a good example. Since 2010, they have funded more than $80 million in infrastructure investments. They also just received an AA Bond Rating for new capital projects. The new bond dedicates about $37.2 million to improvement projects such as road enhancements ($9.7 million), Lakefront Park improvements ($13.5 million), parking garage and utility relocation ($7.0 million), and facility upgrades ($7.0 million).

“The city has been, and continues to be, fiscally responsible, while consistently delivering high-quality services to our residents without any increases in our taxes or fees,” said City of Kissimmee Mayor Jim Swan.

Identifying Realistic Funding Sources

There are many potential funding sources including some the local government can specifically impact and others that are well beyond the municipality’s control. Read the rest of this entry »

How Cities Are Beginning To Address Mounting Infrastructure Challenges (Part I)

April 4, 2016 by

Rob DuncanRob Duncan is a Solutions Consultant for ABM Building & Energy Solutions.

Cities, towns, counties, and other municipalities encounter financial imbalances because of a multitude of factors that negatively impact their budgets and limit their ability to fund all of their critical infrastructure needs. In fact, this is one of the most pressing challenges they face. Creative, energy-based funding solutions are changing the tide, and helping local governments to overcome budget obstacles and finally invest in needed infrastructure improvements to make their facilities more operationally and energy efficient, comfortable, healthy, and safe.

In Part I of my two-part blog post, I’ll explore the details behind the financial challenges faced by local governments who lack the necessary funding to enhance their infrastructure. Read on to learn more:

The Escalating Infrastructure Dilemma

It’s no secret infrastructure needs have become a critical challenge for local governments. Local Government FacilitiesCities and counties are trying to catch-up on deferred investment in roads, drinking water, wastewater, building and public parks and recreation. While financial conditions have stabilized somewhat, municipalities have had to defer infrastructure projects to balance budgets. The backlog of needs and lack of funding have been budget constraints since the start of the recession.

With the infrastructure needs mounting, many reports have been published revealing these financial challenges. In fact, the 2015 Menino Survey of Mayors found that aging and underfunded physical infrastructure weighs most heavily on the mind of mayors, who identify it as the most pressing challenge they face. Read the rest of this entry »

Top 5 Energy Efficiency Trends to Track in 2016

February 20, 2016 by

2015 was a great year for energy, with an estimated $310 billion now being invested in the energy efficiency market annually worldwide.

What helped make 2015 such a banner year? According to a recent article in Fortune, low oil prices, coal plant closures, a landmark climate change deal in Paris, and record-setting global solar projects all contributed to the growth and unprecedented success of energy efficiency initiatives, programs, and technology in 2015.

With that said, what can we expect in 2016? According to the article, here are the five major trends to watch for in energy efficiency in 2016:

Continued rock bottom oil prices

Oil prices are ultra low and the oil and gas industry has been hit hard. Exploration and production companies are defaulting, big oil companies are slashing their 2016 budgets, and more than 200,000 jobs globally have been lost.

Analysts expect oil prices to stay at rock bottom because of dropping demand from China and the Paris climate agreement. This suggests countries are committed to reducing their reliance on fossil fuel energy more than before. Some industry-watchers think the low oil prices will completely change the landscape of the oil industry for good.

solar globe_cropContinued growth of solar projects

The solar industry was on fire in 2015, especially in hot markets like the U.S. This popularity can be attributed to cheap solar panel prices, as well as companies capitalizing on new software, analytics, third-party financing, and marketing. Also, the recent renewal of an important tax credit for solar will continue to boost the U.S. solar industry for several more years.

China and India are also big future markets for solar, with China was slated to install as much solar in 2015 as America has done cumulatively to date. Chile and Mexico also have growing solar markets. Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicts solar will account for 35% of new power generation infrastructure built out over the next 25 years. That equals $3.7 trillion that will be spent on small and large scale solar projects globally.

Continued phase out of coal in developed countries

The Paris agreement was a huge signal that coal is being phased out in developed countries like the U.S. and much of Europe. Reliance is even being diminished in China, as the country seeks to clean up its air pollution.

In 2015, the U.S. shed coal jobs and will continue to do so in 2016. Moody’s Investors Service says the coal industry’s earnings in North America fell by 25% this year. Half the world’s coal reserves are now not profitable enough to extract, says the firm.

The only outlier when it comes to coal is India, who says it needs coal along with solar to meet its basic power generation growth needs.

Tentative return of nuclear power

Following the nuclear disaster in Japan in 2011, countries stalled the development of new nuclear plants, and closed down aging plants outright. But now Japan, the U.S., and some countries in Europe, are revisiting new nuclear.

The power generation technology is unique in that it provides a large amount of power around the clock, but doesn’t have carbon emissions. Environmentalists are increasingly beginning to stand behind nuclear for just that reason.

Increased popularity of batteries and energy storageelectric car charging

Thanks to the shrinking costs of lithium-ion batteries, batteries will increasingly be used to power electric cars, help manage the power grid, and store energy for buildings in 2016.

Utilities are using batteries for the power grid as a way to avoid building and using on-demand power plants, which can be inefficient, dirty, and expensive to operate. Electric car makers are also increasingly using cheaper batteries to lower the overall costs of electric cars, making them more affordable for mainstream consumers. And, home and building owners are using batteries as a way to shift electricity use off of the grid (and onto batteries) when power rates are high.

For more details on these 2016 energy trends, read the complete Fortune article.