Calling all commercial, institutional, and industrial boiler owners: The legal and regulatory uncertainty that has plagued our industry in recent years is no longer a defensible excuse for inaction in your boiler rooms and powerhouses.
Given the volatility of fuel prices and the indisputable fact that a large majority of boiler rooms and powerhouses are out of date — technologically deficient and from a time when energy was cheaper and more plentiful — you no longer can afford to wait for guidance from lawmakers and regulators. While you wait, you waste fuel and money, and the cost of new technology continues to rise. Sure, the boiler industry's aftermarket and retrofit teams can work miracles, but successes are fewer and farther between with aging equipment — you can squeeze only so much juice from even the best orange.
Yet despite the waste and inefficiency going on around you, you must remain strong in the face of mounting pressure to “go green.” While corporate image is important — and the appearance of green/climate-change responsiveness increasingly is feeding it — your priorities must be kept straight. If you decide to go green, do it because it's in your company's best interest, not because Al Gore says you should.
The future-risk assessment any business must do when considering a major capital investment such as boiler-room optimization is complicated by varying and contradictory calls for green and seemingly yearly shifts in congressional, regulatory, and court mandates. Customers are rightly frustrated with Whac-a-Mole and law-of-unintended-consequences approaches to exceedingly complex global-climate, environmental, and fuels issues. While the boiler industry's response to that frustration — plan for the worst, and buy technology to address it — may seem simplistic and self-serving, it takes into consideration what, in this climate, a business needs to: (1) operate in the most efficient, reliable, productive, cost-effective, and environmentally conscious way and (2) respond cost-effectively to ever-changing emissions and fuel exigencies. It's not so much a matter of being climate-change- or green-oriented as it is getting your powerhouse in order to best fit and serve your business' needs.
Boiler-generated steam and hot water still is the most efficient method of heat transfer for many, if not most, applications. Boiler-generated steam and hot water is reliable, durable, and sustainable — what's more sustainable than a product made of recyclable heavy metals that will last for decades if operated and maintained properly? Steam can be created using almost any fuel — fossil, renewable, alternative, or “opportunity” — providing a high degree of flexibility.
The truth is, business and corporate success comes with the prudent use of new technology and conscientious cost control, and that's at the heart of what the commercial, institutional, and industrial boiler industry — indeed, member companies of the American Boiler Manufacturers Association — can do: provide state-of-the-art, systems-approach technologies to improve efficiency; lower emissions; ensure competitive performance and, ultimately, long-term cost-effectiveness; and provide a platform on which to build for the future.
Regardless of all of the hype, no government is going to adopt the draconian restrictions on economic growth and personal freedom (electricity use, driving, travel, and personal convenience to name a few) that will be necessary to curb, let alone stop, global warming, so don't feel the pressure — or the guilt — to bend to excessive and unreasonable demands. But don't beg off making any decisions based on some amorphous concept of “uncertainty” either. One thing is certain: Chances are, your boiler room or powerhouse is out of date, and it's affecting the prosperity of your business. The good news is that some exciting new boiler technology and systems choices are there to make your situation better while also allowing you to make a significant contribution to addressing global environmental issues.