Utility database to help Maryland manage power consumption

Maryland’s Department of General Services (DGS) recently announced a new tool that will help the state reach its goal of reducing energy use over the next several years. Managed by the DGS Office of Energy Performance and Conservation, the EmPOWER Maryland Utility Database will facilitate the collection and management of all the state’s utility data in order to control the consumption of utilities and manage the state’s reduction goals.

According to Hatim Jabaji, Office of Energy Performance and Conservation director, the project has been in the works for a little over a year and a half. And the system is 90 percent finished, with most agencies beginning to work with the system and check the numbers for accuracy.

“The database has all state agencies, all the accounts, it has almost all the data…right now we’re just cleaning it out – making sure each agency identifies their accounts and has all the numbers,” he said in an interview Wednesday. “We’re making sure the numbers are meshed and vetted.”

BITHGROUP Technologies partnered with Good Steward Software, makers of EnergyCap software, and HI-Tech Processing to create and implement the EmPOWER Utility Database. BITHGROUP will lead the project to establish a baseline and enable all state agencies to monitor, view, and analyze the ongoing energy consumption and cost for each state-owned facility. According to BITHGROUP, the state has roughly 15,000 electric and gas accounts with approximately seventeen providers.

But Mr. Jabaji said the database is only the first piece in Maryland’s energy puzzle.

“The database is part of an overall approach to reduce energy consumption, it’s one piece of the strategy,” Jabaji said. “Governor O’Malley has mandated that [the state] reduce our energy consumption 15 percent by 20115,” Jabaji continued.

In addition to having a completely automated system for tracking and verifying the state’s use of energy, the Office of Energy and Conservation is promoting a financing concept to other state agencies, known as Energy Performance Contracting. Energy Performance Contracting allows the state to undertake energy efficiency projects that will result in savings that meet or exceed the costs of the services. If the state has to borrow money to pay for the improvement, the loan will be paid back from the savings generated from the reduced energy bill, keeping the project cost neutral to the agency.

Maryland energy perf. contract

So far, the state is in various stages of project development on numerous sites, including the Orioles and Ravens stadium facilities, hospitals, university buildings, state tunnels and bridges, and thirty-six state office and government buildings.

“We’d like to use energy performance contracting on a wide scale so we could use future savings to building improvement,” Jabaji said.

Another initiative Jabaji’s team is working on involves Power Purchasing Agreements (PPA) for renewable energy generated on state-owned property. Recently, OEC issued its first Solar RFP to install solar panels at fourteen DGS managed buildings, but the plan is to go much further than that.

“We’re looking agency by agency to see where we can install solar, small wind, and biomass,” so the state can leverage its future purchase of electricity in order to implement a long term agreement.

Alongside this initiative is a strategy Maryland is working on to purchase blocks of electricity, so most of it is purchased in advance at a fixed price. Washington Gas Energy Services (WGES) was selected under a three year deal, to purchase power on the wholesale market on behalf of the state, Jabaji said. The strategy is expected to realize a savings of 10 to 15 percent, which translates into $10 to $15 million.

“We believe we’re taking a holistic approach to promoting Gov. O’Malley’s priority of energy management and reduction.”

BITHGROUP Technologies to create and implement