California building code requires rooftop solar for new homes

Starting in 2020, all new residential homes in California must be built solar ready. On May 7, the California Energy Commission approved the 2019 Building Energy CodeYou are leaving WAPA.gov. which includes that provision.

The California Energy Commission approved the 2019 Building Energy Code, which includes the provision that all new homes must be built solar ready, starting in 2020.

The California Energy Commission approved the 2019 Building Energy Code, which includes the provision that all new homes must be built solar ready, starting in 2020. (Photo by DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy)

This historic revision of building energy codes is expected to drive a large investment in residential rooftop solar and energy efficiency as California pursues its goal of getting 50 percent of its energy from renewables by 2030You are leaving WAPA.gov.

In addition to mandating rooftop solar, the code contains incentives for energy storage and requires new home construction to include advanced energy-efficiency measures. Using 2017 data, ClearView Energy Partners You are leaving WAPA.gov. estimate that the mandate could require between 68 and 241 megawatts of annual distributed solar buildout.

Good for consumers, solar, storage industries
The commission stated that the new code is meant to save Californians a net $1.7 billion on energy bills all told, while advancing the state’s efforts to build-out renewable energy.

Following the commission’s decision, solar developers such as Sunrun, Vivint Solar and First Solar experienced a surge in stock prices, Bloomberg reportedYou are leaving WAPA.gov.

The updated codes also allow builders to install smaller solar systems if they integrate storage in a new home, adding another incentive to include energy storage. California has been a leader in incentivizing energy storage. In January, the California Public Utility Commission moved to allow multiple revenue streams for energy storage, such as spinning reserve services and frequency regulation.

Utilities question policy
The solar industry received a prior boost in January 2016, when the CPUC approved its net metering 2.0 rate design. The state’s investor-owned utilities asserted at the time that net metering distributed generation from electricity consumers shifted the costs for the system’s maintenance and infrastructure onto consumers who do not own distributed generation.

ClearView analysts pointed to the distributed solar mandate as a possible opening for utilities to argue that California regulators should reconsider the net metering reform proposal. According to the report ClearView published ahead of the CEC’s decision, utilities that opposed the new rate-design could claim that mandating distributed solar alters the policy landscape enough to warrant further review of the compensation levels paid to excess generation.

Source: Utility Dive, 5/9/18

Study shows net-zero future at cost parity with coal

Platte River Power Authority You are leaving WAPA.gov. recently got the results of a study it commissioned on the relative costs of transitioning to net-zero carbon generation by 2030. The study found that the northern Colorado generation and transmission utility can deliver a net-zero carbon generation portfolio for a cost premium of only 8 percent over the lifetime of the planning horizon (2018–2050).

A story in RMI Outlet, You are leaving WAPA.gov. the Rocky Mountain Institute blog, noted that researchers used relatively conservative assumptions for solar and wind costs, and did not consider demand-side efforts in their calculations. This is significant not only because the estimated difference in cost is so small, but also because it indicates the actual cost premium may be even lower than 8 percent.

Federal hydropower - 90 MW

Federal hydropower – 90 MW
Photo by Platte River Power Authority

History of commitment
PRPA and its municipal utility owners—Estes Park, You are leaving WAPA.gov. Fort Collins, You are leaving WAPA.gov.Longmont You are leaving WAPA.gov. and Loveland You are leaving WAPA.gov.—have a long-standing commitment to clean energy and efficiency. The G&T contracts for approximately 198 megawatts of carbon-free resources from wind, hydropower and solar assets. In fall 2016, PRPA diversified its power production portfolio further by adding 30 MW of solar power at Rawhide Flats Solar.

