Energy-as-a-Service Transaction Provides Lifeline to East Alabama Medical Center

COVID-19 has presented a wide array of unexpected and difficult experiences for businesses to navigate. Hospital administrators feel the pressures of balancing their budgets with looming financial constraints all during a burgeoning global health crisis. Even before the pandemic erupted, East Alabama Medical Center (EAMC) in Opelika found itself with a backlog of capital renewal and deferred maintenance, including crucial steam plant renovations on hold due to a lack of cash on hand. The administration did not want to take on debt in order to maintain a healthy credit position, but the necessary upgrades and opportunities for increased energy efficiencies and occupant comfort weighed heavy. The team partnered with Bernhard to begin exploring a solution and then, COVID hit.

“When the pandemic began to escalate, we felt like we were backed into a corner,” said Sam Price, EAMC’s chief financial officer. “A lack of on-hand resources went from a back-burner issue to a critical, immediate concern.”

As COVID-19 surged, Alabama particularly felt the oncoming devastation. Early in April, Alabama was projected by models to have the fourth-highest rate of COVID-19 fatalities in the United States. High-revenue elective procedures were deferred to make room for more beds for patients. Without these high-margin lines of service, resources became tighter and the need for a lasting solution became dire. EAMC officials decided to leverage all of their resources to give their community the best possible chance against the virus.

Most facilities were hesitant to make changes in the increasingly volatile environment, but EAMC realized the energy asset concession agreement under review with Bernhard was the best choice of action. Bernhard’s unique and tailored financing, integral to its Energy-as-a-Service model, and plan for energy optimization and enhanced occupant comfort created the ideal solution at the perfect time.

“The increasing demands on our facilities led to a daunting backlog of deferred maintenance, which was exacerbated during this time. Bernhard delivered a solution that allowed us to get ahead of the virus and keep our community as safe as possible.”Sam Price, EAMC CFO

The two entered an energy asset concession agreement giving Bernhard the right to use, maintain and renew EAMC’s energy infrastructure over a 30-year term. The project provided for crucial upfront energy optimization improvements, substantial projected annual energy savings, and a significant upfront cash payment to EAMC. The transaction is set to provide $826,000 in annual estimated energy savings and $30 million in improvements to the facility. This is in addition to the $40 million net advance lease payment EAMC received; that’s immediate cash on hand and credit positive with a competitive interest rate.

Notably, under the Energy-as-a-Service model, the acquisition of the assets by Bernhard and recurring monthly service charges to Bernhard are off-balance sheet and credit-positive for EAMC. Bernhard worked with Warren-Averett, EAMC’s auditor, and Ernst & Young to review the relevant accounting considerations and ensure an off-balance sheet outcome. The hospital’s rating agency (Standard & Poor’s) agreed with the accounting treatment and viewed the transaction largely as credit-positive.

“We were eager to partner with EAMC’s two hospitals to serve the east Alabama area,” said Bernhard’s Executive Vice President of Business Development, Rob Guthrie. Our agreement empowers EAMC to focus its energy and resources on its core mission of providing high-quality, compassionate health care. We are proud to offer our expertise to deliver and sustain a win-win outcome for the next 30 years.”

The upfront improvements to infrastructure addresses a backlog of deferred maintenance at EAMC, including upgrades to:

  • Chilled water, tower water, heating water and steam systems
  • Air handling units
  • Building controls
  • Electrical infrastructure

Bernhard will also install a heat pump chiller heater, optimize procedure rooms, install LED lighting and facilitate retro-commissioning of the building’s automation system. These upgrades create efficiencies and improvements in the facility’s operation and also result in optimized energy savings.

“We are excited to partner with Bernhard on this long-term project and appreciate its critical role in helping EAMC allocate scarce capital resources for the things we need most to take the best possible care of patients,” said Price.

This energy asset concession transaction not only provides EAMC exactly what it needs to meet patient and employee comfort needs, but also enables an immediate allocation of additional resources for fighting COVID-19 and saving lives. The community is now better armed to fight COVID-19 while the facility added energy optimization, which creates future savings. For EAMC, COVID-19 became the catalyst for a positive and long-lasting change.

Midland Health Strives to Overhaul West Texas Healthcare Through Bernhard Partnership

Every business has a goal, but Midland Health has a mission: make a profound and lasting impact on the Midland County community by improving the health of its people. To this end, Midland created a master plan to renovate its facilities to enhance patient care.

