Greg Elliot: Well, it's about two minutes after, so I think we'll get started. I'd like to welcome you to the latest instalment of EnergyCAP’s Coffee and Webinar. As a reminder we are recording the session and today's topic is Energy Analytics for Sustainability, how a large state went from zero to hero. I'm Greg Elliot Assistant Vice President and Team Lead in EnergyCAP’s Project Management Office. We have a lot of great information to share with you today. So let's take a brief look at where our panelists are from. I'll introduce them to you and we'll get started. So some of our panelists are with the Penn State Facilities Engineering Institute which provides education programs, energy services, engineering services and facility condition assessments to Pennsylvania state agencies, the federal government and nonprofit organizations.
PSFEI has specific expertise in energy efficiency and sustainability, energy markets, building infrastructure and facilities information management. Other panelists are with the Pennsylvania Department of General Services who led the charge when the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania implemented EnergyCAP in 2019 in response to Governor Tom Wolf's Executive Order 2019-01. CoPA’s Department of General Services currently tracks approximately 4000 facilities and more than 10,000 utility accounts with an annual utility spend in excess of $125 million. So our panelists today, we'll start with Kurt Homan. He's the Assistant Director at PSFEI. We have Gwendy Bilger Data Analyst at PSFEI, Devin Pennebaker Energy Procurement Manager at PSFEI, Greg Knerr a Commodity Manager for Energy at the Pennsylvania Department of General Services Bureau of Procurement and Mark Hand Director of GreenGov Council at the Pennsylvania Department of General Services. And with that I will turn it over to Kurt.
Kurt Homan: Thank you very much, Greg. Good afternoon, everyone. My name is Kurt Homan. And I'll be covering over the next few slides some history to show how we got to the point of implementing and delivering the EnergyCAP solution. Really the need to obtain data started well before 2016. Back in 2011, we worked with Greg Knerr and his team at DGS to try to find a way to get data from the utility bills. And we actually worked with the Department of Revenue to look for a scanning solution and found that solution was just not economically feasible. So we licked our wounds and continued on.
But then in 2016, we actually were involved in supporting the Commonwealth’s State Transportation Innovation Council Initiative. And that's a Council that's comprised of several agencies across the Commonwealth. And they were very interested in looking at the need for energy analytics. So that was really the first formal move into developing and identifying the need for energy analytics. And really the focus of that initiative covered determining what the Commonwealth's existing energy information conditions were. We knew that we were collecting information at PSFEI and have been doing so for many years for some of the agencies and that included the Department of General Services as well as Human Services and Department of Corrections and a few others.
The initiative looked at reviewing the industry standards, looking at seatbacks, Portfolio Manager, Building Performance Database. We knew there was quite a bit of data out there. But we decided that with the complexities of such a large data requirement the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania needed to develop their own system. So we determined the information needs of the Commonwealth and then finally, to recommend a solution. Next slide, please. So the existing energy landscape was as follows, the utility bills were being paid through SAP. And unfortunately, the only data that was being collected at that time was cost data.
So while we could collect money, financial information we had no idea how much energy was being consumed and looking at the entire Commonwealth, we believe that total of costs was in excess of $250 million. And as I mentioned earlier, we have limited energy use and cost data available through the PSFEI, the Penn State Facility Engineering Institute clients, which I mentioned earlier we were receiving and collecting, in some cases energy use and cost information for those agencies. And resolving from that data we produced annual reports.
And in those reports through using Excel and other means we were able to provide a pretty good picture of energy use intensities, cost per square foot and some pretty good information. However, all the other agencies and they are many agencies you'll see that a little bit later, there was absolutely no idea of what the information would prove and what type of energy situation existed across the common-felt Commonwealth. With the work of administration, Governor Wolf as leading the charge for energy, we didn't know what the carbon footprint was and that was a huge miss. That was a huge need. And we needed to identify what are the efficiencies and the inefficiencies? And how can we identify where the opportunities lie with reducing the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania's demand and reliance on energy and what their carbon footprint was.
