First-year results show GWCCA energy savings project a sustainability success

A little more than a year into a 17-year guaranteed energy savings performance contract (ESPC) with global heating and cooling company Trane, the 220-acre Georgia World Congress Center Authority (GWCCA) campus has reduced utility costs by 43 percent compared to a 2013 baseline.

The first-year results show enough electricity was saved to power approximately 2,300 homes in Georgia annually and this monumental reduction even helped the 3.9-million-square-foot Georgia World Congress Center (GWCC) earn LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) re-certification two years ahead of schedule, and at a higher tier, jumping from Silver to Gold.

In 2010, Georgians overwhelmingly voted for a constitutional amendment that allowed the state to engage in ESPCs as a way to fund energy and water improvements at state facilities at virtually no cost. This gave the GWCCA a mechanism to improve outdated and overworked electrical, mechanical and plumbing systems without seeking capital funding from the governor’s office or without dipping into its reserves.

While efficient operations have been a focus of the Authority for many years and even led to the GWCC earning LEED Silver certification in 2014, older machinery across the three buildings that comprise the GWCC became complex and incongruent. So when the ability to perform guaranteed energy savings performance contracting officially became legislation in early 2011, GWCCA officials jumped at the chance to utilize this tool to cost-effectively improve the operational efficiency and customer experience of the facilities.

After Trane won a competitive bid process to be the project’s energy service company (ESCO) in 2014, construction and installation of the energy and water conservation equipment began in October 2015 with the replacement of nearly 40-year-old chillers and boilers in the GWCC’s Building B central plant with new custom-built models. Working seamlessly within the campus’ packed event schedule, the construction crews continued for the next 18 months.

During this time, nearly every one of the 60,000 interior and exterior light bulbs across the convention center and Centennial Olympic Park were replaced with high-efficiency LEDs which resulted in immediate savings before construction was even completed. All $1.8 million of cost savings during this time went straight to the GWCCA’s bottom line.

By the time the installation ended in 2017 and the guarantee period officially began, Trane had invested $28 million into upgrades that would be paid for by the expected 39 percent utility savings. Now, slightly more than one year into the 17-year pact, the project is fairing even better than expected and surpassed the guaranteed amount by an additional four percent resulting in $200,266 of additional savings that go directly back to the GWCCA.

This one-of-a-kind project, the largest in the country for a public assembly venue, is an all-around win-win. Not only was it a creative and economic way to finance improvements to the campus, it also supported the livelihoods of those working on the project while significantly reducing the carbon footprint of our massive event venues.

Now THAT’S sustainability.