Project Merit: Energy Efficiency & Demand Response

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Comverge (Norcross, Ga.) for winning a bid to develop Africa's first electric utility demand response program, a 16-month pilot with South Africa's Eskom to create and co-manage an open market for DR. Comverge will aggregate 500 MW of load, including at least 100 MW of capacity to be brought to market by new domestic curtailment service providers that Comverge will recruit, train and certify.

According to Pike Research, the Eskom program will provide "improved grid reliability, balance supply and demand, and ultimately address the nation's power supply [constraints], which is currently under strain with peak demand of around 37,000 MW." Pike projects this win driving revenue growth for Comverge in 2012 and helping it gain an edge in a new market over competitors such as EnerNOC and Oracle, which Pike suspects also bid on the deal.

If successful, the pilot could launch a "growing international DR business, which is one of Comverge's key strategic goals for 2012 and beyond," wrote Pike's Marianne Hedin, noting that March 2011, the company established its first international subsidiary. Pike estimates the global DR services market will grow at an average 37% annually through 2016, with growth in emerging markets of between 42% and 50% in that period.

Michaels Engineering (La Crosse, Wis.) whose Michaels Energy division has targeted convenience stores with energy management and efficiency measures that typically achieve energy savings of 15% to 20% at costs of less than $.08/kWh and $0.80 per therm of natural gas, according to the firm. Michaels uses its own proprietary set of standardized measures which the firm says goes deeper than the prescriptive and direct-install programs that utilities offer but is still affordable and easy to implement by contractors. Michaels built its measures list after auditing convenience stores in the Midwest.

C-stores are small, typically between 3,500 and 5,000 square feet, but with lots of refrigeration, coffee makers and hot-food dispensers that are very energy dense, consuming between 90 and 210 kWh per square foot annually, according to Michaels.

Michaels is also targeting community banks and another class of trade that it hasn't disclosed yet. In an industry where intellectual property is difficult to develop, Michaels wishes to hold its list of measures proprietary, but told CCBJ that it focuses on O&M and includes installing electrically commutated evaporator fan motors and LED case lighting.

With about 145,000 convenience stores operating in the United States (according to the National Association of Convenience Stores), Michaels Energy is targeting an enormous market that hasn't received a lot of attention from the energy management and efficiency industry.