The 37th Utility Energy Forum was one for the record books, including the record of “First Sold-Out Event.” If you were unable to join us in the Sonoma wine country of Northern California, you can at least get a taste of the informative sessions and expert speakers.
The location and dates for the 38th Utility Energy Forum (UEF) will be set in the coming weeks, so watch for an announcement soon. We hope you will save the date and plan to join your colleagues—and your WAPA Energy Services representatives—for three days of learning, networking and professional development.
Next year’s event may even sweeten the deal for busy utility employees with a limited travel budget. The UEF planning committee is considering offering training opportunities in conjunction with the annual Forum as a separate event. The training would take place on Tuesday afternoon before the Forum begins on Wednesday and would be open to Forum attendees for an additional fee.
Please take a moment to complete a brief survey to tell the committee if this is of interest to you. If there is enough interest, there will be a pilot program at the 2018 event.
The California Municipal Utilities Association (CMUA) has awarded Silicon Valley Power (SVP) the 2017 Resource Efficiency & Community Service Award for an innovative small business efficiency program. The Small Business Snapshot Audit and Direct Install Program won the Best Energy Program for a Large Municipal Electric Utility at CMUA’s annual meeting in March.
Aimed at business customers with a demand of 200 kilowatts (kW) or less, the program helps the notoriously hard-to-reach sector lower energy bills by installing energy-efficient products. Smaller businesses are the ones that can benefit the most from money- and energy-saving utility programs, observed SVP Public Benefits Manager Mary Medeiros McEnroe. “But they usually don’t have the time, up-front money or awareness to take advantage of utility offerings,” she said.
To overcome those barriers, the utility designed the program to be high-penetration, low-cost and focus on the customer experience. Eligible customers received a free “snapshot” energy audit and a report for energy-saving recommendations. A third-party contractor provided and installed the energy-efficient products, so that the customer did not have to manage the process. “We have offered audits in the past, but without the direct-install component or the contractor relationship,” Medeiros McEnroe explained.
Perhaps the greatest factor in the program’s success was that Silicon Valley Power opted to provide the measures at no cost to the customer. The products included easily installed indoor and some outdoor lighting, exit and open signs, pre-rinse spray valves and faucet aerators.
The program was so popular that Silicon Valley Power extended it two additional years, through Fiscal Year 2016-2017, and added more products. “In the second round, we offered energy-efficient replacements for T-8 or T-12 tubes that weren’t on the market the previous year,” recalled Medeiros McEnroe. “We also added outdoor wall pack light fixtures, which became one of the most popular measures.”
This program marked the first time Silicon Valley Power partnered with the utility consultant Efficiency Services Group, chosen through a competitively bid request for proposals.
The contractor’s field representatives serve as the point of contact for the customers. Working from a detailed customer list the utility provided, the representatives called on small businesses in person, performed the free audits and installed equipment—usually efficient light bulbs— right on the spot. In the case of more expensive outdoor lighting, customers received additional free products they could install themselves if they liked the performance of the “sample,” and representatives returned to inspect the installation.
Win for everyone
Over two phases, the work saved almost 2 million kilowatt-hours for small business customers in Santa Clara, equating to more than $300,000 annually. Customers who were eligible for water efficiency measures also achieved water savings, and Silicon Valley Power gained information on customers’ electricity use that can be used to develop future programs.
The data the program collected also highlighted how different small business customers are from each other. “There is not a lot of overlap,” Medeiros McEnroe pointed out. “But we have been able to mine the information to create more targeted programs.”
For example, the utility is reaching out to food service customers who participated in the small business program to enroll them in an online Food Service Energy Efficiency Expert training program. Based on the data, Silicon Valley Power also target marketed for a rebate for rooftop air conditioning unit controls that it is now rolling out to customers.
WAPA congratulates Silicon Valley Power on earning the CMUA award, and especially on its success in bringing efficiency programs to the small business sector. When it comes to innovation and consumer satisfaction, our customers lead the pack.
