Clarke County Energy Costs Managed from Down-Under

If you’ve ever been frustrated while trying to figure out what may have caused a change in the amount of a home utility bill, consider that Clarke County government pays the monthly energy costs for 57 separate electric meters. The County also provides gasoline and diesel fuel for a small fleet of government-owned cars and trucks – as well as a school bus fleet – and burns large amounts of liquid propane and natural gas to heat County buildings. Then, of course, there’s the water bill to pay.

Simply making sure that the utility companies have charged the County the correct amount for the monthly billing cycle consumes hours of staff time. While comparing one month’s electricity usage over a previous month, or the same period a year ago, could, arguably, reveal potential areas for energy savings, the expertise and time to do so just isn’t a luxury that Clarke County could afford.

Planet Footprint's website is http://www.planetfootprint.us

Until now.

“I felt like I didn’t have the expertise to do the kinds of comparisons and analysis that we needed to really manage our energy consumption,” Environmental Planner Alison Teetor told the Clarke County Board of Supervisors on Monday.

Teetor said Planet Footprint, an Australian firm that analyzes utility bill data and then provides monthly reports designed to help manage energy, may offer just the kind of assistance that the County needs.

“They’ve looked at the last six quarters of our electricity use and have given us a pretty complete picture,” Teetor said. “I think that they’ve given us an excellent product so far.”

According to Planet Footprint’s website, the company claims that it is the world’s only “full-service independent energy and environmental scorekeeper”. Planet Footprint also says that it serves over 200 local governments, 1,600 schools, several state government departments and has partnerships with over 100 energy and water utilities and retailers.

As part of its annual service, which costs Clarke County $1,500 a year, Planet Footprint provides a wealth of reports including the County’s seasonal energy mix changes, energy use comparisons with other governments, standalone comparisons and anomaly reports.

Teetor’s presentation of electrical usage anomalies sparked the interest of several Supervisors.

 

Location Period Consumption (kWh) Previous Consumption (kWh) Increase (%) Increase (kWh)
Rec Center – Front Concession Stand Oct – Dec 2011 3,204 960 234% 2244
Spring House Oct – Dec 2011 12,674 10,526 20% 2,148
Rec Center – Soccer Field Apr – Jun 2011 728 46 1,488% 682
Rec Center – Soccer Field Oct – Dec 2011 433 46 834% 387
Swimming Pool Oct – Dec 2011 651 326 100% 326

Clarke County Energy Usage Anomaly Report

 

“Do they look at the increase in a particular energy use cost and tell us ‘Why’ it increased?” asked Supervisor Bev McKay (White Post).

“That’s the next step,” Teetor replied. “We have to assign a person here on our end to a particular set of meters and find out specifically what caused the increase.”

Teetor said that currently Planet Footprint only tracks Clarke County electricity spending but, based on the value of the reports received so far, she hopes to soon expand the service to cover all of the County’s utilities and energy consumption including natural gas, liquid propane and water.

“By next quarter I hope to be able to provide more specific energy consumption information for specific buildings,” Teetor said. “I think that we also need to investigate whether the Clarke County Public Schools could use the service.”

Clarke County Supervisors Chairman Michael Hobert (Berryville) agreed.

“It’s important that Dr. Murphy know about this service,” Hobert said.

Comments

  1. Realistic Joe says:

    Are you kidding? Outsourcing our counties utility usages to an Australian firm?

    “I felt like I didn’t have the expertise to do the kinds of comparisons and analysis that we needed to really manage our energy consumption,” said Alison Teetor.
    Shouldn’t that be Judge’s office? Then, call the maintenance head of the department and ask them to find/explain any sudden jump.

  2. This venture seems like yet another expense that is not necessary. And to hire a company out of the country? What does Australia know about energy useage in Clarke county? It’s hard to believe there is not a company in the USA that could provide this service. Each department in the county should be able to track their energy useage and there should be somebody who could compile all of this information into a statistical analysis. That is basically all this Australian company is doing, right? It’s a small county! Did anyone check into what our neighbors in larger counties do to come up with this information? I hope so.

  3. Right Winger says:

    This is why we need an ERP, to do this kind of analysis. Not that it couldn’t be done with a simple spreadsheet program and a little know-how anyway.

  4. Old CC says:

    Really??!! At at time when this county is struggling with taxes and the pitiful salaries of its employees, do ya really think this is a good idea. I cant believe there isnt one official in this county that could handle something like this.

  5. Clarke Life says:

    You all complain and complain and yet keep voting them in! Live with it…….

  6. george fox says:

    The numbers suggest to me that there has been a serious error in meter reading and bill allocation. The increases don’t pass the common sense test, and a first step might be to require the power company to make sure that the most recent readings are for exactly the same meters (or sockets) used for previous readings. Customers with multiple meters are at risk of transposition of account and meter numbers by the power company, especially when older analog meters are being replaced by newer digital models. If the bills just look wrong (and these do!), they probably are wrong, and REC should be forced to justify the readings. Don’t just pay them. I speak from personal experience – one of our accounts jumped from $50 to $900 in one billing cycle at a time of low usage, and it took five long phone calls, two visits from different meter readers, and a lot of angry persistence on our part to get REC to acknowledge that there had been an error, just as I describe above. The initial response was that they were right and we were wrong, but they eventually came around and admitted their mistake. Please don’t just take their word for it.

  7. Could have had it for free says:

    There are firms out there that review energy consumption for free and any savings they find, they split with the business or in this case the County for the first year. As an example, if an annual bill is $1,000 and they find ways to get it down to $600, the County cuts them a check for $200, pockets the other $200 and enjoys the $400 savings for years two through ??

  8. Clarke County Annie says:

    First; outsourcing outside of the Red, White, and Blue! I have to agree with Realistic Joe – Are you kidding?

    Second; 57 meters are not that many and as anyone that gets an electric bill knows, it shows previous usages. As Right Winger said, it can all be done in a simple spreadsheet. Like Microsoft Excel, in which utilizing formulas can illustrate comparisons, show anomalies and produce reports. Very small investment, easy set up with great results.

    Third; our “fleets” of vehicles should already be monitored by the Transportation Dept utilizing weekly/monthly travel sheets as well as fuel and maintenance logs. If not, it should be and can also be entered in similar spreadsheet with printable and searchable reports.

    And with these expended funds to a private and profitable company (as per their website), Alison stated that Clarke still has to assign a person on our end to a particular set of meters and find out specifically what caused the increase. So, we still have to do the legwork to figure out the issue! Direct the appropriate maintenance dept. for investigation of the issue or anomaly and then attend to as required. I can’t see paying extra for outsourcing a regular business task. We are simply not that big.

    As to the electric meters, I discovered they take a picture of your old meter before they replace it with the new digital one which you can ask to see (mine was sent by email). And, it is worth all the “fussing” if your bill is not within normal usage.

  9. We don’t need no stink’n ERP. Just type out your energy report with your typewriter on carbon paper or make copies on the duplo machine. Then have the courier run around town and deliver it to everybody. Thank heavens we have an abacus to help with the calculations! Hopefully the savings we can get with this report will cover the cost of the report.

  10. River Watcher says:

    This is a joke!

    This community promotes “GO LOCAL”. This is a stab in the back to our County and Country.

    It’s a known fact that REC has been over charging its customers, just like Mr. Fox stated. We all learned that right here on CDN, perhaps our officials should read CDN and our comments.

    Is our Government offices and Town buildings on a bulk rate plan?