A Plan to Improve Energy Intensity Performance (Goal 3)

March 25, 2011

While SEPTA's award-winning 1234 Market Street headquarters is perhaps the best example of its proactive approach to energy demand management and conservation, it is just one of several components that make up the organization's strategy for improving the efficiency of its facilities and vehicles. SEPTA's Sustainability Program will build upon 1234 Market Street's success to drive a system-wide rollout of energy efficiency initiatives.

As described in the March 11 journal entry ("SEPTA's Energy Portfolio"), several investments already underway have begun to improve the efficiency of SEPTA's energy portfolio - most notably, the purchase of more fuel efficient hybrid buses, the incorporation of regenerative braking technology, and the retrofitting of stations and maintenance facilities. Several new initiatives in the pipeline promise to accelerate efficiency gains and reduce SEPTA's monthly spending on utilities. A sample of these potential investments is outlined below.

SEPTA's Sustainability Program has established an ambitious target of reducing the energy intensity of its facilities and vehicles by 10 percent by 2015. SEPTA will track six areas of energy consumption: diesel (gallons); gasoline (gallons); electricity (kilowatt hours); natural gas (ccf); heating oil (gallons); and steam (pounds). All units of energy consumption will be converted into btu and tracked against a 2009 baseline across three performance metrics:

  • Energy Intensity/Passenger Mile Traveled: 2.88 kbtu/PMT
  • Energy Intensity/Vehicle Mile: 45.89 kbtu/VM
  • Energy Intensity/Revenue Vehicle Hour: 640.58 kbtu/RVH
SEPTA's Fox Chase Station
Designed to LEED-Silver Standards for Energy Efficiency

Energy Efficiency Initiatives

By inventorying transit industry best practices and analyzing its own unique operational needs and constraints, SEPTA has compiled the following set of initiatives to undertake as part of the implementation of this plan:

Prioritize energy-efficiency facility projects. A series of energy reduction measures at SEPTA's 1234 Market Street headquarters saved more than $100,000 in 2009. Dozens of aging facilities throughout the region could become more energy efficient from similar lighting and weatherization treatments. SEPTA will be benchmarking its facilities on measures of relative energy performance and target retrofit projects that improve energy efficiency and reduce demand across the system. In many cases, these projects will be eligible for rebates through PECO's Smart Ideas program, improving their financial return on investment.

Encourage conservation among employees. Reducing system-wide energy consumption will require as much emphasis on behavioral shifts as capital investments. SEPTA employees can play a substantial role in energy conservation by reducing their personal energy consumption in the workplace. Internal media campaigns and periodic employee retraining will include a component on conservation, which may lead to energy savings while at the same time helping to instill a more widespread appreciation of SEPTA's energy conservation program.

Continue non-revenue fleet management planning efforts. In 2003, SEPTA decreased the size of its non-revenue fleet and since has gradually improved its fuel efficiency through the purchase of hybrid supervisory vehicles. Moving forward, SEPTA should regularly re-evaluate the size of its non-revenue fleet and continue to improve fuel efficiency by prioritizing the purchase of more fuel efficient vehicles for both supervisory and utility fleets. In addition, while the decentralization of SEPTA's facilities renders a partnership with local car-sharing companies impractical, SEPTA should continue to evaluate opportunities to improve the cost-effectiveness of its own internal car-sharing program.

Install LED lighting. SEPTA has initiated a process to replace much of its existing vehicle interior lighting with more energy-efficient LED lighting. This program should be expanded to maintenance facilities, tunnels, transit stations, stairways, walkways, signals, and generally throughout the SEPTA system. With a 50,000 hour to 100,000 hour useful life, LED use will significantly reduce the energy required for lighting purposes and reduce maintenance costs at the same time. By using much less energy, use of LED lighting will also reduce SEPTA's carbon footprint (less carbon dioxide generation from fossil fueled generation). LED lights contain no mercury or other hazardous environmental contaminants. Better and more reliable lighting will also improve the safety of SEPTA's passengers.

Install lighting motion sensors. Install motion detection sensors with timers (to turn lights on upon detected motion, and off after a 15-minute period of no detected motion) in offices, hallways, etc. In areas of high cost electricity and/or during peak demand periods, this turn-off time could be reduced to as low as five minutes.

Replace inefficient systems and appliances. SEPTA will be looking at ways to improve the efficiency of high energy use systems, such as building ventilation systems, elevators, motors and transformers. For HVAC units, emerging technologies exist to reduce the amount of wasted exhaust heat by installing a heat recovery unit that preheats the outside air being brought into the building to be closer to indoor temperatures. For escalators, emerging technologies may enable 'on-demand' use that would save energy, reduce operational wear and tear and maintenance costs, and increase useful life. Finally, for motors and transformers, SEPTA will be looking at developing higher efficiency standards for retrofit opportunities that would create power more efficiently and with less pollution than conventional power sources.

Implement wayside energy storage systems. With the completion of the Broad Street Subway "B-IV" railcar fleet propulsion controller retrofit project, SEPTA's entire electrified rail fleet will be capable of regenerative braking. The addition of a wayside energy storage system would dramatically increase SEPTA's ability to capture this energy and release it back into the system. Strategic implementation of wayside storage at substations will reduce energy demand and stabilize voltage quality in critical electrified transit corridors. Brought to scale system-wide, energy storage has the potential to dramatically improve the efficiency and service reliability of SEPTA's entire rail network.

Take advantage of natural lighting and ventilation. New facilities can be designed to better leverage the energy saving potential of natural lighting. Natural side lighting and sky lighting could be coupled with electronics controls to reduce electric-based lighting during high sunlight periods and increase illumination based on safety standards during cloudy days or at night.

What's Next

Next week, we'll turn to SEPTA's fourth and final environmental sustainability goal: to reduce and reuse waste. Waste-based initiatives include the implementation of a comprehensive recycling program at passenger and employee facilities as well as the development of green procurement policies to reduce the amount of waste generated from SEPTA's day-to-day operations.

Next Week: Reduce-Reuse-Recycle: SEPTA's Waste Management Strategy