Long road leads to solar success for Southern Ute tribe

Tenacity paid off for the Southern Ute Indian Tribe on July 24, when they dedicated their newly commissioned and fully operational Oxford Solar Project on the Southern Ute Indian Reservation in Ignacio, Colorado.

The Southern Ute Tribe built their solar array on the mostly unusable Oxford Tract near a substation and just three miles from the tribal building campus.

The Southern Ute Tribe built their solar array on the mostly unusable Oxford Tract near a substation and just three miles from the tribal building campus. (Photo by the Southern Ute Indian Tribe)

The years it took to develop the 1.3-megawatt (MW), ground-mounted solar photovoltaic (PV) system ultimately ensured that the project was a winner for all involved. The array will reduce operating costs for the tribe by offsetting about 15 percent of the energy used by 10 tribal buildings. The siting of the project repurposes more than 10 acres of tribal land that was mostly unusable due to naturally occurring selenium contamination. The Oxford Tract, as the land parcel is called, has strong solar resources, is located near two substations and does not have any endangered or threatened species on it. La Plata Electric AssociationYou are leaving WAPA.gov. which is purchasing the power and providing the grid connection, counts the electricity toward its goal of 20 percent local generation by 2020.

Slow start gathers steam
The Southern Ute Tribe first began to explore the idea of building a PV system in 2006 as a way of diversifying its business interests, and launched the Southern Ute Alternative Energy LLC (SUAE) in 2008. As a for-profit business, the SUAE evaluated solar PV development opportunities on tribal lands from a business perspective. For several years, alternative energy projects remained stubbornly out of reach, too costly for SUAE to pursue.

The turning point came in 2011 when the tribe performed a new feasibility study to look at potential sites and business models. James Jensen, who had recently joined the SUAE staff, recalled that the study was very thorough. “We were open to projects either on or off of tribal land,” he said. “If it was on tribal land, what was the best location? We evaluated environmental factors like whether the land was arable or disturbed or in a floodplain.”

The study also considered the proximity of transmission and substations to potential sites and did economic modeling on hypothetical projects. “We came out of the process with a comprehensive understanding of what would make a successful solar project,” said Jensen.

The findings determined that the Oxford Tract was the most suitable location for a utility-scale solar development, and that a grant was needed to make the project economical.

JumpSTARTing project
Southern Ute Grant Specialist Jody Rosier began working with Jensen on the grant application to submit to the Department of Energy (DOE). Financial help wasn’t the only thing DOE had to offer the tribe, however.

Just as important, Rosier recalled, was the tribe’s participation in the Strategic Technical Assistance Response Team (START) Program. START, a program of the DOE Office of Indian Energy, provides technical assistance to help Native American tribes complete renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. “START analyzed and validated the findings of the feasibility study,” Rosier recalled, “and helped the tribe to establish a relationship with DOE.”

The program also helped the tribe determine the siting of the project near substations belonging to LPEA. “Initially, the project was planned as a ‘virtual metering’ situation, where any kilowatt-hours being generated would offset kilowatt-hours the tribe was using,” explained LPEA Engineering Manager Ron Meier. “Siting the array near a substation was key to making physics work. It really simplified the development process for them.”

Beyond that, Meier added, the purchase power agreement was pretty straightforward. With a budget of $3 million co-funded by the tribe and a $1.5 million grant from the DOE, it was time to start building.

Ready, set, install!
SUAE issued a request for proposals at the end of 2014 for an 800-kW system. It was around that time that the solar industry saw a significant drop in the price of panels. “We were pleasantly surprised when the bids came back to find that we could afford to build a somewhat larger project,” said Jensen.

The tribe chose Boulder, Colorado-based Namaste Solar to design the project for the tribe and install the tracking panels. Jody Rosier noted that tracking technology is becoming more common in new solar installations. “Panels that follow the sun across the sky generate more electricity and that improves a project’s economics,” she said.

The long process that culminated in the July 24 celebration provided the Southern Ute tribe with a thorough education in solar development. Jensen observed that the most important lesson they learned might be to keep the first project simple. He pointed to the selection of a site that did not require an environmental impact study as one factor that kept the project from getting too financially and legally complicated.

Although grants that require matching funds may put projects beyond a tribe’s reach, Rosier encourages tribes that are interested in developing renewable energy systems to investigate available grants. “Grants that require matching funds may not work for tribes,” she warned. “But once the renewable system is up and running, it provides years of sustainable electricity and needs little maintenance.” 

Source: Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs, 7/25/17

ACEEE blog series explores energy-efficiency investments in US

Stacks of American dollar billsEnergy efficiency is a big and growing business with $231 billion invested globally in 2016, according to an estimate by the International Energy Agency You are leaving WAPA.gov. (IEA). The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) used the release of the IEA Worldwide Investment report in July as a springboard to examine how much the United States invests in energy efficiency, what is driving that investment and how it could be increased.