And in the end as you all have probably heard you cannot manage what you don't measure. And because of the complexities of the Commonwealth we really decided that an enterprise utility bill management system was needed that required feature-rich software. And the real is as you all may know there really is very few systems out there that offer the extensive capabilities of EnergyCAP. Next slide, please. So EnergyCAP was the obvious choice. The other solutions out there were offered only as part of a complete package. And Pennsylvania Department of General Services was not interested in those other services, they really wanted to control their own destiny and utilize the features and functions of EnergyCAP.
The system was recommended to be centrally managed through the Department of General Services. And we believe that's very important. One of the benefits that was available is to be able to fund the project through the Commonwealth’s utility budget. Through efforts of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania with the PSFEI we had actually achieved significant savings and reductions in utility costs throughout the Commonwealth. So it really became a no brainer to be able to fund the project through using a share of the savings that have been achieved over the past number of years. The study also recommended that there is an Energy Summit to be able to bring the agencies in and obtain feedback.
The study finally decided that implementation would likely take six months to two years. And I think we probably hit the two years on the money. It's a long arduous process. It requires a time and a resource commitment from a lot of different people. And the real challenge that we faced and we're facing going forward but we're really making some good headway is to train the users across the various agencies. And I think the important last thing I'll mention in this slide is the energy triangle to the right. One of the most fundamental things that you need to have in a good energy program is analytics.
So that is what was needed for the Commonwealth and they're actually moving forward with energy conservation and energy efficiency programs currently and they're becoming very successful in working in tandem with EnergyCAP. Next slide, please. So to get the agencies on board which occurred in 2017, we actually, the Commonwealth, got the support of the National Governors Association through a retreat that occurred at a conservation and natural resources facility which was a great location to have something like this occur. There was individuals from various agencies, Greg Knerr participated. We participated, Penn State.
We also have subject matter experts from across the country that flew in and supported this initiative. And it was really a well-received retreat. Everyone definitely was on board with the need to manage energy and utilities better and to improve their energy, sustainability and efficiency. So next slide, please. And I guess with that I'll turn it over to Mark Hand who will discuss the executive order. Mark?
Mark Hand: Yeah. Thanks, Kurt. Yeah, this is Mark Hand the GreenGov Council Director. We are housed at Department of General Services. And the GreenGov Council started based on the Governor's Executive Order 2019-01 which came out in January of 2019. And it established the first ever climate goals for the State of Pennsylvania and 26% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2025 and then 80% by 2050. Of course this aligns with the Paris Agreement and so that was big news. And the other piece to the Executive Order is that it established the GreenGov Council which is an office that's housed in DGS but is co-chaired by the Department of General Services, Department of Environmental Protection and Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, our parks and forest agency.
So one of the things that we, our office, basically came on board in the middle of the year in 2019, Summer of 2019, to oversee the implementation and the progress on the Governor's Executive Order. And there's a lot more to the Executive Order. There's specific -- basically the Executive Order called for agencies under the Governor's jurisdiction to meet certain goals and many of you might be familiar with it's a lead-by-example program. So we're calling on agencies to lead by example on energy conservation and sustainability. And there's several goals but the big one that is pertinent to this webinar is that we have an overall energy consumption reduction goal of 3% per year and 21% reduction by 2025 from 2017 levels.
That's currently the focus of where EnergyCAP comes in to support this. So one of the things we did coming in in 2019 and then again in 2020, is we put together an annual report. You're looking at the cover of our 2020 Annual Report and you can find it online and has the entire program roll up. But the one of the main thrusts of why we could put this program report together was because of the good work of implementing EnergyCAP and getting it really rolling for us when we came in 2019.
