Have your say: Suggest topics for Pre-forum Workshop at Utility Energy Forum

May 13-15, 2015
Tahoe City, Calif.

The 35th annual Utility Energy Forum Redirecting to a non-government site is just around the corner and there is still time to shape the agenda.uef

What’s on your mind?
The program planning committee is accepting topic suggestions for the Pre-Forum Workshop for utility and government employees. The session is a roundtable discussion where power providers and government representatives can talk candidly about the issues that concern them most.

Community solar, distributed generation, net metering, new utility business models, partnering to stay in the game and microgrids are just few of the subjects that might be on attendees’ radar. But don’t stop there—this is your chance to learn from colleagues who wrestle with the same demons, and to take home new solutions, and possibly, new partners.

Paul Reid of Azusa Light and Power Redirecting to a non-government site and Ron Horstman, Western’s Energy Services Manager, are co-chairing the workshop. No topic is off limits, no idea too “out there,” for these UEF veterans, so expect a no-holds-barred session that will rock a few boats.

Use this online survey Redirecting to a non-government site to share what is keeping you up at night. Remember, participation in the Pre-Forum Workshop is limited to utility and government employees. Speak your mind, and complete the survey by Feb. 5.

And that ain’t all…
Of course, the Pre-Forum Workshop is only the appetizer for the information banquet that is the Utility Energy Forum. Utility managers and marketers, energy manager and program developers and customer service professional return to the forum year after year to stay current on the latest trends in the energy utility industry.UEFbot

This year’s theme, Transformation is NOW, will weave through sessions that challenge traditional thinking and encourage participants to find innovative ways to cope with the rapidly changing energy utility industry. If you have never attended the UEF, this is a good year to start, and if you are planning to attend, register today. Early bird discounts end March 14.

As if outstanding professional development and networking opportunities were not enough reason to attend, Lake Tahoe is beautiful in May and registration includes all (terrific) meals, as well as lodging at Granlibakken Resort Redirecting to a non-government site.

Share your concerns today, and then join other utility and government employees to brainstorm the answers May 13-15. See you in Granlibakken.

Wind, solar acquisitions make sense for Lincoln Electric System

Staring down a future of potential environmental regulations and uncertain production tax credits, Lincoln Electric System Redirecting to a non-government site (LES) in Lincoln, Nebraska, is surging forward on “greening up” its power portfolio.

Elkhorn Ridge is one of five wind facilities currently supplying green power to Lincoln Electric System. In 2015, LES will add another 173 MW from the Prairie Breeze II in Nebraska and Buckeye in Kansas. (Photo by Nebraska Public Power District)

Elkhorn Ridge is one of five wind facilities currently supplying green power to Lincoln Electric System. In 2015, LES will add another 173 MW from the Prairie Breeze II in Nebraska and Buckeye in Kansas. (Photo by Nebraska Public Power District)

The municipal utility closed 2014 with a power purchase agreement to add 173 megawatts (MW) of wind energy and 5 MW of solar energy to its power supply resource portfolio by 2016. The move will reduce coal resources from 43 percent of LES’s installed nameplate capacity to 34 percent.

This latest acquisition is not part of a predetermined goal, but simply a good business decision, observed LES Administrator and CEO Kevin Wailes. “When viewed as a package, our wind and solar contracts are expected to save LES customer-owners approximately $429 million over the next 25 years,” he pointed out when announcing the agreements.

LES Communications Manager Kelley Porter added, “Responding to customer input and being good environmental stewards is part of doing business as a public power utility.”

Wind brings development
The wind additions, spread across two contracts with developer Invenergy Redirecting to a non-government site, involve the 73-MW Prairie Breeze II Wind Energy Center in northeastern Nebraska and 100-MW Buckeye Wind Energy Center in north-central Kansas. The projects will bring LES’ total wind portfolio to 304 MW, and increase the utility’s renewable generation portfolio to the equivalent of 48 percent of LES’ retail energy.

Prairie Breeze II is an expansion of Invenergy’s first Nebraska wind farm, which began operation in May 2014. The developer expects to complete Prairie Breeze II by the end of 2015. The project will create an estimated 90 jobs during the construction phase, and is expected to require seven permanent full-time employees to operate and maintain the 41 turbines.

Let the sun shine
Cost savings from the wind agreements will help supplement customer participation in LES’s new SunShares community solar program. LES launched the program in partnership with its customers to bring a community solar project to the Lincoln area. The 5-MW solar array—the largest in the state—will provide the utility with valuable solar experience.

