Supply and demand

Published 10:36 am Monday, July 23, 2012

JACKSON – Something as simple as switching out a light bulb could save Northampton County taxpayers money.

On Monday, the Northampton County Board of Commissioners received an energy audit report on county buildings from Rebecca A. Enfiedjian, who works for the Environmental Defense Fund through the Roanoke Center in Rich Square.

Sondra Dickens with the Roanoke Center said it was a joint effort between the center and the county to bring Enfiedjian to Northampton County without cost.

Enfiedjian, looking at Courthouse Square, Public Works, 911 Center, Administration Building and the Animal Shelter, determined the county’s electrical cost (with three missing bills) from May 2011-12 totaled $72,709.94.

Enfiedjian provided a further break down of annual electrical expenditure per county building as follows: Board of Commissioners ($1,020.97), Old Rescue Services ($246.96), Dry Storage ($690.57), Administration ($25,086.79), Agricultural/Finance ($4,419.93), Court House ($19,342.76), 911Call Center ($13,399.49), Agriculture ($1,046.90), Gazebo ($197.03), Animal Shelter ($987.44), Public Works ($3004.44), Data Processing ($2,301.26) and County Manager ($965.40).

“Our electrical expenditure is directly related to our use,” she said. “The less we use the less money it costs. That’s simple supply and demand as we can see here.”

Enfiedjian said 81 percent of the county’s electrical costs came from three buildings last year (Administration, Court House and the 911 Call Center).

“Lighting, depending on where you get it from, ranges 10 to 30 percent of your electrical use,” she said. “It depends on the building, structure and what it’s used for. Buildings that have more public access have a higher lighting and HVAC use than a normal office building.”

The T12 ballast is no longer manufactured though there are still companies that are still selling the ballasts. These will eventually be phased out, said Enfiedjian.

She said one solution to the T12 dilemma is retrofitting the ballast for T8 bulbs, which are more energy efficient. Enfiedjian said changing out incandescent bulbs with CFL bulbs result in higher efficiency as would affixing exit signs with LEDs.

“You’re less likely to have to change them, they maintain a certain brightness and it (gives) out less heat,” she said.

Enfiedjian estimated it would costs approximate $7,400 to switching out the light bulbs for more efficient bulbs

“Your annual savings just because you’ve switched over to more efficient lights would be $6,921, meaning your simple payback, your simple rate of return, is 1.1 year,” she said. “Your rate of return in five years you will have 90 percent of your initial investment. That present value within 10 years is $17,150, that’s what you will be saving.”

Enfiedjian said she looked at three buildings (Administration, 911 Center and the Court House) and their office equipment.

“If you do PC monitor management as well as vending machines you spend $4,300 roughly, you have an annual savings of $3,300, at 1.3 years you’ve have everything back,” she said.

With lighting and office equipment together there would be an initial county investment of $11,745 and first year savings at $10,233 with a payback of 1.1 year. Rate of return is 85 percent in five years. At present value in 10 years the county would save $24,590.83.

Enfiedjian said setting back the thermostats by five degrees when the building is not in use or when employees leave it can save reduce an electric bill in eight to 16 hours by five to 10 percent.

Window replacements, retrofits, building envelope replacement, HVAC replacement could also be intermediate and long term goals for the county.

For funding these changes, Enfiedjian said there are financing opportunities and she is currently looking into financial assistance through the State Energy Office and USDA Rural Development Center specifically for an Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant. There are also Energy Performance Contracting and Utility Savings Initiative opportunities.

She also spoke about Energy Star, a joint program of the US EPA and US DOE, which offers tools, such as Profile Manager, to help businesses and local governments to keep track of energy use and apply for the Energy Star Performance rating. She noted Profile Manager allows the county to see yearly expenditures in order to properly allocate budgets and helps to manage energy and water consumption, help track progress of improvement projects and help gain EPA recognition.

Commissioner Robert Carter questioned if the Roanoke Center would receive the funds from a grant or if the county.

Enfiedjian said it would depend how the grant is written whether the funds would go through the Roanoke Center or to the county.

Dickens with the Roanoke Center said through the Roanoke Center’s parent company, Roanoke Electric Cooperative, there may be some opportunities.

“I’ve talked to (County Manager) Mr. (Wayne) Jenkins about that and we’re supposed to be getting together to look at some options for the county,” she said. “And not just for the county but the residents of Northampton as well in reducing energy in their homes.”

She also spoke about upcoming energy forums (one coming to Northampton on Oct. 13) to discuss how to reduce usage and, therefore, costs.

Jenkins thanked the Roanoke Center and Roanoke Electric for partnering with the county on the effort.

“When we save money it saves the taxpayers money,” he said. “Taxpayers dollars are hard to come by and we’re looking forward to this baseline that you’ve developed for us and I’ll get with Mr. (Jason) Morris (Public Works Director)  later and we will discuss this report. Hopefully, madam chair and commissioners, we can find some money in Mr. Morris’s existing budget that we can go ahead a make these (light bulb) changes.”