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Bloomfield tech company could save Pittsburgh $6.3M in energy costs

Bob Bauder
| Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018, 4:18 p.m.
A Smart Plug manufactured by Bloomfield-based Boss Controls.
A Smart Plug manufactured by Bloomfield-based Boss Controls.

Pittsburgh plans to install internet-connected plugs in its two buildings that consume the most energy with hopes to reduce its electrical bill by 30 to 40 percent.

Mayor Bill Peduto’s office Tuesday submitted legislation to City Council for approval of a contract with Bloomfield-based Boss Controls, which will supply the smart plugs at no upfront cost.

Sprint-manufactured devices known as “Magic Boxes” and LTE modems with Wi-Fi will connect the smart plugs to the internet and allow city employees to control them online.

The program, dubbed Integrated Energy Savings as a Service Initiative, is expected to save the city about $6.3 million over 10 years, according to Paulette Duderstadt, a spokeswoman for Boss. The smart plugs and Magic Boxes are part of the program.

Grant Ervin, the city’s chief resiliency officer, said the city would pay for the program based on energy savings. Boss would receive 75 percent of any savings by the city. The city would keep the remaining 25 percent for its Green Energy Trust Fund that pays for energy savings programs. The city could also qualify for rebates from Duquesne Light based on energy reduction and PJM Interconnection, a regional transmission organization that operates the local electrical grid.

“We have vending machines, water coolers, computers, all these little devices that we have plugged in and around our offices that are consuming energy, and a lot of times they’re consuming energy when we don’t need it,” Ervin said. “What the smart device does is allows us to regulate the flow of that electricity and allows us to control the consumption.”

It means an employee who might forget to turn off a computer or desk light after leaving work can do it with a smartphone. Employees can also control their plugged-in devices through timers.

Ervin said the city would first have the devices installed in the City-County and Municipal Courts buildings, both Downtown, and expand if the program is successful.

He said the city would be able to track energy consumption in real time and identify what is using the most electricity.

“We’ll be able to identify our big energy consumers to better manage them, or fix them, or get rid of them,” he said.

Pittsburgh hopes to start the project by late October if City Council approves the contract.

The program is part of Peduto’s goal of reducing city energy consumption by 50 percent by 2030.

“This program further cements Pittsburgh’s leadership in energy innovation and our abilities to both save money and the planet,” Peduto said in a statement.

Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bob at 412-765-2312, or via Twitter @bobbauder.

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