The solar contract was in response to an LES survey indicating customers were willing to support more local solar energy. About 44 residential customers take advantage of LES’s renewable generation program and net-metering policy, but the city has a lot of older neighborhoods with large trees, Porter noted. “The solar project offers an affordable alternative for customers who would like to be involved with solar but don’t have the ideal circumstances,” she said.

The enthusiastic response to the solar farm indicates that a good many LES customers fall in that category. The program launched on Aug. 1, 2014. “We held a press conference to announce it on Aug. 2, and 1,200 customers had signed up by the time we signed the agreement,” Porter recalled.

Marketing of the solar installation was not limited to the news conference. LES enlisted the same local environmental groups and citizens who had pushed for the project to speak to community groups. Promotion also included a two-month blitz of social media, radio interviews, posters, newspaper ads and bill stuffers.

Future builds on past
Now that LES has had a chance to gauge the real interest in the solar project, the promotion has entered its second phase. “The site is highly visible from Interstate 80, so the community can watch as the project is constructed and feel like a part of it,” Porter said.

The solar farm will significantly increase the amount of solar power in the municipal utility’s resource mix. In addition to the customer rooftop systems, LES recently added 50 kilowatts of solar energy through a rooftop solar array on one of its service buildings.

LES prides itself on a history of aggressively building its renewable energy portfolio, starting with two utility-owned and customer-financed wind turbines in 1998. The new solar program further diversifies an energy supply that includes 4.8 MW generated by the Bluff Road Landfill waste-to-energy facility, commissioned in 2013.

The new wind and solar contracts are only the latest example of the municipal utility’s move toward greater sustainability. In a changing industry, this openness to innovation has helped LES control costs, ensure reliable power delivery and keep rates affordable for its customer-owners. As Wailes explained, “We make decisions to best reflect the values of our community.”

Upcoming deadlines

Catching up on industry news

Welcome to 2015, a time to start fresh and explore new territory. Whether that means launching or updating efficiency programs, seeking out more education or bringing attention to your successes, here are some news items to help you on your way.

Efficiency increases in 2014
Watch for new appliance efficiency standards from the Department of Energy. In 2014, DOE issued a total of 10 new or updated standards, including commercial refrigeration, electric motors, external power supplies, furnace fans, metal halide lamps, wall-unit air conditioners and walk-in coolers. Altogether, these 10 standards will help reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than 435 million metric tons and save American families and businesses $78 billion in electricity bills through 2030.

Source: Appliance Standards Awareness Project 1/16/15

Regulations matter
According to the Edison Foundation Institute for Electric Innovation (IEI), fixed-cost recovery mechanisms play a significant role in supporting electric efficiency. The 2014 IEI report Redirecting to a non-government site found that investment in energy efficiency depends on state policies that allow utilities to pursue efficiency as a sustainable business as well as state mandates for energy efficiency.

Fixed-cost recovery mechanisms, such as decoupling and lost revenue adjustment, help a utility recover the marginal revenue associated with fixed operating costs. Utilities appear to be more willing to invest in programs to reduce energy use if state regulations allow them to recoup their losses.

The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) bolsters the IEI report, with nine of the top 10 states on its 2014 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard Redirecting to a non-government site having a fixed-cost recovery mechanism.

Source: SmartWatt Energy News, 1/15/15

Dive into hot water
Drought will continue to be a major concern in 2015, so events that focus on water use may well become the hot ticket. The ACEEE Hot Water Forum Redirecting to a non-government site (HWF) is now in its sixth year of gathering experts to discuss making water hot, distributing it with low losses, and employing efficient fixtures and practices. Professionals from manufacturing; distribution (plumbing); electricity, gas and water utilities; government; and the research communities will meet in Nashville, Tennessee, Feb. 22-24 to learn from each other and build momentum for market transformation.

The conference emphasizes both the technical efficiency potential and the policy implications of service hot water technology and practices, and how people use hot water. In recent years, key topics have included:

  • Standards and rating methods
  • Grid-interactive electric water heating
  • All about heat pump water heaters
  • The latest in innovative technologies
  • Efforts to improve residential water heating efficiency
  • An international perspective on water heating

Utilities still have a great deal to learn about the water-energy nexus  and its potential for cost and resource savings.

Since 2008, this conference has provided a venue for all members of the hot water community to collaborate and share new ideas.

Source: American Council for and Energy Efficient Economy, 1/17/15

Learn something new
If professional development is on your list of resolutions, check out the pre-conference training sessions that kick off the National Conference of the Association for Energy Services ProfessionalsRedirecting to a non-government site (AESP) in Orlando, Florida, Feb. 9-12.