We spend how much?
The first blog post, How Many Billions do US Businesses and Individuals Invest in Energy Efficiency Each Year?You are leaving WAPA.gov. gave $41 billion as the estimated figure for efficiency spending in our country. This was the first year that the IEA report gave a separate estimate for the U.S., but spending was not broken out by sector. Based on the worldwide estimate, about 58 percent of that spending is for buildings, 26 percent for transportation and 16 percent for industry.

Drawing on other spending reports to get a clearer picture, ACEEE concludes that our energy-efficiency investments may actually range from $60 billion to $115 billion annually. This wide-ranging estimate results from different studies employing different measurement methods and parameters. However, additional research by ACEEE and by the U.S. Green Building Council You are leaving WAPA.gov. suggest this range is reasonable.

Policy appears to be the primary driver in energy-efficiency investments, with building codes and appliance and vehicle standards responsible for about $20 billion worth. “Spillover” occurs when policies and programs, such as utility incentives and customer programs, indirectly influence consumer decisions.

Reasons why
Other factors driving the decision to invest in energy efficiency include income and education levels among residential consumers and type of industry for business customers.

Who Invests in Energy Efficiency and Why?, the second blog post, cites a survey by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) showing that large firms are more likely to engage in energy management activities than small companies. Businesses participating in the Shelton Group’s 2016 B2B Pulse study You are leaving WAPA.gov. rated how important sustainability and conservation were to their company’s operating and capital expenditure decisions. Commercial real estate development and property management were the industry groups that gave energy issues the most consideration.

The EIA’s 2015 Residential Energy Consumption Survey found that consumers with higher incomes are more likely to make energy-efficiency investments large enough to be eligible for federal energy-efficiency tax credits. Smaller investments, such as new lightbulbs, do not appear to be affected by consumer income. Another study found an education effect along with the income effect, but income and education are usually closely related. Households that have moved within the last three years spend more on efficiency improvements, as do younger families.

The reasons commercial customers offer for making efficiency upgrades, while not unexpected, show a subtle shift in priorities. From the Shelton Group study, business customers cited “energy savings or other cost reductions” as the leading motivation for investing in efficiency. Although concern about climate change ranked toward the bottom of the list, the percentage of respondents that mentioned it has nearly doubled in the last year.

Saving on electric bills also topped the reasons residential customers gave for undertaking energy-efficiency improvements at 61 percent. Making the home more comfortable followed with 35 percent and making the home healthier was mentioned by 27 percent of respondents. Taken together, comfort and safety are an equal consideration to financial concerns. The study recommends focusing homeowners on both the financial and non-financial benefits of energy efficiency to explain the value of their investment.

Let’s do more
The final post addresses the question on every utility program manager’s mind—How Can we Increase Energy Efficiency Investments?—and offers 10 suggestions to make it happen. According to ACEEE, only about one-quarter of households and businesses implement efficiency upgrades, in spite of the benefits.

The suggestions focus on expanding what is already working, while remaining open to new approaches. More measurement and benchmarking could help program providers identify successful programs and help customers see the value of energy-efficiency improvements. The article also recommends seeking partnerships with real estate, financial and construction industries to reach consumers through different channels.

Energy-efficiency investments were 8-9 percent higher in 2016 than in 2015. The ACEEE blog series offers some starting points to help utilities keep the momentum going. Energy Services looks forward to hearing about your ideas for getting more results from your existing programs and for creative new service offerings.

Source: American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy

Conference highlights initiatives worth imitating

Rocky Mountain Utility Efficiency Exchange
Aspen Meadows Resort
Sept. 27-29

Rolling into its second decade, the Rocky Mountain Utility Efficiency Exchange You are leaving WAPA.gov. has now been around long enough for its many participants to see the fruits of meeting annually to swap program ideas and stories of successes and failures with colleagues from across the region.

Utility program managers will be gathering at the Gold LEED-certified Doerr-Hosier Center at Aspen Meadows Resort Sept. 26-29 to share their ideas for taking customer efficiency programs to the next level.

Utility program managers will be gathering at the Gold LEED-certified Doerr-Hosier Center at Aspen Meadows Resort Sept. 27-29 to share their ideas for taking customer efficiency programs to the next level. (Photo by Randy L. Martin)

Forward-looking agenda
This year’s theme, “Initiatives worth Imitating,” focuses on using lessons learned from past programs to address the new issues and opportunities utilities are facing. Programs incorporating time-of-use rates, community solar, the internet of things and big data will be in the spotlight. Sessions will also cover new spins on demand response, customer outreach, behavior change and incentive programs.

“Technology often integrates tools and strategies that were part of successful energy-efficiency and load management programs in the past,” explained Energy Services Manager Ron Horstman. “Load management today and going forward requires updates and changes in approach that will maximize the new resources and technology that are constantly being introduced to the industry. This year’s agenda encourages that kind of thinking.”

