EDITOR’s NOTE: CBRE, headquartered in Los Angeles, is a major global property manager. Peter Scarpelli, CBRE global director, Energy & Sustainability is based in Chicago. He recently spoke with The Energy Times and responded to our questions about the future of energy technology in urban America and its major implications for utilities, the subject of a major conference in Chicago, Empowering Customers & Cities, November 4-6.
Energy Times: CBRE manages a global portfolio of properties that collectively spend $10 billion annually on energy. Is there a way to leverage that sizable market clout to achieve new economies – or is the energy spending balkanized, market by market?
Scarpelli: One of our key value propositions for clients is value for scale. We have buying power that is unmatched in the marketplace. For example, we have deals from several major equipment manufacturers that are contractually guaranteed to be the lowest price that they offer. In addition, we are making investments that our competition does not have the leverage to do. For example, we recently announced the creation of an energy innovation lab, a joint effort which will allow us to more effectively evaluate new technologies. We are also the only real estate firm to be registered as a retail electric supplier to the best of my knowledge, so we have structured deals for our clients using wholesale market players vs retail brokers.
Energy Times: With two-thirds of your properties in the United States – what kinds of technologies and policies have been most important in helping you trim your energy spending in the past few years?
Scarpelli: The biggest key to success is a simple strategy. Technology advancements leapfrog the current standard on a regular basis. The key to managing large portfolios is having a holistic strategy and disciplined, data driven operations. This creates a foundation in which new technologies can be utilized on a strategic basis. As a result, client capital funds are deployed where they have the greatest value as opposed to where a vendor has a great sales person. In addition, some regulatory actions have caused a growing demand for energy & sustainability services. For example, the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission call for public companies to disclose how environmental issues impact their business has caused a spike in Carbon Disclosure Project reporting. This caused a ripple effect for efficiency projects.
Energy Times: Looking forward, what new technologies and policies would help you achieve even greater energy efficiencies and savings?
Scarpelli: A price for carbon. A green bank.
Energy Times: What would you like to see domestic utilities do to further collaboration with facilities managers on energy efficiency and deployment of distributed generation, storage and renewables?
Scarpelli: Structure rebate programs so they flow through property management firms. We are able to quickly and broadly reach out to millions of square footage with a high penetration rate and a relatively low marketing effort.
Energy Times: When it comes to managing the energy spend of a property in, say, Chicago, versus one in Amsterdam, what are the major differences?
Scarpelli: Culture, regulatory requirements such as net zero and carbon reporting, and utility rate structure.
Energy Times: Mayor Emanuel and his administration in Chicago have placed a major emphasis on achieving greater energy efficiency and innovation to help the city’s energy users – and as an economic development driver. How would you access the ambitions and successes of those efforts against the energy focus of other cities in the United States and globally?