City of Palo Alto partners with school district in energy-saving competition

The Palo Alto You are leaving WAPA.gov. City Council recently approved giving $1 million to the Palo Alto Unified School District You are leaving WAPA.gov. (PAUSD) if the city wins the $5 million Georgetown University Energy Prize Competition.

The multi-year national competition You are leaving WAPA.gov. taps into the imagination, creativity and hometown spirit of small- and medium-sized communities across the country to develop sustainable programs to improve energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions. It is set up to encourage innovation in energy-saving programs and education offered by local governments to residential, municipal and public school utility customers. The city with the greatest energy savings from January 2015 to December 2016 could win a $5 million dollar prize to use in continuing energy-efficiency programs.guepsuccess

To win the competition, the City of Palo Alto is encouraging residents to reduce electric and natural gas use. Each participating community will be rated not just on energy savings, which Palo Alto has actively pursued for more than 30 years, but also on program innovation, potential for replication, future performance, equitable access, education and overall quality of services. The city’s municipal utility (CPAU) is introducing new programs, tools and incentives to personalize saving energy.

Educating tomorrow’s consumers
Another strategy Palo Alto is using to increase its success is partnering with PAUSD to identify and prioritize energy-efficiency and sustainability projects that involve students. The city hopes PAUSD can tie the competition into class curriculums, allowing students to come up with ideas for saving energy to win the “Million Dollar Challenge” for the schools. The school district may be able to use the $1 million prize money for incorporating new or additional educational programs for energy-efficiency, putting solar on schools, or upgrading lighting and HVAC systems.

“This is a tremendous leadership opportunity for students, which teaches practical, real-world applications for understanding and managing energy use,” said City Manager James Keene. “These students are the future generation that will be faced with the impacts of climate change if we don’t act with urgency. We all benefit by engaging students through education and providing an avenue for potential funding of programs to help sustain and grow this knowledge.”

The city is engaging a team of high school students by sponsoring an internship program, “Get Involved Palo Alto.” Interns will generate ideas to help other students, staff and family members examine their home energy use more closely and try to reduce consumption. One idea they have already discussed is developing a mobile app for residents to input their electric kilowatt-hour and gas therm use after reading their meters on a daily or weekly basis. Students could track energy consumption over time and measure savings after making changes at home, such as insulating doors and windows, or reducing phantom load energy drawn by electronic devices. Real-time tracking has been shown to help consumers understand fluctuations in energy use.

Managing today’s use
CPAU is rolling out new programs like the Home Efficiency Genie audit and a new residential online utility portal You are leaving WAPA.gov. to make it easier for residents to better understand their current energy use at home and take steps to improve efficiency.

Both the audit program and utility portal can help users identify inefficiencies and opportunities to manage electricity and gas consumption. Residents can call the Home Efficiency Genie experts for free utility bill analyses and subsidized energy audits of their homes. Participants will reap the benefits of a more comfortable home, reduced utility bill costs and the satisfaction of lowering their carbon footprint by reducing greenhouse gas emissions associated with energy use—and helping their city in the competition.

Tough competition 
Palo Alto is not the only Western municipal customer competing for the Georgetown University Energy Prize. The Colorado cities of Aspen You are leaving WAPA.gov. and Fort Collins You are leaving WAPA.gov. are also participating, and all three are in the top 20 for energy savings.

Millions of homeowners, more than 60 local governments and over 100 utilities are represented by the 50 communities competing in the Georgetown University Energy Prize. As of September 2015, participants have avoided more than 300 million kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions and saved more than 9 billion kilo-British thermal units based on electricity and natural gas consumption. All that efficiency and conservation has saved participants more than $59 million.

Western wishes every competitor luck (but especially our customers), and we look forward to learning about the strategies the communities developed.

Source: City of Palo Alto, 5/16/16

Lincoln County PD lighting fact sheet makes LEDs an easy choice

Just a few short years ago, compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) were the “hottest” efficient technology and utilities were building entire programs around encouraging customers to swap out their old incandescent lights. Then the price of the even more efficient LED, or light-emitting diode, lamps started to drop and customers had another option. They also had a case of technology whiplash that left many feeling more than a little skeptical about manufacturer claims. If you would like some help in persuading your customers about the benefits of state-of-the-art lighting technology, check out this lighting fact sheet You are leaving WAPA.gov. from Lincoln County Power District No. 1. blubs

The fact sheet promotes LCPD’s lighting program that offers each residential customer one 10-watt LED lamp to try out at home for a year. The 10-watt LED gives off light that is equivalent to a 60-watt incandescent bulb or a 14-watt CFL. Installing an LED in the most used light fixture in the house could save consumers nearly 55 kilowatt-hours annually.

