March 2, 2014
With NESEA’s Building Energy conference right around the corner, GreenhomeNYC is shining the spotlight on the experts who will be making BE 14 an exceptional industry event!
Andrew McNamara is Vice President of Engineering at Bright Power, Inc., a Manhattan-based firm that is pioneering energy efficiency and solar energy solutions in multifamily residential buildings. A physicist by qualification and an environmentalist at heart, Andrew found his true calling in the energy efficiency sector. Passionate to the point of adopting a sustainable lifestyle himself (he owned a solar oven at one point), he stays hungry for more by surrounding himself with smart and inquisitive people who stretch his intellectual boundaries. Let’s hear more from the man himself!
You will be speaking at the session titled ‘Megawatts to Go Before We Sleep.’ What are some of the takeaways that you expect an attendee to gain from this session?
Yes, Henry Misas and I are leading this session in the Multifamily Track at 11 AM on March 5. We’ll tell stories of our past project experience installing dozens of on-site generation projects for multifamily buildings and explore technologies like solar photovoltaics (PV), solar thermal, cogeneration, and battery storage. You can expect to walk away from this session understanding the technical and financial hurdles to doing these types of projects on urban multifamily projects – and more importantly – concrete solutions you can use when you’re back at your desk on Friday after our talk. There’s something in this talk for everyone; developers will better understand economics and risks, architects and engineers will better understand design integration techniques, and everyone can use some do’s and don’ts based on real project experience.
How is your session important to the sustainability field at large?
First, on-site generation is at an inflection point in its growth curve. It’s an early adopter technology rapidly heading towards the mainstream and one any sustainability professional should be increasingly aware of; for example, with PV, subsidies are tapering and already 17 global markets are cost competitive without subsidies. Many PV and on-site generation talks address what’s going on with utility scale PV in fields and deserts or with single-family residential PV. Our talk will focus on multifamily and mid-scale commercial while broadly addressing many on-site generation technologies, which is an important niche that is not often discussed.
Second, on-site generation technologies are also at the nexus of sustainability and resiliency — they allow our buildings to recover more quickly while paying for themselves through energy generation and reducing environmental footprint. That makes them even more relevant and timely today.
Third, the incentive structure for these technologies is changing with more incentives for demand reduction. Historically, PV and even cogen have been somewhat unreliable at saving on demand charges, but New York and California are at the forefront of new incentives that are making batteries a much more viable part of the mix of site generation technologies and are allowing building owners to tap into new revenue streams.
Sustainability has many facets to it. How does solar energy fit into the scheme of solutions offered by Bright Power?
Conventional wisdom in our industry is to “use efficiency first to reduce energy use as much as possible, then use renewables to cover as much of the rest as possible.” We firmly believe in efficiency at Bright Power, but as the cost of solar comes down, many of our clients are finding solar more cost-effective than some efficiency measures. We are always interested in finding the right energy package for our customer, which includes energy efficiency and renewable energy in a way that meets their financial and sustainability goals. On a broader level, efficiency and renewables are of course one piece of the broader sustainability puzzle. This is something we seek to advance with our clients every day primarily through Enterprise’s Green Communities Criteria and USGBC’s LEED.
You also serve as an adjunct professor at New York University. Any interesting experiences you’d like to share?
I teach two classes at the Schack Institute of Real Estate in their Sustainability Certificate Continuing Education program – Solar Essentials: PV and Thermal (co-taught with Lucie Dupas, also of Bright Power, next held in April) and High Performance Energy Efficient Buildings (co-taught with Jeff Perlman, next held in the summer of 2014). Architects, developers, engineers, and those looking to make a career change often take the course. I love teaching because it keeps me in touch with practitioners and keeps my knowledge of the field sharp and up-to-date.
What is your take on the future of the energy efficiency industry? How are you poised to seize opportunities that come your way?
One of the keys to the future of the energy efficiency industry is in getting the financing community to underwrite to the savings projections of energy engineers. This is dependent on high quality savings projections by engineers done in less time and banks developing confidence based on a track record of success. Once this happens, developers and owners will be much more interested in investing in efficiency because they will be able to access capital markets – just as the power purchase agreement and lease structures have unlocked a lot of recent growth in solar PV. One of the things that makes working at Bright Power so exciting is that we are at the nexus of fitting together financing with energy savings to make projects happen. For example, the pre- and post-retrofit benchmarking we are doing in EnergyScoreCards with some of the largest banks in this country is helping to lay the groundwork for the energy efficiency investments of tomorrow.
What are three things you’re looking forward to the most at the BE14 conference? First, I’m really looking forward to the Multifamily track – Josh Lehman and Heather Nolan have assembled a great lineup of speakers and topics. Second, I’m looking forward to the trade show and seeing what’s new from the vendors. And perhaps most of all, I’m excited to spend a few days seeing colleagues, sharpening my skills, and getting inspired.
Interview conducted by Srikant Subramaniam.
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