Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy: Fighting Climate Change with a One-Two Punch

To invest in energy efficiency or renewable energy? A question often pondered by building owners, design engineers, investors, energy engineers, performance contractors, and anyone in between who has a say deciding how to invest money to make the strongest financial and environmental impacts. In an ideal scenario, one can invest in both efficiency and renewable energy.

Integrating Efficiency and Renewable Energy

When it comes to the materials we use in everyday life, we have all heard the phrase “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.” Well, there is a reason why reduction is mentioned first! It can be argued that the most sustainable energy source available is the energy that we never have to use.

Of course, there will always be energy used no matter how efficient a building is. But, in the energy spectrum, renewables reduce the cost for the electricity that must be used. Renewables also offer many other benefits, such as protection against fluctuating energy costs, incentives like federal tax credits, net metering, shaded parking lots… the list could keep going. And research confirms that investing in both energy efficiency options and renewable energy is a smart move. The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) and the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) collaborated in a 2007 study, reporting that investments in both energy efficiency and renewable energy are essential for the United States to create a secure energy future.   

Boxing gloves

Creating an Energy Synergy

Think about it like this… If a boxer has a great right hook but a poor defense, he may win some fights but could easily lose to an opponent with a solid defense and a timely counterpunch. Combining two strengths to be stronger overall is called synergy. That is when the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. When energy efficiency and renewable energy are combined, they complement each other in a way that can maximize the total impact, both environmentally and economically. Consider this…

Right hook: An upgraded utility plan to reduce HVAC costs.

Left jab: Intelli-Hood®, Melink’s demand control kitchen ventilation system to further reduce HVAC costs.

And for the knock-out uppercut: A solar array made of super-efficient photovoltaic modules that meets the entire energy load of the building (taking into account the reduced energy usage from the previous energy efficiency measures).

And what’s even more of a win? By reducing the facility’s entire energy load, the upfront cost of the solar array is reduced. Plus, the quick payback as a result of the energy efficiency measures creates additional cashflow to help pay for a renewable energy source, like solar array (or even geothermal!).

Accounting for Energy Opponents

But what if? Let’s say that the uppercut was blocked in this scenario because, in many cases, the availability of renewable energy is limited due to geography and available space. For example, in the hills and valleys of Southern Ohio, wind energy is not going to be near as effective as compared to the plains of Northwest Texas.

Or, while solar performs well in Ohio, a building could have very limited space for an array. For the counterpunch here, one could implement new energy efficiency technologies and maximize efficiencies on existing equipment. Then, for the knockout, a smaller solar array like a parking canopy could still be very impactful.

The bottom line? There are many options at play when it comes to the powerful combo of energy efficiency and renewable energy. Together, this combo helps to reduce peak demand charges, which can be astronomically higher than off-peak charges. For example, if a new energy-efficient HVAC system is added to an office building, that building will still see high peak demand charges (although lower than before the upgrade) from the utility. However, capturing a renewable energy source, like wind or solar, can greatly reduce the impact of peak demand charges.

Renewable energy wind turbine power

Winning the Fight on Climate Change

In summary, combining energy efficiency and renewable energy delivers the greatest environmental and economic benefits. Melink Corporation can help building owners, engineers, and designers with both energy efficiency and renewable solutions. We know this combination works from experience, too. With our own Zero Energy Building and another LEED Platinum building, Melink does not just talk the talk, we walk the walk.

Contact us today to protect your business from the volatile energy market, commit to sustainability, reduce utility costs, and fight climate change.

Melink 2025 Pledge

Happy Earth Day 2020!  Though we are living through a pandemic that is killing thousands, sickening millions, and affecting billions of jobs, we need to have a vision and purpose beyond this time that gives us hope for a better world.

Earth Day gives us the permission to think big again and to imagine the bold goals we have long supported finally being implemented and realized.  However, since government often lags rather than leads when it comes to the environment, we need individual action more than ever.

Sure, the clean energy movement is well underway.  Countless government, business, and education leaders are investing in solar and wind farms across the United States and around the world. Electric cars and batteries are slowly but surely going mainstream.

But certain headwinds are preventing this clean energy movement from becoming a revolution.  Yes, the current administration is one of them.  And the fossil fuel industry and climate change deniers are another. And, to some extent, so are you and me.

