Aid for Supermarket Techs

January 31, 2011
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It is a familiar lament for those who work on supermarket refrigeration. There is a problem. The owner wants it fixed. He says, “It’s already costing a fortune to stay in business, and I can’t afford any down time with equipment. So just get it running as fast as you can, as cheap as you can.”

The technician can apply a quick fix, but that won’t deal with potential recurring problems - and the fact that the equipment may not be operating all that efficiently or even be all that up-to-date.

So even if  the patch-up is done, the tech or his contractor owner boss needs to find a way to tell the store owner about better options and show the store owner how he can end up with equipment that has less down time and more long term savings.

Enter a company called PECI which offers no-cost energy audits under its EnergySmart Grocer program. Through proprietary software program called GrocerSmart™, field energy analysts can identify and recommend refrigeration, lighting, and HVAC upgrades to lower the owner’s energy costs.

“Our final energy report to retailers assists them on making the right decisions for energy upgrades in their store,” said Stephen Achilles associate director of PECI’s Pacific Northwest Grocery programs. Through these relationships, PECI’s services are paid by the utility.

“If you sell or install refrigeration, lighting or HVAC equipment, you can benefit from the EnergySmart Grocer program’s leads and financial incentives,” Achilles said.

The program works with most public and private utilities on the West Coast. It was noted that EnergySmart Grocer has been operating in the Pacific Gas & Electric Co. territory for almost a decade. Said Bill McNamara, director for the California Region of PECI, “We have developed strong contractor relationships for all types of work, and from these relationships we have provided thousands of leads and project assistance to contractors.”

HOW IT WORKS

If a store owner or decision maker agrees to the audit, PECI (which once stood for Portland Energy Conservation Inc., but no longer does so because of its geographic breadth) sends its own personnel to provide the energy audit. In effect, said Achilles, this becomes a third-party audit since PECI does not manufacture any of the equipment or products that eventually might be needed.

Some of the opportunities include:

• Design on new construction and remodels;

• Retrofits by upgrading lighting and refrigeration technologies;

• Commissioning of new and existing buildings.

Results could be anything from suggesting replacement of strip curtains to full-scale retrofits.

A CONTRACTOR'S PERSPECTIVE

Among the contracting companies that uses PECI services is Source Refrigeration based in Anaheim, Calif., which has extensive involvement in supermarket refrigeration. Pete Cuneo, director of Energy Services, said Source first became involved with PECI in 2003. The first project, he said, was to install some 50 floating head controls in 10 Southern California supermarket chains.

Cuneo said PECI performs a site survey of a store, and then determines what rebates are available. He said in the case of those first 50 stores “it ended up being zero cost to the customer.”

He noted PECI’s energy analysts “can model the existing store and an existing energy efficient one.” It then becomes the contractor’s job to install the upgrades that will produce the projected savings. “If the contractor can’t deliver verifiable energy savings, then everybody loses. We make (the savings) happen,” said Cuneo.

Cuneo said PECI’s relationship with utilities and ability to track down incentives and rebates makes the company unique.

BENEFITS

Achilles said grocers can look at the program for three reasons.

“First, this is an opportunity to grow the business. Energy is the second largest variable in a store. If a grocer doesn’t manage that, the store may not be essential.

“Second, the program helps connect contractors with manufacturers and new technologies to speed the process to bring products to market.

“Third, the industry is all about relationships and helping to get energy costs down.”

In regards to this, Achilles said EnergySmart Grocer holds training programs for contractors, which includes table top expos where manufacturers can show some of the newest products.

The conductors of the audits for PECI are called Field Energy Analysts who typically come from the contractor or store owner sectors. “They know the parties involved,” said Achilles. “They understand the market and have the expertise to help grocers save energy and money.”

For more information, visit www.peci.org.

Sidebar: Job Program

PECI has been awarded an $18.8 million contract by the California Energy Commission for the company’s EnergySmart Jobs program which is funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The program develops new jobs in connection with delivering refrigeration and associated retrofit measures that save energy in commercial facilities.

According to a press release from PECI, the program will create more than 200 new jobs in California, provide energy efficiency job skills training for 400 entry-level positions and refrigeration and lighting contractors, and help retain more than 200 contractor and energy surveyor positions throughout the state.

“The program will create long-term jobs and make a significant impact in generating energy savings within commercial refrigeration industries, helping to spur statewide sustainable change,” said PECI executive director Phil Welker.

In addition to working with the Energy Commission on the Energy Smart Jobs Program, PECI is partnering with private contractors, utilities, manufacturers, and the California Conservation Corps, which has committed to supply trainees as new direct employees to meet the energy survey needs of the program.

“The EnergySmart Jobs Program is an exciting model for leveraging private funding with public funds to create partnerships that are designed to bring new jobs into the market, boosting our statewide economy,” said Karen Douglas, California Energy Commission chair. “By upgrading commercial buildings to be more energy efficient, we’re showing building owners, operators and occupants that energy efficiency can provide cost savings and other valuable non-energy paybacks while at the same time benefiting the state with lower greenhouse gas emissions.”

Publication date: 01/31/2011

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