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Shine and Get Solar

Reclamation plant solar

Ear­lier this sum­mer, Howard County com­pleted a 217 kW DC Solar PV sys­tem at the Lit­tle Patux­ent Water Recla­ma­tion Plant.

Reclamation plant solarThe pho­to­voltaic sys­tem com­prises two roof mounts (42.5 kW on the Dis­in­fec­tion Build­ing and 47.2kW on the Admin­is­tra­tion Build­ing) and two car­port struc­tures (127.4 kW). The project is part of the County’s elec­tri­cal pro­tec­tion sys­tem upgrade to safe­guard the Water Recla­ma­tion Plant from elec­tri­cal out­ages, such as the one that occurred dur­ing trop­i­cal storm Sandy. Since late May 2014 we have gen­er­ated 66,181 kWh. It is esti­mated that the solar pan­els will result in a yearly power cost sav­ings of $22,900.

Home­own­ers also have more oppor­tu­ni­ties to go solar than ever before. Solar energy options in Mary­land are avail­able every­where in the State and there are a lot of incen­tives that makes it more attrac­tive than ever. You will be reduc­ing your energy costs as well as con­tribut­ing to the State’s renew­able energy goals. Mary­land Renew­able Port­fo­lio Stan­dard (RPS) requires that 20 per­cent of Maryland’s Elec­tric­ity be gen­er­ated from renew­able energy sources by 2022, includ­ing 2 per­cent from solar energy.

There are many advan­tages to res­i­den­tial solar power:

  1. Save on your elec­tric­ity bills
  2. Increase your home value
  3. Take advan­tage of incentives
  4. Help to decrease your car­bon footprint
  5. Help to reduce U.S. depen­dence on for­eign sources of energy

Here is a list of some of the finan­cial incen­tives avail­able for Mary­land residents:


The Fed­eral gov­ern­ment is offer­ing the invest­ment Tax Credit – a tax­payer may claim a credit of up to 30% of the cost for a system

More info at http://www.dsireusa.org/incentives/incentive.cfm?Incentive_Code=US37F&re=0&ee=0


The State of Mary­land offers a Clean Energy Pro­duc­tion Tax Credit for elec­tric­ity gen­er­ated from solar and other clean energy sources.

More info at: http://energy.maryland.gov/Business/CleanEnergyTaxCredit.html

Res­i­den­tial Clean Energy Grant Program:

Fund­ing for res­i­den­tial solar sys­tems up to 20kW

More info at:



So why not take advan­tage of a pow­er­ful yet free energy source….the Sun. Live Green and get Solar!

Yeimary San­tos
Sep­tem­ber 2014

EVerybody is talking about them…

EV charging pic revised

EV Charg­ing Stations

EV charging pic revised

John Pear­son from County Fleet at the new charg­ing sta­tion in Elli­cott City

Elec­tric vehi­cle (EV) charg­ing sta­tions have always been on the OES* radar, but have recently been in higher and higher demand. The County recently installed four new EV charg­ing sta­tions at the Elli­cott City cam­pus to serve its employ­ees and res­i­dents. In addi­tion to the new sta­tions, there are eight other charg­ing sta­tions at gov­ern­ment build­ings, five of which are avail­able to the pub­lic. The Ulman admin­is­tra­tion has also pro­moted the use of elec­tric vehi­cles by pur­chas­ing them for County fleet. Here is a video that shows the first charg­ing sta­tions at Ben­dix Road http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dt5C-X7P9c0.

