Thursday, December 26, 2013

Top 6 Ways SyNERGY Manages Your Utilities


by Colin Geslin

Why are we the utility experts? There are a lot of reasons, but understanding the top six ways we manage our clients' utility expenses through SyNERGY may give you a better idea.

Accurate Setup of all Accounts into our System

Before a community goes live on the SyNERGY program, the Conservice setup team gathers every common area and vacant account from the community and enters it into the Conservice system. The team contacts the community and gets all the relevant information needed to begin processing the bills.

Advanced Utility Processing

An expert group with an accuracy rating of over 99% processes each bill. This group separates charges and adjustments, and makes phone calls on odd charges to help maintain accuracy. This is all done on a daily basis to keep all of the client’s bills up-to-date and accurate within the Conservice system.

Vigilant Auditing

After bills are processed, a highly trained team looks into each and every variance generated to confirm accuracy. This team will also contact utility providers and clients to sort out any problems or variances that occur with charges, usage, or other billing adjustments.

Precise Funding

Conservice guarantees on time and precise payments. The funding team handles every aspect of the payment process. The team quickly requests funds from clients and then accurately applies the payments to thousands of different accounts, all to avoid late fees or disconnect notices.

Payment Resolution

When a late fee or disconnect is applied to an account, a team of highly detailed individuals investigates the charge. This team will look into any deposit requirements and late fee policies, and do back research to determine where the fee came from and how it originated. The team will also look at balances carried forward from previous bills to make sure that the correct payments are being made.

SyNERGY Managers and Customer Service

Conservice prides themselves on providing exceptional customer service. The SyNERGY Managers meet that need for our SyNERGY clients. Once a community has begun the SyNERGY process, the managers are available for every concern a community manager may have, from looking into usage or variances, to answering questions about the SyNERGY process. They remain a first point of contact for the communities.




Friday, December 13, 2013

2013 & the EPA: A Year in Review


As we reported earlier this year, the EPA has been putting significant focus and effort on developing their systems for multifamily housing throughout this year.  Last week, the EPA announced two of the results of that focus, namely (1) preliminary results in a study aimed to allow multifamily housing to gain a 1-100 score and (2) the announcement that multifamily buildings may now participate in the Better Buildings Challenge.

Efforts by the EPA to Match Recognition of Multifamily Housing to Legal Requirements are leading to a Possible 1-100 Score

While there are benchmarking rules in Chicago, Boston, New York City, Seattle, and Washington D.C., with rules being considered for multifamily housing in other markets, most notably Orlando, FL, currently no score or certification has been available for the Multifamily industry to reward communities who are most efficient.  This release by the EPA is a step toward allowing owners to obtain certification for their apartment communities.

The Structure of the Score is based on Studies done and Awarded for Whole Building Performance

In 2012 the EPA, in partnership with other organizations, gathered data to determine relevant factors to allow accurate ranking of multifamily buildings.  They gathered data from more than 1,100 communities, but due to restrictions on what data was available for the various communities, were only able to accurately test around 220 of those units.  In performing their analysis they came up with a rating plan based on four relevant factors.  Those factors are: 
  1.  Total square feet of the buildings (for both residential units and common areas)
  2. Unit type (high-rise, mid-rise, and low-rise)
  3. Unit count of each type
  4. Zip code
In order to rank the effectiveness of the community, the data listed above would need to be entered into Portfolio Manager along with the energy and water data for the whole community, not just for the common areas or vacant apartments, but for occupied units as well.  If a multifamily owner then wanted to receive an Energy Star certification, this data would need to be verified by either an independent certified architect or an independent licensed engineer.

Manager’s Lack of Data about Utility Usage Appears to be the Biggest Struggle under the Proposed Model

The EPA does not have the ability to assist owners with obtaining resident data at this time.  They do, however, feel that owners will be able to find a way to procure the data and make it usable.  The lack of available data appears to be the largest hurdle to the EPA gaining the acceptance and use of the new model by multifamily property owners.  The 1 to 100 scoring model is still undergoing testing and will either be approved or rejected by the end of February 2014.  If approved, it should be available to use for the 2014 year.  


Better Buildings Challenge

As reported on December 3, 2013, multifamily buildings may now participate in the Better Buildings Challenge.  This program has been run by the U.S. Department of Energy since February 2011.  It was designed to incentivize property owners of single family homes and commercial buildings to perform energy efficiency updates to their buildings and reduce energy and water use across the nation.  The program requires the following commitments:

  1. Publicly pledge a portfolio-wide energy savings goal of at least 20 percent over 10 years and develop an organization-wide plan, schedule, and milestones.
  2. Announce, initiate, and complete at least one showcase project.
  3. Share portfolio-wide, building-level energy performance information to measure progress against their pledge goal, and share information about the energy efficiency implementation models (including the tools, technologies, and processes) they are using to reach their pledge goal.

The approved method of measuring progress towards reducing usage is benchmarking on the Energy Star Portfolio Manager website.  Conservice is involved in helping a number of our customers meet these requirements.

Conclusion

This has definitely been a busy year for the EPA and while the impact of these developments to apartment owners is yet to be determined, it is clear that multifamily housing will continue to be on their radar.  We should expect to see more cities pass mandatory benchmarking rules and see broader focuses on bringing the energy efficiency movement to the multifamily industry.


Thursday, December 12, 2013

Top 5 Reasons Why ENERGyZE is More Convenient for You and Your Residents

by Colin Geslin

If you own or manage apartment communities in Texas, you probably know about deregulated electricity. In Texas, residents can choose which utility provider will supply their electricity. When property owners partner with Conservice Energy, a retail electric provider in Texas, they give their residents a chance to participate in ENERGyZE, a unique approach to electricity catered specifically to the multifamily industry. Here are the top five reasons why ENERGyZE is the best option for you and your residents:

1. SIMPLIFIED PROCESS FOR RESIDENTS
Because ENERGyZE and Conservice Energy are partnered under Conservice together, it completely eliminates the need for your residents to go out and shop for a different utility provider to handle their electricity. This means a reduced deposit – or no deposit at all – for your residents, with no credit check required. Plus the electricity is already on at move-in

2. FEWER FEES AND LESS HASSLE
 ENERGyZE allows the electricity to always stay in the name of the community.  This eliminates pesky move-in, move-out, and connection fees that are often a burden on your budget. This also means fewer fees for your residents, which will make them happier and more satisfied.

3. ONE SIMPLE BILL FOR UTILITIES
 If you’re already using Conservice for utility billing, your residents are already receiving a water, sewer, and trash bill from Conservice. With ENERGyZE, electricity charges are added to the bill, making it simple and more convenient for residents because they only have to pay one bill

4. SUPERIOR CUSTOMER SERVICE
 Customer service is critical when you are looking to satisfy your residents and you. You will have the ability to get to know your customer service representative and have their direct line whenever situations arise. In the event that your residents need assistance, they can turn to Conservice for their customer service rather than having to call a utility provider, deal with a complicated automated system, and wait to get an answer. Instead they’ll get customer service the Conservice way, which means access to live representatives and answers when they need them

5. PREPAID ELECTRICITY
Conservice Energy is currently developing a pre-paid electric system where a customer can buy a certain amount of electricity at a time. Like a pre-paid phone plan, this means residents only pay for what they use, and which allows them to stay within their planned utility usage each month. This also gives residents the ability to pay without having a bank account or credit card.