The energy crisis of the 1970s created long lines of cars, with drivers waiting to fuel up at gas stations. These days, increasing fuel demands and rising prices are forcing the cost of everything from groceries to construction materials and other everyday expenditures ever upward. Heavy demand on the overtaxed utility grid has resulted in periodic blackouts in some major cities during summer months. Since utility costs comprise part of a building’s maintenance budget, maintenance costs for residential buildings also have been affected.
Same Problem, Different Approaches
These factors have forced the administrators of some cash-strapped buildings to take the unusual step of issuing special assessments to pay for spiraling utility costs. Boards and managers of other buildings are looking at their utility usage and thinking about how to lower—or even just freeze—their costs. More buildings are obtaining multi-year contracts for various services, but such deals are only short-term fixes for the long-term headache of exponentially rising costs.
While most co-op and condo buildings in the city get their energy from a major supplier like Con Edison (or from a secondary supplier), more buildings are choosing to generate some of their energy at their own facility, by implementing a co-generation program. A co-generating program produces a portion of the energy the building needs on-site. Sometimes in very large projects, a co-generation program can produce energy in excess of a building’s needs, enabling the building to sell some of the energy back to the utility company for a profit.
In most cases though, a co-generation program in a residential building will provide just a portion of the energy needed for running the building, and that energy will be used for the building. While instituting a co-generation program can result in a significant savings in utility costs for some residential buildings, co-generation is not for every building. Depending upon its size, the amount of energy it regularly uses, and its physical characteristics, adapting the building’s system for co-generation could make great sense. Or, implementing a co-generation plan might be downright foolish, and actually could cost the building’s residents more money.
Knowing whether your building is a good candidate for a co-generation system could save its residents money and years of hassle. Evaluating the potential of such a system for your building is not necessarily as tricky as it might seem. With the right professional counsel, a building’s management can make the right choice, either by co-generating or by sticking with the building’s existing system.