Rawhide Flats Solar - 30 MW

Rawhide Flats Solar – 30 MW
Photo by Platte River Power Authority

A small mountain town with many second-home owners, Estes Park installed two electric vehicle chargers in 2014 and offers its residents energy-efficiency programs and a renewable energy purchase program. Fort Collins, second-place winner of the Georgetown University Energy Prize, has been a global climate leader for nearly 20 years. It was at Fort Collins’ request that PRPA undertook the net-zero study. Longmont City Council recently adopted a goal to use 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2030 You are leaving WAPA.gov. and Loveland, an active contributor to the Rocky Mountain Utility Exchange, You are leaving WAPA.gov. provides its customers with an extensive menu of energy-saving programs.

Silver Sage Windpower Project - 12 MW

Silver Sage Windpower Project – 12 MW
Photo by Platte River Power Authority

Calculating total cost
Technology company Siemens performed the study that is unique in showing a low cost for net-zero generation that incorporates transmission costs and balancing charges as well as fuel costs. RMI calls it proof that a net-zero path can achieve cost parity against coal even in coal country and that renewables can compete anywhere.

WAPA celebrates PRPA and its members for their initiative and for showing that public power utilities can lead the way to a low-carbon future.

Source: RMI Outlet, 3/8/18

Utility Dive releases annual survey report

Unpredictability has become the new normal for the power industry as Utility Dive’s fifth annual State of the Electric Utility Survey You are leaving WAPA.gov. makes clear.

Artwork by Utility Dive

The survey of nearly 700 electric utilities in the U.S. and Canada indicated that their commitment to lower-carbon energy resources remains strong even as concern over market and policy uncertainty grows. Other top takeaways include:

  • Expectations of load growth – Since 2008, utilities have faced stagnant or declining demand for electricity, but this year, utility professionals see that trend changing.
  • Uncertainty, particularly in regard to federal regulation – Nearly 40 percent of utility professionals named uncertainty as their top concern about changing their power mix — almost twice the level of concern expressed about integrating distributed energy resources (DER) with utility systems.
  • Cybersecurity fears – For the second year running, participants placed cybersecurity at the top of their list of concerns, with about 81 percent rating it either important or very important.
  • Justifying emerging grid investments – Utilities see the need to invest in grid intelligence to manage electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure, DER, storage, analytics and cybersecurity. However, demonstrating the return on such high-tech investments to regulators, ratepayers and even their own organizations is complicated.
  • Traditional cost-of-service regulation falling from favor – Utilities are ready to adapt their business models to take advantage of new technologies and market opportu­nities. Around 80 percent indicated they either have or want a regulatory proceeding in their state focused on reforming utility business and revenue models.

Perhaps the most positive message to be taken from the results of the 2018 survey is how many utilities are willing to rethink the traditional business model in the face of changes in the industry. The report has a laundry list of other important insights on rate design, DER ownership, the increasing popularity of EVs and more. Whether you participated in the survey this year or not, it is sure to make for interesting reading.

You can download the 86-page survey report for free, or read a rundown of the top results with graphs. Utility Dive also hosted a sneak-peak webinar on the results at the end of January, which you can listen to for free.

Source: Utility Dive, 2/27/18

New report explores ways to help low-income customers

(Artwork by DEFG)

Management consulting firm DEFG recently released their EcoPinion Consumer Survey Report No. 31, The Long Struggle Continues: Improving Service to Low-Income Customers in the Utility SectorYou are leaving WAPA.gov.

The report draws on data from more than 1,000 Americans to yield 534 respondents with household incomes below $50,000. Members of the Low Income Energy Issues Forum, a diverse working group seeking innovations to make utility service more affordable, collaborated on the survey.

Even as the economy continues to grow stronger, many Americans still struggle to pay their utility bills. The number of low-income respondents who reported trouble paying their utility bills in 2017 increased 7 percent over the previous year. Also, 20 percent of respondents had applied for energy assistance.

Contributing to the general anxiety of trying to provide for their families, low-income customers experience uncertainty about the utility bill itself, the complexity of applying for energy assistance and confusion about how to control costs. Utilities seeking to improve service to this demographic might offer a range of voluntary options that customers could choose according to their lifestyle.