In 2009, a new patient tower at Midland Memorial Hospital (Scharbauer Patient Tower) seemed to be the first big step toward realizing this mission. But when the tower opened in 2012, Midland Health knew they had a problem. The tower was consuming vastly more energy than expected, due in large part to inadequate commissioning. Bernhard was selected to retro-commission the new patient tower and a partnership began.

Midland has trusted Bernhard with more than 25 projects over the last 10 years. As a tax-supported hospital, Midland recognizes energy efficiency as a key aspect to the realization of its mission and its role as a good steward of taxpayer money and trust.

This partnership has now entered into yet another exciting chapter. Bernhard and Midland Health announced in December 2020 a 15-year energy asset concession arrangement which provides $16.2 million in immediate unrestricted cash to Midland Health, while also addressing significant capital renewal, deferred maintenance, and energy optimization priorities at Midland Health’s main and west campuses.

But that’s not all: Brought to Midland Health exclusively through the TPC group purchasing framework, the Bernhard-Midland transaction is further reinforced by significant economy-of-scale savings available only to TPC member hospitals. After awarding a 2018 energy services contract to Bernhard and its partner, ProStar Energy (subsidiary of Dallas Cowboys), TPC has worked with Midland Health and other TPC hospitals to launch Bernhard-ProStar’s innovative service offering. Midland Health, as a longstanding Bernhard client, is the first member hospital to enroll in the program.

The Midland Health transaction underscores Midland’s commitment to its mission, its patients and the future by addressing many visible and invisible concerns facing the health care system in West Texas and across the nation. These included:

  • Difficulty recruiting and retaining operations and maintenance personnel because of competition with the oil and gas industry, coupled with an aging O&M workforce
  • A large backlog of capital renewal and deferred maintenance at the west campus identified in the master plan
  • Aversion to taking on debt to fund infrastructure improvements because of competing priorities, including the master plan project
  • Ongoing, costly repairs and expensive rental equipment at the west campus due to aging and obsolete equipment

Because of Bernhard’s intimate knowledge of Midland’s facilities, expertise in cutting-edge project delivery methods, and endorsement by TPC, Midland was certain that Bernhard’s prowess offered the right solution to their challenges.

“Advancing our partnership through an Energy Asset Concession Arrangement just made sense. This transaction aligned with Bernhard’s expertise, will provide significant improvements to our utility plant, provide long-term energy efficiency and position the hospital to continue to provide high quality care to Midland and our surrounding community for years to come.”– Stephen Bowerman, Midland Health COO/CFO

Over the course of due diligence, Bernhard worked with Midland to develop an upfront scope of work with the aim of reducing Midland’s backlog of necessary capital improvements, and achieving an appropriate internal rate of return (IRR). Together, the teams developed a final scope of work that delivers comprehensive value to the hospital’s central energy plant and surrounding facilities.

In this Energy Asset Concession, Bernhard will accept the responsibility for operating, maintaining, renewing and replacing existing infrastructure in the central energy plant in addition to making infrastructure improvements across both campuses that result in guaranteed energy savings.

It’s easy to miss the true value of these savings. Not only will the transaction achieve approximately $664K in annual energy savings for the hospital, but an upfront cash payment of $16.2M will be given to the hospital to use at its discretion. Because of the risk transfer, this payment is treated as off-balance sheet and therefore protects the debt capacity for potential future projects, enabling the facility to make vast strides toward its mission and immediately enhance patient care.

Ultimately, the partnership will fund approximately $19M in infrastructure improvements, eliminate $3M in future capital renewal and replacement costs from Midland’s budget, and provide $16.2M in upfront cash. With a partner like Bernhard who truly understands its mission, challenges and efficient solutions, Midland will be able to accelerate its master plan and realize its mission of improving the health of its community.

Bernhard Fayetteville Facility Moves to New Location at Commerce Business Park

Bernhard is celebrating the opening of its new Fayetteville office at Commerce Business Park after four years of planning and construction. The modernized office space is the new home for its 27 employees and full-service design and energy engineering suite. It is located at 3714 N. Business Dr., Fayetteville, AR 72703.

