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Sun., Oct. 4
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Energy study of Jefferson County buildings put on hold


WATERTOWN — Amid widespread confusion about possible duplication, the Jefferson County Local Development Corp. has told a Rochester consultant to delay a study on reducing energy costs at county-owned buildings.

The agency asked Entecco LLC for an executive summary providing specifics about its plan for county board members and businesses, said Donald C. Alexander, CEO of the JCIDA. The move comes after the agency’s board of directors hired Entecco for $7,000 in April to complete a two-month feasibility study on how to reduce energy consumption at four county-owned buildings off Arsenal Street.

Following that study, Entecco said, it would give the board a proposal to finish a yearlong project to implement “smart-grid technology” at those buildings.

The Rochester firm later discovered that Fourth Coast Inc., Clayton, already completed a similar energy study of those buildings in 2013 that could conflict with its plans. Entecco officials said they were not aware of Fourth Coast’s study before the firm was hired.

County Building and Grounds Superintendent Spike C. Decker and Fourth Coast project manager Robert J. Campany were taken aback when they learned about Entecco’s plan. Fourth Coast had been hired to complete a “building condition survey” that included the design of rooftop solar panels, and to study energy use at the buildings.

To dispel confusion, board members and businesses need more information about exactly what Entecco intends to accomplish, Mr. Alexander said. He said that the Rochester firm’s proposal to study county-owned buildings is much larger than what Fourth Coast accomplished, but that specifics of the plan need to be clarified.

After Entecco provides an executive summary, board members will decide whether to hire the company to lead an energy project at county-owned buildings.

“I’ve asked them to hold off on the study and provide an executive summary of what they’re going to do,” said Mr. Alexander, who acknowledged there has been confusion about how Entecco’s study would differ from Fourth Coast’s.

“This isn’t about looking at one or two buildings,” he said. “It’s about an overall strategy. I’ve asked them to go back and take this proposal to large energy users in the county to get their feedback. They say that installing smart meters can cut as much as 18 percent off a building’s energy use, and we want to find that out. We thought studying the county buildings would be an easy choice to take as low-hanging fruit to start accumulating information.”

He said three local manufacturers wish to collaborate with Entecco.

During the agency’s April meeting, Entecco consultants told board members that their plan to reduce energy use at county-owned buildings is the first step in a long-term strategy including projects to lower energy costs for county businesses. They said the two-month study would include installation of rooftop solar panels and smart meters to measure peak energy usage.

A natural gas facility established north of the city of Watertown could help reduce energy expenses for manufacturers based in the northern half of the county, Mr. Alexander said.

“Most of the area north of Watertown has no natural gas lines installed,” he said. “We have tried to get utility companies to extend those gas lines north, but it’s too expensive. But if you look at the northern part of the county, there are manufacturers and school districts that could use a natural gas plant. The facility could be located at the end of the pipe, where natural gas could be picked up from there and distributed.”

For large energy consumers, an energy reduction 5 to 10 percent could have a major impact on overhead expenses, Mr. Alexander said. But to entice a company to build a natural gas plant, the agency would have to demonstrate that there is enough demand from manufacturers, he said.

“We need to start thinking about these things 10 years down the road,” Mr. Alexander said. “We know that energy costs are going to be dramatically higher in the future.”

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