Could what that ESCO sales rep said really be true? Savings realization rates in ESPC versus bid-to-spec projects
Claims that savings realization is greater in energy savings performance contracts (ESPCs) are rampant – at least among energy service company representatives and other ESPC cheerleaders. But hard supporting evidence for these claims has been virtually non-existent. The Department of Energy's Federal Energy Management Program uses its Compliance Tracking System (CTS) database to document the performance of federal buildings and projects towards meeting various federal energy-saving goals. This paper focuses on preliminary analysis from CTS to understand and compare the performance of federal ESPCs with projects that have been implemented with more conventional government appropriations funding. The authors have found preliminary evidence using CTS that shows markedly higher savings realization rates among ESPC projects than appropriations-funded ones. There are numerous caveats to the data comparison that clamor for further study, but the difference is still intriguing. If borne out, this finding will provide concrete support to the idea that ESPCs' guarantees and measurement and verification, long touted by energy service companies (ESCOs) as offering savings assurance, may truly yield substantial benefits. If ESPCs actually do perform better (i.e., have higher realization rates and savings persistence) than conventional bid-to-spec projects, the perceived premium for conducting them may look like a very good deal after all.