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DTE-ESD Conference Keynoter: Green Means Fatter Margins

If you're not green, you're nuts.

That was the blunt message of the CEO of Ann Arbor property managers McKinley Inc., Albert Berriz, in the keynote of Wednesday's DTE Energy - Engineering Society of Detroit Energy Conference & Exhibition, which drew 800 attendees to the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi.

"If you're not into 'do no harm,' if you're not into sustainability, if you don't care about the environment -- you ought to care about 30 percent return on investment," Berriz said. "This is not frou-frou. This is bottom line dollars."

And Berriz said the local utility, DTE Energy, is better than any utility in the nation at offering incentives and price breaks for installing energy-saving technology.

"If you're a building owner and you're not working with DTE, you're insane," Berriz said.

McKinley manages a $3 billion portfolio of property, including 15 million square feet of shopping centers and offices and 34,000 housing units, in 25 states, with a staff of 1,200.

"Our owners are thrilled about sustainability ... because obviously, it makes money," Berriz said.

The main tenant at McKinley Town Centre in downtown Ann Arbor, the 250,000-square-foot former bank headquarters that McKinley owns, not just manages, has a special tenant that demands sustainability -- Google Inc.

So it's no surprise that the building has a 19.7-kilowatt solar power array, a green roof, an onsite greenhouse for herbs, green restrooms, onsite recycling, LED lighting, a sustainable kitchen, and state-of-the-art energy management.

But McKinley is also installing those same systems at its other buildings, from doctors' offices to apartments. Energy saving investments at McKinley's 7,100 residential units in the DTE Energy service area have yielded 15 to 20 percent savings on electricity and natural gas, 10 to 15 percent savings on water, and have boosted security by providing better, brighter lighting in common areas.

"With most of these products we're seeing a three to five year payback," Berriz said.

In another speech at the conference, Irene M. Dimitry, executive director of energy efficiency and renewables at DTE Energy, argued against a ballot proposal to require Michigan utilities to generate 25 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2025.

"My job is energy efficiency and renewables," Dimitry said. "I like energy efficiency and renewables. But this proposal, since it is an amendment to the state Constitution, is not the best way to pursue renewables. It locks the state into $10 billion in renewable investments with no consideration for market conditions."

Dimitry said the current state law mandating 10 percent renewables by 2015 "is driving improvements in energy efficiency and renewables and should be given a chance to work."

The conference featured a dozen highly technical breakout tracks on everything from energy efficiency for schools to energy efficiency for restaurants, to advanced street lighting, to building a renewable energy industry in Michigan.

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