3 questions with … energy manager Chris Meyer

Meyer served as director of energy programs for the Dayton Development Coalition for more than two years before working as a principal for GreenTech Advisors. He also co-founded Acu-Temp Thermal Systems (now CSafe Global), a local producer of insulated shipping products.

Today, he’s a project director for Tipp City’s Energy Optimizers USA, helping primarily Ohio schools, businesses and organizations stretch energy dollars.

Meyer and his colleagues audit a site’s energy infrastructure — lighting, heating, air-conditioning, other equipment. They determine what works, what doesn’t and what can be improved, with an eye on efficiency and returns.

Energy Optimizers USA is growing in recognition. The company found itself ranked No. 484 on Inc. magazine’s list of the 500 fastest growing privately held companies last summer, with a growth rate of nearly 1,000 percent, according to the magazine.

We spoke with Meyer recently. What follows is edited and condensed.

Q: You often work with Ohio House Bill 264. Tell me about that.

Meyer: “The primary focus is on energy efficiency projects, and the basis of their (Energy Optimizers USA’s) program has been focusing on K-12 school systems. What they do is they use House Bill 264, which is a state program that allows schools to effectively do energy-efficiency upgrades, and to pay for them out of their savings — so they don’t have to go to their electorate for a bond issue.

So Energy Optimizers has actually done more 264 programs in the state and has been very successful at it. And Greg Smith, the president, has been able to grow the company a lot. About five years ago, when I was at the coalition, I met him when he was just starting.

Deb Norris from Sinclair (Sinclair Community College vice president, workforce development and corporate services), said, ‘Hey, you ought to meet this guy,’ and I sat down and met with him. He had an interesting idea, and now, 47 people work for the firm. It has been a real success story.”

Q: What are you working on today?

Meyer: “We’re working with three office buildings on Second Street. My role with Energy Optimizers, we’re working with three PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) projects. The big players are right here. I will tell you one demo that we’re trying to put together, and that one is with Vectren, and that one is not Second Street, although they have offices here. We’re looking at their six small office complexes around the region, and so we’re looking at doing it as sort of a demo project …

“(PACE) is a federal program. States have to adopt it. Ohio adopted it back in 2008 or 9, probably during the (Gov. Ted) Strickland administration. Basically, it works with the Port Authority. What it does for the customer, you do an energy audit … you put together a package of, here’s all of the things, primarily the lighting upgrades, HVAC, heating, ventilation, air-conditioning, building management systems … here’s what can be done.

“Identify the savings in each case, because you’re going to see actual reduction in energy expenses … The Port Authority steps in. They having bonding authority, so they can raise money. So effectively what they’re going to do, they’re going to take a project or group of projects, bundle them and securitize them.”

Q: We’re enjoying low gas prices right now. Look into your crystal ball and tell us how long that will last.

Meyer: “I think it’s temporary, but at least the projections I’m looking at say we may see this for the next year or two, relatively low prices. What we’re seeing are the results of horizontal drilling and fracking, not just natural gas. They can do that same stuff with petroleum.

“What happens is you’ve got some of these old (oil) wells that can be revitalized. It used to be, you had to drill a hole down, and the stuff had to come up on its own. Now, what happens is, you get down there, they can drill out multiple wells horizontally and they’re putting materials down there to force the oil out. It’s a whole different approach.”

Know someone who can handle Three Questions? We’re looking for behind-the-scenes-but-still fascinating Miami Valley residents with something to say. Send your suggestions to tom.gnau@coxinc.com.

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