Bernhard Announces Multiple Hires in Development Division Focused on Energy Projects

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Bernhard announced today multiple hires in their Development Division. The hires include Christopher Benson named vice president of business development, Devon Kalkbrenner named vice president of contract management, Christopher Workman named vice president of pre-engineering and energy analytics, Boris Koropey named lead commodity energy market analyst, and Leighton Wolffe named vice president of demand management.

Wolffe has more than 25 years of experience in the facilities and energy industries. His interest in technologies led to leadership positions with energy companies, manufacturers and systems integration firms designing and developing innovative hardware and software applications. Leighton provides expertise and domain knowledge to help clients navigate their way through the highly dynamic intersection of energy markets, emerging technologies and industry players. In a previous position as VP Strategy for Constellation Energy, Leighton founded the NewEnergy Alliance and formed commercial relationships with more than 40 energy technology companies to develop applications and deliver solutions around Constellation’s VirtuWatt Platform, which connected buildings directly to energy markets and Constellation’s trading desk. Leighton is co-developer for this ground-breaking platform.

Benson is responsible for leading the development team in the execution of long-term Energy-as-a-Service partnerships. A broad blend of experience in business management and engineering has allowed Benson to play an important role in energy and sustainability projects across 58 million square feet of buildings and saving millions of dollars in operational costs during his career. He holds an MBA from the David Eccles School of Business and a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Utah. He is a licensed engineer, certified energy manager, LEED accredited professional, and Lean Six Sigma Green Belt.

Kalkbrenner joins Bernhard’s legal team and will work with developers on closing EaaS transactions. She joins Bernhard after 11 years as corporate counsel at VCC in Little Rock, Ark. and brings significant experience in recognizing, mitigating and resolving risk issues. She was awarded a Juris Doctor from the William H. Bowen School of Law and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. She is licensed to practice law in Arkansas and Texas.

With more than a decade of engineering experience, Workman joins Bernhard from Willdan Group where he was the Director of Project Development in the Performance Engineering Division. His new role will see him responsible for scoping cost savings opportunities and facility improvements for project development. He received his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University California, and a Master of Science degree in mechanical engineering with a specialization in energy systems from the University of Utah.

Koropey is an analytics and model development professional with more than 10 years of experience in the energy industry. Recently, he was responsible for financial analysis, model development and reporting across all jurisdictions related to renewable strategy within the Duke Energy regulated business and supporting structured-finance within the non-regulated Duke Energy One commercial & industrial businesses. He holds a Master of Science Degrees from Claremont Graduate University, a bachelor’s degree from New Jersey Institute of Technology and is a Project Management Professional certificate holder.

Sustainable Utility Partnerships Revolutionizing Energy Efficiency Efforts

We are always looking for the next great idea to help solve America’s energy challenges. Our focus is making our clients’ energy infrastructure more resilient, more robust and ready for whatever comes next.

The latest innovation from Bernhard: Sustainable Utility Partnerships (SUP). An outgrowth of the Energy-as-a-Service (EaaS) agreements Bernhard has been employing for more than a decade to help clients realize millions in annual energy savings, Sustainable Utility Partnerships allow Bernhard to share excess energy produced at EaaS partner facilities with other nearby entities who need efficient and reliable power.

Facilities who choose to join as a SUP or with Bernhard can see a host of benefits, including lower greenhouse gas emissions per kilowatt hour used, reduced expansion and renovation costs and a more stable and reliable energy, all without big capital expenditures.

WHAT IS ENERGY AS A SERVICE?

To understand SUP, it’s important to understand the basics of EaaS.

More than ten years ago, an epidemic of deferred maintenance, cobbled-together technologies and failing energy infrastructure was impacting budgets and mission-critical services at hospitals, universities and other large campuses nationwide. Those issues were particularly a problem in Bernhard’s home state of Louisiana, where powerful hurricanes can unexpectedly threaten facilities where lives literally depend on keeping energy flowing. In response, Bernhard helped pioneer the concept of Energy-as-a-Service agreements in the United States.

An emerging market sector that provides an alternative to typical customer-funded or financed energy projects, the EaaS model allows clients to partner with a service provider like Bernhard to manage the client’s complete energy portfolio needs.

Under an EaaS agreement, a large, multi-facility client like a hospital campus agrees to transfer the authority to operate, manage and upgrade on-campus energy systems to Bernhard for a term of years. The client then makes monthly payments to Bernhard for managing those systems. The regular payments are why EaaS is often called a “subscription-based” energy model.

