Joseph Harberg, CEO of Current Energy has a fantastic energy management solution for fast food, convenience store and other retail chains. With the help of some cutting edge energy management technology, Current Energy is helping these companies lower their energy consumption by 10-25%. This not only helps these companies save millions of dollars but it also helps them run their operations more efficiently. We talked with Joseph about what his system does and the challenges that his customers face when it comes to lowering their energy consumption.
Joseph Harberg: Hi, this is Joe Harberg. I’m the founder and CEO of Current Energy, and this is the Daily Energy Report.
Q: Who is Current Energy and what are you main objectives?
Joseph Harberg: Current Energy is a company that provides energy management systems and building automation systems for building owners. What Current Energy does is we have pieces of equipment that tie into every piece of equipment in a building that can draw gas, water or electricity and use it. Current Energy has an energy management system. What that means is that we go into a building with our equipment, and we tie into every piece of equipment in the building that draws gas, water, and electricity. And we work with the building owners to find a ways to curtail that use. It may be things like changing behavior. It may be just simple things like making sure the equipment is scheduled to come on and off when it should come on and off. But through the results that we’re having, we’re doing a tremendous job in saving money on their gas, water, and electric bill.
Q: What’s a typical savings for energy management in the businesses?
Joseph Harberg: Well, we at Current Energy have chosen to go after the small buildings first. That’s kind of the footprint that’s the best for our use right now. And what we’ve been doing is working with restaurants and retail stores, convenient stores, and in those buildings, we’re saving somewhere between fifteen and twenty-five percent on their electric bill. And similar types of results on the gas bill.
Q: In managing the way the building uses energy, can one also achieve operational savings?
Joseph Harberg: Our system is capable of generating really big operational savings. What happens is our system will generate text and alarm messages for those pieces of equipment when they fall outside of the way they normally are supposed to operate. And so by sending a repairperson out to repair a piece of equipment, you’re ultimately saving the price of potential having to replace that equipment if you didn’t know there was a problem with it.
Our system is unique in several ways. First and foremost, we’re able to actually tie in to gas, water, and electricity. Most other systems just tie into electricity. We’re totally agnostic as to equipment, type of equipment we’re tying into. It can be anything from an air-conditioning unit to a bun warmer at a fast-food neighborhood joint. It could be the water meter, the hot water heater, or it could be the ovens in a pizza place. So it really doesn’t matter what type of equipment it is. We like to say if you picture the International Space Station and all the pieces of equipment that were up there, and over time, they knew at NASA they were going to change the equipment but operating system they needed to keep the same. Our system operates very similar to the way that works.
Q: Which clients use energy management systems to help improve their operations?
Joseph Harberg: The people we have found that have aggressively gone after energy savings are those that use a tremendous amount of energy in a small space. And that primarily has been restaurant users. There really hasn’t been a great solution for restaurant users for a long time, really ever. They have lots of systems on their roof, lots of different systems in their units themselves. What we think energy management systems are best served by buildings that have lots of energy usage in the smallest amounts of square footage. So, generally speaking, restaurants and retail establishments and in convenient stores and grocery stores have the most amount of equipment using electricity in the smallest amount of square footage. So that’s going to have your biggest impact with the energy management system. If you have one air conditioning unit in a particular location, then a programmable thermostat is probably a pretty good use. And you don’t need a real energy management system. Once you get beyond one air conditioning unit and you have multiple systems operating in a facility, then you need to bring in some real automation to operate as if it’s one system and not have multiple thermostats operating independently. So we like that building that’s got lots of energy usage in a small square footage.
Take fast food as an example. Take a Wendy’s or an Arby’s which is one of our customers. If you think of the inside or back of a Wendy’s, you got not only the lights on the inside and lights on the outside parking lots, you also have air conditioning systems. And then you’ve got behind the counter which utility people don’t go. You’ve got everything from grills, bun warmers, ovens, microwaves, anything you can think of that are all pulling gas and water and electricity. So the more you can actually monitor and then take control of those different pieces of equipment, the more change you have to impact the energy usage.
The system works incredibly well for professional energy managers because they know what they’re trying to achieve. They know how good a system can operate for their particular locations, their facilities. And they want some sort of centralized look at all the facilities that they have. And that’s what they are paid to do as the professional energy managers. On the other hand, when you’ve got a franchisee that may have multiple units, may have ten locations of McDonald’s or Wendy’s or an Arby’s or whatever chain it is. Dunkin Donuts. It can be anything. They’re sitting at a particular facility. That owners is sitting there and usually they’ve got one set of drawers in their desk where they’re writing personal checks. Then another set of drawers where they’re writing company checks. And so they’re very in tune with cash flow and where money is coming from or needs to be spent. So those guys need it probably as much if not more the professional energy manager or the big corporations that have energy managers because they really… This is a game of inches, not a game of making a quick hit. If you can save ten dollars on how the bum warmers operate, and you can save fifty dollars on how the hot water heater works. You can save a hundred dollars on the lights and a hundred fifty dollars on the air conditioning unit. It doesn’t take much to add up to an awful lot of dollar savings in a unit.
Our system is capable of tracking their usage of electricity, gas and water on a daily basis. So during the month, they know real time what they’re actually spending on their various commodities that they’re purchasing. And it will also allow them when they know that information whether they should bring some of the capital expenditures they want to spend that year in their building to the month that they’ve got extra cash or if they need to delay work until they have more cash later on in the year.
Q: What is a typical return on investment?
Joseph Harberg: A typical ROI for us in the fast food arena is under three-year payback, and that’s based on ten-cent kilowatt hour power, middle part of the country, pretty standard stuff. If you add more bells and whistles, that doesn’t really apply to the return on investment because there’s no return on some of the bells and whistles. That’s where you get the operational efficiencies that will pick that investment up. But general speaking under three years in the middle part of the country, and they can approach two years, one and a half years on each coast where the electricity rates are high.
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