Some of the information on the fact sheet is specific to LCPD customers, of course, but much of it is general or can easily be adapted to your utility. For example, if you simply change the price of electricity on the cost comparison table, it will show your customers how much money LEDs can save them in their own homes.

The fact sheet explains how to use LEDs (hint: just like incandescents and CFLs) and gives tips on getting the most benefits from the efficient lighting technology. You don’t need to be offering a program similar to LCPD’s lighting program to find this fact sheet useful, but your customers may ask for one when they learn about the advantages of LEDs.

Visit Energy Services Publications to find more fact sheets on technologies and programs to improve load management and customer relations.

Presentations from Utility Energy Forum now online

UEF sessions run the gamut from state and federal policy discussion to emerging technologies to customer engagement strategies. (Photo by RL Martin)

UEF sessions run the gamut from state and federal policy discussion to emerging technologies to customer engagement strategies. (Photo by RL Martin)

If you were unable to attend the 36th annual Utility Energy Forum You are leaving WAPA.gov. at Lake Tahoe, California, you can find out what everyone was talking about. Download presentations from industry experts, researchers, decision makers and, most importantly, your peers. Utility business models, smart technology, distributed energy resources and customer programs were among the topics attendees discussed.

Of course, studying the presentations won’t be the same as joining other utility program managers and energy services and marketing professionals to share your challenges and successes, but there is always next year. There is also the Rocky Mountain Utility Efficiency Exchange You are leaving WAPA.gov. in Aspen, Colorado, Sept. 28-30.

New report looks at utility business models for energy storage

Navigant Research You are leaving WAPA.gov. and Sunverge Energy, Inc. You are leaving WAPA.gov. have teamed up to produce a white paper highlighting opportunities to embrace energy storage in ways that benefit both public utilities and their customers.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates that the technical potential of rooftop solar photovoltaics (PV) in the United States represents the equivalent of 39 percent of current U.S. electricity sales. The capacity from solar panels, advanced batteries and other forms of distributed energy resources (DER) is likely to keep growing. Some in the industry see this trend as the beginning of the “utility death spiral.” There are optimists, however, who see the chance for utilities—especially publically owned utilities—to reinvent themselves and their customer relationships.

According to the report, Making Sense of New Public Power DER Business Models, advanced energy storage can optimize DER to provide value on either side of the meter. In three featured case studies, public utilities, including Sacramento Municipal Utility DistrictYou are leaving WAPA.gov. leveraged the diverse services energy storage can offer if coupled with state-of-the-art controls software. Smart storage applications proved to be the key to delivering win-win results such as improved reliability, more resilience and greater customer satisfaction.

Public power providers are uniquely positioned to explore new energy service delivery models that can turn the challenge of integrating DER into customer partnerships. You can learn more about innovative business models and up-and-coming technologies by downloading a free copy of Making Sense of New Public Power DER Business Models.

Source: Public Power Daily, 5/9/16

Western customers play role in latest green power rankings

The latest Green Power Partnership update on renewable energy use by businesses, government facilities and educational institutions shows the importance of partners in meeting clean power goals. Western customers—and Western itself—figure prominently on the quarterly list released April 25. gpp_logo

There are now 764 Green Power Partners using renewable energy to meet 100 percent of their U.S. organizationwide electricity use. That is a lot of green kilowatt-hours (kWh)—16 billion annually—to keep the lights on and the equipment humming. The list of power providers needed to supply all that clean electricity is a long one and there are several familiar names on it.

Large, small partnerships
Apple alone purchases renewable energy from more than 30 providers, including Salt River Project, You are leaving WAPA.gov. Sacramento Municipal Utility District, You are leaving WAPA.gov. Silicon Valley PowerYou are leaving WAPA.gov.  City of Palo Alto Utilities You are leaving WAPA.gov. (CPAU) and Omaha Public Power District You are leaving WAPA.gov. (OPPD). Alpine Bank relies on Holy Cross EnergyYou are leaving WAPA.gov. San Miguel Power AssociationYou are leaving WAPA.gov. Yampa Valley Electric AssociationYou are leaving WAPA.gov. Delta-Montrose Electric Association You are leaving WAPA.gov. and La Plata Electric Association You are leaving WAPA.gov. (LPEA) among others to power its 38 branches across Colorado. Fort Collins Utilities You are leaving WAPA.gov. is among several providers that supply green power to outdoor equipment retailer REI.

