Structural and regulatory factors have allowed utilities in some countries to leapfrog America’s utility industry in terms of technology leadership. But U.S. utilities are learning valuable...
Thermal Energy Storage: Putting Green Solutions on Site
energy suppliers, for example, the marginal cost of serving a customer's air-conditioning load can be decreased by 30 to 50 percent. In addition, electric utilities are about 5 times more capital intensive than other manufacturing businesses per dollar of revenue. Improving the customer's load factor by 30 to 50 percent with TES can mean a significant reduction in financing requirements and financial exposure.
California financing requirements could shrink by a billion dollars for a transmission and distribution system, and comparable savings in generation capacity may be possible. Finally, TES's ability to lower a customer's average price makes TES an effective customer retention tool.
California building owners can also benefit by paying lower costs for energy. In addition, using TES for chilled water storage tanks could lower fire insurance premiums. Some commercial facilities managers believe that TES could provide the best tool available for reducing power costs in a restructured electricity industry. And, because TES increases property value, the building owner can often obtain more external financing on a project and use less of the developer's own cash.
Finally, the building owner can increase revenues with TES: Cold-air distribution systems allow building owners to offer more floors of leasable space and, hence, greater revenues.
Given the energy savings and other benefits of TES, several policy actions become feasible. First, government agencies could nominate TES as a priority energy-efficiency or demand-side management (DSM) program in state energy resource policy decisions. TES has demonstrated energy and emissions savings consistent with DSM objectives but, unlike most energy-efficiency measures, TES also improves load factor significantly and provides cost savings that render both energy users and suppliers more competitive.
Second, building standards could be modified to compare the energy efficiencies of alternative cooling technologies. State public utility commissions could reexamine source energy comparisons of alternative systems, including the opportunities of TES systems. In addition, as in Switzerland,7 the building code could encourage designers to lower building peak demands with TES.
Importantly, the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) has put its energy-efficiency Standard 90.1 forward for public review. In that draft, ASHRAE is considering using an average electricity cost for all kilowatt-hour use that does not recognize the time-varying nature of electricity cost and source energy efficiencies. Such a standard would significantly reduce a building owner's options to
control cost in an increasingly competitive electricity market. ASHRAE members have voiced significant concern over this draft.
Third, government agencies charged with emissions monitoring could recognize TES as an effective emissions-control measure. The SCAQMD has already done so.8 Other air districts could follow suit. Many California air districts would benefit from encouraging TES as a control measure for power-plant emissions.
Finally, TES could be promoted as a priority cooling system option in "environmental partnerships" with key energy-user groups. One such group could involve "sister" governmental agencies of the CEC, including local, state, and possibly, federal government agencies. Another group could include businesses involved as "environmental partners."
For example, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has attained considerable success in recruiting business "environmental partners"