How many of us complain about someone else not doing their part to lead on climate action, and then fail to do so ourselves?  For example, is every one of us buying clean energy from our utility? And is every one of us at least planning to upgrade to an electric car in the future?      

It is in this spirit that I make the Melink 2025 Pledge. Though our company has long been a pioneer and leader in clean energy solutions and Zero-Energy buildings, we have typically allowed our employees to make personal choices that run counter to our mission.

Now that we are an ESOP and every employee is an owner, it is more incumbent than ever for us to walk the talk on our vision and mission. The world already has enough headwinds. But Melink shall continue to lead and live up to its calling even during the hardest times.

Melink 2025 Pledge

  • Every Melink employee-owner shall select the clean power option from his/her utility. (The average monthly cost of doing this is a Starbucks cup of coffee).

  • Every Melink employee-owner shall drive an electric car using clean energy. (Our EV incentive, leasing program, and lower market prices should make this possible).

  • Melink Corporation shall give everyone five years to transition to this commitment. If there are personal financial reasons preventing this, we will support him/her.

To further leverage this pledge, we ask that other local, regional, and national partners or stakeholders join us.  It’s a small premium to do the right thing, and it’s getting smaller every day.  Let’s create more demand so that in five years it’s cheaper than doing the wrong thing. Like the pandemic and any war, we can only win if we all do our small part. Let’s create a better world for our children and grandchildren — all of us, together.      

Sincerely,

Steve Melink signature

Steve Melink
Chairman & CEO
Melink Corporation

 

Is the Coronavirus Affecting Climate Change?

Internationally, the coronavirus has impacted many aspects of our world, from the economy and our spending habits to our jobs and everyday routines. But what about our climate? Yes, our ecological environment has been largely affected by COVID-19, too.

Decreased Greenhouse Gas Emissions

While COVID-19 has spread globally, governments have been forced to initiate social distancing and stay-at-home orders in an effort to stop the spread. These lockdowns have caused many industries and individuals to cease production and travel, causing a ripple affect in greenhouse gas emissions. Countries across the world are experiencing a drastic drop in greenhouse gas emissions, according to an article from the BBC. In fact, China has experienced a decrease by 25% in CO2 emissions. In the United States, New York has seen a decrease as low as 50% in CO2 emissions. Other major countries seeing similar decreases in CO2 and NO2 emissions include Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom.

While this decrease appears to be some much-needed good news during the pandemic, scientists and ecological specialists are skeptical that these drops in emissions are going to have any lasting effects. If these drops in emissions are caused from a decrease in manufacturing and travel, then what will happen after the virus has been contained, when production increases and daily travel routines return?

“The fight against pollution is a long-distance race, not a sprint,” said Xavier Querol, a science researcher specialized in atmospheric pollution. Essentially, this means the sudden drops in emissions happening across the globe are temporary and if we truly want to see a lasting positive effect in greenhouse gas emissions, we must look to other solutions.

A Closer Look at Energy Consumption

The majority of greenhouse gas emissions (72%) can be attributed to energy. Of that 72%, the manufacturing and transportation sectors together make up 27.7%, which is the main contributor to the decrease in greenhouse gas emissions that are being experienced around the world due to COVID-19 restrictions.

However, it is not feasible to assume that these emission levels are going to remain where they are once the coronavirus restrictions are lifted. Therefore, we must look to the highest contributor of energy consumption, which is electricity and heat, and find solutions to decrease emissions.

Currently, there are many companies creating technology to support the goals of lowering emissions, slowing climate change, and lowering energy consumption. Melink Corporation, a leader in Zero-Energy buildings, offers five energy solutions to help create healthy buildings and lower energy consumption:

Each one of these services not only helps to create a sustainable world for future generations but also serves as a cost-saving opportunity for businesses to implement.

Coronavirus and Climate Change

In summary, what is coronavirus teaching us about how to decrease climate change? Well, that’s a loaded question that cannot be answered fully. But the solution starts with decision makers, business owners/operators, and individual consumers. If any good can come from this pandemic, maybe it’s how our perspective is changing. Now, perhaps more than ever, we see the importance of preserving this world that we all know and love — not just maintaining our current environment — and ensuring future generations are set up for success. We can do better when it comes to climate change, whether coronavirus is in the picture or not.

Beyond the Pandemic — Shifting to Sustainable, Clean Energy

As devastating as COVID-19 has been, there’s a different lens from which we can view its effect on the world. How can businesses become more resilient? While it’s hard not to focus on just the next few months, it’s important to think about the kind of world we want to live in after this crisis ends.