Trees are so beautiful and useful—they provide food, fuel and lumber, prevent soil erosion, cool the planet and inspire poets—so it is fitting that they have their own national holiday: Arbor Day. It is also fitting that the city that held the first Arbor Day in 1872 makes tree planting a part of its ongoing resource planning efforts.
Recognizing the important role trees play in the environment and in its history, Nebraska City Utilities (NCU) offers its customers not one, but two tree planting programs. Customers can choose the municipal utility’s own “Energy Saving Tree” program. Also offered in partnership with the National Arbor Day Foundation, (NADF) is the foundation’s “Three Free Trees” program, which NCU helps to facilitate for its customers. Both programs give NCU the chance to educate customers about planting “the right tree in the right place,” and together have saved more than 67,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh).
Tale of two programs
The “Energy Saving Tree” program reimburses the customer for half the cost of a pre-approved tree up to $100. “An NCU arborist—someone from our tree line clearance crew —helps the homeowner pick the spot to plant it based on best tree-planting practices,” explained NCU General Manager Leroy Frana.
Wire-friendly varieties that are eligible for the rebate include the Armur maple, hedge maple, serviceberry, eastern redbud, flowering crabapple, Japanese tree lilac and thornless cockspur hawthorn.
Participants receive the reimbursement as a credit on their bill and then enjoy lower utility bills during the summer cooling season. The strategically planted tree also increases the value of the property.
National Arbor Day Foundation’s “Three Free Trees” provides up to three trees of 2 to 4 feet in height at no cost to the customer. The truly dedicated environmentalist can get 10 free seedling trees by joining the foundation. The trees come to the customer by mail and the NADF website helps them with choosing the site for planting. “We budget for 100 trees annually,” said Frana, “It’s a popular program because everybody loves getting something for free.”
Soon after arriving in Nebraska City in 1854, journalist J. Sterling Morton began planting orchards, experimenting with various crops and spreading the gospel of trees and conservation to his fellow pioneers. The vast expanse of treeless prairie needed windbreaks to prevent soil erosion, and settlers need building material and shade. Morton not only encouraged individuals to plant trees; he urged civic groups to join in. His work led to an appointment as Secretary of the Nebraska Territory.
Morton organized the first “tree-planting holiday” in 1872 and it is estimated that more than one million trees were planted in Nebraska by individuals and counties in celebration. Nebraska declared Arbor Day a state holiday in 1885 and chose April 22, Morton’s birthday, as its permanent date.
Today, Arbor Day is celebrated around the world on different dates (based on the best time to plant trees in the region), and Morton’s Nebraska City farm is now a 260‐acre National Historic Landmark known as the Arbor Day Farm.
Like most states, Nebraska now celebrates Arbor Day on the third Friday of April. Frana recalled having their newly purchased tree riding a float with his children in the city’s 2011 Arbor Day parade, and planting the State Street Maple at their home later in the day. “That tree is about 16 or 18 feet tall now,” he said.
Plant your future
Planting trees is a good investment for a utility even if it is not in the middle of the Great Plains. Nationwide, the Energy Saving Trees program has saved more than 300 million kWh and 4 million therms, sequestered or avoided almost 1 billion pounds of carbon dioxide emissions and provided $106 million in combined energy and community benefits. To put it in personal terms, “Shading the home is one of the best ways to cut your electric air conditioning load,” Frana pointed out.
Utilities that partner with the Arbor Day Foundation on the Energy Saving Trees program will get help building their program with educational resources, celebration materials and more. Partners can use a calculator on the NADF website to help homeowners determine the right tree for the right place and show much money planting it will save them. Participating in the program can generate positive media attention for your utility, raise public awareness about your programs and beautify your community.
