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County considering energy savings audit of facilities

By Elizabeth Wilkerson -- ewilkerson@nvdaily.com

WOODSTOCK -- The Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors is considering an agreement for the completion of an energy and water savings audit.

At the property and public works committee's Thursday meeting, Richard Ritter, of Ameresco Inc., said his firm had been chosen from several with state approval to enter performance contracts, in which a firm's payment is tied to its performance.

According to the memorandum of understanding, Ameresco "will perform a technical energy and water savings audit and determine the feasibility of entering into an energy performance contract to provide for installation and implementation of energy and water savings measures" at the county's facilities.

The firm will identify areas where utilities are being wasted and, if an energy performance contract is entered, upgrade the county's facilities to address the waste, Ritter said. The money saved by the improvements is used to pay for them over time, he said, so the work is "100 percent budget neutral."

The final audit will look a lot like the preliminary audit, he said. Garrett Raper, the project's lead development engineer, said the preliminary audit identified lighting and water changes as some of the biggest potential savings.

Assistant County Administrator Mary T. Price said the county's public school system already has selected Ameresco to perform its energy audit.

District 4 Supervisor Sharon Baroncelli said encouragement from the state brought the audit to the table initially. Energy prices continue to increase, Ritter said, so the goal is to "squeeze that energy dollar" as much as possible.

Every year, the firm will evaluate how much money the county saved, Ritter said, and if the improvements save less than promised, "we owe you a check for the difference." Ameresco has done more than 200 such projects in Virginia, he said, and it's "never missed a guarantee."

"We've never had to write a check," Ritter said. "We know what we're doing."

According to the memorandum of understanding, the audit will cost $10,637. If the firm and county enter an energy performance contract, the audit cost will be incorporated into the project costs, it says.

If the firm determines savings cannot be attained to meet the county's terms, the audit can be terminated and the county will have no obligation to pay. But, if the recommendations in the audit meet or exceed the county's objectives and the county backs out, it will have to pay the $10,637 fee, it says.

"Quite frankly, this is to let you guys have a little bit of skin in the game," Ritter said.

Baroncelli asked whether the county could complete the audit in house, and Price said it could not.

If the contract is entered, Ritter said, the firm does not have to "take the gut-buster low bid" for the work.

"We will make every effort to use as much local labor as humanly possible," he said.

The board will take up the matter at its meeting today.

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