FAQ

How much does it cost?

There is no capital expenditure required by the customer.  Unison builds, owns and operates distributed energy systems under long-term energy services agreements (ESAs). Unison only bills for power ($/kWh) and heat ($/therm) that is used by the customer. If the CHP system is not providing either, the customer does not pay.

What about the natural gas to run the system?

Either the customer or Unison can buy the gas. If Unison buys it, the cost is passed straight through to the customer; there is no markup.

How does Unison make its money?

Unison’s return is built into the electricity charge ($/kWh) and heat charge ($/therm) billed to the customer for usage and stipulated in the ESA.

Who pays for Operations & Maintenance? What does that include?

All O&M costs are included in Unison’s power and heat rate stipulated in the ESA. This includes all minor and major maintenance, engine overhauls, consumables, service calls, and all other maintenance. The customer will never be charged for O&M.

What about standby charges? Demand charges?

Standby and demand charges differ depending on the state and utility. Unison maintains a sophisticated proprietary tariff database (700+ tariffs, 110+ gas and electric utilities in 17 States) and for each of our prospective energy projects perform an in-depth tariff analysis based on the energy system to be deployed and different operating scenarios.  All “post-CHP” utility charges, including standby charges, demand charges, departing load charges, etc. are factored into the project’s economic analysis and ESA rates.

What if natural gas prices go up?

CHP system economics and related energy savings are consistent over time, regardless of gas market fluctuations. The reason for this is that the marginal electric power on the grid is provided by natural gas powered “peaker plants” which can power up and down in response to electricity demand; in contrast, “baseload” generation, including coal, hydro and nuclear are always on unless they are off-line for maintenance. For this reason, the correlation between gas and electricity prices is very high, so that if natural gas costs go up, there is a corresponding increase in utility electric costs, maintaining CHP savings versus the utility.

How much space is required?

Unison’s systems are containerized to minimize on-site installation costs and provide uniformity of design; all major equipment including engine/generator, thermal recovery and conversion, related pumps, controllers and switchgear and all ancillary equipment are placed inside a container that is roughly the size of a shipping container.  A 45’ x 10’ footprint is a conservative estimate for a single engine solution. If space is tight at a facility, Unison strongly suggests that at least a CHP economic analysis is done so as to determine projected savings. With that, the customer can do an internal cost/benefit analysis, taking into account savings versus “making room” for the equipment, i.e. the higher the savings, the more on-site space that can be “found.”

What engines do you use?

Unison is “engine agnostic” and will use the best engines for the facility/site. That said, we typically use MWM and MAN engine packages from 2G-Energy which have high electrical efficiencies (37 – 43%) as well as best in class electric + thermal energy efficiencies of 60 – 85%.  System efficiency = customer savings.  As a comparison, the average utility efficiency in the markets we serve is 35%. 

Do your systems just cover base load?

Unison sizes its systems to maximize customer savings. This typically results in a system that covers 80-95% of a customer’s annual electrical load (kWh). Unison will often employ a second+ engine as well for peak shaving and or back-up; this can depend on local utility demand charges. Unison can adjust its system sizing to meet customer specific energy savings and resiliency needs.

What about emissions?

Because Unison owns its energy systems, CHP emissions are usually considered separate from customer facility emissions. Unison handles all emissions applications, testing and reporting.

How do I get billed?

Unison only bills for the energy that is used by the customer (kWh, therms). The ESA stipulates an electric rate ($/kWh) and heat rate ($/therm) that typically increase at CPI over the life of the ESA term.

What is the term of the ESA?

Unison’s energy services agreement (ESA) is typically 15 years. It can be shorter or longer, but customer savings is term dependent – the longer the term, the greater the savings.

What happens at end of ESA term?

There are three options at the end of the ESA term (typically 15 years):  1) Renew the ESA agreement;  2) Unison removes the CHP system;  3) the customer can buy the energy system at fair market value.

What is payback?

Because Unison typically owns its energy systems, and the customer puts up no capital, the customer payback is in the form of energy savings and related resiliency benefits over the term of the ESA.  That said, economic payback, if the customer was to own the CHP system, can be 4-8 years depending on local tariffs, onsite installation costs and natural gas and electric utility rates.

What is the net impact on carbon footprint?

Natural gas CHP can substantially reduce a customer’s carbon footprint, sometimes by as much as 50%. The exact amount will depend on the mix of power generation resources serving a utility or geography (e.g, coal, natural gas, nuclear, hydro, wind, solar).

We prefer to own capital equipment; can Unison sell its systems?

Yes. If we enter into a sales agreement, we will require a long-term services agreement to ensures that our systems are properly maintained and kept running at maximum efficiency.