Join other WAPA customers like Sacramento Municipal Utility District, Colorado Springs Utilities and, of course, Nebraska City Utilities in planting for the future. Show your customers that you believe as J. Sterling Morton did, that each generation takes the earth as a trustee. Happy Arbor Day from WAPA and Nebraska City Utilities!
If the rapid pace of change in the utility industry has become almost a clichéd topic, it is because trying to assess and manage it is a constant challenge across large, small, investor-owned and public power providers alike. So don’t expect attendees at the 37th annual Utility Energy Forum to run out of things to say about this year’s theme, “Change is the Only Constant – Customers, Policy and Technology.”
Over three days, utility managers and marketers, customer service professionals, program developers, facility managers and industry allies will tackle that theme from many perspectives. The agenda covers the broad categories of policy, strategic planning, technology, customer programs and workforce development.
The opening keynote by Seth Kiner, managing director at Charlotte Street Advisors, delves into the many shifts underway in the industry and what they mean for utilities, policy makers and electricity customers. Kiner will also explore how energy providers are evolving to meet the needs of consumers, regulators and stakeholders.
Sessions will explore topics such as electric vehicles, building retro-commissioning, window coverings and partnering with specific market segments. As always, WAPA customers play a prominent role in hosting panels and presenting. Roseville Electric will discuss its revamped residential new construction program, formerly known as Best Home. Burbank Water and Power will explain how teaming up with a gas utility encouraged conservation of water, electricity and gas, all at the same time. Sacramento Municipal Utility District will talk about the Coalition for Home Electronics Energy Reduction, a collaborative effort to cut U.S. home entertainment energy consumption by 10 terawatt-hours annually by 2020.
Speaking of utilities, you won’t want to miss the Pre-Forum Workshop, for power providers and government representatives only. Registrants took a survey and voted on the questions they most wanted to address in this year’s roundtable discussion. The top questions are:
- What is the value of energy storage for customers, utilities and the grid?
- What beyond-the-meter services is your utility considering?
- What hurdles are your utility encountering with integrating and managing more energy efficiency in your resource mix?
Make new friends, partners
In addition to the sessions, the forum offers many opportunities for attendees to compare notes, brainstorm, ask each other questions and come up with new answers together.
The Utility Stand-up Challenge is a fast-moving poster session during which attendees can visit up to six storyboards detailing utility-sponsored energy programs or research. Storyboard presenters have up to five minutes (seven with Q&A) to share their program’s goals, successes and lessons learned. A bell rings, attendees choose another storyboard and the clock starts again.
Networking breaks, receptions and meals provide more chances to mingle and chat. The ever-popular “Any Port in a Storm” wine tasting event will be back on Thursday night.
Different venue, same high quality
In keeping with the theme of change this year, the UEF is moving to a new home at the Hilton Sonoma in Santa Rosa, California. The hotel is located in the heart of the California wine country, near historic locations.
The nearest airport is the Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport, just three miles from the hotel. The largest airports are San Francisco International Airport and the Metropolitan Oakland International Airport, both 65 miles away. The Sonoma County Airport Express provides scheduled shuttle service between San Francisco or Oakland airports to the Sonoma County Airport for $34 each way. You can use a taxi, Uber or Lyft to get to the hotel from the Sonoma County Airport.
One of the great things about the Utility Energy Forum that hasn’t changed is its all-inclusive registration fee. You get all your meals and two nights in a standard room for one price. There is an add-on fee for additional nights if you decide to stick around for the weekend and enjoy wine country.
There are also opportunities to get your name in front of your colleagues through sponsorship, event hosting and exhibiting. Several packages come with multiple conference registrations, so they are a good value if your organization plans on sending more than one representative.
Another thing that has stayed the same about the Utility Energy Forum is that representatives from WAPA’s Energy Services will be attending. We look forward every year to meeting our customers in person, and we hope to see you there.
