Are You Ready for the Summertime Building Blues?

June 2, 2010

Will your building be sweating needless energy dollars this summer?

I recently surveyed BUILDINGS subscribers about their energy management practices, a timely topic given that the summer air-conditioning season has just begun. (Many thanks to those of you who completed the e-mailed survey.)

A section of the survey asked respondents to look back over the last 5 years at their energy consumption and power rates, and then to look forward 5 years. A clear majority (57 percent) reported that their rates for electricity had "increased somewhat" over the last 5 years, followed by 22 percent who said that their rates had "increased significantly."

Looking forward, a hefty majority of the respondents (76 percent) said that they anticipate that rates will increase significantly over the next 5 years. Only 11 percent believe that their rates will stay about the same.

So the gut level feeling among respondents is that electricity rates will rise faster in the near future, a view that may be influenced by the fact that the average nationwide price has indeed been accelerating over the past decade. As you can see from the chart’s upward curve, the retail price to commercial customers climbed quickly over the 5-year period from 2004 to 2008, when rates increased by 26 percent. In contrast, commercial rates increased only 10 percent from 1999 to 2003.

Despite the fact that 76 percent of the respondents believe rate increases are on the horizon, and 59 percent say that they are planning to reduce their electrical consumption, it’s not clear what measures they are taking. Only 56 percent report that they have completed an energy audit or an ENERGY STAR benchmark exercise; 53 percent have a strategic energy management plan in place; 42 percent have a dedicated energy manager on staff; and only 38 percent have a building automation system that is ready for a demand-response event this summer.

Will your building be sweating needless energy dollars this summer?

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