The future is on the minds of keynote speakers, too. Mark Martinez, the senior portfolio manager for emerging markets and technologies with Southern California Edison You are leaving WAPA.gov. will deliver the opening keynote, Preparing Today for an Integrated Demand Side Management Future. He will draw on his more than 25 years of experience in the design, management and evaluation of electric demand side management (DSM) programs to present a vision of how DSM needs to change.  

The closing keynote by Ellen Steiner, the vice president of Opinion Dynamics You are leaving WAPA.gov., will explore how utility customer programs can adapt to meet the needs of changing demographics. A master methodologist, Steiner has strong energy-efficiency industry experience encompassing workforce education and training, marketing, community outreach and HVAC program design and evaluation.

Hear from your peers
New and familiar faces host the regular sessions, including the dual track residential and commercial sessions on Thursday. Sponsors the City of Aspen You are leaving WAPA.gov. and Holy Cross Energy You are leaving WAPA.gov. will join Fort Collins Utilities You are leaving WAPA.gov., Colorado Springs Utilities You are leaving WAPA.gov., Nebraska Municipal Power Pool You are leaving WAPA.gov. and many more regional utilities to talk about the state of customer programs in 2017. Research agencies and nonprofits like Rocky Mountain Institute You are leaving WAPA.gov. and National Renewable Energy Laboratory team up with program vendors such as CLEAResult You are leaving WAPA.gov., Franklin Energy You are leaving WAPA.gov. and Nexant You are leaving WAPA.gov. to discuss the latest services and solutions available to help utilities manage their loads.

Friday offers a special treat with a focus on electric vehicles and storage. These topics were overwhelmingly popular at the 2017 Utility Energy Forum in California, and Rocky Mountain area utilities will be facing the same issues sooner than we expect.

Network toward your goals 
If the sessions are a great way to explore the nuts and bolts of program design and delivery, the networking opportunities let you take the pulse of the regional industry.

In addition to breaks and meals (pack your “comfortable” business casual wear), attendees will have plenty of time to mingle with their colleagues and swap ideas. On Wednesday, Sept. 27, grab a snack and a beverage and check out the poster session reception. These mini-presentations allow attendees to talk one-on-one with presenters about topics as diverse as community solar, connected home devices and infrastructure planning.

Relaxed networking continues Thursday night at the Limelight Hotel in downtown Aspen. This venue provides a low-key atmosphere where it is easy to carry on a conversation. If you hatch dinner plans at the end of the evening, the city’s world-class dining options are close by, or, you can catch an airport shuttle from the hotel lobby if need to depart early.

Enjoy Aspen
Of course, it would be a shame to cut your conference experience short, between the intriguing Friday sessions and the pleasures of September in the Rockies. We can’t promise good weather, but, most years, the days have sparkled with sunshine and fall colors and the nights have been crisp and clear.

Aspen Meadows Resort is now sold out, but you can still stroll the grounds. The city is close enough that you could park your car at your hotel and walk off the delicious meals—included in your registration fee—on your way to and from the conference.

If you need one more reason to attend the Rocky Mountain Utility Efficiency Exchange, the Building Performance Institute You are leaving WAPA.gov. awards continuing education units (CEUs) for many of the sessions. Download the instructions to find out how to verify your attendance.

UNL embraces proven storage technology to control costs

Architect rendering of the new $11.9 million thermal energy storage tank being built near landscape services buildings north of 17th and Y streets.

Architect rendering of the new $11.9 million thermal energy storage tank being built near landscape services buildings north of 17th and Y streets. (Artwork courtesy of University of Nebraska-Lincoln)

As in life, so it is in energy storage: maturity is often not considered very sexy. With all the attention lately being showered on lithium-ion battery energy storage systems, we might forget to consider an effective storage technology that has been around awhile. However, the facilities systems team at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln You are leaving WAPA.gov. (UNL) is showing its appreciation for maturity by planning a new chilled-water thermal energy storage (TES) cooling system at its City Campus.

Shaving the peak
Like many satisfied TES cooling system owners, including the California State University system You are leaving WAPA.gov. with 19 TES installations on 14 campuses, UNL is a repeat customer. The university’s first experience with the technology was a 2.4 million-gallon system installed at its East Campus location in 2009.

As the largest load served by Lincoln Electric SystemYou are leaving WAPA.gov. UNL was looking for a way to lower its high demand charges. TES uses off-peak electricity to chill water for cooling a building or a group of buildings during the hottest time of day when electricity is most expensive. “Electricity rates are not usually the driver for installing TES, especially in a state like Nebraska where electricity is very inexpensive,” explained Lalit Agarwal, interim director of utility and energy management for UNL’s facilities systems.