The 37th annual Utility Energy Forum is just around the corner, and with it, the Pre-Forum Workshop for utility and government attendees. This exclusive session is a candid roundtable discussion about pressing issues facing power providers and the government agencies that support them. The program committee is inviting attendees from those sectors to share their greatest concerns in an online survey by Feb. 8. The topics that get the most votes will be included on the workshop agenda.
This year’s theme, “Change is the Only Constant – Customers, Policy and Technology,” sums up the challenges of doing business in today’s electricity industry. The main agenda offers many perspectives on what customers want, what utilities can do to meet those expectations and what policy makers can do to help.
The workshop, however, is the place to really get into the weeds on how change is reshaping everything from daily operations to long-term planning. If you are worrying about depreciating assets or new net-zero developments in your territory, this is the place to talk about it. If you wonder what kind of skills your employees will need to manage the new environment, suggest that topic. If you are trying to figure out how to work with customers who want to install energy storage batteries on their homes or businesses, the workshop offers the chance to learn from others. And that only scratches the surface.
You don’t have to be attending the Utility Energy Forum, May 3-5, to vote in the survey. All utility professionals and government representatives can contribute their valuable and much-needed perspective. For those who miss the event, Energy Services Bulletin will be reporting on the big stories, and speaker presentations will be posted on the website.
But there is nothing like a face-to-face conversation with your colleagues to get the wheels turning. We hope you will join us at the Hilton Sonoma in Santa Rosa, California, to share ideas, discuss solutions and think about where you—and our industry—are going.
Deadline: Feb. 27, 2017
WAPA customers are known for creating initiatives worth imitating, and we would like you to share yours for the 11th Rocky Mountain Utility Efficiency Exchange (RMUEE). Proposals for sessions are due Feb. 27, and the Advisory Committee is particularly interested in topics from utilities and government agencies addressing this year’s theme, “Initiatives Worth Imitating.”
Power providers are taking residential, commercial and industrial programs to a whole new level using imagination to create new offerings, innovation to improve existing programs and integration to break down the silos of thinking. Your successes should be on the agenda when more than 100 utility and government representatives and trade allies meet in Aspen, Colorado, Sept. 27-29.
Conference attendees will be exploring case study best practices and lessons learned about programs related to energy and water efficiency issues and integration with renewable energy, demand response and key account customer management. Special consideration will be given to suggestions for sessions that address:
- New energy-efficiency and demand-management technology
- Strategic onsite energy and distribution system management
- Workforce culture and program staffing challenges
- Pay-for-performance approaches
- Consumer engagement
- Indoor growers and other commercial customer segments at the water/energy nexus
- Electric vehicle charging, energy storage and other new end-use applications
You may choose a format for your presentation from several options:
- General or breakout sessions up to 20 minutes in length with Q&A
- Snapshot panel talks up to five minutes in length
- Poster discussions during the Wednesday evening reception
- Workshops or Roundtable Discussions two to four hours in length (for Friday morning)
There is also more than one way to participate. If you have never attended the RMUEE and don’t yet have a program to share, you could be eligible for one of a limited number of scholarships. Or maybe you would like to sponsor the event, a great way to promote your organization. Learn more about these options from the FAQ sheet.
Whatever your level of participation in the RMUEE, you will enjoy an outstanding learning and networking experience in a relaxed atmosphere conducive to sharing. You may even turn this year’s inspiration into next year’s “boffo” presentation.
Black Hills State University (BHSU) in Spearfish, South Dakota, is joining other higher education leaders in renewable energy and sustainable operations by becoming the first university with extensive use of solar power.
The institutional WAPA customer is investigating installing solar panels on four campus buildings to serve those facilities’ energy needs and reduce electricity costs. The solar generation would replace supplemental power from Black Hills Energy and save BHSU an estimated $10,000 in the first year, according to information from the South Dakota Board of Regents.