Large facilities go from the uncertainty of never knowing what their energy and infrastructure costs will be month-to-month to knowing what they’ll be exactly with precise consistency. In addition, Bernhard assumes responsibility for keeping the power flowing and fixing anything that breaks. The stress of managing a large operation disappears.

As part of an EaaS agreement, Bernhard substantially upgrades and retrofits partner facilities in a quest for every possible efficiency. Depending on the project, that often means upgrading energy generation and transmission infrastructure to much more efficient systems, including at the EaaS partner’s Central Energy Plant. For many Bernhard clients, the result is annual energy savings totaling millions per year and — in many cases — excess power the campus doesn’t need.

HOW DO SUSTAINABLE UTILITY PARTNERSHIPS WORK?

If upgrades completed by Bernhard during an EaaS partnership result in surplus energy output from the Central Energy Plant (CEP) at a large facility, Bernhard can offer that excess energy to nearby entities who might want to form a SUP. Potential SUP partners could include schools, private businesses or other large facilities that need affordable, reliable, responsibly-produced power.

Once a SUP agreement has been reached, Bernhard covers the upfront costs required to interconnect the CEP to the SUP partner facility. Once the connection has been made, Bernhard implements a series of energy conservation measures at the SUP partner facility to make it much more efficient. These measures may include lighting upgrades and retrofits, retro-commissioning, water conservation, upgrades to controls and more. In exchange, the SUP partner makes a recurring monthly payment to Bernhard under what’s known as a thermal services agreement.

The benefits to SUP partner facilities are much the same as those realized by the original EaaS partner, including much greater efficiency, savings on annual energy bills, more stable energy costs, operations and maintenance cost savings and more.

SUP partners must be within a limited area around a facility upgraded through an EaaS by Bernhard. However, because Bernhard EaaS projects are often located in densely-populated areas, there’s potentially hundreds of organizations located near Bernhard EaaS projects that could benefit from a Sustainable Utility Partnership.

Bernhard is always looking for the next big idea in energy for our clients and partners. Want to see if a Sustainable Utility Partnership with Bernhard could help your organization reach decarbonization goals while saving money through greater efficiency? Visit us online at bernhard.com, or call 504-833-8291.

Demand Management Technologies and Modern Buildings

By: Leighton J. Wolffe

Energy markets across the United States continue to rapidly evolve due to regulatory, legislative and energy policy activity at the Federal, State, and regional levels. What has been a historically staid and slow-moving industry has now become supercharged with the advent of deregulation, renewable technologies, and distributed energy resources.

Large scale adoption of renewable energy resources such as solar, wind, storage, coupled with weather extremes and consumer demand are creating increasingly complex scenarios of supply, pricing, and risk. These factors drive the costs of electricity in unpredictable ways, requiring building owners to both understand the markets they reside in, and have ability to monitor, manage and effectively control energy usage. Moreover, they need the technologies necessary to participate in demand response and demand management programs.

In today’s new energy economy, buildings are intended to be part of an interactive energy grid – able to receive and respond to market signals that indicate that grid conditions are taking place due to critical issues with supply and demand. The grid operators now provide hour and day ahead pricing so that when prices are high, customers can elect to use less, or even nominate load back into the market and receive the same income as a power plant.

These new opportunities are being driven in large part by FERC Order 2222, which is specifically intended to open up markets to behind the meter distributed energy resources (DER’s). In summary, a customer can use less, or generate energy to offset what would normally be supplied from the grid and be paid for it.

FERC Order 2222 helps usher in the electric grid of the future and promote competition in electric markets by removing the barriers preventing distributed energy resources (DERs) from competing on a level playing field in the organized capacity, energy and ancillary services markets run by regional grid operators.

In addition, the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) executive order further incentivizes DER’s through tax credits. Under the IRA, energy transition projects undertaken by tax-exempt entities will qualify for the investment tax credit (ITC) equal to 30% to 70% of the eligible project cost basis. To put this simply, a qualifying project with an installed price of $1 million will now only cost $300,000 to $700,000 after factoring in the direct pay ITC.

Given the pace of FERC 2222, national and local activity, energy market models in place today will not stay the same as the regulated and competitive markets adjust to the increasing integration of grid scale renewables. This new mix of firm and intermittent energy resources directly impact the way energy suppliers price power purchasing agreements and how consumers pay for electricity originating from traditional and renewable energy sources.