The City Campus TES will save UNL between $800,000 and $900,000 annually in demand savings by shifting chilled water production from peak to off-peak hours. Agarwal suspects that there are additional savings because chillers run more efficiently at night when it is cooler. “But we are not hanging our hat on those figures,” he added.

Right technology for right place
Before finalizing the decision to build a second TES cooling system on the City Campus, the facilities team weighed other options. Cool Solutions, a thermal energy storage consulting company, performed a scoping study for UNL.

The new thermal energy storage tank is located on the north side of City Campus, immediately south of the Devaney Sports Center (left) and Nebraska Innovation Campus (right).

The new thermal energy storage tank is located on the north side of City Campus, immediately south of the Devaney Sports Center (left) and Nebraska Innovation Campus (right). Photo by Craig Chandler / University of Nebraska-Lincoln Communication

In addition to being extremely cost effective, TES leads the other technologies in such areas as safety, ease of permitting and life expectancy. Siting flexibility is another advantage TES offers that was particularly important for UNL, as the City Campus is “landlocked,” observed Agarwal. “There is a certain amount of NIMBY-ism [not in my backyard] involved with other types of systems and only so many places we can build,” he acknowledged.

Related to the siting issue is the ease with which TES can be expanded. The system will be located on the edge of the campus and have oversized piping so it can be expanded in the future. Stefan Newbold, director of UNL Engineering Services, pointed out that the ideal time to look at installing TES is when a chilled water plant is already close to reaching its capacity. “It grows chilled water capacity significantly,” he explained. “TES is economical anyway, but it becomes more so when you throw in not having to expand a chilled water plant.”

Findings from the Cool Solutions study made up the basis of an article in District Energy’s quarterly newsletterYou are leaving WAPA.gov. The story also included a comparison of TES with a hypothetical battery system.

Tried and true pays off
The new TES system, which has four times the capacity of the East Campus plant, will be commissioned over the winter and spring, and be ready for the 2018 cooling season. The system controls will be centralized to eliminate the need for additional staff and to minimize new demands on existing staff. Using existing infrastructure and operators who already have chiller experience is another way the technology keeps costs down.

As the grid and the power supply continue to evolve, large facilities and municipalities will have to look at new solutions for managing their energy use. And while every end-user faces different circumstances, UNL’s story is a reminder that sometimes the best answer to a new challenge is an “old” idea.

Source: District Energy, 2nd Quarter 2017

White paper, training explore evolution of demand response

Utilities have long used demand response to deal with high wholesale electricity prices or generation shortfall. What was once accomplished with phone calls to large industrial customers or one-way controls on aggregated residential loads is now done in near-real time with sophisticated two-way communication. Yet, despite the fact that this strategy has become an integral part of grid operations in the U.S., there has been no agreement on a definition of demand response.

The Peak Load Management Association You are leaving WAPA.gov. (PLMA) set out last year to develop a consistent definition for demand response to use across its three training courses on the topic. A demand response dialogue that included several experts in the field took place in September 2016 and was recorded and archived on the PLMA website. At the 2016 PLMA conference later that year, the discussion continued with a panel presentation, Defining the Evolution of Demand Response: From 1.0 to 3.0 and Beyond.

Demand response evolution

Artwork by Peak Load Management Association

Three epochs
The white paper from these discussions breaks down demand response into three periods beginning with the first interruptible tariffs for large commercial and industrial customers. Demand response was primarily used to provide energy (MWh) and capacity (MW) during periods of high wholesale prices, shortfall of generation or transmission capacity or unexpected emergency grid-operating situations. Utility staff contacted a commercial customer, usually a day or hours ahead of a forecasted event, to manually change power consumption onsite. Also, residential customers voluntarily allowed utilities to install load-control devices to cycle their water heaters and air conditioners. Verification usually came from the utility meter which was read on its regular cycle.

Current demand response strategies provide more precise energy and capacity to support the wholesale marketplace, along with sophisticated, near-instantaneous ancillary services such as non-spinning and spinning reserves and frequency and voltage support. Measurement and verification occur in almost real-time measurements (either utility or non-utility) and often serve as confirmation of customer performance during demand response events. Two-way communication also allows for greater customer feedback and engagement.

Demand response is evolving to be a component of broader distributed energy resources both behind and in front of the meter. The service benefits demand response offers in this capacity, both to the grid operator and to the customer, include volt/var control, renewable energy integration and localized distribution system congestion management. The future of demand response may move away from traditional utility control to automatic, pre-programmed triggers based on price thresholds.

Learn more
Two upcoming courses expand on PLMA’s demand response white paper to provide utility and regulatory staff and industry trade allies with a greater understanding of the evolution of demand response. Join subject matter experts from PLMA member organizations in Portland, Oregon, Sept. 26 or in San Francisco, California, Oct. 25.

Presentations will cover current technology and market conditions, utility case studies and more. Demand response will be compared to other load management strategies, and participants will discuss how to design a load management portfolio that serves your utility’s needs.