It basically without that level of transparency and energy utility reporting by agency it's tough to talk about accountability. So this is a big part of our program and I'm glad that we're implementing it. Next slide. So this chart was put together by Penn State, FEI and to support the GreenGov program. And we were looking at a transparent way to deliver complicated utility data and reductions across the Commonwealth for public consumption and we came up on this chart and this graphic representation of our energy reduction. And so you see the agencies to the left and you can get a glimpse of the energy use by agency.
And then in the middle of this chart we have a tally of meter counts which was super critical for us because it was always a question of how many meters were attributed to each agency and what that number is. And then a little bit further to the right we have percent meters reporting and so we're being extremely transparent here by saying, “Look, we have so many known meters over 8000 known meters and in this reporting year we essentially are reporting on 84%.” And we can get into some of the reasons why it's not 100%. But there's a data validation piece that we'll be talking about.
So those are the meters that met the criteria for reporting and then you can see the energy consumption from a fiscal year 18/19 to 19/20 and then the reductions in carbon reductions that coincide with that. Let's see. So other piece of this is in the first year of the program. The first reporting year we had about 61% of the known meters reporting and we were able to ramp that up to this 84% in this year. And so the 61% meters reporting in the first year we achieved, from those 61%, we achieved a 2.9% energy reduction. And then in this reporting year we're up to 6.2% reduction.
And our energy efficiency programs have remained steady in this year. This chart here represents a full three months of stay-at-home order from the Governor because due to COVID. So this chart essentially reflects to some degree some of the COVID teleworking or remote working that occurred. And then in this next reporting year we will have a full 12 months of stay-at-home teleworking and we'll be able to judge the difference between -- let's see what happened with a full 12 months of telework. So I think we're all interested to see what how that number changes in next year's report. Next slide. So I just wanted to cover a few -- the chart is super simple, right? But there was a bunch of decisions that were made behind the scenes to get there.
And just really quickly, one of them is we decided that we weren't going to look back historically before 2017. We weren’t interested in data mining essentially in trying to complete a record especially I think considering that we were only reporting 61% in that first year. And it's a lot of work to go back through the 8000 plus metered accounts and try to collect that historical information. And we decided to work forward from where we started in 2017. And then another item is we decided to move to a sliding baseline which I think is an interesting item because essentially this sliding baseline is comparing the current 12 months to the former 12 months, it's 24 months of an evaluation period.
This is different than comparing it to a set reference year like a fiscal year 2017/18. And there's reasons for that because essentially the energy utility data is getting better for us over time and we're getting a more transparent and complete record of energy use in the Commonwealth. So and then this is the final point I wanted to make is we had to create utility account validation reporting because we have so many meters and it seems straightforward that you're going to get a complete record. But we had the credit criteria that essentially we had to figure out what counts and what doesn't count as far as reporting and so the main item that is our trigger for being included or not included is two bills or last missing and a 24-month evaluation period.
If it meets that criteria we included it, if it doesn't that becomes why we didn't hit a higher percentage of validated meters. And then we take that full suite of meters that meet the threshold criteria and then we apply weather normalization to those validated accounts. And then that's all for me and you can go to the next slide and I just want to turn it over to my counterpart Greg Knerr to dig deeper into this. And Greg's with the Department General Services Bureau of Procurement.
Greg Knerr: Thank you Mark. Just wanted to cover some of the lessons that we learned, implementation and upkeep with EnergyCAP and also dig a little bit deeper in some of the things that both Mark and Kurt had covered already. I'm going to sound like a broken record here. And something that Kurt already mentioned, the first lesson that we learned is that centralized support is absolutely critical for implementing a system like EnergyCAP. As we mentioned, we have 16 different agencies that are participating in this, that actually pay a utility bill physically that they have something in their name for electric service or natural gas service throughout the Commonwealth. Most of the folks out in those agencies, their primary focus is getting a utility bill, they get it, they pay it in whichever -- in most cases the quickest way that they can possibly do it, all they care about is not having their lights shut off or their gas to pump.