One immutable constant is great leaders always want to prosper. Despite whatever challenges, they will continue to seek opportunities to grow their top and bottom lines. They will continue to build their brands and organizations for long term success.

Given you may be one of these leaders, there’s a growing secret across the U.S. and around the world. Solar power is slowly but surely becoming the way of the future – and businesses are primed to reap the benefits. If you sense shifting to clean energy is an intimidating undertaking, the following points should empower you more than anything.

Ballasted mount on flat roof for solar power

Reasons to Consider Clean Energy

#1 Reduce Electricity Costs and Invest in Long-Term Savings
Using solar will lower the costs on your electric bill. Sure, the initial cost to install solar may be your biggest barrier. However, if you account for your average monthly electric bill cost, and budget for that expense on an annualized basis – after five, 10, 15, 20 years, the amount paid to the utility is a daunting reality that can be mitigated. Not to mention we should also factor in future rate increases over a 30-year period. The return on investment and savings over the lifespan of a solar panel system, depending on your energy consumption and the estimated production of the system, is a factor worth considering.  

#2 Hedge Against Volatile Energy Costs
Purchasing solar can be much like investing in insurance. People pay for insurance because of the uncertainties of accident, injury, or death. Similarly, there are unknowns about the price of electricity through your utility and what it will cost down the road. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, over the last decade, the average price of electricity has increased about 4.6%. However, over those ten years, the standard deviation of commercial electricity prices was 0.24%. This signifies the great variability of energy costs over the last decade. Instead of relying on the ever-changing lows and highs of electric power prices, you can create a more predictable budget by locking into your rate for solar. Investing in solar can help companies avoid rising energy costs, and the uncertainty that comes with depending on power from the grid. 

#3 Boost Public Relations and Attract Talent
As more and more companies switch to clean energy solutions, they further enhance their brands. In an article by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, they indicate how practicing Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) reaps multiple benefits, such as engaged employees, loyal customers, and positive public attention. In fact, it’s a purchase driver for many. “In a Nielson survey, 66% of participants said they pay more for products and services from socially responsible companies.” People are simply targeting more businesses that strive for better Environmental Social and Governance (ESG) practices. It captures the interest of younger generations, brings talent, and drives morale within the workforce. Internally and externally, people are motivated by businesses that look out for the greater good.

#4 Improve Your Property Value
Think about buying and owning a house. There are various ways in which one can invest in its worth and longevity. Perhaps it’s an addition that makes the house more attractive. These investments should increase the value of your home or building when you go to sell it. People decide to stop renting because, well…it’s money down the drain. Like buying a house, when you purchase solar, you become an owner of your electric bills. Just like renovations maximize a home’s value, installing solar and producing your own energy appeals to buyers, employees, and consumers alike. An article from Money.com references a study provided by Zillow: “On average, solar panels raise a home’s value by 4.1% across the U.S. — that’s a boost of $9,274 on a $226,300 home.” Even more so with larger buildings, there’s always going to be operation costs that go into running a facility. Just like the importance of fixing a leak or fine-tuning the plumbing, investing in solar relieves the long-term expenses of running a commercial building, thus making it more valuable. 

#5 Commit to Sustainability
There’s no way to avoid it. Helping the environment and leaving the Earth in better condition for future generations is a driving force for companies to consider clean energy. Businesses now have a duty to pay attention to CSR. In an article published by RE100, numerous companies are taking action — and explain why:
IKEA has committed to “generate as much renewable energy as the total energy it consumes in its operations by 2020, as well as to consume 100% renewable electricity by 2025.” Why is that their goal? “(Our) investments into wind and solar energy generation contribute to the shift to a low carbon economy and, from a business perspective, help to secure our future as we become energy independent,” says Steve Howard, Chief Sustainability Officer.
AB InBev recognizes that the “shift to renewables has the potential to drive a remarkable transformation in infrastructure, not only in the U.S. and Europe but also across emerging nations around the world. They have “pledged to secure 100% of purchased electricity from renewable sources by 2025,” says Brian Perkins, Global VP Budweiser.
Microsoft’s Chief Environmental Strategist, Rob Bernard, makes a strong statement when asked why the company wanted to be 100% powered by renewables (achieved in 2014): “We believe there is a clear and urgent need for society to address climate change, and we recognize that our responsibility begins with our own actions. We are working to consistently reduce our carbon footprint, and we are committed to taking significant action to shape our energy future by developing clean, low-cost sources.”