The training is open to all industry stakeholders, with significantly discounted rates to PLMA member organization staff.

Source: Peak Load Management Association, 8/8/17

Take steps to improve commercial customer irrigation efficiency

It is the height of irrigation season and everyone is struggling to keep their greenery green. While tips for water conservation often focus on residential lawns or agricultural crops, commercial landscaping offers significant opportunities to save water and reduce utility bills. For municipalities and multi-service utilities, helping these customers improve irrigation efficiency can yield benefits for both consumers and providers.

According to an article in Buildings, You are leaving WAPA.gov. a facility management trade publication, inefficient irrigation methods and systems can waste up to 50 percent of the water they consume. That quickly adds up to a painful water bill for your commercial customers and puts pressure on local water supplies and treatment systems. Share these tips to help facility managers at office parks, golf courses and other public green spaces get control of their irrigation practices.

Take care of your system
Failing to maintain irrigation systems may be the biggest factor leading to massive water waste.

Watering sidewalks is a big waste of water that can be prevented by periodically tuning up an irrigation system.

Watering sidewalks is a big waste of water that can be prevented by periodically tuning up an irrigation system.

One of the reasons for this neglect is that maintenance staffs often lack experience with irrigations systems. For example, when systems break down, they may attempt to make repairs with whatever equipment they can find, not understanding that every sprinkler waters differently. A replacement sprinkler head that does not work properly with the remaining original heads could affect the efficiency of the entire system.

Even working systems need a tuneup from time to time by someone who knows about irrigation. Something as simple as routine landscaping tasks can accidentally redirect a sprinkler head. Watering areas that don’t need it—like sidewalks and pavements near landscaping—can waste enormous amounts of water.

Choose your method
The critical question of which type of sprinkler technology to install–drip or overhead–is best answered in the system design phase. The two main types of irrigation systems each have their own set of pros and cons, many depending on the specific area to be watered.

The drip method of irrigation provides a steadier flow of water that goes directly into the soil, and can reduce water use by as much as 20 percent compared to an overhead sprinkler system. The down side of drip irrigation is that it is susceptible to breaking, and requires a higher quality of water. If you don’t have an in-house irrigation specialist, this may not be a good choice for your facility.

Overhead systems—more traditional sprinklers that spray water above the targeted plants—are likely to be less efficient with water use, but they require less maintenance. This method is suitable for larger lawn spaces, whereas a drip system might be more appropriate for localized shrubs and flowers.

Control, schedule watering
Setting a schedule for your system’s operation over time is vital to reducing water use and will have a big impact on conservation efforts.

The article states that a common mistake is turning on the irrigation system in the spring and keeping the same watering schedule until it is shut off for the winter. Plants generally need less water in May or October than they do in the middle of summer. Adjusting the schedule throughout watering season can not only reduce water waste, it can improve the look and health of the plants.

Big water savings can come from replacing a simple timer with a smart controller that determines watering schedules based on climate or soil moisture. However, educating staff members is critical to getting optimum results from a smart controller. Otherwise, your crew is likely to revert to a time-based schedule because it is easier to understand and gives them more control.

Try xeriscaping
Landscaping with native and drought-resistant plants is another proactive strategy for reducing water consumption. But unlike switching to a new type of sprinkler system, this change is relatively cheap and easy and offers a lot of flexibility.

Using native and drought-resistant plants can drastically reduce the amount of water required to maintain landscaping.

Using native and drought-resistant plants can drastically reduce the amount of water required to maintain landscaping.

The Environmental Protection Agency did a case study on a Texas shopping mall that coupled xeriscaping with changes to its irrigation system to reduce its water use by 60 percent. The Village at Stone Oak in San Antonio saved nearly 14 million gallons of water annually by converting around 50,000 square feet of turf grass to xeriscape and modifying almost 85,000 square feet of its irrigation system.

Utilities in the West have become increasingly aware that combining energy and water conservation efforts often improve the results of both. Feel free to share your ideas for taking customer programs out of silos and getting a bigger bang for your programming buck.

Source: Buildings via RCM Newsletter, 7/31/17

APPA webinar series explores new electricity future

Aug. 15 – Oct. 26

The future is here and resistance is futile. Public power utilities of all sizes are facing a new world shaped by technology, customer preferences and changing policies. These changes are most evident in five key areas:

  • Rate design
  • Community solar
  • Electric vehicles
  • Battery storage
  • Smart meters

The American Public Power Association You are leaving WAPA.gov. wants to help power providers navigate these changes and explore the opportunities this new environment presents. Beginning Aug. 15, a five-part webinar series looks at new initiatives through the experiences of the utilities that implemented them.

