Unison Energy makes money only when our system is providing electricity and thermal (hot water, steam, chilling) to a customer facility. This blended cost of the electricity and thermal is typically lower than the utility. There are no other expenses for our client, so Unison only makes money when our microgrid system is providing electricity and thermal power. Unison Energy’s and our clients’ incentives are aligned.
All microgrid O&M costs are included in Unison Energy’s electricity and thermal rates stipulated in the Energy Services Agreement (ESA). This includes all minor and major maintenance, engine overhauls, consumables, service calls, and all other maintenance, including unplanned maintenance. The customer will never be charged for O&M. Furthermore, Unison only makes a return on its investment when our systems are operating, aligning our interests with our customer’s savings, resiliency and sustainability goals. To this end, we have invested heavily in our O&M capability and as a result, our microgrid fleet has an excellent uptime record.
Utility standby and demand charges differ depending on the state and utility. Unison Energy maintains a sophisticated proprietary tariff database which includes 700+ tariffs, 120+ gas and electric utilities in 25 states; for each of our prospective energy projects, Unison Energy performs an in-depth tariff analysis based on the microgrid to be deployed and different operating scenarios inclusive of time-of-day energy pricing, peak shaving, and power quality optimization. All “post-microgird” utility charges, including standby charges, demand charges, departing load charges, etc. are factored into the project’s economic analysis and ESA rates.
If required, either the customer or Unison Energy can buy the gas. If Unison buys it, the cost is passed straight through to the customer; there is no markup.
Microgrids with a baseload provided by cogeneration typically generate consistent energy savings over time, regardless of gas market fluctuations. The reason for this is that the marginal cost of electric power on the grid is provided by natural gas-powered “peaker plants” which can power up and down in response to electricity demand. Since on-site cogeneration, fuel cells, and utility-scale peaker plants use natural gas as their energy source, the correlation between gas and electricity prices is very high, maintaining microgrid savings versus the utility.
Energy from the utility is sold as a bundled cost of the commodity (electricity) and transmission and distribution (“T&D” – the wires, poles, substations, and pipes). Onsite microgrids have no T&D costs while utility T&D costs, in the markets Unison Energy, serves, typically increase on average 3 – 12% per year. Because Unison Energy’s microgrids cover 80 – 95% of a customer’s on-site energy costs, the utility T&D cost avoidance on the majority of our customer’s electricity spend ensures that the savings from on-site generation increase over the term of the ESA.
Unison Energy’s microgrid systems are containerized to minimize on-site installation costs and provide uniformity of design; all major equipment including engine/generator, thermal recovery and conversion, related pumps, controllers, and switchgear, and all ancillary equipment is placed inside a container that is roughly the size of an ISO shipping container. A 45’ x 10’ footprint is a conservative estimate for a single CHP solution; solar and storage solutions require more space. If space is tight at a facility, Unison strongly suggests that a CHP economic analysis is done so as to determine projected savings. With that, our customers can do an internal cost/benefit analysis, taking into account savings versus “making room” for the equipment, i.e. the higher the savings, the more on-site space that can be “found.” When considering kWh generation density per square feet, CHP is often more land/rooftop resource-effective while also producing the energy redundancy that many C&I customers require of their on-site energy systems. While most cogeneration systems can be installed indoors, many municipalities, including the City of New York, have yet to permit storage systems for indoor locations because of the potential fire hazard.
Unison Energy is technology “agnostic” and will use the best technology for our client’s facility needs and their desired energy outcome. For cogeneration, we typically use MWM, MTU, Jenbacher, and MAN engine packages from 2G-Energy which have high electrical efficiencies (37 – 45%) as well as best in class electric + thermal energy efficiencies of 60 – 85%. System efficiency = customer savings. As a comparison, the average utility efficiency in the markets we serve is 35%.
Unison Energy sizes our systems to maximize customer savings. This typically results in a system that covers 80-95% of our customer’s annual electrical load (kWh). Unison will often employ two or three energy systems operating in parallel for redundancy during maintenance events as well as for peak shaving to minimize time of day pricing; investment in system redundancy is a trade-off with customer savings and often depends on local utility tariffs and specifically demand charges. Unison can adjust our system sizing to meet customer-specific energy savings and resiliency needs.
Because Unison Energy owns our energy systems, CHP emissions are usually considered separate from customer facility emissions. Unison handles all emissions applications, testing, and reporting.
Unison Energy only bills for the energy that is used by the customer ($/kWh and therms). The ESA stipulates an electric rate ($/kWh) and thermal rate for hot water, steam, and/or chilled water ($/therm) that typically increase at CPI over the term of the ESA.
Unison Energy’s energy services agreement (ESA) is typically 15 years. It can be shorter or longer, but customer savings is term dependent – the longer the term, the greater the savings.
Our customers have three options at the end of the ESA term (typically 15 years):
- Renew the ESA agreement;
- Unison Energy removes the system at our expense;
- The customer can buy our system at fair market value.
Because Unison Energy typically owns our energy systems, and our customer puts up no capital, the customer payback is in the form of energy savings and related resiliency benefits over the term of the ESA. That said, economic payback, if a customer was to own the energy system, can be 4-8 years depending on local tariffs, onsite installation costs, natural gas and electric utility rates, and internal or external Operations and Maintenance costs.
Natural gas cogeneration facilities can reduce carbon emissions by 30-40%; implementing multiple technologies in a microgrid including solar power can further reduce carbon emissions 40 to 60%. The exact amount will depend on the mix of power generation resources serving a utility or geography (e.g, coal, natural gas, nuclear, hydro, wind, solar). In the future, renewable gas from biofuels and even hydrogen will be readily available through existing gas pipelines allowing facilities to be carbon neutral using their existing infrastructure. In the meantime, Unison Energy supports reforestation, a concept endorsed at the 2020 World Economic Forum, to remove the remaining carbon from the atmosphere to achieve carbon neutrality today.
Yes. If we enter into a sales agreement, we will require a long-term services agreement to ensures that our systems are properly maintained and kept running at maximum efficiency.