NMPP helps members with net-metering service, resource book

If integrating distributed generation is challenging for large utilities, imagine the difficulties faced by rural and small municipal utilities. With 200 member communities located in six western states, Nebraska Municipal Power Pool You are leaving WAPA.gov. (NMPP) doesn’t have to use imagination to identify the needs of its members.

Distributed generation is becoming increasingly popular even in rural communities. NMPP has developed aresource guidebook to help prepare its members to deal with the challenges of interconnection.

Distributed generation is becoming increasingly popular even in rural communities. NMPP has developed a resource guidebook to help prepare its members to deal with the challenges of interconnection.

NMPP is the utility services organization of NMPP Energy, the trade name for a coalition of four organizations based in Nebraska that provide municipal utilities with wholesale electricity, wholesale and retail natural gas and energy-related services. Some of its members serve as few as 200 customers with minimal staff who wear many hats, said NMPP Energy Communications Specialist Kevin Wickham. “We saw the need to help our members with interconnection coming several years ago when some of the states we serve passed net-metering laws,” he recalled.

Building new services
NMPP launched a net-metering service in 2010 that 22 member utilities have used to date. That number is likely to increase as the cost of installing individual solar arrays drops and utilities install community solar projects.

The net-metering program offers members a choice of three options, each for a cost-based, one-time fee. Members may choose from assistance in developing their own policy guideline and procedures, review of customer generation application for interconnection or avoided cost rate development for payment for energy delivered to the utility.

As it developed its net metering service, NMPP was also working on a resource guidebook, Recommended Policy and Guidelines for Interconnection of Customer-Owned Generation Including Net Metering. “The guidebook was six years in the making,” said Wickham. “Initially, we were going to offer it as one of the services available under the program.”

Something everyone needs
In 2015, NMPP and its wholesale power supply organization Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska You are leaving WAPA.gov. (MEAN) partnered to provide the guidebook to all of MEAN’s 54 long-term total requirements power participants. “Distributed generation and customer self-generation has really taken off and we realized that there was a greater need for the information,” Wickham explained.

The guidebook contains policy guidance, sample agreements, industry terms and definitions and case studies from the American Public Power Association. You are leaving WAPA.gov. Members will also find net-metering statutes from the states NMPP and MEAN serve (Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa and Kansas). That was one of the bigger challenges in putting together the guidebook, Wickham acknowledged. “Each city council and each utility designs and administers its own policies and procedures around net metering,” he said. “We had to make sure the guidebook was going to be useful to all our customers.”

Input from several regional utilities and trade associations helped NMPP compile a comprehensive resource. Otherwise, the net-metering guidebook was a product of expertise within the organization. “The guidebook wouldn’t have been possible without the cooperation from those utilities, as well as the American Public Power Association,” said Tim Sutherland, MEAN director of wholesale electric operations.

Prepared for future
With an estimated 900 kilowatts of solar power on MEAN’s system, distributed generation has arrived, noted Wickham. “Customers have high expectations when it comes to utility customer service. We  stress to our members to be prepared, starting with things like having an interconnection agreement in place before a customer walks in the door,” he said.

MEAN member utilities, especially the small ones, are finding the resource useful in working out their renewable interconnection policies. “The creation of the net-metering guidebook was the result of being responsive to MEAN’s power participants’ needs,” said Sutherland. “It is just an example of seeing a need and trying to assist our member-owners.”

Utilities can expect to be confronting the challenge of distributed generation and other changes in the electric industry well into the future, Sutherland noted. NMPP and MEAN will continue to look for services, programs and tools to help their member-owners provide consumers with reliable, affordable and sustainable power, he added.

Residential Program Solution Center seeks input from users

Whether you are serving a new market or adding new energy-efficiency services to your portfolio, the Solution Center has the information you need to get started.

Whether you are serving a new market or adding new energy-efficiency services to your portfolio, the Solution Center has the information you need to get started. (Artwork by DOE Better Buildings Initiative)

The Department of Energy (DOE) is seeking volunteers to share their thoughts and experiences using the Better Buildings Residential Program Solution Center.

Launched in 2014, the Better Buildings Residential Program Solution Center is a repository for key lessons, resources and knowledge about the planning, operation and evaluation of residential energy-efficiency programs.

DOE is convening a focus group of Solution Center users this August to collect thoughts, opinions and experiences using it. This information will be used to guide improvements to the resources. Our goal is to make the Solution Center the primary online resource that residential energy-efficiency program administrators turn to for program implementation insights, solutions and ideas. This focus group is an excellent opportunity for power providers to share their insights on how to make the Solution Center a more effective tool for utility program managers.

