Energy Efficiency Upgrades for Municipal Buildings

Between 2016 and 2017, the Township of Montclair’s office of Environmental Affairs coordinated the municipality’s participation in the PSE&G Direct Install Program. This is a cost-saving energy efficiency program for local governments, offered by our utility, which helps city halls, firehouses, small businesses and non-profit organizations to save energy and money by becoming more energy efficient.

The N. J. Board of Public Utilities recommends Direct Install as a smart way for local governments like ours to save money by using less energy, which also means lower emissions, so it is a very sustainable step to take; in fact this project accomplishes two separate Actions for re-certification with the Sustainable Jersey Program.

On America’s road toward cleaner energy, a healthier environment, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change, the first step – before acquiring renewable energy – is to first “reduce the use”, by lowering the demand side.

This is accomplished by: (1) conservation – using less energy by keeping appliances turned off when they’re not needed – and, (2) efficiency – using smarter appliances or equipment that provide the same services, but require less power to do so.

Last year, PSE&G’s contractor conducted (free) lighting equipment audits in all of our municipally-owned buildings, to determine if we’d be able to save money by upgrading to more efficient lights through the Direct Install Program.

Once these audits were completed, PSE&G identified the specific locations and equipment they were able to subsidize for us; the lighting installations – throughout 10 of our 12 municipal buildings – took place over the past year.

We upgraded our fluorescent lamps to the latest high-efficiency LEDs (Light-Emitting Diodes); the installations were 70% paid for by PSE&G, and the Township’s 30% share will be repaid over 3 years in our monthly PSE&G bills – with no interest!

But here’s the best part: not only does our utility pay for 70% of the cost of these long-lasting improvements for our municipal buildings; these LED upgrades actually reduce our electricity demand so significantly that our monthly payments are less than the savings we realize from using less electricity – so we are cash positive from “day one”.

To reiterate: the Township paid no money up front, yet we immediately began saving money on our monthly utility bills!

The Total Project Cost came to $321,600; PSE&G paid $225,120 (70%), and our share – $96,480 (30%) – we will pay off over three years ($32,160 annually), interest-free, in our monthly utility bills. However, we immediately start reducing our electricity costs by $60,900 per year, so even in Year 1 we will save $28,750 compared to if we hadn’t conducted the improvements. After the third year we start realizing the full $60,900 savings annually, every year.

Our "Direct Install Five-Year Cumulative Cash Flow Summary" projects utility bill savings of over $200,000; over the next decade, the Township of Montclair will save over half a million dollars as a result of this project.

And, on top of the economic benefits, these upgrades are responsible for saving over 400,000 kWh of energy, resulting in a reduction of 360 tons of greenhouse gas emissions, each and every year.

Finally, these savings are in addition to prior energy efficiency upgrades we conducted just over five years ago, which resulted in similar benefits at that time. Combined together, our total annual utility bill savings are over $125,000, with energy savings of 873,120kWh, all due to the Township taking advantage of affordable energy-saving solutions, upgrading our built infrastructure, lowering our electricity demand and shrinking our carbon footprint.

Conserving tax dollar expenditures, while reducing energy use and the unhealthy emissions that go with it, are exactly the “triple bottom line” benefits of sustainability initiatives for which Montclair has become a municipal leader.