Dedicated to sustainability
Cost savings—and a hedge against fuel prices—is a great reason for any business to install a renewable energy system, but for BHSU it is not the only one. The university was the first in South Dakota to join the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, and under the Carbon Commitment program, has set a goal to reach carbon neutrality by 2050.
The process began with a Climate Action Plan, and includes participation in the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS). The voluntary self-reporting system helps colleges and universities to assess progress in meeting sustainability goals and sustainability leadership. STARS ratings are based on three main categories: education and research; operation and planning; administration and engagement. On Earth Day 2014, BHSU received a STARS Silver rating, making it the first South Dakota university to achieve that international rating.
Among the “green” initiatives that helped BHSU earn its rating are strong building efficiency standards, a robust recycling program and a campus community garden. Campus dining facilities The Hive and The Buzz Shack both achieved Green Restaurant Certification in 2014, the first university-attached restaurants in the state to do so.
The university has already made small forays into the use of renewables, installing solar-powered lighting at campus entrances and a 1.8-kilowatt wind turbine in front of the student union. “It puts a small amount of generation back onto the grid and provides an introduction to renewable energy for students and visitors,” said Corinne Hansen, BHSU director of university and community relations.
BHSU students, faculty and staff serve on the Sustainability Committee, which recommends strategies to advance BHSU’s climate goals. This committee meets every semester to plan activities that promote sustainability efforts on campus, and to educate the campus community on sustainability issues.
Successful strategies include faculty carpool and bike leasing programs to cut down on emissions from commutes around town and between Spearfish and the BHSU Rapid City campus. Landscaping with a stormwater management system slows and diverts runoff.
Sustainability concepts have been incorporated into lesson plans and even art projects, including an exhibit at the student union of sculptures made from recycled materials. The school received a national grant to fund a research project on solar cell materials and students have developed business plans for an innovative mobile recycling business.
Building for future
As part of the Climate Action Plan, all new buildings and major renovations at BHSU are built to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver or higher standards. The David B. Miller Yellow Jacket Student Union was the first state building to earn this standard, earning LEED Gold after its 2009 renovation.
The LEED Silver Life Science Laboratory has been chosen as one of the four sites for the solar arrays. Features that earned the building its LEED rating include a design that maximizes daylighting; the incorporation of recycled and local materials during construction; low-flow plumbing fixtures and low emitting carpet, paint, adhesives and sealants.
The other three buildings identified for the solar project include the Young Center, Woodburn Hall and the library, with the Young Center to be the first. “All four buildings have new roofs and good solar exposure,” explained Hansen. “The Young Center has the biggest roof by square feet.”
Lighting retrofits have helped to reduce the electrical loads in the Young Center and the library.
More to come
The university expects installation of the solar panels to be completed this summer, but sustainability is more than just clean energy. BHSU aims to decrease its waste stream by 25 percent from 2014 to 2018 by expanding recycling initiatives and introducing a user-friendly, desk-side disposal system. Going beyond recycling, a plan to discourage the use of disposable water bottles was launched in 2014 with the installation of filtered water bottle-filling stations across campus. Facilities Services will continue to replace traditional water fountains with water bottle-refill stations as needed.
Building upgrades will continue to increase campus energy efficiency, especially areas where electricity or heating demands can be significantly reduced. A complete upgrade of the building automation system is planned for 2018. Also in the next year, BHSU is planning an energy savings performance contract covering all campus academic buildings.
Ultimately, these projects and new ones that will arise as BHSU moves toward climate neutrality are as much about the future of the students as the future of the planet. Renewable energy systems, energy efficiency and recycling will reduce the university’s operating costs over the long term, and the savings can be channeled into improving education. More importantly, embracing sustainability principles prepares students for a rapidly changing world in which they will have many opportunities to achieve their own “firsts.”
WAPA customer Salt River Project (SRP) once again earned a top spot on the J.D. Power 2016 Calendar-Year Electric Utility Business Customer Satisfaction Study, released Jan. 11. This is the fourth consecutive year and the seventh time in the last eight years SRP ranked highest in customer satisfaction for business electric service among large electricity providers in the West Region. The region covers Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.