(Art work by American Public Power Association)

The series features experts on utility industry trends and is intended to encourage new thinking on the relationships between consumers, utilities and other energy service providers. Several WAPA customers are among the speakers, including Imperial Irrigation District, You are leaving WAPA.gov. Los Angeles Department of Water and Power You are leaving WAPA.gov. and SMUD You are leaving WAPA.gov. in California, Moorhead Public Service You are leaving WAPA.gov. in Minnesota and SRP You are leaving WAPA.gov. in Arizona.

APPA recommends this series for general managers, CEOs, senior utility executives, governing boards, policymakers, utility managers, future leaders in policy and strategy and public communications professionals.

Comprehensive agendas
You can sign up for webinars individually or register for the full series at a discounted rate. Participants will also get access to recordings and slides of the webinars for future reference or if they miss one. All webinars are scheduled for 12-1:30 p.m. Mountain Time.

Aug. 15 – The Future of Rate Design: Distributed generation and energy-efficiency programs are creating cost-shifting concerns. Catch up on the latest industry rate trends and discover how to move toward stable rate structures that accurately recover costs from all customers. Review the pros and cons of different rate models—time of use, higher customer charge, demand charges and bi-directional billing. Learn how other utilities like yours have created long-term rate plans, selected and implemented new rate designs, and obtained buy-in from board and city council members as well as customers.

Sept. 7 – Community Solar Success Stories: Community solar is becoming an increasingly popular option for utilities that want to increase solar in their generation portfolios and offer this option to customers who cannot install rooftop solar. An industry expert will share experiences, insights and predictions for the future of community solar. Your utility colleagues who’ve launched community solar programs across the country will explain how they made decisions in key areas like program structure, implementation, financing, customer outreach, rates and marketing. They’ll discuss challenges and the secrets to success so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

Sept. 26 – Charging Ahead with Electric Vehicles: The price of electric cars is falling, and more fast-charging stations are being installed. The Brattle Group predicts that a steady conversion of vehicles and heating to electricity could possibly lead to a 105-percent increase in electricity demand by 2050. If these new loads start to proliferate in your community, are you ready to support them? Now is the time to plan for EV infrastructure and to make important cost-benefit decisions. Learn about new developments and advances in EVs and how they are impacting the utility industry. Hear about innovative public power EV programs and get insights regarding how to work with customers to spur investment in EVs, develop fair pricing models and plan for potential load growth.

Oct. 12 – Best Practices in Battery Storage: The evolution of energy storage is changing how we produce and consume energy like never before. Technological advances, reduced costs and mandates from regulators have positioned energy storage for unprecedented growth. Get up to speed on where we are and what to expect in the future. Three public power utilities will talk about their award-winning storage projects and the realities of implementation, from selecting a developer and siting to leveraging benefits such as peak shaving and financial impacts. Your pioneering colleagues will help you navigate the bold new path of utility-scale battery storage.

Oct. 26 – Smart Meters for Smart Solutions: Learn from utilities that have installed advanced metering infrastructure (AMI). Gear up for the real-world challenges and understand how other utilities like yours are using AMI and integrating with other technologies. Understand how to fully leverage the benefits of smart meters — to predict load and usage, implement time-of-use rates, respond better to outages, assess the need for system upgrades and offset peak demand charges. Gather best practices on transitioning rate structures, educating customers and soliciting feedback.

Registration information
You can sign up for the entire series or register for each webinar individually. Individual webinars cost $99 for APPA members and $199 for nonmembers. Register for all five webinars for $395 for APPA members or $795 for nonmembers, a discount equivalent to one webinar.

Source: American Public Power Association, 7/10/17

APPA honors WAPA customers for service, innovation

Congratulations to the four WAPA customers who were among 18 individuals and 10 utilities to receive awards at the American Public Power Association’s National Conference in Orlando, Fla., on June 20. Lincoln Electric System You are leaving WAPA.gov. (LES), Colorado Springs Utilities, You are leaving WAPA.gov. Fort Collins Utilities You are leaving WAPA.gov. and SMUD You are leaving WAPA.gov. earned recognition for their service to the public power industry and its member-customers

Continuing to excel
LES, a Nebraska municipal utility, earned the E.F. Scattergood System Achievement Award for outstanding accomplishments that enhance public power’s national prestige, improve customer service and demonstrate an earnest, coordinated effort on the part of the system.

LES distributes the Energy Detective Kit at schools to help students and their parents save money and electricity.

LES distributes the Energy Detective Kit at schools to help students and their parents save money and electricity. (Artwork by Nebraska Energy Office)

In 2016, LES unveiled the state’s largest and first utility-scale solar array, Lincoln’s 5-megawatt (MW) community solar facility. Customers can invest in virtual solar panels, receiving credits on their bill. Improvements were also implemented to the utility’s rate structure to encourage energy efficiency and protect customers sensitive to bill fluctuation.

In the community, LES’s Energy Detective Kits teach students and their parents about saving energy, reducing water usage and lowering their household bills.