The sta­tions are well used, and in recent months Howard County has received requests for addi­tional charg­ing infra­struc­ture. Stay tuned for more devel­op­ments com­ing in the near future…

*Office of Envi­ron­men­tal Sustainability

Laura A.T. Miller

June 2014

Discover — EnergyCAP

For sev­eral months now I have been work­ing really hard to set up the Ener­gy­CAP data­base in Howard County. After meet­ings with stake­hold­ers, ven­dors, con­fer­ences calls, and even more meetings,I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Howard County gov­ern­ment will soon start using an energy man­age­ment data­base called “Ener­gy­CAP”. So…what is Ener­gy­CAP? Ener­gy­CAP is basi­cally a data­base for man­ag­ing util­ity bill data (Note: the “CAP” in Ener­gy­CAP stands for “Cost Avoid­ance Pro­gram”) which allows accu­rate track­ing of elec­tric­ity, water and nat­ural gas con­sump­tion and costs across all the County’s facilities.

The County will be able to mon­i­tor the per­for­mance of all facil­i­ties includ­ing office build­ings, parks, fire sta­tions, high­way shops and libraries which account for over 500 energy meters.

  • EnergyCAP’s Dash­board fea­ture will help us to quickly get an overview of the man­aged facil­i­ties. The Build­ing & Meters orga­ni­za­tional hier­ar­chy will enable us to see any­thing from over­all usage down to indi­vid­ual meter usage.
  • Ener­gy­CAP also allows the County to bench­mark build­ings which will help to eas­ily iden­tify build­ings and meters that have abnor­mal use or cost. These build­ings and meters usu­ally have the great­est oppor­tu­nity for cost reduc­tion and energy savings.
  • Ener­gy­CAP can also gen­er­ate more than 250 dif­fer­ent reports that help ana­lysts to exam­ine and track energy usage for all facil­i­ties. Another fea­ture which we are excited about is the Ener­gyS­tar link. We will be able to auto­mat­i­cally sub­mit build­ing energy data to the Energy Star Port­fo­lio Man­ager so that we can receive build­ing energy ratings.

We at the Howard County Office of Envi­ron­men­tal Sus­tain­abil­ity are very excited to start using all the fea­tures that Ener­gy­CAP has to offer and see how the data­base helps us to bet­ter align with the County’s energy sav­ing goals.

Yeimary San­tos
Feb­ru­ary 2014

Peak Rewards

I just saved another $50 bucks this sum­mer by being in the PeakRe­wards pro­gram. That could have been $100 if I had cho­sen the high­est level in the pro­gram, but I like a good com­pro­mise so this works for me.

If you’re not famil­iar with the pro­gram, home­own­ers receive money towards their bill for allow­ing BGE to “cycle” their energy on days where there is high energy demand. Renters can be in the pro­gram with their landlord’s per­mis­sion. Energy com­pa­nies are try­ing to reduce the need for build­ing more power plants and reduce the chances of brown-outs and black-outs.

The one time last sum­mer that I actu­ally noticed a “cycling,” my air con­di­tioner would turn off for 15 min­utes then on for 15 min­utes and this went on for a few hours. The indoor tem­per­a­ture went up to 80 dur­ing that time but it was back to the nor­mal pro­grammed tem­per­a­ture by the time we went to sleep. Not bad at all.

I called BGE and was told that there are usu­ally 4–6 cycling events per sum­mer. These high demand times usu­ally hap­pen on week­days between 12 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sum­mer of 2013 had only one “emer­gency” event. In non-emergency events, every­one is cycled at 50% (even if you sign up for a higher level) and emer­gency events are cycled at your cho­sen level (50%, 75%, or 100%).

I have been in the pro­gram for sev­eral years and I saw a big improve­ment this year in BGE’s com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Now you can get email alerts let­ting you know a cycling event is hap­pen­ing. Also, I think they are bet­ter about putting the info on the web­site. I found this very help­ful, rather than hav­ing to look at my pro­gram­ma­ble ther­mo­stat to see if it had the “SAVINGS” mes­sage that comes on dur­ing cycling events.