If you are interested in participating in this focus group, please email the Better Buildings Residential Program Solution Center team by Wednesday, July 13, with the following information:

  • Your first and last name
  • Email address
  • Phone number
  • Organization
  • Title/role

The program is specifically seeking volunteers who:

  • Are aware of the Solution Center’s content and organization
  •  Have used the Solution Center to look for something to help their program
  • Serve as a program administrator or are in a decision-making role for a residential energy-efficiency program

DOE plans to convene the focus group the week of August 15 via a conference call. The time commitment of participants will be approximately one hour. Energy Services is interested in hearing about WAPA customers’ experiences with the Solution Center as well. Contact the Energy Services Bulletin editor if you would like to share your story.

Source: DOE Better Buildings Initiative, 6/27/16

Around the web: Home Performance with Energy Star

AroundTheWebCreating an energy-efficient home is a worthwhile goal. It is cooler in the summer, warmer in the winter, costs the homeowner less money to keep it that way and helps the environment. What’s not to like? Well, the difficulty of finding financing for upgrades, choosing the right equipment or systems and hiring contractors who are experienced in properly installing high-performance systems, to name just a few challenges.

To help homeowners overcome these barriers to successful energy-efficiency upgrades, the Department of Energy launched Home Performance with ENERGY STAR (HPwES) in 2011. The program connects homeowners with program sponsors and contractors who can help them improve their home comfort, indoor air quality and safety, while lowering utility bills.HPXMLven

How it works
HPwES takes the “whole house” approach to energy improvements that helps make the most of the homeowner’s investment. Rather than focusing on a single problem, participating contractors look at how improvements throughout the house can work together to get the best results.

To find participating contractors, homeowners go through HPwES-sponsored local programs. The contractors, who are trained to understand how homes operate, identify health and safety issues and provide the homeowner with personalized recommendations for increasing the house’s energy efficiency.

HPwES sponsors perform quality assurance checks on their contractors to ensure that the improvements are done right. In states where incentives are available, sponsors may also help homeowners apply for rebates.

Supporting retrofit programs
Becoming a Home Performance with ENERGY STAR sponsor is good for utilities as well as homeowners. Starting a residential efficiency improvement program from scratch is difficult, even for large utilities. Sponsors have access to a variety of resources they can use to implement and grow their programs and reach their own local energy savings goals. Program support includes account management services, marketing material, partnership and collaboration opportunities and resources from the Better Buildings Residential Solutions Center.

Because sponsorship is not limited to one type of organization, utilities have the opportunity to partner with municipalities, state energy programs and financial institutions. Collaborating with other agencies can make programs more effective, multiplying the benefits of efficiency upgrades across communities.

Improving communication
Helping sponsors to develop their own programs and connecting them to contractor pools is not the only way HPwES works to break down the siloes that stand in the way of a more efficient marketplace. Last year, the program introduced the HPXML Implementation Guide to help program administrators and software developers integrate HPXML into their operations and products.

Developed by Building Performance Institute, You are leaving WAPA.gov. HPXML is a set of common definitions for the attributes of home systems. It also includes computing language to facilitate the quick and easy transfer of home-related data between different market actors. Collecting and sharing this data across the industry is critical to supporting, measuring and verifying energy performance. The DOE expects the use of HPXML to build stronger relationships within the industry, increase consumer trust in energy-efficiency improvements and enhance the ability to evaluate programs.

Most program managers agree that measurement and evaluation is one of the big challenges of administration, so the HPXML guide could be a valuable resource for utilities. Visitors can learn more about the value the HPXML guide can bring to businesses, along with implementation methods, from a recorded webinar on the website.

Overton Power District plans to succeed

On the wide spectrum of utility policies that encourage customers to adopt renewable energy systems, Overton Power District 5 You are leaving WAPA.gov. (OPD) is on the ambitious end of the spectrum.

Desert Southwest Energy Services Representative Audrey Colletti pointed out the strategy in OPD’s most recent integrated resource plan (IRP). “I look for customer goals and achievements in their IRPs and alternative reports,” explained Colletti.

“For example, one customer hasn’t increased rates in over five years, while another is thinking of decreasing rates. Some offer renewable power that is less expensive than fossil generation, but it is unusual for a small customer to make such an aggressive push to add more renewables.”