With a 99.99-percent reliability record, the utility continues to take strides to make sure its power remains dependable. Its mobile meter-reading project upgraded nearly all of the system’s 137,000 analog meters.

Supporting community
An established and evolving community safety program won the Community Service Award for Colorado Springs Utilities of Colorado. This award recognizes “good neighbor” activities that demonstrate commitment to the local community.

The community safety program, which has been a cornerstone of the municipal utility’s community involvement for 20 years, provides educational outreach in schools and at community events to audiences of all ages. Each year, almost 15,000 students, adults, contractors and first responders learn about gas and electric safety and about the safe and efficient use of utility services.

“Your Nose Knows! Natural Gas Safety,” an outreach program by Colorado Springs Utilities, teaches children about natural gas safety. Shown: Safety education presenters Ray Anderson (in blue) and Tom Hutchison (in white) and the students of Colorado Springs School District 20 Woodmen-Roberts Elementary.

“Your Nose Knows! Natural Gas Safety,” an outreach program by Colorado Springs Utilities, teaches children about natural gas safety. Shown: Safety education presenters Ray Anderson (in blue) and Tom Hutchison (in white) and the students of Colorado Springs School District 20 Woodmen-Roberts Elementary. (Photo by Colorado Springs Utilities)

Recently, Colorado Springs Utilities revised and retargeted the education program to meet specific curriculum needs in schools and incorporate more messaging that is interactive and inquiry-based. “SafetyCircuit: Electric Safety and You” uses a live electric demonstrations board to show students the safe use of electricity indoors and outdoors, and how electricity affects our daily lives. An interactive live explosion demonstration is part of “Your Nose Knows! Natural Gas Safety & You,” a program teaching students about the properties and origins of natural gas and safety practices to prevent natural gas emergencies.

Increasing residential program participation
Fort Collins Utilities in Colorado and SMUD in California were among the four utilities to receive the Energy Innovator Award for utility programs or projects that demonstrate creative energy-efficiency measures or technologies. Eligible demonstrations can either improve customer service or increase the efficiency of utility operations. Judging criteria also includes transferability and takes into account project scope in relation to utility size.

The Efficiency Works-Neighborhood pilot program attempts to overcome barriers for customer project implementation, such as time and lack of money. The pilot is the next step for the Efficiency Works-Home program.

The Fort Collins Efficiency Works-Neighborhood pilot program attempts to overcome barriers for customer project implementation, such as time and lack of money. The pilot is the next step for the Efficiency Works-Home program. (Artwork by Fort Collins Utilities)

Fort Collins Utilities was honored for its successful Efficiency Works-Neighborhood You are leaving WAPA.gov. pilot program, which tested a streamlined process for home efficiency upgrades. The streamlined process made efficiency upgrades easy for customers by offering a choice of three packages—good, better and best—each custom-made for their homes. The packages provided upfront rebates, used standardized pricing, eliminated the need to get multiple contractor bids and ensured the quality of all completed work.

Over an 18-month period, the pilot program tripled the number of customers proceeding with energy-efficiency improvements and renewable systems installation. The upgrades lead to 50 percent greater electrical use reduction, 70 percent greater natural gas use reduction and 60 percent greater greenhouse gas savings per home.

Piloting cooling efficiency
SMUD received the Energy Innovator Award for its work with the hyper-efficient Climate Wizard air conditioner. You are leaving WAPA.gov. Manufactured in Australia, the Climate Wizard has the potential to use up to 90 percent less energy to cool the same space as an equivalent refrigerated system.

SMUD tested the Climate Wizard cooling system on two commercial customers to find out if the technology could be an effective peak-shaving measure.

SMUD tested the Climate Wizard cooling system on two commercial customers to find out if the technology could be an effective peak-shaving measure. (Photo by Climate Wizard)

Replacing conventional air conditioners with these indirect evaporative heat-exchange core systems could have a huge impact on SMUD’s peak cooling load during scorching Sacramento summer days. To evaluate the Climate Wizard’s performance, SMUD installed units with two industrial customers, a data center and a tool manufacturer You are leaving WAPA.gov..

The Tri-Tools production floor is not only hot from milling, turning and cutting metals, it is also humid from using water to cool materials during cutting. Because the Climate Wizard does not add moisture to the cooled air; it keeps employees more comfortable and improves the production process while saving the business energy and money.

The challenge for the data center Datacate is to maintain a consistently low temperature to keep servers and other equipment running 24/7. This pilot project, which will continue through 2017, has allowed the data center to operate more efficiently, add more capacity and lower operating costs.

The hallmarks of public power are dedication to community, commitment to innovation and constant striving to improve service. At WAPA, we already know our customers are leaders in the industry and we are excited to see that the industry recognizes them, too.

