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A Sustainable Energy Revolution Starts from Within the Plant

When I think of a revolutionary, names like Benjamin Franklin, Oliver Cromwell or Che Guevara come to mind. But the revolutionary who has had the greatest effect on my life is my boyhood friend Tim, one of the brightest and most thoughtful individuals I have ever met; the only person I actually know to have made the cover of a major news magazine, protesting at a giant peace rally in D.C.

As a political and social activist, Tim has devoted his life to making this world a better place.

I never thought of myself as a revolutionary or an activist before I sat down to write this article, even though I have devoted my professional life to minimizing the waste and increasing the efficiency of the use of energy, to reducing the resulting damage to our planet, to the air and water and to reducing the hundreds of thousands of worldwide deaths, injuries and health problems every year resulting from mining, drilling, transporting, processing and burning fossil fuels. And now with all of the recent and growing awareness and concern about climate change and sustainability, it appears that we are on the forefront of an Energy Conservation Revolution. A revolution that can trace its roots back to the oil embargo of 1973-74; a revolution that could explode at any time and spread over much of the world.

I hope it does. I have waited nearly 40 years. I have been trying to overthrow the Energy Conservation Establishment since there has been one. I have been one of those in the front row carrying a sign. If Tim and his friends could stop a war, maybe this revolution can stop the waste and destruction.

Continuous Commissiong Never Stops Giving

Traditional retro-commissioning (RCx), where existing energyconsuming systems are examined and re-tuned to improve effi ciency, provides cost-effective savings but due to dynamic factors, the systems rarely remain optimized for performance over time.

RCx typically identifi es low-cost operational and maintenance improvements in existing facilities and updates operations to refl ect current use. The process typically includes an audit of the entire facility as well as analysis of past utility bills and interviews with facility personnel. It is followed by diagnostic monitoring and tests of systems to optimize the use of current mechanical equipment, lighting controls, etc. Between 5% and 30% of potential energy savings can be realized. Read more.


Well, the two aging revolutionaries have been reunited after nearly 50 years, in Fort Collins, Colorado, an amazingly beautiful and inspirational state where nearly everyone is interested in nature, in sustainability and in preserving our precious planet. And in a city with the most progressive programs I have ever encountered to minimize the waste of energy.

Tim hasn’t stopped all injustice on the earth just yet and I haven’t toppled the Energy Establishment, but I think it may be leaning a little. Since I have been writing articles for Sustainable Plant, all promoting, to one extent or another, the use of actual data and valid science, emails have come from experienced energy engineers and managers all over the world. If I had to generalize, I would say that they have 20 or more years of real-world experience, come from practical applications backgrounds and are also frustrated by the ineffectiveness of the energy establishment, government programs, universities and professional societies in terms of providing and promoting the actual practical and theoretical skills required for success.

Revolutionary Methods Start with Analytics

Research into buildings analytics was started in the mid-1980s by PG&E and continued in the 1990s by the California Institute for Energy Efficiency and Lawrence Berkley Labs. Examples of their results using monitoring-based commissioning (MBCx) are given in the June 2009 report, “Monitoring-Based Commissioning: Benchmarking Analysis of 24 UC/CSU/IOU Projects.” The report summary says, “While impacts varied from project to project, on a portfolio basis we find MBCx to be a highly cost-effective means of obtaining significant program-level energy savings across a variety of building types. Energy savings areexpected to be more robust and persistent for MBCx projects than for conventionally commissioned ones.”

More evidence of the power of analytics is presented in an article by Jim Sinopoli, managing principal, Smart Buildings LLC, in his February 2012 newsletter, where he talks about “The Killer App for Buildings & Energy Management: Fault Detection and Diagnostics.” Sinopoli says, “The software application with the best verified results and cost effectiveness is fault detection and diagnostics (FDD), a subset of the larger category of analytic software related to buildings. Analytics are critical because buildings are becoming more complex, new systems are being introduced into buildings and energy consumption metrics and key performance indicators are now of great interest to corporate or organization executives.The analytic tools provide insights into building systems resulting in reduced energy consumption, improved building performance and lower costs.”

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