The free pro­gram­ma­ble ther­mo­stat that was installed when I signed up is actu­ally my favorite part of PeakRe­wards. You don’t have to get the ther­mo­stat, you can get an out­door switch instead. But I LOVE the one that I got. It is very easy to use and I’m sure I save a bunch of money by using it. MUCH bet­ter than the pre­vi­ous “pro­gram­ma­ble” ther­mo­stat that came with my heat pump. I found that one incom­pre­hen­si­ble. Now I use the easy touch screen to pro­gram day and night tem­per­a­tures and I change those dur­ing vaca­tions, etc. You can also sign up to be able to change your tem­per­a­tures remotely, but while I am a fan of the pro­gram, that’s one step beyond me.

PeakRe­wards is part of a larger energy effi­ciency effort called EmPOWER Mary­land. The goal of EmPOWER Mary­land is to reduce energy use 15% by 2015.

Other cool things about PeakRewards:

For more fun facts, here is a suc­cess story page of the program’s results.

Elissa Rei­neck
Novem­ber 2013

Mixed Emotions and Energy Supply Choice

I live in a small town­home com­mu­nity on a mostly quiet dead-end street. When a sales­per­son comes to my door, I feel aggra­vated and imposed upon, while simul­ta­né­ously feel­ing great respect for some­one who is try­ing to earn a liv­ing by going door –to-door.

A few months ago, my hus­band signed up with an elec­tric­ity sup­plier who had come to the door. As I had been intend­ing to change our sup­plier for some time, it forced me to spring in to action. He had got­ten a bet­ter price than we would have had we stayed with BGE… but I wanted more. I wanted to sup­port renew­able energy gen­er­a­tion. After sev­eral phone calls (one to can­cel the new sub­scrip­tion) and an online reg­is­tra­tion process, our energy sup­ply now comes from renew­able energy sources.

One resource that I just learned about that would have been very help­ful to us in our energy sup­ply deci­sion process is:


Take a look at this invalu­able infor­ma­tion col­lected all in one place! You’ve got all the rel­e­vant data nec­es­sary to make an informed deci­sion. Note: I work in the sus­tain­abil­ity field, and even I wasn’t aware that this resource was avail­able to Mary­land residents.

Reduc­ing our col­lec­tive car­bon foot­print starts with small indi­vid­ual choices. Make the choice to sup­port renew­able energy generation!

Laura A.T. Miller
Sep­tem­ber 2013

Home Energy Audit Update

So you weren’t able to receive one of the free home energy audits offered by the County last year. Well, all hope is not lost…

Approx­i­mately 1,200 audits were per­formed, and the data from those efforts pro­vides a wealth of infor­ma­tion for the County’s res­i­dents and staff to mine. Now, our office is tak­ing the results of those audits and work­ing with a con­trac­tor to cre­ate an on-line search­able database.

What does this mean for you? We’re just get­ting started on the devel­op­ment of the data­base, but at its com­ple­tion, res­i­dents will be able to go online and use it to deter­mine the best man­age­ment prac­tices for an energy effi­cient home. Improv­ing energy effi­ciency can improve the com­fort of your home, reduce your energy bills and keep your money in the bank (or under the mat­tress depend­ing on your preference).

With this data­base, res­i­dents will be able to choose the appro­pri­ate search cri­te­ria for their home (size, age, loca­tion by school dis­trict, etc.) and then view the types of rec­om­men­da­tions that were made for sim­i­lar res­i­dences. For exam­ple, per­haps you have a wood frame town­home built in 1985 and you live in the Vet­er­ans Ele­men­tary School area, then you would search the data­base with those val­ues. You might find that audits were done for sim­i­lar prop­er­ties and it was found that those types of homes are typ­i­cally found to be: not well sealed; in need of addi­tional insu­la­tion; and that there are gaps where heated or cooled air is escaping.

We are excited for the pos­si­bil­i­ties that this data­base will offer. In addi­tion to being avail­able online to res­i­dents (the infor­ma­tion, not the spe­cific addresses of the audit recip­i­ents), the data­base will be used to deter­mine spe­cific energy rec­om­men­da­tions for indi­vid­ual neigh­bor­hoods. Those rec­om­men­da­tions will then be pre­sented to the res­i­dents in those neigh­bor­hoods with the intent to edu­cate them and spur them into action.