So, as Kurt mentioned, that really focuses -- and the same thing with our accounts payable group, our controller's office. They're their primary focus is what pays the bill due and how much is it. And you have, depending on what type of service it is, anywhere from like, five or six different line items of very key information from an energy management standpoint to a lot more than that, that are lost in that process if you're not capturing that information. When we implemented EnergyCAP, our intention was to take our bill images, where we have them and load them into EnergyCAP using the bill capture service. The centralized support for the implementation was absolutely critical in trying to make sure that we had some folks on board that understood the nuances, all the different processes that people were using to pay these bills.
As Kurt mentioned, some folks were paying and then our system, bill images would come in, they'd check off how much needed to be paid, and it gets approved and paid that way. We also had an electronic process that we implemented. We just refer to it as EDI for Electronic Data Interface, with our largest electric utilities primarily that covers maybe about four or five thousand of our meters across the enterprise. Having somebody involved that knows all the nuances that and understands that was absolutely critical to our implementation process. Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on which day of the week it was, that was me.
So we were knee deep -- myself and my team of two other individuals were knee deep in this process for the better part of the last three years trying to help set this up. Another key component for that is, have a designated data analyst to assist you. For us, we know that we're very fortunate in that regard. The Penn State had brought on Gwendy Bilger who you're going to hear from here shortly, to assist us in that role. She provides just invaluable support with training and data analysis and things that EnergyCAP that really helps us provide the customer service to the agencies that just helps us in providing the value that we've -- because we sold the system to our agencies, we had to do our internal sales pitch. And part of that was explaining the value and everything that we would get from the system and Gwendy has been instrumental in ensuring that we deliver on that.
So another piece that I would say, expect the unknown, really. Unless you have the luxury of knowing the ins and outs of every aspect of your organization, or maybe you only have a few different groups that are paying bills and have a pretty good handle on it, maybe this won't be as critical for you. With us with the 16 different agencies and what we thought was about 11,000 meters or so scattered about throughout the entire state of Pennsylvania, we were counting on getting some unknown things, but what we didn't realize is that there would be at least 2,300 or so previously unknown and unmanaged meters out there that folks were getting the bill and just paying it on a credit card because it's less than the monthly bill was well below what our monthly credit card transaction limit is for purchasing policy. A lot of groups are just getting a bill paying with a credit card. They look at how much is due they don't look at anything as far as validity of charges whether they're being billed the right rate. And Gwendy might mention a few things here coming up in some cases we were paying for billings that we didn't own anymore for several years. So, things like that. Next slide, please.
The biggest issue that we've encountered, and another area where centralized support is absolutely critical, that's data quality. And with the 16,000 meters across all of our agencies, 16 executive agencies and two that are semi-independent, it's just a recipe for poor data quality if you don't have consistency. So without that centralized support, you could imagine each agency's loading their own information and without any kind of standardization, you end up with a kind of an unintelligible mess. It was very critical.
We took the reins on that and no for better or for worse, because it was a lot of work that we put on ourselves, but we took the reins on setting up everybody's organizational hierarchies, getting their input, moving things around, but maintaining centralized control over how that data was set up, how the meters are named how things are organized, it's been absolutely critical to having consistency and for the statewide reporting, particularly the reports that we're doing for the GreenGov Council, it's been very critical for that.
And then, also touched on the next point here about data validation, the process that we're going through to basically qualified meters for inclusion in the GreenGov report to where they count, we're counting them towards the energy reduction goals each year. The centralized data collection, and what I just talked about, as far as consistency and standardization has been absolutely critical for that. And having folks on board between my team and the other folks at PSFEI and Gwendy to help track down missing bills, to the point of occasionally reaching out to the utility companies and getting copies directly from them when we have no other alternatives. And with that, I'll go to the next slide and turn it over to Wendy from PSFEI.
