New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

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Saving Money By Reducing On-Peak Energy Use

Emily Myers in Green Ideas

Lincoln Square

Energy Demand

Photo courtesy Ines Leong, photographer, and Pembrooke & Ives

Co-op and condo buildings enrolled in energy demand-response programs are seeing payouts of thousands of dollars — and even more in savings — for lowering electricity use during peak demand events over the summer. The programs, offered through Con Edison, deliver cash rewards to customers for lowering electricity use during specific peak demand windows, typically for three or four hours during summer heatwaves when the grid might otherwise be overwhelmed. Individual owners can sign up for demand response programs, but there are also enrollment options for buildings. 

At The Lincoln Square Condominium, a 281-unit condo in Lincoln Square, the board will receive $15,961 for lowering its energy use during peak demand events last year. This was enabled through a contract with Logical Buildings, a climate technology firm that provides energy data tracking through a program called SmartKit AI. “We are helping the environment and putting money back in the building’s pocket,” says Mickey McCreesh, the resident manager at the 57-story building, which is under FirstService Residential management. 

Under the contract, Logical Buildings provides building-specific actions resident managers can take during these peak events, with some managers going above and beyond to conserve energy. “It’s four hours nonstop — I’m sweating because I turn off my office AC and run around the building turning things off,” says Marat Olfir, AKAM resident manager at The Future, a 165-unit condominium in Kips Bay. He led efforts to reduce energy use at the building during three specific peak demand windows and earned the board a check for $8,408. 

Benefits aren’t limited to the annual rebate. Con Edison charges buildings a demand delivery rate determined by peak demand usage. Lowering electricity use when the grid is under strain can have a huge impact on bills. Olfir estimates he saved residents at The Future a further $22,000 by reducing electricity during this peak usage period. “It’s good practice for any building to reduce peak demand,” says Kelly Dougherty, president of FirstService Energy, an energy advisory affiliate of FirstService Residential

Con Edison typically notifies customers of a peak demand event at least two days in advance. “It's a planned inconvenience,” Olfir says. He does a communication blast to unit owners explaining the gym, laundry room, locker rooms and playroom will all be out of bounds because AC, lighting and electrical equipment will be switched off. “I know what I can turn off without compromising the safety and comfort of unit-owners,” he says. 

Buildings with large common-area electricity use will generate greater demand-response revenue from the program, but smaller buildings where energy use mostly comes from residents’ apartments can also benefit. At The Future, porters are told not to vacuum or use compactors, moving is rescheduled, only one elevator runs, and the lobby’s swing door is even closed in favor of the revolving door to prevent additional heat coming into the building. Olfir encourages unit owners to postpone cleaning services or running appliances in their apartments. 

“You are helping emissions, and these efforts help with building grade,” Dougherty says. The letter grade, known as benchmarking, is a measure of relative energy use, and lowering your energy consumption, especially during peak events, improves the grade. In addition, if your building has electricity provided by an energy service company, your past involvement in demand-response programs may help you negotiate a better rate for energy supply in the future. 

Both Olfir and McCreesh are looking for ways to get more money for their buildings in the coming year. “I already got $8,400,” Olfir says, “now I want to get $10,000.” This summer, getting buy-in from the building’s commercial tenants will be part of his efforts. “Gamifying the practice should get building staff excited about it,” Dougherty says. The program enrollment deadline is March 31st. 

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