SRP’s overall customer satisfaction index was 797 out of a possible 1,000 points in the annual study – a 50-point performance increase from last year. The study examines overall satisfaction across six factors (in order of importance): power quality and reliability; corporate citizenship; price; billing and payment; communications and customer service. SRP scored highest in its category in power quality and reliability, corporate citizenship, billing and payment and communications.
According to the study, utilities are becoming more aware of the importance of engaging with their business customers, which is reflected in increasing communication. The study found that 52 percent of business customers recall at least one communication from their utility in the past six months, up from 49 percent last year.
“It is remarkable how utilities have improved as an industry in understanding the importance of being customer-focused,” said John Hazen, J.D. Power director in the utility and infrastructure practice. “In doing so, they hope to not only improve their financial performance, but also to be viewed more favorably by regulators.”
He added that business customers also tend to be more supportive of the investment plans utilities have in such projects as updating or developing their infrastructure.
The study noted three more important trends in 2016:
- Power outages – While the number of brief and lengthy power interruptions has not changed in the past six months, the average duration of the longest outage increased to 13.7 minutes from 11.9 minutes. Thunderstorms are the most common cause of the longest outages (26 percent), followed by snow and ice (12 percent).
- Alerts – Since the previous study, the number of customers nationally signing up for electronic alerts increased more than 50 percent for outage alerts and 66 percent for monthly bill alerts.
- Corporate citizenship efforts – Utility providers continue to ramp up their efforts to be good corporate citizens. For example, 70 percent of business customers say their electric utility provider supports economic development in the local community; 30 percent have seen utility employees volunteering or working in their community; and 43 percent are aware of their utility’s efforts to improve its effect on the environment.
The rankings from the J.D. Power study are based on interviews with representatives of more than 20,500 U.S. businesses that spend an average of $200 or more a month on electricity.
Source: Public Power Daily, 1/17/17
Deadline Jan. 31, 2017
It is time to gain recognition for your energy services programs and share your success stories with your customers, communities and industry colleagues. The American Public Power Association (APPA) presents two awards annually to member utilities that embody the spirit of the association’s Demonstration of Energy and Efficiency Developments (DEED) program. The research and demonstration program funds innovative activities dedicated to improving the operations and services of public power utilities.
The Award of Continued Excellence (ACE) recognizes a DEED member utility that has demonstrated continued commitment to the DEED program and its ideals. Criteria include involvement in the DEED program, including grants and scholarships; commitment to energy-efficiency; investigation or use of renewable resources and support of public power. This year’s award presentation will take place during the 2017 APPA Engineering and Operations Technical Conference, May 7-10, in San Antonio, Texas.
The Energy Innovator Award (EIA) recognizes utility programs that have demonstrated advances in the development or application of creative, energy-efficient techniques or technologies. Projects and programs that provide better service to electric customers or that increase the efficiency of utility operations or resource efficiency are eligible, too. Judges will take into account transferability and project scope in relation to utility size.
WAPA customer Moorhead Public Service received an Energy Innovator Award in 2016 for developing its Capture the Sun community solar garden. Lincoln Electric System, Omaha Public Power District, Alameda Municipal Power and Salt River Project are other WAPA customers that have earned the award with innovative programs.
APPA may give up to three awards in a given year. The awards will be presented during the 2017 APPA National Conference, June 16-21, 2017, in Orlando, Florida.
Nominations for both the ACE and the EIA may be submitted via the web-based application process. Submissions must be received no later than Jan. 31. For questions, contact the DEED program staff at 202-467-2960 or 202-467-2942 or via email.
After completing your nomination, don’t forget to share it with Energy Services Bulletin. Every utility program has an important story to tell and all WAPA customers are winners.
Source: Public Power Daily, 1/5/17