If you don’t know where you are going, chances are you will wind up someplace else. As a public power utility, your goal is to provide reliable, affordable electricity, so you—and your customers—cannot afford to miss that destination. A new three-part webinar series from the American Public Power Association will show you how to draw an effective roadmap to your future.
Strategic Planning invites chief executive officers, general managers, senior executives, board and council members, and others involved in strategic planning to deep dive into the background and implementation of this valuable process. The series reviews strategic planning options for public power utilities of different sizes and with a variety of governing structures. Strategic planning for state associations and joint action agencies will also be covered.
Planning in three steps
Participants will learn how to engage policymakers and staff, set realistic timetables and budgets, select the right process for your utility and when and how to hire consultants. The series also includes material on managing financial operations as part of long-term performance planning.
July 26—Prepare for Change: Blueprinting Your Strategic Plan Begin by taking a hard look at where your utility stands in the ever-evolving industry landscape and discover how to take control of your future. New technologies, new power sources, new competitors and changing customer expectations will change the way you do business. Expert speakers will help you determine if your organization is prepared to plan for change. You will leave the webinar with the tools to create a realistic blueprint to adapt to market and policy changes, as well as new customer needs and preferences.
Aug. 16—Finances and Performance: Building Your Strategic Plan Monitoring your organization’s financial health is not the job of only your chief financial officer (if you have one). Your leadership and governance team need to participate in financial planning and oversight as well. Decisions about budgets, rates, power supply, services and system maintenance affect your strategic plan and performance. This webinar presents the big picture on the financial aspect of performance planning.
Sept. 6—Down to Brass Tacks: Implementing Your Strategic Plan Finalizing your strategic plan is the beginning, not the end of your journey, as the next step—implementation—is where the rubber meets the road. This webinar gets into the details of staying the course and avoiding the common pitfalls in acting on your plan. Learn how to keep all stakeholders aware of the plan’s progress and engage productively with outside consultants or facilitators if needed.
Registration for the full webinar series is $550 or $250 for APPA members. Individual webinars are $199 or $99 for APPA members. Links to all handouts and an audio recording will be sent out shortly after the webinar, in case you are unable to attend.
Continue your education
To earn a completion certificate, you must register for a webinar and your participation must be confirmed by the webinar report log. The completion certificate is only available to the person who registered for the webinar.
APPA is presenting this series in cooperation with Hometown Connections, a nonprofit utility service organization formed by five public power joint action agencies. Hometown Connections offers products and services to public power utilities, including consulting support for organization assessment, strategic planning and governance development, customer service, market research, and staffing.
Low wholesale power prices and an uncertain future for federal power regulations have made it trickier—and riskier—than ever for utilities and independent power producers to plan for and invest in generation.
Resource risk can be very difficult to mitigate for long-term investments in power plants, and it manifests differently for renewable and natural gas-fired generation. For renewables, the risk is “the quantity of wind and insolation will be less than expected.” For natural gas, the risk is “natural gas will cost more than expected.”
Statisticians label the mid-range case “P50,” but calculate a probability for all possibilities from P1 to P99. Probability of exceedance is commonly used by utility planners “to characterize the uncertainty around annual energy production for wind and solar projects,” the paper reports. It “can also be applied to natural gas price projections.”
The study’s “statistical concept” quantifies the risk at each P-level of expected renewables output levels and natural gas prices and factors them into a levelized cost of energy comparison. “In general, higher-than-expected gas prices appear to be riskier to ratepayers than lower-than-expected wind or solar output,” noted LBNL researcher and study co-author Mark Bolinger.
The disagreement underscores the importance of a method like LBNL’s that quantifies the risk and uncertainty. Renewable industry representatives have called the LBNL paper an important contribution that could be useful for utility integrated resource planning.
Read more about the study and industry reactions in Utility Dive and download the report and webinar presentations from the LBNL website.
As tempting as it may be for utilities to ignore the growth of distributed energy resources (DER), they must plan for integration of this form of generation. To help power providers develop a strategy to accommodate increasing DER penetration, Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA) has published a two-volume report, Beyond the Meter: Planning the Distributed Energy Future.
The utility industry is changing and many of the changes are being driven by consumers seeking new energy choices, technology advances leading to lower costs and better performance and new policies. Both utilities and their customers will have to work together to ensure grid reliability as distributed energy resource (DER) penetration increases. Engineering consultants Black and Veatch collaborated with SEPA to provide a new strategy to become a proactive distribution planning utility.