Gwendy Bilger: Thank you, Greg. Notable wins. With any new system, you always think about, what can we find out? What did we miss? And one thing that helped us out is the Commonwealth has had notable wins from the time we came on board with EnergyCAP and to this point in time. Greg talked a little bit about the EDI system and that is a large win for the Commonwealth because it's really efficient, it's an efficient process, the bills get paid on time, there's no intervention, you don't have to go look for bills.
There's really not a lot of oversight in the process and it's accurate. And sometimes, occasionally you'll get what they call a kick out. And that is kind of something that EnergyCAP has developed that if something's not correct with an account number, it says, “Hey, this bill doesn't match up. We can't load it and put it on the account.” So that has saved a lot of bills that don't belong to one agency, going to another agency. So that's a plus and that's a big help for us. That's one win, as you know, Pennsylvania's a deregulated state. So we have natural gas and we have electric suppliers. There are times that there are some incorrect bills that are sent out by the suppliers.
And as an example, the group that I work with is the energy team and using EnergyCAP, we found one account that needed to be refunded for $200,000. We don't too often find like that, but since everything is in the central location, the users of EnergyCAP for myself, I don't care if the bills are paid, that's not my responsibility. My responsibility is to look at the data and find maybe billing errors, anomalies, anything like that that we need to investigate. And through that, we found, we actually were looking at a supplier issue. And we found by running Report 13, that the utility had incorrectly build one of our agencies by a factor of 10.
And it resulted in two months of bills $20,000 for each month and as a result, they actually did receive the money back from the utility and it was to be a couple thousand dollars and it turned out to be 20,000 per month. So with government, budgets are tight. And in this case, it really helped the department by getting some of that money back. That was another win. We also have another notable win and the electric bills that were being paid from one of the agencies was not even a building that they owned. The person that took over the building never had the electric service put into their name.
So what happened is, as they go through the data, in EnergyCAP, they discovered that we don't own that building anymore and we shouldn't be paying for it. And that's happened in quite a few of the agencies, so there was another efficiency that was found. And then we discovered that the system could also be used for eligible Natural Gas and Electric accounts for solicitation, which, like I talked about Pennsylvania, being deregulated on energy suppliers. And to this day, it's led to $630,000 in cost reductions by using EnergyCAP. What we use is, as far as looking for anomalies during training, the training is designed for each agency that I train. So we go through and look at actual bills.
And through the process of looking at actual bills, we discover a lot of anomalies, we discover missing bills, we also discover bills that have never reached the bill list. That's another plus that many of the attendees in training will say, “Well, we never knew we had this because we could never see our energy bills.” So now in training, they are trained to look at the bills, they are trained to look at the cost. A lot of them will say, “How do you know that there's an anomaly?” Well, thirty some years in the utility business, you’re assumed to pick that out. And I can tell you, we've had quite a few of the individuals that went through training, they've actually started to identify anomalies also.
So it's a win-win for me because I know that my training’s effective and it's a win-win for the state because somebody now is looking at the bills, electric natural gas, and water and sewer bills that are in the system to help catch some of the overruns or underruns. With that, the next slide, I’m going to turn it back over to Greg Knerr.
Gregory Knerr: Right, thanks, Gwendy. So just to talk a little bit about where we are today with our implementation. The big things that we're working on right now, we're rolling out quarterly reports to executive level staff within our agencies that will give them cost and usage comparisons that will aid them not only in seeing where they're at, in terms of the goals with the GreenGov executive order, but also, just general energy management measures. So they can look at different areas within their agency and see, why as State Park Region-4 or using three times more energy than it did last year? Maybe we got to dig into that and see what's going on.
These will provide these folks with a snapshot of the prior quarter versus the same quarter of the year previously. And doesn't really sound like anything to be overly excited about but like on our end, for years we would get inquiries from one agency or another or from our Governor's Office saying, “What's our utility use and spend, or what's this agency's utility use and spend for whatever year it was?” And we say, “Well give us two weeks, and we'll come up with the best guesstimate that we can give you.” And it was somewhat -- in a way it was embarrassing that we didn't have access to this information. But it's just the nature of the system and how things work. We had pieces of things, but we didn't have a full picture across the board.