On the other end of the spectrum, Silicon Valley Power meets all the electricity needs of industrial goods manufacturer Roos Instruments. Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association You are leaving WAPA.gov. is the sole green power provider to Wolf Creek Ski Area.

DIY spreading
As equipment and installation costs drop, many organizations are adding renewable energy systems on their own facilities. Omaha, Nebraska-based Morrissey Engineering supplements its green power purchase from OPPD with on-site generation. The city of Durango, Colorado, has partnered with LPEA on community solar gardens.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory generates 20 percent of its electricity on-site with solar panels. The remaining 80 percent comes from Western and private renewable energy companies.

Other notable achievements
Western customers appeared in the ranking not just as providers but as partners. The University of Utah You are leaving WAPA.gov. came in at number 86 in the overall Top 100 Green Power Partners, and was number 14 in the Top 30 colleges and universities.

Los Angeles World Airports, served by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, ranked 23rd among local government green power users. Sustainability pioneer CPAU was number 28 on that list.

Long-term power contracts, for five years or longer, play an important role in growing the renewable energy market. BD, a global medical technology company, signed a 20-year purchase power agreement with Nebraska Public Power District for more than 120,000,000 kWh of wind power.

Western customers go above and beyond to provide their consumers with the products and services they need, including cleaner, greener electricity. We look forward to seeing their names become a growing presence on future Green Power Partnership lists.

Source: EPA Green Power Partnership via Green Power News, 5/2/16

DOE announces $25M to accelerate integration of solar into grid

Update: Informational webinar presentations available online.

Utilities, solar companies and software developers working on solar energy grid integration solutions will welcome a May 2 funding opportunity announcement (FOA) from the Department of Energy. The DOE program called Enabling Extreme Real-Time Grid Integration of Solar Energy, or ENERGISE, announced that it is making $25 million available for research to modernize the national grid. Energise-graphic350

The amount of solar power installed in the U.S. has increased 23-fold in the last seven years, from 1.2 gigawatts in 2008 to an estimated 27.4 gigawatts in 2015, with one million systems now in operation. A key challenge to furthering solar deployment is the ability to integrate distributed generation sources like rooftop solar panels into the grid while balancing that generation with traditional utility generation. This FOA aims to support companies working to meet that challenge while keeping reliable and cost-effective power flowing.

ENERGISE specifically seeks to develop software and hardware platforms for utility distribution system planning and operations that integrate sensing, communication and data analytics. These hardware and software solutions will help utilities manage solar and other distributed energy resources on the grid and will be data-driven, easily scaled-up from prototypes and capable of real-time monitoring and control.

Funds are being offered for projects addressing two topic areas:

  • Topic Area 1 covers near-term projects to develop commercially ready, scalable distribution system planning and real-time grid operation solutions compatible with existing grid infrastructure to enable the addition of solar at 50 percent of the peak distribution load by 2020. A one-year field demonstration with utility partners is required.
  • Topic Area 2 covers projects that tackle the long-term challenge of developing transformative and highly scalable technologies compatible with advanced grid infrastructure to enable solar at 100 percent of the peak distribution load by 2030. DOE will require a large-scale simulation to demonstrate performance and scalability.

DOE’s SunShot Initiative will oversee the projects funded by this opportunity. The program expects to make 10 to 15 awards altogether. Awards for Topic Area 1 will likely range between $500,000 and $4,000,000 each. For Topic Area 2, DOE anticipates making awards of between $500,000 and $2,000,000 each.

The Solar Energy Technologies Office is hosting an informational webinar You are leaving WAPA.gov. on May 19, 12 to 2 p.m. Mountain Time. All applicants must submit a brief concept paper by June 17. Full applications are due by Aug. 26, 2016.

See the Energy Department news release.

Source: DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, 5/2/16

Great River Energy helps to launch community storage initiative

While the introduction of the Tesla Power Wall was creating a stir in the electricity industry, Great River Energy You are leaving WAPA.gov. and several partners were quietly working to show utilities that they already have storage capacity that most haven’t begun to tap.