We hope that you will have an oppor­tu­nity to take advan­tage of this valu­able resource. Please stay tuned for a spring­time launch­ing of the Home Energy Audit Search­able Online Database!

Laura Miller
Novem­ber 2012

Energy Contract Saves Big Bucks

Howard County Gov­ern­ment is sav­ing big bucks in build­ing energy costs. That is because in seven of our most energy-intensive build­ings we have engaged an Energy Per­for­mance Con­trac­tor. This is a spe­cial kind of con­tract­ing arrange­ment in which the County pays no money up front. The con­trac­tor is paid based on the per­for­mance of the energy sav­ing mea­sures they install in our build­ings, at their own cost (or by using third-party financ­ing). The cost sav­ings that these mea­sures pro­duce is divided between the County and the con­trac­tor. The con­trac­tor gets pay­ment for the cost of equip­ment, its instal­la­tion and main­te­nance, and the County get’s to keep some of the sav­ings as well. It’s a win-win situation.

The Howard County Per­for­mance Con­tract has been in place for two years. Dur­ing the first year, the por­tion of the sav­ings that the County got to keep was over $494,000. Dur­ing the sec­ond year we kept over $133,000, and made a pay­ments total­ing over $534,000 to pay for the new mea­sures. So in just the first two years we have saved over $628,000. That’s a lot of money that tax pay­ers don’t have to spend to heat, cool and light County buildings.

An impor­tant fea­ture of the Per­for­mance Con­tract is the Per­for­mance Guar­an­tee. The con­trac­tor guar­an­tees a cer­tain level of energy cost sav­ings, which is high enough to make the pay­ment to the con­trac­tor for the mea­sures. If the sav­ings fall short of the guar­an­tee, the con­trac­tor is required to come up with the dif­fer­ence. This way, the County doesn’t risk los­ing money on the deal. If sav­ings exceed the guar­an­teed amount, we keep them. Because the con­trac­tor bears all the risk, the cost of the mea­sures is slightly higher than if we were able to install them our­selves, at tax­payer cost. But bud­gets don’t gen­er­ally allow for a com­pre­hen­sive approach to build­ing effi­ciency, and this con­tract­ing mech­a­nism fills that void quite nicely.

Howard County plans to expand the Per­for­mance Con­tract to at least two addi­tional build­ings in the com­ing year. Imag­ine how much we could save if all of our build­ings were run under a Per­for­mance Con­tract­ing arrangement.

To see a col­lec­tion of case stud­ies on the Fed­eral Government’s use of Energy Sav­ing Per­for­mance Con­tract­ing, click here: https://www1.eere.energy.gov/femp/financing/espcs_casestudies.html

Ann Elsen
Sep­tem­ber 2012

An Energy Team with Energy!

Energy Team


Unsung heroes, silent part­ners… call them what you will, but they are Howard County Government’s Energy Team! For the past 18 months, this Team has been busy at work bring­ing energy aware­ness to Howard County employees.

Of all of the com­mit­tees, groups, task forces, etc., that I have been involved in over the years, I can hon­estly state that this has been the most moti­vated and engaged vol­un­teer group that I have worked with. And what has also been inter­est­ing to me is the level of enthu­si­asm we have encoun­tered through our efforts. Employ­ees have taken their break times to ask ques­tions regard­ing energy, offer energy effi­ciency ideas, and edu­cate them­selves about energy usage.

The Energy Team has per­formed sev­eral infor­mal energy audits (“Trea­sure Hunts”), given pre­sen­ta­tions, and staffed an energy exhibit. They have recruited other employ­ees to sign an energy pledge to reduce their energy usage in their day to day activities.