Source: American Public Power Association, 6/21/17

White paper compiles data on utility programs for low-income customers

Low-income households spend on average three times more of their income on energy bills You are leaving WAPA.gov. than other households, and easing the pain of higher bills during peak-load times of year is a continuous challenge for utilities.

This group of customers can be hard to reach, leading to a hit-or-miss track record for low-income energy-efficiency programs. But the benefits of successful programs stretch beyond energy and bill savings to include fewer shut-offs, healthier homes, less outdoor pollution and more local jobs. It is well worth the effort to design an effective program, and a new report from the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) can take some of the mystery out of doing it.

The baseline assessment of more than 70 utilities’ electric and natural gas programs chronicles total investments in these programs, energy savings impacts, customer participation and use of best practices. The study looked at the largest electric and natural gas utility serving each of the 51 largest metropolitan statistical areas.

ACEEE researchers found that low-income programs varied in terms of how deeply they address whole-home energy-efficiency needs and how accessible they were to customers. While many utilities design and administer impressive, effective low-income programs, many of those programs could be improved with best practice elements or increased resources.

The report also looks at best practices in implementation, including whether programs target specific households based on energy burden or other vulnerabilities and streamline enrollment for easier access. Partnering with the federal Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) to leverage funds and reach more customers is another factor that impacts the effectiveness of a low-income program.

The study includes maps, data tables and new state-level information on low-income program requirements, cost-effectiveness rules and coordination with the WAP program. Utilities can use the data to see how their programs compare to those of similar utilities and to identify opportunities for adding best practice elements.

Read the entire ACEEE blog post for more information, and share your free copy of the report with state and local policymakers as well as other stakeholders. Also, if your utility has a program to help low-income customers, Energy Services Bulletin would like to know about your experiences.

Source: American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, 7/11/17

Community solar workshop presentations now available

If you missed Community Solar Procurements, Programs and Pricing, a workshop WAPA cosponsored with the Community Solar Value Project You are leaving WAPA.gov. (CSVP) and SunShot Solar Market Pathways, you can now download the presentations from the CSVP website.

WAPA Energy Services Manager Ron Horstman (standing right) talks about the opportunities and challenges community solar represents for utilities.

WAPA Energy Services Manager Ron Horstman (standing right) talks about the opportunities and challenges community solar represents for utilities.

The free event was held at WAPA’s Electric Power Training Center in Golden, Colorado, and drew strong attendance from every type of utility, especially in the West. As the workshop title stated, the agenda focused on the logistical aspects of building a community solar project and explored ways to make projects more successful. Speakers and participants discussed best practices for analyzing solar development opportunities, writing requests for proposals, engaging internal and external stakeholders, working with contractors and vendors and designing rates.

Customers share experience
Several WAPA customers were on hand to share their experiences with developing their own projects. Luis Reyes of Kit Carson Electric Cooperative You are leaving WAPA.gov. sat on a panel that focused on improving the procurement process. The Taos, New Mexico, utility launched its first community solar project in 2012 and has an ambitious initiative to install 35 megawatts of photovoltaics this year.

Participants throw ideas against the wall to see what sticks during table-top sessions on program design, procurement, rate design and marketing.

Participants throw ideas against the wall to see what sticks during table-top sessions on program design, procurement, rate design and marketing.

A panel on pricing challenges included John Phelan from Fort Collins Utilities You are leaving WAPA.gov. in northern Colorado. As a pioneer with Rocky Mountain Institute in clean energy and sustainability solutions, the city of Fort Collins has discovered that success brings a new set of challenges. For example, the utility is wrestling with how to design a rate that accommodates both a legacy community solar garden and a new array for qualified low-income customers.

Poudre Valley Rural Electric Cooperative You are leaving WAPA.gov. is currently developing a 6,000-panel community solar project with carve-outs for local nonprofit organizations and another for income-qualified customers. Making community solar available to customers who need the most help with utility bills was another topic that received a lot of attention. Utilities are experimenting with different business models for low-income projects, but most agree on the potential benefits: freeing up more money for other needs, bringing more certainty to monthly bills and raising energy awareness in a hard-to-reach group.

Attendees were all at different points on the learning curve with community solar. Representatives from the City of Fort Collins Utilities, Kit Carson Electric Cooperative and the city of Lamar, Colorado, shared their experiences during the free workshop.

Attendees were all at different points on the learning curve with community solar. Representatives from the City of Fort Collins Utilities, Kit Carson Electric Cooperative and the city of Lamar, Colorado, shared their experiences during the free workshop. (Photo by Jill Cliburn)

Ask for more
WAPA thanks the Community Solar Value Project for partnering with us to put on Community Solar Procurements, Programs and Pricing. Utilities are still learning about this form of distributed energy and how to gain the most benefits from it for their customers and their own operations. To learn more, check out the workshop presentations, along with past CSVP webinars. Also, let us know if there are other types of workshops you would like to see WAPA present, or partners or subject matter experts we could collaborate with.