BY KELLY MADSEN | IOWA ENERGY CENTER
The Iowa Energy Center plans to help develop and demonstrate a more standardized, comprehensive building energy audit program, with the ultimate goal of creating more energy-efficient buildings statewide.
Currently, building energy audit techniques vary widely among the private energy audit sector. As a result of the variation in the way audits are conducted and the perception that savings are not always accurately predicted, lending institutions may be less likely to provide financing at favorable terms after an audit takes place. This makes it more difficult for building owners to make energy efficient improvements.
“With the Investment Grade Energy Audit (IGEA), we will help develop a more standardized set of processes for high quality energy audits,” said Norm Olson, project manager at the Iowa Energy Center’s Biomass Energy Conversion (BECON) facility. “This will allow the energy audit process to be more credible and consistent.”
The IGEA process is still in the early developmental stage, but the Iowa Energy Center is committed to the development of a set of technical standards for conducting energy audits, and identifying funding opportunities that will result in energy efficient building changes.
“In order to begin widespread building energy efficiency efforts we need to maximize credibility of the program, while minimizing the effort and up-front costs required for participation,” Mr. Olson said.
Creating a large-scale, comprehensive system comes with various challenges.
Currently, three potential barriers are foreseen in implementing the audit process: creating teamwork between the energy groups involved, keeping the price reasonable for a high quality product, and convincing investors that the standardized process will have positive results.
While there are barriers to work through in developing the IGEA process, project leaders believe the potential benefits will become evident as the program takes shape.
“An aggressive, comprehensive building energy efficiency program could potentially save an average of 20 percent of the energy used in buildings in the state of Iowa, which is $1.5 billion in savings annually,” Mr. Olson said. “This process would not only provide impressive energy savings but also generate significant economic development activity.”
Over the next few years, the Iowa Energy Center will be taking responsibility in helping to develop an audit process that can result in practical energy and financial savings.
“It is our job to help develop and prove the process, get investors on board, and make building owners want to get involved,” Mr. Olson said. “There is huge potential for this type of program, but we need significant buy-in from stakeholders and successful demonstrations to make this work.”