Trea­sure Hunts have been con­ducted at the Recre­ation and Parks Head­quar­ters build­ing, Sav­age and Elkridge Libraries, the Gate­way Build­ing (5th Floor), and the Bureau of Util­i­ties build­ings on Old Mont­gomery Road. These exer­cises have been per­formed with sev­eral end goals: to edu­cate the par­tic­i­pants con­duct­ing the “Hunts;” to present the Trea­sure Hunt obser­va­tions to the employ­ees of the des­ig­nated sites to bring the infor­ma­tion and out­reach “home;” to rec­og­nize and repli­cate good mea­sures that may have already been imple­mented; and to final­ize the effort with a mem­o­ran­dum of rec­om­men­da­tions that is pro­vided to the divi­sion chiefs and/or depart­ment heads as well as the Bureau of Facilities.

The energy pledge has also played a role when reach­ing out to fel­low employ­ees. In many cases there was an incen­tive to sign on to reduce energy usage; energy effi­ciency prod­ucts such as insu­lated lunch bags (to dis­cour­age the use of mini-refrigerators) and com­pact flu­o­res­cent light bulbs were provided.

Right now, the Energy Team is work­ing on prepar­ing an out­reach plan for the Bureau of Util­i­ties… who knows where you will see us next!

Laura A.T. Miller
May 2012

Home energy audits

BLOG UPDATE — The fol­low­ing blog post is from 2012. Howard County had a one-time pro­gram, funded by a fed­eral grant, so no appli­ca­tions are being accepted. But it has some info about what an energy audit is all about, and we’ve kept our old blogs on the live­g­reen­howard site.


Have you been con­sid­er­ing apply­ing for the pro­gram but did not have enough details about the actual audit? Well, I present to you my expe­ri­ence observ­ing a home energy audit:

It was a dreary and cold Tues­day after­noon in Novem­ber – what bet­ter day to fol­low an audi­tor around a friend’s house as they per­form a free home energy audit. Free? Wait, there must be a catch!

Actu­ally, the catch is that Howard County received a fed­eral gov­ern­ment stim­u­lus grant to per­form home energy audits at no cost to res­i­dents. The hope is that by pro­vid­ing energy sav­ing rec­om­men­da­tions to res­i­dents, they will see an oppor­tu­nity to reduce their energy bills by reduc­ing their home energy usage.

George, the audi­tor from ecobeco, arrived promptly at the sched­uled time, and sat down with Lisa to go over a sur­vey regard­ing her home and energy usage, as well as types and ages of appli­ances. He was very thor­ough and cov­ered top­ics rang­ing from which rooms are typ­i­cally “lived in” to how often kitchen appli­ances are used.

The audit began with a walk­through of each of the rooms, which included mea­sur­ing of all of the rooms and a visual sur­vey. Areas around win­dows were exam­ined for drafts and doors were checked for weatherization.

A thor­ough inves­ti­ga­tion of the attic was next. George pointed out to Lisa var­i­ous places in the insu­la­tion layer where there appeared to be air leak­age; this was indi­cated by small black areas on the yel­low insu­la­tion. There were also some obvi­ous places (specif­i­cally on a sloped ceil­ing that came up) where there was no insu­la­tion. (See images in the Home Energy Audit Report.)

One of the next steps was an exam­i­na­tion of the nat­ural gas sys­tem – the water heater and fur­nace. Through a series of steps, George checked on the draft to deter­mine if there is suf­fi­cient air­flow for the nat­ural gas sys­tem. This included run­ning all of the upstairs fans under cer­tain con­di­tions; and then check­ing the draft with no fans running.

Upon the com­ple­tion of the audit, a Home Energy Audit Report was sent to Lisa that included options for improv­ing energy effi­ciency in her home, and the esti­mated pay­back peri­ods. Lisa and her hus­band are cur­rently con­sid­er­ing the rec­om­men­da­tions, and decid­ing which to implement.

Laura Miller

Jan­u­ary 2012

How Much Does an Energy Manager Make?

The fol­low­ing post is from Christo­pher Rus­sell, Energy Manager.