So it doesn't really seem like much but we're really excited about these quarterly reports. And in addition to that, we're continuing with our training. Gwendy has been providing training to our agencies every Tuesday and Thursday. And we're getting into some different levels of training, some basic stuff. And then also, some groups are getting into some more complicated or more complex areas of EnergyCAP and learning how to run reports and dashboards and things like that. We're also really starting to get to the point where we can take a look at how the tele-working environment has impacted our energy use for the last 15, 16 months. And that's an area where I think it's going to take us some time to really get to the full understanding of how that's going to impact things, but that's an area of focus for us.
Next slide, please. So where are we going? Our big focus, where we're going is we want to expand into capturing all of our energy commodities, so we can get a full picture of what we're using, from MMBTU perspective each year. We want to look at heating oil, propane and some other types of fuels. Believe it or not, the Commonwealth still uses a decent amount of coal. Mark Hand is covering his zeros right now. But we do still use at least a little bit of coal. And then we want to move on to capturing other utility information like water and sewer use. We want to continue to train our folks out in our agencies so they can start generating more value from the system themselves.
I think right now; most groups are relying on us to help them identify these opportunities. But we want to get to the point where we have the budgetary staff looking in here in the system and using the system to try to figure out where they're at budget wise projections for future years, have our facility folks use the system and the data available to identify energy savings opportunities. And we have a lot of vehicles on our side internally for demand management and over the years, most of them have been focused on some pretty large projects, performance contracting, and things like that. But we have a lot of opportunities out there from our -- particularly our investing around electric utilities, the larger electric utilities have energy savings programs by law that they offer to their customers.
And we are hoping our folks will use this system that help identify areas where they can do more types of work through those programs. And in conjunction with the executive order, we want to start moving to get our building information in the system. For the most part, we have been tracking meter use and cost. We want to get our building square footage in and get like the real physical layouts of each agency nailed down and in the system so we can start using that square footage and using Energy Star Portfolio Manager through EnergyCAP to get ratings for buildings and integrate that into our grid of activities.
And then last but probably most important, continuous improvement with data quality. As we mentioned, I believe this year for the GreenGov report that validation process that we do, we were at, I believe 84% of our meters validated for inclusion in that report. Not sure where we're at right now, our goal is to I believe, get above 90% this coming year and then continue to improve on that. We are continuing to identify additional meters that we're finding. We have some still trickling in even to this day, three years after we started implementing. So that's somewhat of a moving target going forward. So next slide, please.
Greg Elliot: Good. Well, that was it. So we did get some questions submitted before the webinar that we've included here. So let's take a look at a couple of those and we'll pose these to our panelists.
Gregory Knerr: Okay, how did you account for COVID while estimating energy performance in 2020. I'll at least start to touch on that one. The short answer is we haven't really figured out how to do that yet. I think, at least from our perspective, we're going to have to get a little distance between us and the COVID teleworking to really see how that's affected us. I know that we've had maybe I think -- I can't remember off the top of my head, but I think a third of our workforce at least in the Harrisburg area has been on full time telework. And if anybody else knows different, please correct me, any of the other panelists. It's mainly been office staff occupying the buildings that have the higher energy; the energy footprints.
But we didn't shut those buildings down just for the safety of the folks that were reporting to work, our maintenance staff, security folks, and all those folks. I know we really ramped up and had our HVAC systems running on overdrive, so to speak, during this whole period just to keep the air moving and to help with the safety of the folks that have been showing up. It's really unclear so far, how much of a reduction we would actually see solely due to the COVID telework started. Any other panelists have anything to add on that?
Kurt Homan: No Greg, I think you covered it well. Like Department of Corrections and Human Services had facilities that they didn't let the convicts go home and they over ventilated. So in some cases there were increases, in other cases there was decreases in energy.