Artwork courtesy of Peak Load Management Association

Artwork courtesy of Peak Load Management Association

The Minnesota generation and transmission cooperative had teamed up with the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association You are leaving WAPA.gov. (NRECA), Peak Load Management Association You are leaving WAPA.gov. (PLMA) and the Natural Resource Defense Council You are leaving WAPA.gov. (NRDC) to reveal the “hidden battery in the basement.”

“That is what the electric water heater is,” declared Great River Member Services Director Gary Connett.

‘Battery’ almost banned
With three decades of experience in load shaping with electric water heaters and more than 100,000 units currently under the utility’s control, Connett knows whereof he speaks. That extensive history with demand response is what led Great River to initiate the study on the storage potential of the common household appliance.

When the Department of Energy was revamping its efficiency standards, Congress was set to ban electric resistance water heaters with a storage capacity of more than 55 gallons. Great River worked tirelessly to overturn the ban, and the Energy Efficiency Improvement Act of 2015 You are leaving WAPA.gov. ultimately included an exception for large water heaters.

“But that experience made us realize that we had work to do to make utilities understand how important this appliance is to their load management strategies,” recalled Connett. “It is even more so, now that we are being asked to integrate more variable resources into the power mix.”

Showing how it’s done
The long fight to save large water heaters also attracted the attention of the NRDC, an unlikely ally, Connett acknowledges. However, the utility and the environmentalists found common ground in the innovative use of water heaters to “store” renewable energy. The NRDC joined Great River, NRECA and PLMA to commission a study by the Brattle Group You are leaving WAPA.gov. economic consultants.

The six-month study evaluated several strategies familiar to Great River, using two types of water heaters—electric resistance and heat pump units—both of which the utility has on control programs. The electric thermal storage strategy involves heating water at night when electricity is cheaper. “And becoming greener over time,” added Connett. “As Minnesota moves closer to its 2025 goal of 25 percent renewables the percentage of green energy in the night time hours only increases.”

Peak shaving is another strategy, which curtails load during times of high demand on a limited number of days per year, usually in four- to eight-hour cycles. Great River has about 45,000 water heaters on its peak shaving program and 66,000 on the thermal storage program. “That’s 20 percent of all the water heaters on our system. How many utilities can say that?” Connett asked.

The study also looked at fast response, a way to provide balancing services in the form of quick load increases and decreases. “This strategy will be tremendously useful as utilities bring more variable generation onto their systems,” said Connett.

Proven right
The Hidden Battery: Opportunities in Electric Water Heating, You are leaving WAPA.gov. (pdf) the report resulting from the study, reinforced what Great River had already learned from years of water heater control. Depending on market conditions, the Brattle research shows that storage-enabled water heating could save the consumer as much as $200 annually. Based on that figure, payback for the appliance, associated control equipment and installation is five years.

The environmental benefits are significant too, as policy—and consumers—increasingly focus on clean energy and energy efficiency. Controlling water heaters not only saves homeowners money, but it reduces carbon dioxide emissions with the right power mix. As Connett noted, being able to shift electricity use to lower-cost generation in off-peak hours can increase the use of renewable resources like wind.

These findings were not so much a revelation as confirmation for Connett. “That validation was pretty exciting,” he admitted. “And now that storage is becoming more important to integrate variable generation, we will continue to move forward with our proven programs.”

Initiative to spread word
Shortly after the release of the report this January, the partnership behind it launched the National Community Storage Initiative to focus attention on opportunities to develop national, regional and local markets for electric storage technologies. American Public Power Association You are leaving WAPA.gov. and Edison Electric Institute You are leaving WAPA.gov. have added their endorsement to the initiative, too.

Similar to community solar projects, such programs would aggregate controlled residential appliances to build local energy-storage capability. In addition to giving utilities better control of their loads, these fleets could also potentially provide ancillary services. Connett noted that the new generation of “grid interactive water heaters” can be controlled over very short time intervals with nearly instantaneous response. “The market is driving manufacturers to develop smarter water heaters,” he said. “Utilities want more dynamic control, and manufactures are enabling that with Wi-Fi and global technology.”

Water heaters are not the only existing appliances that offer energy storage potential. Great River Energy also controls about 167,000 air conditioners and has 15,000 ceramic-block, electric thermal storage heaters on its system that could contribute storage capacity. “But the beauty of the water heater is that it is a year-round load,” Connett observed.