The sessions include:

  • Behavior Change and Energy Efficiency Programs
  • Intro to the Principles of EM&V (Evaluation, Measurement and Verification)
  • Leadership Training for Exceptional Team Performance

The fee for each course is $545, and continuing education units will be available. You don’t have to attend the conference to take advantage of the workshops, but AESP events are always great for networking and expanding your horizons.

Source: Association for Energy Services Professionals, 1/14/15

Get recognition
Submit your successful peak load and demand response management programs, initiatives and achievements for the 12th annual PLMA Awards Redirecting to a non-government site. The Peak Load Management Alliance (PLMA) is accepting nominations through March 2 for the following categories:

  • Program Pacesetter – recognizes outstanding programs that effectively support and deliver peak load management
  • Technology Pioneer – recognizes innovative applications of technology with demonstrated potential to scale
  • Outstanding Thought Leader – recognizes the impact of projects, outreach campaigns and individual contributions that have the potential to shape the industry’s future

You don’t have to be a PLMA member to nominate a program, and self-nominations are appropriate. One or more awards will be presented in each category with sub-categories for Utilities, Regulators, Independent System Operator/Regional Transmission Operator, Aggregator, Marketer, Consumer, Solutions Provider, Manufacturer, Individual, Organization or Project.

The awards will be presented at the 16th PLMA Spring Conference Redirecting to a non-government site, April 28-29, 2015, in Tucson, Arizona.

If you are interested in joining PLMA, the nonprofit now offers membership in three tiers. Utilities and other program providers may now join as associate, advising or sustaining members. Membership offers access to networking events and training, and the opportunity to participate in committees and working groups at various levels.

PLMA provides resources and advocacy for organizations involved in demand response initiatives, recently announced a change to its membership structure.

Source: Peak Load Management Alliance, 1/16/15

Energy Services is always on the lookout for information to help our customers cope with the challenges of delivering power in a changing industry. Feel free to share news items about events, programs, policies and technology that your utility finds useful.

Distributed PV Interconnection: Recent Analysis Findings

Jan. 21, 2015
11:30 AM Mountain Time

Register now Redirecting to a non-government site for the first Distributed Generation Interconnection Collaborative (DGIC) quarterly meeting and informational webinar of 2015!

National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) will present the results of forthcoming DGIC data collection and analysis measuring the timeframes for each stage of the interconnection process. Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) will follow NREL with a presentation of its recent survey of utility interconnection practices.

NREL and SEPA jointly facilitate the DGIC, with advisory support from Western and the Electric Power Research Institute. Quarterly DGIC meetings focus on current and emergent processes and protocols for interconnecting distributed PV, with the goal of encouraging stakeholders to share information and data.

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

Source: National Renewable Energy Laboratory, 1/7/15

New energy-efficient food packaging process subject of E3T webinar

The next webinar from the Emerging Technologies Showcase highlights Microwave Assisted Thermal Sterilization,  Redirecting to a non-government site  Jan. 21, at 11:00 AM Mountain Time.

Microwave Assisted Thermal Sterilization™ (MATS™) is an improved food preservation technology for processing high-moisture, low-acid perishable products in containers. Packaged foods treated with this process is shelf stable for prolonged periods at ambient temperatures. Improvements include dramatically reduced excess process heating time, resulting in superior product quality and nutritional attributes. Currently, energy engineers are working with food scientists to compare the energy intensities of MATS™ with conventional process technologies.

A question and answer session follows the presentation.

Western cosponsors this free monthly webinar series with the Bonneville Power Administration. All webinars are recorded and available on the E3T website, Redirecting to a non-government site  and Conduit. Redirecting to a non-government site 

Webinar describes utility trends in adopting community solar programs

SEPAWAPAFeb. 4, 2015
2 p.m. MST

Western Area Power Administration and the Solar Electric Power Association Redirecting to a non-government site (SEPA) are teaming up to present a webinar that explores the utility’s role in the community solar market segment on Feb. 4, 2015, from 2:00 to 3:30 p.m. Mountain Standard Time.

The community solar model offers utilities an innovative way to engage with customers who want to invest in renewable energy but, for a variety of rea­sons, may not be able to install rooftop arrays. Community solar programs offer utility customers the opportunity to buy “shares” in a centralized project, often called a solar farm or solar garden. Utilities around the nation are using these programs to meet growing consumer interest in supporting renewable energy.