When it comes to sustainability, colleges and universities have some of the most aggressive and comprehensive plans in the nation, and WAPA is proud to count some of those institutions as customers. One of our customers, the University of Utah, is putting its climate action plan to the test in the 2016-17 College and University Green Power Challenge, which encourages higher education institutions to increase their use of green power.
Throughout the academic year, the Green Power Partnership tracks the collegiate athletic conferences with the highest combined green power usage in the nation. The challenge, an initiative of the Environmental Protection Agency, is open to any conference in the United States. Currently, 89 schools from 34 athletic conferences are participating in the 2016-17 Challenge. The PAC 12 conference, of which UU is a part, has used 79,173,575 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of green power so far this year.
The comprehensive plan created the university Sustainability Office and sustainability committees to coordinate education, research and initiatives to reduce the university’s carbon emissions. The carbon commitment works hand in hand with a resilience commitment to strengthen UU’s ability to survive disruption and adapt to change. These commitments combine to form the whole of the plan’s climate commitment.
To meet its stated goals, the plan sets forth structures for guidance and implementation, and decision-making criteria for carbon reduction measures prioritized in an inverted pyramid. Avoiding and reducing emissions top the pyramid as the actions likely to have the greatest effect. Efficiency, resource replacement and offsetting fossil fuel use follow in that order. Every five years, UU will review, revise and resubmit the plan, a process that is currently underway.
Getting started The first step on the road to carbon neutrality was gathering data on all wholly owned buildings and land area of the university and its subsidiaries. Leased facilities were not included in the accounting.
The difficulty for UU was that metering was only available at campus level when the initiative launched. “We have been working to get building-level information to better understand where we should focus our efforts,” said Myron Willson, the university’s deputy chief sustainability officer.
Data collection has led to an increased emphasis on commissioning and re-commissioning buildings and on major building system retrofits. The Sustainability Office is now looking into district-level energy planning on its health sciences campus.
In 2008, the students unanimously voted for a $2.50-per-semester student fee, the Sustainable Campus Initiative Fund, to support sustainability projects. Since then, SCIF has received proposals ranging in focus from food systems to solar energy, and has allocated more than $400,000 in grants to more than 100 projects. There is now support for turning the fund into a revolving loan program that could help to provide the initial capital needed for energy-efficiency and renewable energy projects.
Power supply plays its part Although the plan prioritizes avoiding emissions and improving campus efficiency over using green power and offsetting fossil fuel use with renewable energy purchases, those strategies still have a place. UU installed a combined heat and power plant in 2008 that provides 6 megawatts (MW) of power. There is also about 1.5 MW of distributed solar directly on campus, and another 2 MW under contract for three projects on the university’s Research Park.
The university’s latest project brings together the entire community of students, faculty, staff, alumni, neighbors and friends for a community solar energy installation program. U Community Solar offers members the opportunity to purchase rooftop solar panels and installation for their homes at 20 to 25 percent below market rate. In return for the significant discount, participants can voluntarily donate their renewable energy credits back to the university. “So far, more than 85 percent of participants have agreed to do so, generating almost 1.8 MW in the first round,” said Willson. “The second round is nearing 1 MW of power. We register those RECs through WREGIS [Western Renewable Energy Generation Information System].”
So far, so good In addition to leading its conference in the Green Power Challenge, UU is making progress on its carbon neutrality goals. Its emissions have remained fairly constant since the baseline survey in 2007, but the university has experienced tremendous growth in that time frame. “Our per capita and per-square-foot energy use is down in our latest report, too,” Willson added.
The university continues to move forward with aggressive building standards for new construction and for remodels that are 40 percent better than code and a solar-ready roof initiative. Demand-side incentives from Rocky Mountain Power, the university’s utility, help support efficiency and clean energy projects. “We are able to roll the funds over into next project,” explained Willson. “We have also taken advantage of several Blue-Sky grants to install solar PV.”
To tackle emissions from transportation, the U Drive Electric program offers U community members and Salt Lake City residents the opportunity to purchase or lease electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles at discounted prices. The collaboration between UU, Salt Lake City and Utah Clean Energy has facilitated the sale of 92 electric and plug-in hybrid cars this year.
Willson acknowledged that the 5-year review will bring evolution to the plan. “It is hard to know in the first years what combination of steps will bring the best result,” he said. “But we are currently working with consultants to evaluate several purchase power agreement opportunities for both on- and off-campus generation. This has helped us look at reducing peak demand, opportunities for storage, such as thermal and battery, and how to plan for future campus growth.”