Investing in solar is a commitment to cleaner air and a brighter future. It’s a commitment to not only maintain the health of our planet but to sustain the economy.

Section 201 Commercial Solar Panel Insstallation

Is Clean Energy Worth the Investment?

Convinced yet?  If not, compare solar power to other investments that may be in your portfolio.

It has been estimated that the Internal Rate of Return (IRR) – a metric used to quantify the profitability of long-term capital projects – can be greater for solar systems than traditional equity investments in the stock market. Taking into consideration initial installation costs, scale of the project, future electrical price estimates, and so on, calculations for an IRR over a 30-year period typically range between 10-13% for solar, versus 7.4% for the S&P 500.

Of course, it’s important to assess the value of installation, or Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE), which quantifies the cost of the electricity produced over a solar system’s lifespan – usually up to 30 years. This metric helps directly compare what you would otherwise be paying for utility charges. Again, this is where locking in a predictable rate can be crucial. One can expect to significantly gain from an investment like solar because it provides a solution to fighting rising electrical prices. There’s no longer a need to depend on the utility’s energy costs. 

If you’re a business owner or key decision maker in your company, these should be highly compelling reasons to consider clean energy for your facility footprint.

In times of uncertainty, it’s our responsibility more than ever to fool-proof our infrastructure and buildings to withstand the social and economic costs of pandemics, global warming, and other unpredictable occurrences. Furthermore, there’s a need to think about the greater good of our decisions, their impacts, and what our world can become beyond the pandemic.  

The Future of the 2020s: Healthy Buildings

As we enter the Roaring 20s and continue the “What’s next?” conversation surrounding societal, technological, planetary, and human behavioral changes, I think it’s important for us to consider the role of buildings in all these arenas — ideally, healthy buildings.

According to a Navigant Research study in 2018, the global building stock is expected to increase 13% by 2028, and other research estimates the total global building stock will double by 2060. Should these estimates be correct, that’s the equivalent of building an entire New York City every month…for the next 40 years! Consider that growth, combined with research that contributes 40% of greenhouse gas emissions to buildings, and we have a big opportunity in front of us.

On a recent visit to Melink, President and CEO of the U.S. Green Building Council Mahesh Ramanujam highlighted his mission to transform buildings by first focusing on the people inside of them. Considering people spend 90% of their lives inside buildings, the more people associate buildings with human health and personal well-being, the more the conversation for smarter and more efficient buildings can be accelerated.  While Mahesh is a great influence on the advocacy front, Melink is in a great position to offer building owners tangible solutions for tackling these challenges. 

How Melink Innovates Healthy Buildings

Innovation is a core principle at Melink, and 2020 brings about exciting opportunities across all of our products and services to make an impact in the world:

  • Melink PositiV®  is a building health monitor that provides trend data for the key metrics of building pressure, CO2, temperature, and humidity. Negative pressure can lead to a multitude of “Sick Building” syndromes that ultimately lead to decreased employee performance, increased sick days, and unhappy occupants.
  • Melink’s core Test & Balance services ensure that buildings are performing as they were designed to support and protect the occupants.
  • Intelli-Hood® measures the cooking activity at the kitchen hood level to ensure the operator is using only the energy required to exhaust cooking effluent based on the demand, in addition to ensuring enough replacement fresh air is delivered to occupants.
  • Our Solar & Geothermal division is busy working to rapidly scale the adoption of these core building technologies and innovate around barriers to entry. The price of solar continues to decline as efficiencies increase, leading to a transformative time in the solar industry as we go beyond grid parody. In most cases, we offer our solar customers the ability to lock in their kWh rate for the next 30 years at prices below $0.025 / kWh. With the rapid rate of innovation in the battery storage sector, I’m confident new technologies will emerge that mitigate net-metering laws and allow building owners to more efficiently install power plants on their roof via solar.
  • Plus, our geothermal team continues to push the boundaries of hybrid thermal loop systems in an effort to remove significant bore-field cost in geothermal projects. Our new HQ2 is a living laboratory to drive the innovation necessary to responsibly heat, cool and power the buildings of the future.   

So, “What’s next” for Melink? Changing the world, one healthy building at a time. Sound familiar?