SEPA has been tracking the spread of these proj­ects across the United States since early 2012. With nearly 60 active programs, utilities represent 87 percent of all com­munity solar programs now online.

Utility Trends in Adopting Community Solar Models Redirecting to a non-government site will open with Becky Campbell, SEPA Senior Manager of Research and Advisory Services, defining community solar and explaining why some utilities see it as a valuable customer engagement tool. Using case studies of actual utility programs to support the discussion, she will highlight nationwide utility trends in program adoption.

Presentations will cover additional data, including actual participation statistics that SEPA collected through a 2014 survey of utility program administrators. Atttendees will also learn about design characteristics common to some of the nation’s most successful community solar programs.

Randy Manion, manager of Western’s Renewable Resource Program, is urging Western customers to attend the webinar to learn more about this strategy for adding solar power to utility resource portfolios. “Several of our customers have already launched community solar programs, including Colorado Springs Utilities, Poudre Valley Rural Electric Association and Kit Carson Electric Cooperative,” he noted. “Their members have been enthusiastic, and many projects are fully subscribed before construction is complete.”

There is no cost to attend the webinar, but registration is required.

Lake City, Colo., installs weather station from Equipment Loan Program

Western Equipment Loan Manager Gary Hoffmann (left) and GCEA Energy Use Specialist Alantha Garrison talk to Lake City Community School students about the town’s new weather station. (Photo by Gunnison County Electric Association)

Western Equipment Loan Manager Gary Hoffmann (left) and GCEA Energy Use Specialist Alantha Garrison talk to Lake City Community School students about the town’s new weather station. (Photo by Gunnison County Electric Association)

Gunnison County Electric Association Redirecting to a non-government site (GCEA) has joined the list of Western customers who have borrowed a weather station from our Equipment Loan Program to teach students and their parents about the weather in their community.Equipment Loan Manager Gary Hoffmann traveled to Lake City, Colorado, in November to deliver the unit and help technicians from GCEA install it on a theater. The station collects data on temperature, humidity, wind speed, rainfall, solar energy and more. The information is available on the Weather Underground website Redirecting to a non-government site .

Lake City Community School students, teachers and district officials attended an unveiling event for the weather station organized by Philip Virden, the theater owner. Teachers plan to incorporate the weather station data into science lesson plans. The data will help the next generation of consumers gain a better understanding of how the weather relates to energy use and renewable energy generation.

When school is out, GCEA will continue to use the weather station data to monitor conditions for service calls in the Lake City area. GCEA Energy Use Specialist Alantha Garrison hopes the data can help cooperative members to better understand their utility bills, as well. Both Garrison and Virden are observers for the National Weather Service, so they appreciate the value of accurate weather information.

We look forward to following GCEA and the community as they put their weather data to use in the coming year. You can read more about the weather station in the GCEA News (Page 9). To learn more about education tools available from Western’s Equipment Loan Program, contact Gary Hoffmann.

City of Palo Alto Utilities tests smart streetlights along El Camino Real

City seeking feedback on solar project

This fully integrated smart solar streetlight, one of nine along El Camino Real in Palo Alto, California, produces energy equivalent to power two streetlights. The city is asking residents  to give their opinions on the streetlights in an online survey.

This fully integrated smart solar streetlight, one of nine along El Camino Real in Palo Alto, California, produces energy equivalent to power two streetlights. The city is asking residents to give their opinions on the project in an online survey.

El Camino Real, a historic road that runs nearly the full length of California’s coastline, is making history again for its role in a six-month pilot project being conducted by the City of Palo Alto Utilities Redirecting to a non-government site (CPAU). In partnership with energy technology provider Petra Systems, Redirecting to a non-government site CPAU recently installed a string of nine smart solar streetlights along “The Royal Road.”

The installation is testing the potential to generate renewable energy on streetlight poles. Solar photovoltaic, or PV, modules placed high on the poles capture the sun’s energy and send it to the city’s electric grid. The technology could help transform ordinary streetlights into a network of distributed solar power generating assets.

Taking community’s pulse
The PV-fitted streetlights are located along a well-trafficked mile of El Camino Real. Interpretive signs in the area educate passers-by about the technology. “The pilot project area runs right by Stanford University, as well as soccer fields and parks, so residents will see what we are doing and be able to form an opinion about it,” noted CPAU Communications Manager Catherine Elvert. “We are encouraging community members to provide feedback through an online survey.”

The survey asks questions about residents’ support for CPAU increasing the use of solar power, and allows them to express concerns about aesthetics, light quality and other issues. “The customer response to these modules can help us gauge how aggressively to pursue this type of local generation,” Elvert added.