Ask any busi­ness leader if they want to reduce their energy costs, and they will almost invari­ably say “yes.” Then, ask them if they want to devote any resources to energy man­age­ment. That’s where the head-scratching begins. The idea of invest­ing time and resources in order to reduce energy expenses does not res­onate well with many busi­nesses. At the heart of this is the poten­tial role of an energy man­ager. This begs a ques­tion: How much should you pay an energy man­ager? That’s what we’ll cover in this post.

Energy man­agers are not cre­ated equal. The energy man­ager con­cept is new, rel­a­tive to long-standing respon­si­bil­i­ties in oper­a­tions, main­te­nance, and pro­cure­ment man­age­ment. Because it’s new, orga­ni­za­tions have no yard­stick for mea­sur­ing the value of energy man­age­ment. Chances are that the per­son in author­ity offer­ing the posi­tion has no clue what’s involved. He or she under­stands only what you do now—so they expect to pay you what you cur­rently make. For example:

• A trades­man works with hands-on tools, duti­fully seek­ing to “fix what’s bro­ken.” But he is prob­a­bly not good at mon­e­tiz­ing the cash flow results from energy improve­ments.
• A project engi­neer may know how to spec­ify com­po­nents for a light­ing retro­fit, but may not be pre­pared to over­come the resis­tance when Depart­ment A pays for the improve­ment, yet Depart­ment B is the one that col­lects the benefits.

An energy man­ager is a com­mu­ni­ca­tor, nego­tia­tor, coach, ana­lyst, and advo­cate of change. A good energy man­ager is just as com­fort­able in the board room as in the boiler room. He or she can demon­strate the link­age between energy choices and core busi­ness goals. An energy man­ager who merely seeks to “save energy” is miss­ing the point and won’t last long. What you get paid is related not just to the value you cre­ate, but the value you actu­ally demonstrate.

What do you bring to the posi­tion of energy man­ager? The more of these items you per­form, the more money you should expect to make:

Util­ity bill audit­ing. You’ll need to under­stand util­ity tar­iffs and ana­lyze bills for accuracy.

Employee engage­ment to boost aware­ness. Use media to reach the right peo­ple with the right mes­sage. Make com­pelling mes­sages so that staff under­stand their respon­si­bil­i­ties with respect to energy use.

Fuel switch­ing & com­mod­ity shop­ping. Shop for fuel and power, min­i­miz­ing price risk using finan­cial port­fo­lio man­age­ment techniques.

Project man­age­ment. Orches­trate staff, ven­dors, bud­gets, and task mile­stones to achieve project implementation.

Energy and asset inven­to­ry­ing. Pre­pare a bal­ance sum­mary of energy inputs and end-uses.

Best prac­tice def­i­n­i­tion, train­ing, and pro­ce­dural imple­men­ta­tion. Train staff and ensure that energy-saving behav­iors become part of stan­dard oper­at­ing procedure.

Per­for­mance bench­mark­ing: energy flow mon­i­tor­ing, meter­ing and ver­i­fi­ca­tion. Cre­ate per­for­mance met­rics that demon­strate progress over time.

Busi­ness plan devel­op­ment: goals, tar­gets, account­abil­i­ties and met­rics. Make the busi­ness case to secure the resources you’ll need for con­tin­u­ous energy improve­ment. Think “process,” not “project.”

Rela­tion­ship man­age­ment with ven­dors and util­i­ties. Match your inven­tory of in-house needs and capa­bil­i­ties with the capa­bil­i­ties and incen­tives offered by these busi­ness allies.

Per­for­mance report­ing and share­holder com­mu­ni­ca­tions. Doc­u­ment and pro­mote your results while gain­ing recog­ni­tion for your company.

The real ques­tion is “What value do you cre­ate as an energy man­ager?” Answer that ques­tion, and you’ll have a much bet­ter idea of the salary you command.

Christo­pher Russell
Novem­ber 2011

Green Tip

Use cloth napkins.It’s actually cheaper to throw cloth napkins in the wash than to buy paper ones.