AESP Award to Dunkin’ Brands, Eversource and National Grid for Energy Efficiency Program Design

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It’s Even More Meaningful Than It Appears at First Blush

Dunkin' DonutsAt their annual meeting in Orlando in February, the Association of Energy Services Professionals (AESP) gave a joint award to Dunkin’ Brands and 2 utilities – Eversource and National Grid – for “Outstanding Achievement in Non-Residential Program Design and Implementation”.  To quote AESP:

“National Grid and Eversource entered into memoranda of understanding with Dunkin’ Brands, Inc. (DBI) to build a joint initiative referred to as the Dunkin’ Brands Energy Management Program. Together, these three companies have collaboratively built a strategic partnership and developed a streamlined process for engaging franchise owners to invest in energy efficiency. Through these collaborations, DBI, National Grid, and Eversource have identified key, high priority energy efficiency upgrades for the franchisees. The team structured the program to provide a simple path, generous incentives, and financing for franchisee owners to implement these upgrades.

Phase 1 energy reduction varied from as little as 8% up to 30%, with the average consumption reduction being 20% at six franchise locations. The findings from Phase 1 will inform the direction of Phases 2 and 3. These later phases will focus on collaboration and on-going partnerships with DBI.”

The award was covered by Energy Manager Today in a March 7 article.

We at Powerhouse Dynamics have been very excited by this award for a number of reasons.

First of all, our Energy & Asset Management system – SiteSage® – is at the core of the Dunkin’ Brands Energy Management Program, which also includes options for LED lighting and advanced refrigeration controls. We are delighted to be working with Dunkin’ Brands, and have been impressed by their commitment to energy efficiency, by the way they have collaborated with the utilities, and by the proactive way in which they have promoted the program to their franchisees. Several hundred franchise locations and counting have already implemented the program.

But, probably even more exciting is the way that Eversource and National Grid have designed, embraced and implemented the program, providing an innovative model for other utilities moving forward.

If you have ever been involved in securing energy efficiency rebates from a utility, you know that the process is generally complex and time consuming. For companies with many facilities, it’s even tougher. Applications must be made one location at a time, and it often takes months for rebates to be approved. In some cases, the rebates aren’t actually provided for more than a year, until actual savings have been documented – which creates financial uncertainty on behalf of the rebate applicants.

Adding to the complexity is the fact that rebate programs vary from state to state, and sometimes among utilities in a state, making it so much harder for companies that operate in many states – as is certainly the case with Dunkin’ Brands, which has almost 8,000 franchise locations across the US.

Of course, utilities need to ensure that rebate dollars are going to projects that actually save energy, so some overall process is required. But, the traditional approach is expensive for both the companies seeking rebates and the utilities. In fact, the complexity deters some companies from undertaking the very energy savings programs that the rebate programs are designed to encourage.  And that’s where the Dunkin’ program may be able to serve as an enhanced model.

For the Dunkin’ Brands Energy Management Program, the two utilities took a different approach. First, they looked at the savings achieved by pilot tests prior to utility involvement. Next, they sponsored and monitored an expanded, short-term pilot project to corroborate savings firsthand.. Eversource and National Grid then decided to do the unprecedented: provide agreed to, up front, fixed (for specific configurations) rebates for all program participant locations, basing these rebates on a conservative estimate of likely savings given the pilot results. No rebate applications, no hoops to jump through: sign up for the program, obtain the rebate.

But the utilities did not stop there. They decided to run the program through their energy management “lead vendors” (who are also responsible for the LED installations), providing an added level of external program management to ensure smooth deployment. And they agreed to on-bill, zero interest financing. This allowed Dunkin’ Brands to tell their franchisees that there was no cost to the program – proved out by the reduction in utility bills from the first day of participation. This has had a huge impact on program participation, and has allowed most franchisees to bypass what they would normally insist on – a pilot test – moving straight to a full rollout. 

This should be viewed as a great template for utility rebate programs, and we congratulate Eversource, National Grid, and Dunkin’ Brands on their foresight, creativity, and willingness to try something new and impactful – and how effectively the utilities and their customer have worked together. The approach pioneered with this program removes a major barrier to rebate program participation and significantly accelerates the process – not only reducing costs, but speeding up project savings.

We are extremely impressed by what has already been accomplished with this program, and very excited that our system is part of its success. And, we sincerely hope that utilities across the country will see this as a model of how to streamline rebate programs and drive adoption – not only for any potential expanded Dunkin’ program, but for other similar customers as well – the very same customer types that utilities have long had difficulty reaching.