WAPA wishes the University of Utah the best of luck in this year’s Green Power Challenge. But as with most energy competitions, it is not whether you win or lose; it’s how many opportunities for energy savings and load management you discover. In that, UU is already a winner.
If your college or university is interested in joining the 2016-17 Green Power Challenge, check out the steps to join Green Power Partnership for more information. To be listed, a conference must have at least two Green Power Partners and an aggregate green power purchase of at least 10 million kWh across the conference. Partner data deadlines are Jan. 4, 2017, and April 5, 2017.
It is hard enough to agree on a definition of sustainability, let alone measure and account for it. Yet the general public, along with local, state and federal governments are increasingly calling upon electric utilities to demonstrate sustainable operation. To help power providers meet these demands, the American Public Power Association is offering a new publication, Sustainability Reporting for Electric Utilities.
Use this resource to learn how to account for and report your utility’s positive economic, environmental and social impacts. You will discover how to build, maintain and use reports to impact your strategy.
Sustainability Reporting for Electric Utilities describes current trends in sustainability accounting and offers guidance on reporting to stakeholders and employees on your sustainable activities. This publication provides you with up-to-date practices on sustainability accounting and reporting by:
Explaining what sustainability reporting is
Introducing you to standards-setting entities
Describing processes for gathering sustainability statistics
Showing how to build and maintain sustainability reports
Demonstrating how sustainability reporting can impact utility strategy
Written by Megan Decker and Russ Hissom of Baker Tilly Virchow Krause, Sustainability Reporting for Electric Utilities will help to establish your utility as a good steward of the resources it uses to deliver reliable and affordable energy to customers.
Source: American Public Power Association, 3/14/16
Electric cooperatives should take advantage of $500 million the Department of Agriculture (USDA) has set aside for projects that support economic and community development plans across multi-jurisdictional areas.
The Strategic Economic and Community Development program (SECD) is the first new funding available from the USDA in a long time. The USDA put the provision into the 2014 Farm Bill with an eye on advancing projects that support long-term community and economic growth strategies and capitalize on the unique strengths of the rural area. The four Rural Development programs under the SECD program include Community Facilities, Water and Environmental Programs, Rural Business Development Grants and Business and Industry Guaranteed Loans.
Because co-op service territories often cover multiple towns, cities and counties, there’s an opportunity for power providers to work with councils of governments, regional authorities, coalitions of municipalities and similar associations. Co-ops should reach out to these entities to make sure their priorities are part of regionally adopted plans.
USDA will base consideration on:
How well the project supports a multijurisdictional plan
How well the plan addresses collaboration, regionalism and investments from other federal and philanthropic agencies
Interested participants should have their plans reviewed by their state’s staff early in the process for feedback and possible modification before submitting it with the formal application.
The National Association of Development Organizations presented an informational webinar on Jan. 12 covering an overview of the SECD program and how to apply for funding. A recording of the webinar and the full slide presentation are available to download.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) has compiled a step-by-step guide to help transmission system stakeholders realize the benefits of the cutting-edge monitoring and management technologies collectively known as the smart grid. The How2Guide for Smart Grids in Distribution Networks is available, free of charge, from the IEA.
With meticulous planning, design and deployment, smart grids promise greater efficiency, increased integration of renewable energy sources and a resilient, flexible and secure electrical system, to name just a few substantial benefits. The new publication offers industry and government decision makers a roadmap for successful smart grid development based on case studies and specific experience gleaned from IEA workshops.
Despite their potential to address energy system challenges, smart grids are not quickly or easily developed. The guide shows how to avoid missteps by outlining four specific but adaptable phases:
Planning and preparation
Preparing the roadmap
Implementation and monitoring
Each phase is divided into steps, both necessary and optional ones, for optimal deployment.
The manual also includes recommendations and frameworks for identifying stakeholders, conducting baseline research, determining drivers and appropriate projects to meet needs, identifying barriers and solutions and setting timelines and milestones for deployment.
According to IEA, smart grids can play a fundamental role in global efforts to move toward a more secure, sustainable and innovative energy future. The new How2Guide is one small part of IEA efforts to support that transition.
Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation (CDC) is inviting one of the poorest communities in the nation to try a very different approach to economic development, one that takes time, commitment, willingness to learn and above all, planning.