“In the process of figuring out where the new facility was going to be, it was always important for us to stay near our core clients and remain close to our roots,” said Grant Logan, director of Bernhard’s Fayetteville office. “This cutting-edge facility is truly a place we can be proud to call our own.”

The team in the Fayetteville office provides engineering services such as mechanical, electrical, plumbing, fire protection, construction administration, and a wide variety of energy services including BAS controls design, commissioning, and retro-commissioning.

“Being more centrally located in northwest Arkansas is a huge positive for us,” said Jay Keazer, director of Fayetteville Logic. “We have a lot of employees that commute from neighboring cities so this location will help streamline that commute.”

The team is moving from their original location at Green Acres Road where they have operated since 2005. The office began with three employees but has seen more than 700% growth in their workforce during the last two decades. With this explosive growth, the office had outgrown their facility and was in need of a larger space to not only accommodate all employees, but to allow for continued growth in the future.

“Obviously with that kind of growth happening we had to do something,” Logan said. “Giving our employees space to design and innovate is conducive to delivering the best services for our clients.” Along with more than 9,000 square feet of additional working room, employees also get to take advantage of “The Natural State” as the modernized space is situated right on the Fayetteville trail system.

The Fayetteville office played a hands-on role in designing the space along with KSA Architecture and CDI Contractors. The team officially moved into the new location March 8 and will be celebrating with a virtual ribbon-cutting ceremony and guided digital tours later in the month.

Bernhard Part of 30-Year Energy Services Deal for LSU Campus

The Louisiana State University (LSU) Board of Supervisors announced the approval of an agreement for a 30-year energy services contract with LA Energy Partners, a joint venture of Bernhard, LLC and Johnson Controls, Inc.  The agreement with LSU also includes Enwave Energy. The agreement delivers $90 million in immediate modernization solutions, addresses $22 million of deferred maintenance annually, and transfers operation responsibilities of the University’s utilities system over the next three decades.

“We are pleased to reach this monumental agreement, which is projected to save LSU and the State of Louisiana approximately $90 million over the next 30 years,” said Robert Dampf, chair of the LSU Board of Supervisors. “Both LA Energy Partners and Enwave bring outstanding technical, financial, operational and development experience to LSU, and we look forward to working together with both partners.”

The combination of LA Energy Partners and Enwave Energy marries the operational strengths of both companies to immediately deliver modernization of LSU’s Central Utility Plant and Distribution Center, which keep thousands of classrooms, research labs, administrative offices and other campus resources running.

Under the agreement, LSU’s campus will see $90 million of major initial infrastructure improvements financed and developed. LA Energy Partners are tasked with the design and construction of these initial modernization solutions. Enwave will operate, maintain and provide additional capital improvements to the energy plants and energy distribution systems over the term of the agreement. LA Energy Partners retains the opportunity to design, build, and finance any future building mechanical system upgrades on the Baton Rouge campus.

For Bernhard, the LSU agreement comes on the heels of a six-month chain of awards beginning with the September 2020 closing of a $75M P3 arrangement with East Alabama Medical Center in Opelika, Alabama. Since then, Bernhard has brought an additional $400M in P3 and Energy-as-a-Service (EaaS) transactions to market in a total of four states. At an initial value of $90M, the LSU agreement rivals the company’s 2019 award with University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences ($150M), and further distinguishes Bernhard as a national leader in the P3 and EaaS marketplace.

“The awards we’ve received across the United States are very relevant to the LSU opportunity and position our team to provide lasting value to the University as its partner,” said Ed Tinsley, Bernhard’s Chief Executive Officer. “Our pledge to deliver a transformative outcome to LSU is further backstopped by the expertise and experience of our combined team.”

Bernhard has had a brick-and-mortar presence in Louisiana since 1919, completing more than 400 projects for LSU during that time span, including the design and construction of LSU’s existing combined heating and power system. In addition to its LSU experience, Bernhard also operates and maintains numerous energy plants in Louisiana, including the Shaw Center energy plant in downtown Baton Rouge.

With more than 2,500 employees in the state of Louisiana and 250 LSU graduates on its staff, LA Energy Partners shares much of the same community as LSU and prides itself on bringing that local assurance and expertise once again to a Louisiana powerhouse such as LSU.

“First and foremost we are a neighbor to LSU,” Tinsley said. “When that local passion meets the global strength of our combined team, the result exceeds the sum of its parts.”