Residential solar installations like this 10-kW array benefit from a net-metering policy Overton Power District 5 developed to grow the renewable energy portion of its power portfolio. (Photo by Randall Ozaki, OPD5)

Residential solar installations like this 10-kW array benefit from a net-metering policy Overton Power District 5 developed to increase the amount of sustainable electricity in its power portfolio. (Photo by Randall Ozaki, OPD5)

The Southern Nevada power provider is playing the long game with an eye on someday generating most of its own electricity through renewables. “But that day is a long way off,” acknowledged OPD General Manager Mendis Cooper. “Our current goal is to provide ways to help our customers.”

Keeping customers in mind
Happily, the steps OPD is taking to increase renewables in its portfolio are also good for its 15,000, mostly residential customers. Its generous net-metering policy for small renewable systems is a notable step. Customers who install renewable generators that comply with OPD policies are eligible to receive a rebate of up to $2,500 for homeowners and up to $5,000 for large commercial industrial accounts. Since OPD implemented the policy, 49 net meters have been installed.

Increasing energy-efficiency programs is also part of OPD’s long-range plan that benefits customers in the near term. Thanks to a power contract, OPD will soon be stepping up its efforts to move customers to more efficient appliances and water and space heating systems. “We see natural gas as a reliability measure, but the savings will help to finance more customer efficiency measures, too,” Cooper explained.

Piecing together affordable sustainability
Even with the high cost of tapping gas lines, low natural gas prices are a boon to OPD—for now. “In eight to 10 years, gas prices are likely to go up,” said Cooper. “The cost of renewable resources, which are getting more competitive all the time, won’t be rising.”

The transition to a sustainable power supply is challenging for a utility that must rely on other providers for both generation and transmission, as OPD does. Cooper would like to get more WAPA hydropower, but acknowledges that ongoing drought conditions make that unlikely. OPD now has 49 rooftop solar arrays on its system, but the utility is investigating the feasibility of and support for utility-scale development. “That is where our customers will really see the benefits of alternative energy,” the general manager observed.

OPD also offers customers rebates for wind turbines and ground-source heat pumps.

Using all tools
OPD’s comprehensive long-range plan presents other opportunities—and identifies challenges—for load management as well. A scheme to install low-impedance transformers and implement power factor correction promises to increase systemwide efficiency.

With spillover growth from Las Vegas expected to add load over the next five years, OPD is working to encourage Clark County to adopt high-efficiency building standards. Programs to rebate measures such as weather stripping, relamping, heat pump systems and window replacement are being considered for existing buildings.

Another, nearly inexhaustible resource—an engaged and energy-savvy customer base—factors into OPD’s plans, too. The IRP highlights the utility’s use of social media to educate its customers about building technology, appliance energy use, efficient equipment and systems and no-cost common sense behaviors.

It will take every tool at OPD’s disposal to move its portfolio toward clean resources and self-generation. But that is what long-term planning is for, notes Cooper. “The IRP keeps our goals at the forefront where we can’t forget about them, and it reminds us every day of the issues we have to address.”

Upcoming deadlines

Learn more about WAPA from these resources

Our mission in Energy Services is to keep WAPA customers informed about tools and technologies that help you with resource planning. Now, for those who would like to know more about how WAPA works and why, we offer two online resources: The Source and The Customer Circuit.

The theme for the Customer Circuit Spring 2016 was working with Washington D.C.

The theme for the Customer Circuit Spring 2016 was working with Washington D.C.

Launched in spring of this year, The Source is a one-stop online shop for operational data and financial information about WAPA. Western Administrator and CEO Mark A. Gabriel explained, “We recognize people’s desire to have information at their fingertips. With that in mind, we created this site for stakeholders and the public to quickly find the information they need. When our customers have requests, we are well positioned to deliver.”

Nearly all the information is already available throughout Western’s primary website. The Source, however, provides one convenient location for visitors to find WAPA’s annual reports, budget allocation, presentations and speeches, regional rates and a searchable index of WAPA’s power systems called “By the Numbers.”

The Customer Circuit is a quarterly newsletter that provides customers with information about WAPA’s operations, programs, budget and initiatives. Each issue explores a specific theme; the most recent issue includes a story about how WAPA’s Washington, D.C., Liaison Office works with other federal agencies. The winter issue covered the state of WAPA’s assets including regional offices, hydrology conditions, transmission, security and cyber assets. Customers and other visitors can download the Customer Circuit, including past issues, on The Source.

The Source and Customer Circuit, like WAPA’s website redesign project, are all part of the same effort to enhance and expand transparency and to improve our website functionality. We encourage customers to visit the WAPA website and take the redesign survey. If you would like to have more input in how WAPA shares information with its customers, contact Public Affairs at 720-962-7050, to volunteer for remote user testing.

