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Software Helps Kentucky County Gauge Energy Use

July 27, 2010 - 1:00pm

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For county officials conscious of energy efficiency, deciphering complex utility bills and identifying both municipal energy-use trends and potential savings opportunities can be complex without sophisticated software.

"We knew we needed a better system," says James Bush, energy manager for Lexington-Fayette Urban County, Kentucky.

Last month, the county invested $140,000 of a $2.7 million Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) from the U.S. Department of Energy to purchase EnergyCAP software.  The energy management software currently being installed in county government facilities will allow the county to track energy usage and greenhouse gas emission levels in targeted properties as well as process, report and analyze utility bills.

"The EnergyCAP software is really a looking glass to find out where we can develop projects to conserve energy and what type of projects these will be," said Bush.  "This will allow us to see the trends that we couldn’t see by just looking at the utility bills and paying them."

Billing errors, building leaks

To maximize savings, city officials will compare yearly energy bills to identify noticeable differences and potential problems. In addition, Lexington-Fayette will be able to monitor utility billing errors, building leaks and wasteful energy usage, such as lights left on by occupants or unusual thermostat settings.

After this data analysis, the county can take action to spur change in energy usage and behavior. The county also plans to retrofit government buildings to reduce utility bills and energy consumption.

"The majority of our grant will go toward retrofits. But this software -- combined with our own knowledge of the facilities -- will give us a historical perspective of our energy consumption and show us where we need to focus," Bush said.

1 to 2 percent adds up

Bush said that common first-year savings and cost recoveries from the software typically range from "1 to 2 percent" of a county’s annual utility budget. In 2008, Lexington-Fayette Urban County spent approximately $10 million on natural gas and electricity operations, meaning the software could bring in an estimated $100,000 to $200,000 in savings per year.

The county is currently in the early stages of implementing the EnergyCAP software and expects it to be fully integrated into local government facilities by October.  Because of tight budgets, Bush said that the project would not be possible without the EECBG funds.

"The block grant helps us considerably," Bush said. "The real power of the EECBG funding will not be seen on a day-to-day basis but in long term savings for our county government."

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