eProject eXpress tracks energy project information and verified savings, keeping all the important data, pictures and documents throughout the performance period and beyond.
As environmental services director for the city of Reno, Nevada, Jason Geddes oversaw several major projects to improve the city’s energy efficiency. The problem is that when he left the job in 2014, the knowledge went with him.
“I put everything in binders, but I was over there nine months ago and all the binders are gone,” said Geddes, who’s now the energy and sustainability manager at the Washoe County, Nevada, School District.
That means that all the information associated with major projects such as upgrading incandescent lighting in city facilities with LED bulbs and replacing the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system at the 17-story Reno City Hall resides with him.
He shared the challenges and successes during a webinar Sept. 12 hosted by the Energy Services Coalition. The presentation also included a demonstration of eProject eXpress (ePX), a web-based solution for companies and agencies to track project progress and targets. Sponsored by the Energy Department and hosted by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, “ePX can significantly reduce [municipal and state governments, universities and colleges] market customers’ costs and staff time associated with tracking [energy savings performance contracting] project data and contractual documents,” according to DOE.
Additionally, states can use the tool’s reporting functions to show how taxpayer dollars are being spent and the associated energy, environmental and workforce impacts, the department’s website states. Although ePX stores project information for only the length of its performance period, the digital trail of information is established and accessible by many stakeholders.
An outcropping of eProject Builder, a similar solution for federal agencies, ePX is tailored to state and local governments’ needs, said Elizabeth Stuart, a program manager in the lab’s Electricity Markets and Policy Department who leads development of ePB.
“It makes it easy to collect, store and access your vital project documents and project information, much of which you might need well into the years of the performance period,” Stuart said.
When agency project managers log in, they can open the portfolio page to see a list of all of the projects and their role – for example, project initiator if they were the ones to enter the item into the system. Clicking on a project name brings up options for viewing information related to the project. For instance, users can select the project documents section to see those associated with the project, and they can choose the “file checklist,” which gives a list of recommended documents that the initiator and contracted energy services company (ESCO) need to properly track the project.
Users may upload files – photographs, PDFs, Microsoft Word documents – and make notes about them. All of this information remains with the project for its performance period, and if there is turnover among program managers, access to it can be transferred to the newcomer.
Another function of the tool is a measurement and verification (M&V) report. Those reports, which show scientific validation of energy savings resulting from a project each year, are compact summaries of typically long reports required by organizations such as the Energy Department.
M&V reports are typically annual, but a cumulative report is also available. “This is a very handy snapshot of year-over-year what’s happening with the measurement and verification of your project,” Stuart said. “For example, we can see that Year One the guaranteed savings were $1.9 million, and the estimated [was] over $2 million, and we met the savings. Year Two, they exceeded.”
“Coming soon we’re going to have some guidance on a new tool from the Environmental Protection Agency called [the Energy Savings and Impacts Scenario Tool] – the ESIST Tool – and it provides a step-by-step way for an ESCO, for example, to take the verified savings or even the estimated savings for a project and get the EPA’s assessment of what those emissions reductions are,” she added.
These at-a-glance reports would have made a world of difference for Geddes’ work in Reno, he said. Between 2008 and 2012, he helped usher through 50-plus changes, including a two-phase energy resource audit that involved the implementation of wind turbines, solar panels and a more efficient HVAC system at City Hall. Reno tapped Ameresco to handle the $20 million project, and it secured several million dollars in grants and rebates to help cover the costs. The effort was expected to save more than 5,400 tons of carbon dioxide per year, according to Ameresco.
Geddes had to report to the mayor and six-member city council each year about the project’s progress. He did require the ESCO to build a website that made all data available online. “Anybody could log on to the city of Reno website and see what we were doing and see what the costs were and what the savings were,” he said. “We also put all of the training videos on that site, so with each ESCO project or energy conservation measure, there would be a video that we could archive for staff and staff turnover so they would know how to fix all of our new boilers in City Hall.”
The website no longer exists, he added.
Stephanie Kanowitz is a freelance writer based in northern Virginia.