Greg Elliot: Great. Let's take a look at the next question. How does this program EnergyCAP differ from Portfolio Manager?
Greg Knerr: I don’t know, Kurt do you want to address that?
Kurt Homan: Yeah, as was mentioned before, we fully intend to submit the data from EnergyCAP to Portfolio Manager to obtain energy star ratings and assist in building the Portfolio Manager database. That was one of the requirements from the original stick initiative that I mentioned earlier. I think if you look at EnergyCAP, and one of the questions that came through online was, “What other software programs did you consider?” There was over 20 systems out there that were evaluated and Portfolio Manager was one of them. And I think looking at the complexities of the Commonwealth, and the enterprise nature of what was needed in the database.
In addition, the bill capture functionality which was something that Greg and we had worked on for many years. As I mentioned earlier, EnergyCAP was a clear winner and we planned on supporting Portfolio Manager, but it just didn't come close. I know it's being advanced on a regular basis. But at that time, it didn't even come close to meeting the requirements for this enterprise level of data management. From a security standpoint, from a logistical standpoint, from a sub-metering standpoint, bill capture was really the slam dunk. So I’m not sure if that answers the question, but that's my answer.
Greg Elliot: Thanks Kurt.
Kurt Homan: Sure.
Greg Elliot: Great. Does anyone have anything else to add? Or we can head to the next question. All right. Our last question then. Did you find it simple or very complex to streamline the bill capture process through utilities and the respective state owned facilities each month? In other words, were some of the utilities more difficult than others?
Greg Knerr: Definitely. So the way we chose to approach it, we determined it would be the cleanest for us to pull the images, the bills out of our system. So we're not receiving them from the utility and running them through bill capture in that manner, we're receiving them processing and paying them and then loading them in from our side. So at least the direct involvement of the utility companies themselves and getting information in the bill capture wasn't as significant of an issue for us in that regard.
But we have so many different combinations of different types of utilities in the landscape here in Pennsylvania, where it just makes it very difficult. There are some utilities you have anywhere from these massive invest around electric utilities like a PPO or PICO, where we have thousands of accounts and we're paying them electronically through an XML code exchange each month. For those we have no issues, of course. We have a lot of natural gas utility companies that have been -- for some reason they seem to be a little bit behind the eight ball when it comes to IT sophistication relative to electric utilities in Pennsylvania. And we have some challenges in some cases just getting them to mail the bill to the right address. They struggle with that. And some of that might be communication issues from us and from our agencies but that's been a challenge in a lot of ways.
And then you get to some smaller mom-and-pop water and sewer utilities that are just -- you get like a Dot Matrix receipt print out that you have to scan and load into your system, it's a little bit of a challenge. And then we have like out on an island all by themselves, we have something called rural electric cooperatives that aren't regulated by the State in Pennsylvania. They're regulated by the federal government and they sort of do what they want. So they give us 10 days to pay a bill and that just makes things very challenging. So I don't know if that answers the question.
But I would say there's a lot of complexities and layers to this that we became the centralized support, as I said when I was presenting, just because of the 10 or 12 years that we've spent working in -- and my team's primary responsibility, I should have touched on this is doing the electric and natural gas shopping through customer choice with PSFEI’s assistance. So through like 13 years of us navigating through that and helping deal with billing issues with our contract suppliers, and how that interacts with the utility bills, we just sort of developed the knowledge of all these little nuances that impact these things. So yes a lot of layers.
Greg Elliot: Great. So that was the questions we got ahead of time. We don't have a lot of time to answer all the questions that have been coming in via chat and things but maybe I'll pick one or two out here to take a take a stab at. And Greg, this might be for you as well. One of the questions I see here is, how did you get buy in or how do you get buy in from your various agencies? What incentivizes them to devote time and resources to learning and using EnergyCAP?
