Energy Management for Municipalities: A Q&A with Charlotte Prestridge, Energy Specialist
Five years ago, the City of Montgomery realized it was dealing with an energy problem. Seventy-five of their 360 buildings — less than one quarter — accounted for half of the city’s total utility expenses. This inflated energy consumption was putting a strain on the city’s budget, and Montgomery leadership decided it was time to implement an energy conservation program.
While there was the will, the way forward was initially unclear. The outcomes of conservation programs are easy to quantify, but there was concern over the upfront investment in time and resources to get started.
That’s why, in 2016, the City of Montgomery partnered with Cenergistic. Together, the city has amassed more than $4.5 million in net savings, and their energy use has decreased 41%.
[Learn more about the City of Montgomery’s program here.]
We sat down with the City of Montgomery’s Energy Specialist, Charlotte Prestridge, to learn more about this program and what lessons other municipalities can draw from their experience.
Q: What is a common energy efficiency issue that all municipalities face?
The common issue is that there is no one single issue! City governments consist of so many different types of buildings, from fire stations and police departments to museums and community centers. These buildings are all unique, so there is no “one size fits all” solution when it comes to reducing energy consumption for municipalities.
As a result, it isn’t feasible for a city to establish one energy conservation mandate and expect each building in the jurisdiction to follow it. The key is getting to know each building individually, and then develop the best implementation program for that specific one.
Q: How does one go about kickstarting an energy conservation program for a municipality?
At Cenergistic, we start by building trust with our municipality clients. Get to know a building’s occupants and its maintenance staff. Listen to what they think a specific building’s pain points are, but also ask what their preferences are for that building. Do they feel it runs a bit warm? Or is it too cold? All of the answers to these questions help us identify what the best path forward will be for that specific building.
The reality is that municipal staff members know their buildings best, and they know how they want them to operate. Our goal is to reduce energy spend and save money — but we also want to ensure that city employees and residents using these buildings feel comfortable. The good news is that these are typically complementary, not conflicting, goals.
Q: How does Cenergistic add value to what a city might already be doing in terms of energy management?
As I mentioned, there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to implementing a city-wide energy conservation program. For example, a community center might have off-hours where there are no occupants in the building. Turning off or limiting energy spend during those hours might be a conservation strategy for that facility, but not for another building that requires 24-hour system use. An example here would be the city’s museum — there is always a security guard on duty, and the art also requires specific lighting and HVAC requirements. In situations like this, you have to be more creative in looking for conservation opportunities.
This raises another point. You can see how it takes time and resources to identify areas of optimization, which most cities don’t have.
Cenergistic offers these resources through Energy Specialists and our Cenergistic GreenX® software suite. We provide the administrative lift of tracking exact energy usage and spend, along with on-the-ground support to help identify optimization areas. From there, we work with our clients to execute an energy conservation program based on mutually established goals.
Q: What has been your favorite part of working with the City of Montgomery?
Everything we are able to accomplish as a team. Montgomery was Cenergistic’s first municipal partner, so we all went into this together without knowing exactly what to expect. But the results have been amazing.
We’ve had so much success since starting the program — from lowering the city’s water spend to identifying opportunities for savings at the ballparks. Without the City’s support, none of this would be possible. Energy conservation programs are a team effort — I’m lucky to have such a great group of people to work with both at the City of Montgomery and at Cenergistic.
To learn more about how Cenergistic can help your city implement an energy conservation program, contact us for more information at 1-855-798-7779 or visit Cenergistic.com.