From the ground up The grassroots nonprofit organization in Porcupine, S.D., recently released its ambitious plan to create a sustainable model community on a 34-acre parcel on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Building a Regenerative Community envisions more and better housing on the reservation, increased local business opportunities, a skilled workforce and a healthy, supportive environment for residents. Those goals are challenging enough for communities with a developed infrastructure and large population. But Pine Ridge doesn’t have either, admitted Thunder Valley Executive Director Nick Tilsen. “We are basically starting from scratch,” he said.
By “scratch,” Tilsen means that the Thunder Valley community must produce its own electricity, manage its own water supply and build roads to connect it with the rest of the reservation and beyond. Training local workers to build the community is part of the plan, too, since the nearest large labor pool is 100 miles away in Rapid City.
Having nowhere to go but up has some advantages. The CDC is free to embrace innovative development approaches that don’t rely on an abundance of resources. Proposed projects, such as a water treatment system that returns clean water to the aquifer, could make Thunder Valley the envy of more established cities.
Tilsen acknowledged that being the first adopter has its downside, though. “We are asking bureaucracies to do something they have never done before, and that creates a lot of interest,” he said. “But these agencies have built regulations around one way of doing things. It is going to take time to find a way around those barriers.”
Public weighs in Although it lacks the tax base to build infrastructure, Pine Ridge Reservation has engaged citizens who want a better future for themselves and their families on tribal lands.
The project grew out of the yearly Thunder Valley Sundance, when organizers and participants found themselves discussing the many problems facing native youth. The idea of creating a local nonprofit organization to address social, economic and cultural issues took root. After community outreach to set priorities and gain residents’ buy-in, the Thunder Valley CDC formed and attained nonprofit status in 2007.
Community involvement continued over the next six years as tribe members attended a series of listening and visioning sessions, town hall-style meetings and stakeholder design charrettes. The meetings produced the main objectives for a regenerative development that focused on creating a low-impact, self-sufficient community where people could live and work and continue their culture and traditions.
Partners, funding line up A conceptual master plan, based on the main objectives, began attracting partners and funding to the Thunder Valley Regenerative Community. Oglala Lakota College (OLC), University of Colorado (CU) School of Environmental Design and the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology entered into service learning partnerships with the CDC and the Oglala Sioux Housing Authority. The partnership is exploring sustainable, affordable housing prototypes. “Thunder Valley is going to be a living laboratory,” noted Tilsen. “It offers academic institutions a clean slate for learning, research and study and evaluation.”
Several programs in the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provided the project with funding for planning, land purchases and construction. The CU School of Environmental Design also received a HUD grant to research sustainable housing models on Pine Ridge. The Environmental Protection Agency, Administration for Native Americans and Department of Agriculture (USDA) also contributed funding to small projects within the overarching plan.
Last May, Thunder Valley CDC brought its partners together for a workshop aimed at integrating all the facets of the plan in a final report. Within the context of population, density, land use, building types and infrastructure; a roadmap emerged to provide affordable, efficient homes; produce all energy onsite; clean all wastewater onsite and create a vital, new Lakota-grown economy.
A place to live, work The master plan includes office and industrial space, recreation and social service facilities, a market, food gardens, community gathering areas and water treatment facilities. Expanding workforce housing on the reservation, however, is top priority. “Between five and six thousand people work on the reservation, but only 2,500 to 3,000 people live here,” explained Tilsen. “We have no rental stock, so 51 percent of our workforce commutes from outside towns. People tend to spend their paychecks where they live, so wages generated on the reservation don’t stay here.”
Phase I of the project focuses on building 31 single-family homes, with the help of the future homeowners. This strategy makes the home more affordable for the owner who is able to contribute up to 60 percent of the labor. The “sweat equity” model also builds marketable skills locally—and something more. “Helping to build your own home is empowering,” observed Tilsen. “It will give homeowners a feeling of accomplishment and self-sufficiency, and knowledge they can share with their community.”
Efficiency first Low energy use is central to both self-sufficiency and affordability. The Native American Sustainable Housing Initiative (NASHI), a joint research project with CDC’s academic partners, seeks to determine what type of building technology will prove most efficient on the reservation.
Students from CU and OLC are building four houses: one with conventional framing, and one each using insulated panels, straw bale construction and compressed-earth blocks. Sensors will be placed throughout the homes to see which style is most efficient at least cost. The answers are not as clear as they might seem, added Tilsen. “Straw bale buildings may not need much energy to heat and cool, but local farmers don’t practice small baling, so the material has to be shipped in,” he said. “Sustainability isn’t just one thing. It’s a big picture.”