US Deregulated Energy Markets:

In every market, region and zone, the grid operators have to find a way to deliver steady power in real time. However, increased demand can create hot spots and additional supply resources are typically called upon with peaking plants often being the costliest forms of energy. This drives the wholesale prices of electricity up that has to be paid for by the supplier. In order for the suppliers to cover their costs and as an insurance hedge, power purchasing agreements include rates, tariffs, and demand charges that make up the difference more often than not. The customer sees these for every month on their bill.

In one form or another, consumers are directly exposed to these complex energy market dynamics. In the wholesale and retail markets there are structures in place to manage and regulate the relationships and financial transactions between the market participants and the consumers. While complicated, they follow similar practices as stock market and financial trading operations between sellers and buyers – in this case the commodity of electricity. The retailer energy provider serves as the broker, or intermediary between the power sources and the consumer. This role has evolved along with the markets so the consumer can actually sell back unused power to the energy market. Bernhard’s Connect® Platform is the enabling technology to make this happen.

Bernhard Connect® is Bernhard’s proprietary, cloud-based platform for automatic fault detection, measurement and verification, and continuous data collection and archival. The platform provides advanced levels of monitoring and energy management control, pushing the boundaries of existing traditional applications.

New Business Models – New Demand Management Technologies

As the energy markets evolve, new demand management programs are formed to increase customer participation. These programs incentivize customers to shape, shift, and shed load in accordance with a facility’s ability to respond to an event notification and the duration of the event. These range from basic demand response programs where a site develops the capabilities to shed a defined amount of curtailable load, all the way to economic load management programs where hour and day ahead pricing signals inform the building and storage systems with strategies to dynamically control demand. In this way, consumers are paid the same price to shed load as the power plants who deliver electrons.

In this new energy economy, it’s the facilities who have the capability to manage their load through proactive market interaction that benefit. Otherwise, without the necessary enabling technologies, the building operates as a standalone consumer of energy – similar in many respects to a computer not connected to the internet.

Bernhard enables customer participation through Connect by managing the various systems in a facility to lower demand through adjustments to HVAC, lighting and other energy consuming systems, or activating generators and discharging storage batteries.

Connect develops operating strategies to manage demand in context of market conditions – and within the terms and conditions of the power purchasing agreement. This is accomplished by enhancing the customer’s ability to manage their usage that comports with business, operational, and financial rules that are applied under different pricing thresholds. Without Connect, the BAS’s are limited in their ability to interact with energy markets.

When Connect is in place, the customer is ready to engage the new energy markets with confidence and with newfound ability to leverage and negotiate improved power purchasing agreements – because now the customer is able to self-manage risk, and the retail energy supplier has less risk to price.

The customers that have control over their equipment to adjust their demand are going to be the real beneficiaries of the new markets. Those without the ability to monitor and control their buildings will continue to operate blindly and will have to pay the price – whatever it may be.

Dynamic pricing models are coming – depending on which regions your buildings reside, it is either already happening – or coming your way. For example, California’s investor-owned utilities are transitioning to dynamic pricing programs for millions of customers effective April 2023, and utilities around the country have similar plans. Electric rates that more accurately reflect market conditions will help utilities integrate more distributed resources, but many customers have been on fixed rate plans for decades – so this represents changes and new ways for customers to buy and use energy – and this all needs to be supported by solid data to make informed decisions and new technologies to participate.


About the Author:

Leighton J. Wolffe, Vice President Demand Management for Bernhard, has more than 25 years of experience in the facilities and energy industries. His interest in technologies led to leadership positions with energy companies, manufacturers and systems integration firms designing and developing innovative hardware and software applications.

Leighton’s experience across multiple industries and customer segments enables him to play an integral role in the development and deployment of successful strategic business initiatives and enterprise level projects. Leighton provides expertise and domain knowledge to help clients navigate their way through the highly dynamic intersection of energy markets, emerging technologies and industry players.

He is professionally active on a national level with manufacturers, software developers, systems integrators, facility professionals, government agencies and serves in key roles as owner’s advisor, technical consultant and facilitator providing knowledge of technology and industry trends. In a previous position as VP Strategy for Constellation Energy, Leighton founded the NewEnergy Alliance and formed commercial relationships with over 40 energy technology companies to develop applications and deliver solutions around Constellation’s VirtuWatt Platform, which connected buildings directly to energy markets and Constellation’s trading desk. Leighton is co-developer for this ground-breaking platform.