For a design/build energy services project where the electrical contractor (EC) is the design/builder, project execution follows Step No. 7 of the project delivery process, which involves system design and specification. (For a traditional design/bid/build project, project execution would follow bidding and contract award, and procurement and installation would be in accordance with the project plans and specifications that the customer or the customer’s design consultant has prepared.)
Steps No. 8 and 9 of the energy service project delivery process begin the execution of the process. Step No. 8 involves the procurement of needed materials and equipment for the project, and Step No. 9 addresses the installation of the procured materials and equipment.
Step No. 8: Procurement
Procurement is critical for an energy services project’s success. The goal of the procurement function is to provide the right materials and equipment to the field in the right quantity, at the right time and in the right place. However, procurement for an energy services project may present a challenge because the materials and equipment required may be new to the market and the supply chain may be different from what the EC is accustomed to.
For energy conservation and efficiency projects, the materials and equipment are usually standard, and the EC can use its traditional supply chain involving an electrical distributor. Even state-of-the-art equipment that may include luminaires, lamps and ballasts, motors, or lighting controls, such as occupancy sensors, will be off-the-shelf and should be available through a distributor. Similarly, materials such as conductors, raceway and safety switches for energy production and reliability projects are standard and can be procured directly through electrical distribution. However, energy production and reliability projects often require specialized or custom equipment, such as photovoltaic (PV) modules, PV inverters, fuel cell systems, microturbines and uninterruptible power supplies (UPS). This specialized equipment will often need to be purchased directly from the manufacturer due to its uniqueness and limited demand.
In purchasing, performance, warranties and guaranties are very important. This principle is especially true for a design/build energy services project because the EC is responsible for the quality and the system performance. In a traditional design/bid/build energy services project, the EC is only responsible for the installation quality, and the customer is responsible for the performance of the system that it or its design consultant specified. Similarly, governments, the serving utility or others may need to approve any equipment procured for installation on an energy services project for the installation to qualify for financial incentives and rebates that these entities offer.
Purchasing and expediting equipment from overseas is complex and risky, especially for an EC that has limited experience with international procurement. Carefully review and understand all the commercial terms and conditions of the purchase agreement, including logistics, such as shipping method and delivery point, insurance coverage, currency transfer, customs and tariffs.
Step No. 9: Energy project installation
The installation of materials and equipment for an energy services project is similar to a traditional construction or service project. However, personnel performing the installation may need specific training, certifications or qualifications that are not needed on a traditional project. Government agencies or the serving utility may require the specialized training and credentials to grant financial incentives and rebates. Similarly, equipment manufacturers may require specialized training to honor warranties or guarantees. Entities offering financial incentives for the energy services project may also require a comprehensive commissioning process that could include system performance demonstration, not only at project completion but over time after completion. Be aware of these requirements, and ensure the associated costs are included in the contract price.
Also, ensure materials and equipment meet the requirements of the local authority having jurisdiction (AHJ). State-of-the-art products, custom-built equipment, and equipment obtained from overseas suppliers may not meet the AHJ’s listing and labeling requirements. Even though individual components may have an acceptable listing or labeling, if new or existing components have not been tested functioning together, the overall system may not meet the AHJ’s requirements. Problems with listing and labeling during installation can cause delays and result in increased costs. The EC must keep all these elements in mind for a successful project.
The author thanks ELECTRI International Inc. for its sponsorship of the research project, “Energy Roadmap: Electrical Contractor’s Guide for Expanding Into the Emerging Energy Market,” on which this article is based.
GLAVINICH is director of Architectural Engineering & Construction Programs and an associate professor in the Department of Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering at the University of Kansas. He can be reached at 785.864.3435 and firstname.lastname@example.org.