In the big picture, Thunder Valley is being planned as a net-zero energy community. The absence of a pre-existing infrastructure will actually make it easier to build in efficiency. Planners can site buildings for optimal solar panel angle and daylight harvesting, and install efficient systems like ground source heat pumps and gravity-fed, decentralized water treatment. Making thermal materials and insulative construction systems standard building practice will further reduce energy requirements.
Democratization of energy The master plan relies primarily on rooftop solar arrays to meet most of the community’s energy needs. “But biomass and wind have good potential, too,” Tilsen added.
A large wind turbine on a hill near the community would supplement the solar generation. Small individual wind turbines installed on office buildings and solar panels in parking areas could meet increased electrical demand in the future. The CDC is exploring leasing roof space to the community and other possible financing models. “We believe that it is critical for the community’s economic development and stability to own and produce the energy we consume,” stated Tilsen.
Ups, downs ahead At a time when developers toss up new neighborhoods in a matter of months—or weeks—Thunder Valley CDC expects to take years to complete the planned community.
Having completed the preliminary engineering study and environmental assessment the CDC is now working with USDA to create an application process for potential homeowners to apply to build their own homes in the development. Developing permitting documents for infrastructure and buildings, and establishing a property management company and a homeownership training program are all part of Phase I.
The tribe will also be applying for several grants related to rural and tribal infrastructure. Growing this partnership is especially important to the CDC because it will help spread the benefits and lessons of Thunder Valley beyond the development itself. “Not everyone on the reservation is going to want to live in the planned community,” explained Tilsen. “We have to find ways to use what we have learned to lift up the whole tribe.”
The goal, and the stakes, for Thunder Valley Regenerative Community are clearly higher than those for most planned developments. The CDC has taken the first steps on the long journey to true sustainability, and is prepared for the odd side trip and dead end. “We will learn as much from our failures as we will from our successes,” Tilsen stated. “You can’t build something new overnight.”
Working with the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) and other organizations, the Energy Department (DOE) this week released two Funding of Opportunity Announcements (FOA) related to utilities.
Solar Utility Networks: Replicable Innovations in Solar Energy (SUNRISE) is being issued by DOE to solicit applications for two topic areas. Topic A focuses on enabling utilities to develop long-term strategic plans for integrating high levels of renewable energy generation and ensuring that power systems operate reliably in real time under high renewable penetration. Topic B aims to provide technical assistance for building capacity through utility-scale photovoltaic planning and installation.
DOE’s express purpose in issuing this FOA is to demonstrate cost-effective and reliable solar integration in real time, at utility-scale, in successful utility business models. DOE anticipates providing up to $12 Million through this FOA, for projects two to four years long, depending on the topic area. Awardees must share project costs. This FOA is part of the DOE SunShot Initiative.
Concept papers due: March 8, 2013
Expected date for response to concept papers: March 20, 2013
Deadline for questions: April 21, 2013
Full applications due: April 24, 2013
The second FOA, Grid Engineering for Accelerated Renewable Energy Deployment (GEARED) seeks applications to increase power system research, development and analytical capacity. Projects should also be designed to prepare electric utility professionals to manage high penetrations of solar and other distributed energy technologies. To achieve these dual goals, GEARED will support two activities:
Training consortia focused on quickly bringing their findings into training and educational initiatives
A national coordination network that will link these consortia to one another and other relevant power system research and development and training activities
Increasing the power systems capabilities and talent pool promotes electric grid security, as well as environmental and economic benefits for all consumers. The GEARED FOA provides funding to support creating three to five regional consortia that work with universities and utilities to incorporate power systems analysis, research and development into curricula and short courses, cooperative internships and continuing education. GEARED will also support the creation of a national training network for distributed power system professionals. The FOA does not apply to undergraduate or graduate fellowships.
Concept papers due: April 12, 2013; 5 p.m. EST
Deadline for questions: April 16, 2013; 5 p.m. EST
Full applications due: April 19, 2013; 5 p.m. EST
Some of the topic areas are seeking utility applicants, while others are seeking utility groups or other types of entities. SEPA member utilities that wish to apply directly or would like to apply in partnership with SEPA should contact SEPA President Julia Hamm at 202-559-2025 as soon as possible.