More smart appliances are in the pipeline, such as electric vehicles and the Power Wall. “There are plenty of opportunities coming up, but we don’t need to wait for new technology,” Connett said. “The water heater is here now, and this type of program is made for co-ops—it is collaborative, economical and innovative. It helps everyone on the system.”

Find out how your utility can get involved in the National Community Storage Initiative. And don’t forget to share your program with Energy Services Bulletin.

Geothermal Summit examines future of baseload renewable technologies

June 7-8
Reno, Nevada

Geothermal Energy Association’s You are leaving WAPA.gov. (GEA) fifth annual summit, June 7-8 at the Grand Sierra Resort and Casino in Reno, Nevada, has a broader focus this year. The future prospects of geothermal, biomass and hydropower technologies will take center stage at the first Baseload Renewable Energy Summit You are leaving WAPA.gov..BREsummitLogo

The National Hydropower Association You are leaving WAPA.gov. (NHA) and the Biomass Power Association You are leaving WAPA.gov. (BPA) are teaming up with GEA to kick-start a conversation about the importance of baseload renewable technologies in a more diverse, less carbon-intensive energy supply. Geothermal, biomass and hydropower resources combined represent nearly two-thirds of US renewable generation today, yet they are frequently overlooked and undervalued in media discussions about renewable energy. All three industries face barriers at the political, financial and societal levels. The summit will focus on discussing the values, prospects and problems facing these technologies with an emphasis on highlighting potential solutions.

The agenda brings together experts from each industry, as well as utility, research and regulatory professionals and regional and federal officials. Panel discussions cover the role of baseload renewables in reducing carbon emissions, meeting clean energy goals and balancing the grid; market issues; new technology and hybrid project opportunities and policy challenges.

The Baseload Renewable Energy Summit offers utilities an excellent opportunity to make their voices heard to industries that can help them deliver a balanced portfolio and a cleaner energy future. Register You are leaving WAPA.gov. before May 6 to receive the early-bird discount. Members of GEA, NHA, BPA, Geothermal Resources Council You are leaving WAPA.gov. and American Council on Renewable Energy You are leaving WAPA.gov. receive an additional discount.

Sponsorships and tabling opportunities are also available for the entire summit as well as networking events. Contact Rani Chatrath at 202-454-5261 for more information.

Source: Geothermal Energy Association, 3/31/16

IREC publication explores renewables options for low-, moderate-income consumers

“Shared” and “community” solar programs are making renewable energy a more affordable option for Americans, but spreading those benefits to low and moderate income (LMI) households still poses a challenge for utilities. Shared Renewable Energy for Low- to Moderate-Income Consumers: Policy Guidelines and Model ProvisionsYou are leaving WAPA.gov.  a new publication from the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC), offers comprehensive guidelines on how to do it with the most meaningful results.
IRECreport

The publication offers information and tools for adopting and implementing shared renewables programs that benefit LMI individuals and households. Utilities, shared renewable energy developers, program administrators and others will gain insight into the unique challenges LMI consumers face to enjoying the benefits of shared renewables programs. Specific case studies examine lessons learned and highlight innovative tools and approaches. Stakeholders will find model rules to provide a strong starting point for discussion and potential implementation.

Low- to moderate-income households (those earning up to 120 percent of Area Median Income) represent approximately 60 percent of U.S. households. These consumers typically spend more of their income on energy costs than higher-income households, so they are in the greatest need of help with reducing their energy bills. Unfortunately, the people in these households often face considerable financial barriers to participating in programs that could help them. Problems like lack of access to capital or insufficient credit can prevent them from benefiting from conservation, energy-efficiency and renewable energy measures such as shared renewable projects.

These first-of-their-kind policy guidelines also consider that moderate-income customers may have different circumstances (such as higher credit scores or higher rates of ownership) than low-income customers. Instead of designing programs that approach all LMI customers as a group, programs that address the range of customers within the LMI category may be a more effective way to reach them.

The publication acknowledges that some barriers are due to policies unrelated to program design. IREC advises policymakers and others to be aware of these restrictions and take them into account when designing programs.

IREC has also produced a four-page quick reference guide to the full LMI report. The guide provides a summary of the key components of the guidelines and model provisions, along with references to the relevant sections in the main report.

Source: Interstate Renewable Energy Council, 3/10/16

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