CPAU is engaged in several local solar initiatives as part of its ongoing commitment to invest in clean energy resources.

Innovating through partnership
Through its Program for Emerging Technologies, the municipal utility is able to “test drive” systems that may improve operations, create jobs and boost the sustainability of CPAU’s generation portfolio. Launched in 2012, the program seeks out and nurtures creative products and services that manage and better use electricity, gas, water and fiber optic services.

Partnering with high-tech companies keeps the cost of innovation down. The El Camino Solar Test project will increase Palo Alto’s renewable energy production at no cost to the city. Petra Systems offered CPAU the solar modules to evaluate their performance over the six-month pilot duration. The nine units are estimated to have a total nameplate capacity of about 2.25 kilowatts, with each solar module expected to produce 374 kilowatt-hours per year. That electricity is enough to power the equivalent of two streetlights, making the LED, or light-emitting diode, streetlights net producers of electricity.

Improving service, lowering costs
Project Manager Lindsay Joye pointed out that generation is just a small part of smart solar technology performance. “The technology goes well beyond self-powering to give the city greater control of its streetlight assets,” she said.

The modules are equipped with an LED light controller that allows the city to remotely turn streetlights on or off. The brightness of individual lights or groups of lights can be adjusted to accommodate the traffic levels in different neighborhoods, as well. On a citywide scale, the dimming function can provide even deeper energy savings from the already-efficient LED lamps, Joye noted.

The system offers additional features that can streamline maintenance and enhance public safety. The controller can flicker specific lights to help direct emergency response personnel when needed, and can notify the city immediately of a malfunctioning light, including the failure type and exact location. Elvert said, “If the city decides to expand the project, high-traffic roads and expressways would be good candidates for installations. With the smart-grid and remote control capabilities, there would be less need to put our crews in harm’s way.”

Shelton Group releases Energy Pulse 2014

We have been hearing it for years now: The utility industry is changing in a fundamental way. Yet many power providers are still waiting to see how the new energy landscape shapes up before deciding how to react.  Energy Pulse 2014: Navigating a Rapidly Changing Residential Energy Environment Redirecting to a non-government site makes a strong case for seizing the moment.

According to report author The Shelton Group, dozens of companies are now competing for control of the American home energy market in a sandbox where only utilities used to play. Moreover, these upstarts have the consumers’ attention. The data from the annual consumer survey points to the need for utilities, builders and manufacturers to develop a proactive strategy for customer engagement.

A key point in Energy Pulse is that utilities can no longer assume their customers will remain loyal in a marketplace of new options for acquiring and managing energy. Other findings reveal:

  • Which Americans aren’t thrilled with their utilities – and why that doesn’t necessarily matter
  • How many Americans would actually leave their utility if they could – and where they’d like to go instead for their electric service
  • Why consumers aren’t participating in energy efficiency programs – and what can be done to change that
  • Which home energy needs are crying out to be filled by utilities, builders and manufacturers – and how to get residential customers on board
  • What Gen Xers and Millennials say about technology and energy consumption ­­­­­– and why they may hold the utility’s success or failure in their hands

The good news is that power providers can emerge as winners in the new energy game —if they take steps to build rock-solid customer relationships. The report suggests strategies such as:

  • Disrupting consumers’ denial ­– because a growing economy and lower fuel prices have given them amnesia about why they need to make energy-efficiency improvements.
  • Revamping incentives – because most consumers don’t know they exist and too many layers of red tape keep them from participating in utility programs.
  • Learning to speak the customer’s language – because consumers rarely make energy-efficiency improvements for the reasons utilities think they do (hint: most consumers can’t even explain what the term “HVAC” means.)
  • Inventing new products and services to win customer loyalty – because with the home energy market up for grabs, utilities need loyal customers more than ever.

Download the executive summary for a free sneak-peek, and while you are there, consider signing up for Shelton Insights newsletter.

The Energy Pulse questionnaire surveyed a total of 2,009 Americans online, using members of Survey Sampling International’s online panel of over three million U.S. Internet users. Based on the total population of U.S. households (116,291,033), results from this study have an overall confidence level of 95 percent and a margin of error of +/- 2.2 percent.

The Shelton Group is a marketing communications agency dedicated to the sustainability and energy-efficiency sectors. Founder Suzanne Shelton has been a frequent and popular speaker at the Utility Energy Forum and the Rocky Mountain Utility Efficiency Exchange.

Source: The Shelton Group, 12/16/14