IGS Energy Helps Healthcare Facilities Control Energy Costs

Chris Rengstorf, Senior Director of Commercial Solar Operations at IGS Energy, Explains How Pairing Efficiency & Sustainability Can Balance Energy Costs

If the healthcare industry was one country, it would be the planet’s fifth biggest carbon emitter. 4.4% of carbon emissions worldwide come from the essential activities carried out by the healthcare sector, from the transportation of emergency vehicles, to keeping the lights on in pharmacies to the supply chain of medical equipment and pharmaceuticals. 

 

To reduce the healthcare sector’s energy impact, many organisations are adopting energy-efficient practices, from switching to renewable energy sources to implementing sustainable building designs.

Chris Rengstorf, Senior Director of Commercial Solar Operations at IGS Energy, leads operational management in the energy retailer’s Commercial Energy Services (CES) division. 

“Our team provides commercial and industrial customers with advanced and renewable energy solutions, which include solar, lighting solutions and building controls, electric vehicle supply equipment and other cutting-edge electrification products. We have successfully developed and managed more than US$250m in CES projects across the U.S.” 

Before joining IGS, Rengstorf consulted internationally and graduated from The Ohio State University with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. He joined IGS Energy in 2011. 

“IGS Energy is the third-largest energy retailer in the U.S., serving more than 1m commercial and residential customers throughout the country. Our objective is to lead the transition toward a more sustainable energy future.”

The healthcare sector is an energy intensive industry 

IGS Energy began as a natural gas supplier in 1989 and over the years has expanded its product portfolio to include a variety of innovative solutions for our customers. Yet the decision to offer renewable energy products was, ultimately, driven by customer demand. 

“We first began offering solar energy to customers in 2014 and turned on our first projects in 2015. We’ve installed on-site solar for customers large and small, in public, private and nonprofit spaces. We’re currently the fifth largest on-site solar developer in the USA.”

For healthcare organisations who want to reduce their energy usage, whether for cost-savings or sustainability reasons, finding a place to start can be overwhelming. 

“Before investigating sustainability options like clean energy, the most effective first step is to reduce overall energy usage through efficiency upgrades and measures,” suggests Rengstorf. “In fact, operating with as little energy as possible should be every business’ priority, especially one that uses a great deal of energy. But to get started with efficiency upgrades, a healthcare business must first understand their energy usage today.” 

An energy audit or real-time monitoring solution can help benchmark usage before improvements and verify the impact of these improvements post-installation. 

“After taking this first step, organisations can more intentionally explore other sustainable technologies and options with their energy partner, whether that’s buying grid power with renewable energy credits (RECs) or exploring solar,” said Rengstorf. “These decisions come down to your goals: operating more sustainably, saving money, placing long-term energy hedges or all of the above.”

How to determine if solar power is the right choice

To determine if on-site power generation through solar power is right for your business, Rengstorf suggests a nuanced conversation with various internal leaders and subject matter experts and, ideally, with the support of an energy supplier who can walk you through the process holistically. 

“Ultimately, there are several important considerations before making an investment in solar,” he explains. “First and foremost, consider the goals. If the primary goal is cost savings, it’s important to understand your organisation's electric bills in general and the demand charges specifically.” 

Depending on the market, solar may or may not offset all portions of the electric bill. Sometimes the utility’s demand charge won’t go away, even if a company is generating power on-site. 

“In some cases, however, offsetting the energy portion of the bill alone can create savings, especially where there are state incentives or high energy rates,” said Rengstorf. “In all cases, we encourage our customers to think about on-site solar as a long-term hedge against rising energy rates.”

“By answering these questions and with the aid of a third-party group like IGS, your organisation can quickly identify if solar investment makes sense today,” said Rengstorf. “While a factor like site suitability can sometimes be straightforward, the conversation around owning or leasing equipment is more complex. It can involve tax incentives and whether the business can benefit from them, which often makes financing solar through a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) an attractive option.”

If the customers' location doesn’t have a suitable footprint for solar, it often makes sense for a customer to consider a green energy contract through a retail energy agreement bundled with renewable energy credits (RECs), or to see if community solar exists in their market. 

“Green energy contracts can help organisations support renewable projects through the purchase of RECs and allow the organisation to claim green power,” said Rengstorf. “Community solar, which is similar to a green energy contract, enables customers to enrol in and then buy power directly from solar projects located somewhere else on the grid.”

How healthcare facilities can control their energy costs and the future of renewables

When it comes to establishing an energy strategy that will best support an organisation’s needs and goals, Rengstorf suggests first determining the appetite for risk. 

“In a volatile energy market - as we’ve experienced for the last couple of years - having a strategy designed to meet your business’s unique needs is essential for managing risk.” 

Rengstorf believes that it is important that organisations work with an expert, who has enough experience and expertise to truly understand the options available. 

“From there, you can select the right product (or products) that align with the business’s risk appetite and sensitivity to price fluctuations,” said Rengstorf. “Businesses considering on-site generation need to invest a fair amount of time in an analysis of those opportunities to fully understand the implications and the ROI. When working with a third-party solar partner, it’s important to get aligned on how the on-site generation will affect the customers' demand curve with an eye on long-term impacts.”

For the future of renewables, Rengstorf believes that customers should continue to expect market volatility in the future, and this presents both risk and opportunity. 

“As we go forward, it’s going to be even more essential that organisations work with energy companies who are experts in both commodity supply as well as renewable generation.”

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