Chief Public Affairs Officer Teresa Waugh said, “Our goal is to present relevant and timely information in the clearest, most efficient way possible.”

Utilities talk safety at 2016 Fall Protection Symposium

More than 150 attendees from across the United States, Canada and even Europe came to Loveland, Colorado, May 17-18, to share best practices in utility field work, get an update on federal regulations and learn about the latest advances in safety equipment.

The two-day Fall Protection Symposium featured expert speakers from utilities, government agencies and equipment manufacturers.

The two-day Fall Protection Symposium featured expert speakers from utilities, government agencies and equipment manufacturers.

Navigating new rules
The 2016 Fall Protection Symposium, cosponsored by Western and Tri-State Generation and Transmission AssociationYou are leaving WAPA.gov. offered an in-depth look at all these topics in depth. With the new fall protection standards Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) enacted last year, on-the-job safety has become a lot more complex, and many utilities are still climbing the learning curve.

Modesto Irrigation District, You are leaving WAPA.gov. a water and electricity provider in California’s Central Valley, is just beginning to develop its fall protection program. MID Line Construction Manager Marty Gonzalez came to the event in part for the networking opportunities. “We want to learn more about what utilities with established programs are doing,” he explained.

Latchways fall protection system manufacturer continually collects data from utility workers to improve their equipment design.

Latchways fall protection system manufacturer continually collects data from utility workers to improve their equipment design.

Tools improving
Gonzalez also hoped to pick up more safety tips for MID crews and look for better tools, an interest many attendees shared.

Several equipment manufacturers were on the agenda and had tables in the conference room to display their latest products. Vendor presentations ranged from the traditional—harnesses, belts, fasteners and ropes—to high-tech. In the latter category, Fabio Bologna from the Electric Power Research Institute discussed the barriers as well as the potential for drone use in utility maintenance work.

Todd Horning & Brian Bourquin of Safety One Training demonstrate a shepherd’s hook during their presentation on Tuesday of the Fall Protection Symposium.

Todd Horning & Brian Bourquin of Safety One Training demonstrate a shepherd’s hook during their presentation on Tuesday of the Fall Protection Symposium.

Keeping up with OSHA
The 2016 symposium attracted many alumni from the previous event who were eager to hear about lessons learned from the first year of applying OSHA regulations. “Things can change quite a bit in one year, so it is worthwhile to get updates and talk about where we can make improvements,” noted Sam Waggoner of Xcel Energy.

David Wallis, who authored and contributed to safety and health standards as director of the OSHA Office of Engineering Safety, shared his extensive knowledge of electrical safety standards and work rules.

Increasing safety and protecting utility workers from dangerous falls is an ongoing challenge that requires commitment from every power provider. Western thanks Tri-State and all the professionals who helped make the 2016 Fall Protection Symposium a success.

LES, APPA create Clean Power Plan modeling tool

The Clean Power Plan, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule that seeks to reduce the United States’ carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 32 percent in 2030, presents state regulators and the electricity sector with new challenges as well as opportunities. Utilities and states will need to work closely to find cost‐effective means of reducing CO2 emissions from existing power plants and, in some cases, to demonstrate performance for EPA requirements. Many states may find it necessary to implement a CO2 emissions trading program.CleanPowerPlanModel

While utilities have a history of using complex modeling and forecasting tools, state regulators are less familiar with these processes. To help bridge that communication gap, Lincoln Electric System You are leaving WAPA.gov. and the American Public Power Association You are leaving WAPA.gov. have developed the Clean Power Plan Modeling Tool. This model is utility-focused, making it unique among various tools available for assessing a state’s potential compliance under the final rule. Users are able to assess the potential compliance position of a specific utility, providing for much deeper insight into the potential ramifications for your company and the customers it serves.

The tool is designed to:

  • Provide a useful, quantitative look at potential compliance options based upon planned and/or forecast generation capacity additions and retirements
  • Allow public power utilities to evaluate their potential compliance position
  • Provide deep insight into the potential ramifications for utilities and their customers

Utilities may also find the model useful for integrated resource planning.

The Clean Power Plan Modeling Tool is free to APPA members. Upon ordering, the user will receive an email with instructions on accessing the tool.

Source: Public Power Daily, 5/24/16

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

The Palo Alto 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 You are leaving WAPA.gov..guepsuccess

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.

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 curriculum, 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 usage 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.

Tools to manage today’s use
CPAU is rolling out new programs like the Home Efficiency Genie audit and a new residential online utility portal 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.

Competition is tough
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.