SEPTA's Energy Portfolio (Goal 3)

March 11, 2011

Transportation is an energy-intensive business. According to the World Resources Institute, the transportation sector accounts for 40 percent of the United States' total energy consumption - larger than industry (26 percent), residential (17 percent), and commercial (12 percent). And, as our February 18 post on SEPTA's greenhouse gas inventory pointed out, this energy consumption is largely fossil fuel-based, making the transportation sector a key driver in the United States' total and per capita GHG emissions.

For SEPTA, energy consumption is driven by the fuel and power needed to run its vehicles and operate its facilities. In 2009, SEPTA consumed 4.5 million mmBtu of energy - 55 percent from vehicle fuel (diesel and gasoline), 38 percent from electricity (propulsion and lighting), and seven percent from building heat (natural gas, heating oil, and steam). Between 2006 and 2009, SEPTA's energy use increased by an average of 1.5 percent per year, a relatively modest growth rate considering expanded service levels. And yet, with a newly deregulated electricity market and rising fuel prices, energy consumption is an increasing challenge to not only its environmental performance but also its fiscal stability.

Over the next three weeks, we'll describe the proactive steps that SEPTA is already taking to prepare for a world of higher energy prices. Projects underway have begun to improve energy efficiency and reduce the energy intensity of SEPTA's vehicles and buildings. A series of planned projects will further reduce energy demand and improve sustainability performance - both from an environmental and economic perspective.

SEPTA Energy Consumption by Source
Energy Source 2009 % Change ('06-'09)
Diesel (Gallons) 17,113,245 (1.2)
Gasoline (Gallons) 1,880,781 69.0
Electricity (kWh) 493,683,892 4.4
Natural Gas (CCF) 2,383,265 103.4
Heating Oil (Gallons) 499,761 (47.3)
Steam (Mlbs) 33,611 1.7
Total (mmBtu) 4,456,261 4.6

This week, we'll describe a series of energy efficiency projects already underway. Next week, we'll profile SEPTA's headquarters, 1234 Market Street in Center City Philadelphia, which recently was awarded the Environmental Protection Agency's prestigious ENERGY STAR rating. The following week, we'll preview a series of innovative projects being planned to move SEPTA to the forefront of industry energy innovation.

Buses: Hybrid Technology

SEPTA is nearing the end of a hybrid bus campaign that has dramatically improved the overall energy efficiency of its bus fleet. By the end of 2011, nearly one-third (472) of SEPTA's 1,500 buses will be hybrid, reducing diesel consumption by more than 20 percent per mile at a time when fuel prices are above $3.00 - and climbing. In six years of operation, the hybrids have averaged up to 29 percent greater fuel efficiency than their standard diesel counterparts.

The hybrid bus procurement is just one of several steps SEPTA has taken to improve fuel efficiency. Through its annual vehicle overhaul program, SEPTA has begun to retrofit buses with "MiniHybrid" kits designed to shift engine cooling functions from hydraulic to electronic. Commensurate reductions in engine strain have improved fuel economy on each vehicle by an additional 13 percent. The purchase of 41 hybrid supervisory vehicles has added to fuel economy gains by also making SEPTA's non-revenue fleet more efficient.

SEPTA Hybrid Bus

Trains: Regenerative Braking

On the rails, SEPTA's purchase of 120 new "Silverliner V" railcars for its regional rail fleet will improve energy efficiency in two ways. First, the Silverliner V cars have a more efficient propulsion system that consumes less energy while providing improved acceleration and braking. Second, the cars have regenerated braking power capacity that converts kinetic energy into electrical energy. In this case, electricity can be produced and used by other cars on the line or returned to the power distribution company.

SEPTA is also working to improve the regenerative braking capacity of its heavy rail fleet. One such initiative is the replacement of its Broad Street Subway cars' propulsion control system with one that will both reduce maintenance labor hours and enable future use of regenerative braking. While the new system will cost $1.7 million more than overhauling the existing system, projected cost savings from this initiative are $1.5 million per year - a payback of less than two years, after which time cost savings will accrue over the technology's twelve-year useful life through: fewer motor repairs; better diagnostics; better reliability; electricity efficiency; and regenerated electricity. Overall, the new propulsion control system is projected to save 15.6 million kWh per year.

SEPTA Silverliner V Railcar

Buildings: Energy Efficiency

SEPTA also has taken strides to reduce the energy intensity of its building infrastructure. Most notably are a series of initiatives at SEPTA's 1234 Market Street headquarters. New lighting, daytime cleaning, and demand response programs reduced the building's electricity consumption by 10 percent between 2008 and 2009, saving more than $100,000 in electricity costs during that period. These savings played an important part in the building's receipt of EPA's prestigious ENERGY STAR award, which will be described in greater detail next week.

Across the region, SEPTA continues to manage station and maintenance facility improvements with energy efficiency in mind. SEPTA is nearing completion of what will become the first "LEED Silver" certified railroad station building in America at Fox Chase. SEPTA has also begun to take advantage of financial incentives for energy efficiency, such as PECO's rebate programs for energy efficiency and demand reduction. Several lighting change-out-projects at garage and maintenance facilities are expected to qualify for the rebates.

Preliminary Results

Thanks to this series of energy efficiency investments, SEPTA's energy intensity (as measured by millions of BTUs per vehicle mile) declined between 2006 and 2009. This performance improvement was realized even as SEPTA's gross energy consumption increased from major service enhancements undertaken as part of SEPTA's fiscal year 2009 budget. With the introduction of more hybrid buses, vehicle and facility retrofits, and a new round of planned innovations with a strong return on investment, SEPTA anticipates that performance improvements will accelerate in the coming years.

SEPTA Energy Consumption vs. Intensity (2006-2009)

SEPTA's Goals & What's Next

SEPTA has established an ambitious goal to further improve its energy intensity performance by 10 percent by 2015. Performance will be measured based on three intensity indicators: energy consumption per vehicle mile, revenue vehicle hour, and passenger mile traveled. Progress will be tracked against a 2009 baseline:

  • Energy Consumption/Passenger Mile Traveled: 2.88 kBtu
  • Energy Consumption/Vehicle Mile: 45.89 kBtu
  • Energy Consumption/Revenue Vehicle Hour: 640.58 kBtu

Meeting this ambitious goal will require an innovative and proactive approach to managing its energy portfolio. Next week, we'll describe how SEPTA has applied best practices in energy management to its headquarters at 1234 Market Street - and in so doing, has received national recognition for the results.

Next Week: EPA's ENERGY STAR Award for SEPTA's 1234 Market Street Headquarters