Greg Knerr: So in some cases we had the carrot, in some cases we had the stick quite frankly. And the stick came about not the same stick initiative that Kurt was talking about, like a literal stick in the form of the executive order for sustainability that created the Green Golf Council. We dragged a lot of folks into it begrudgingly and then once we had that executive order in place, then it was like, “Look, I understand this is a change to your process. You can't just pay your electric bill with your credit card each month and wash your hands off it. You have to process your utility bills through the system so we can capture, get it in an EnergyCAP, make sure we're being billed properly and we're counting your consumption.
But fortunately, we have some pretty good relationships with a lot of our larger agencies who have seen the value and the savings that we've been able to drive through our electric and natural gas contract over the years. And most of those larger agencies were very much in favor of us having access to more information and having more capabilities to do some more sophisticated things in those areas. So we had a mixed bag of folks that were very supportive and onboard right off the bat. And then some folks that were dragged into it as a last resort, or because they had no other choice. But the sales pitch, the carrot all along was the value that we knew we were going to get from the system and the things that we knew that we were going to find.
Greg Elliot: Great. Maybe one more question here. You mentioned earlier about some of the work that you took on owning the hierarchy setup and keeping everything consistent. One of the questions we got here was, what would you say the most critical pieces of information were that you needed for the setup process? Was there anything that caused a great pain or angst because you didn't have it, that you had to really go and dig for? Something you would encourage others to pull together if they were to implement EnergyCAP.
Greg Knerr: Can't really think of any one piece of information. You know for the most part, we had some challenges just that we had to -- we went back to our agencies in a lot of cases and had to determine even the accounts that we knew about, in some cases, we didn't know which agency. So I think that was probably the biggest challenge. We have some of our agencies that tend to have a lot of smaller and rurally located accounts were they’ve set up the account with the utility company is Commonwealth or PA and it can be any one of like four or five different agencies and it’s just a matter of trying to determine who it belongs to.
And because of the sensitivity to the workload with the system and the manner in which we really sold the program internally, we tried to avoid having this be some process where we implement it, and we dump a bunch of work on and we didn't want to do that. We wanted to try to get everything set up for them as much as we could, going into it. And fortunately, we had enough background experience and knowledge to be able to get them probably about 90% of the way there.
And we had a little bit of movement and some naming with different groups understanding how they view themselves internally. It was a big help having both the -- you have your accounts hierarchy in the system and then you have your building and meter hierarchy. And the building and meter hierarchy is more like the physical structure of the organization and the accounting side is more of like your Call Center or budgetary organization.
And that was a really good feature for us as we're moving through it. I don't know if we realized that at the start, but we do very much have these two distinct the hierarchy where we have the physical side and then we have the budgetary side. So really, I don't think any one specific piece of information. If Devin Pennebaker is on, he might have some memory of something else that maybe popped up. I'll kick it over to him for any input he has.
Devin Pennebaker: Thanks Greg, whenever we were setting up in really the initial stages of the implementation, I'd have to say, having a very comprehensive list of the Commonwealth’s overall accounts was the first step. And then really most critical after that was having solid contacts at each agency that we could go to and we knew could be reliable and expected to run through and with all of the other subordinates in the agencies to try to identify any of the accounts, buildings help really with both the financial and the physical cost structure. I think it was really one of the big keys to creating some agency buy in from the start and some ownership of the system.
Greg Knerr: Yeah. Having that account list was critical. It still can't really help you for the stuff that you don't know about like our unexpected 3,000 plus meters that we found, but still, it gives you a pretty good start.
Greg Elliot: Great, thank you for that. And with that, I think we're about out of time so I'd like to thank everyone for attending. As a reminder, the first 100 eligible attendees will receive a coffee card via the email from Starbucks on Thursday, so keep an eye out for that. And again, this session was recorded, we'll be sharing that in the days to come. And with that, that concludes our session. And I'd like to thank you all again for your attention and attendance. Thank you.