Consumers who are intensely focused on their daily budgets need more convenient choices. Simplifying tariffs, facilitating energy assistance through social service agencies and offering individualized “energy counseling” are among the services that could provide greater control to customers with limited financial means.

The findings also indicated that the low-income segment is far more engaged with their energy consumption than utilities believed. A majority of survey respondents have taken action on their own to save money on electric or heating bills. Consumers are eager for more information to save even more.

Perhaps the challenge is not consumer engagement but the entire construct of utility programs and policies to assist these customers. For example, a key metric used by advocates is “energy burden,” referring to the percentage of a household’s income required to pay utility bills. Yet, when asked, low-income customers understood “burden” somewhat differently; they focus more on eliminating uncertainty and getting help when they need it (situational awareness). This is an important distinction.

The 2017 survey points to the long struggle to improve service to low-income customers, beginning with utility program developers being willing to listen more carefully to customers themselves. We must be prepared to let go of the assumptions that undergird programs and assistance measures intended to help these customers, and develop offerings that more closely match their needs.

You can download EcoPinion Consumer Survey Report No. 31 and other reports and articles from EcoPinion Publications. Registration and login is required. You can also sign up to receive email updates.

Source: DEFG EcoPinion, 2/12/18

Santa Clara reaches coal-free goal in 2018

Silicon Valley Power You are leaving WAPA.gov. (SVP) reached a major milestone in the long, determined march toward sustainability when the Santa Clara, California, utility permanently eliminated coal power from its energy supply Jan. 1.

SVP sent this greeting to its customers to let them know the gift of a coal-free power supply had finally arrived.

SVP Chief Electric Utility Officer John Roukema sent this holiday greeting to customers to let them know the gift of a coal-free power supply had finally arrived. (Photo by Silicon Valley Power)

Various renewable resources and natural gas-fueled generation from Lodi Energy Center  You are leaving WAPA.gov. in Lodi, California, have replaced the 51 megawatts (MW) of coal-powered electricity SVP sourced from San Juan Generating Station in New Mexico. The move reduces the carbon intensity of Santa Clara’s power supply by about 50 percent.

Thanks to customers
The accomplishment began with both residential and business customers pushing the utility to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. SVP serves many forward-thinking corporations along with a highly educated and unusually engaged group of residents. “We launched the Santa Clara Green Power Program to meet customers’ demands for 100-percent renewable power as the state established its renewable energy goals,” stated SVP Customer Services Manager Larry Owens.

Santa Clara Green Power launched in 2004, two years after California adopted a renewable portfolio standard (RPS) and two years before the first expansion of the RPS. The city continued to monitor its emissions, evaluate resources and update its goals to stay ahead of state mandates, but mostly to meet and exceed customer expectations.

Keeping up with the expectations of business customers in the center of the technology industry has challenged SVP to keep reaching higher, too. SVP Public Benefits Manager Mary Medeiros McEnroe noted, “Many of our large key customers have corporate sustainability initiatives and have been the drivers behind some of our programs.”

Businesses subscribing to Santa Clara Green include Intel—a 62-wind turbine partner—Santa Clara University, the Great American Theme Park and the city itself. A number of large commercial customers have installed solar arrays on their facilities ranging from 750 kilowatts to 1 MW per site.

Speed bumps, fast lanes on road to success
There are pros and cons to being a leader in clean power initiatives and SVP has seen both sides as it moved toward its goal.

In 1980, SVP joined Modesto Irrigation District You are leaving WAPA.gov. and Redding Electric Utility You are leaving WAPA.gov. to form the M-S-R Public Power Agency, You are leaving WAPA.gov. a partnership that has helped all three utilities evolve with the industry. In 2006, M-S-R worked to acquire 200 MW of new wind power in Brickleton, WA. “We all saw our customers buying more green power,” Owens recalled.

It was clear to the utility partners that a cleaner power supply was the road to the future. Around 2009, as the state set higher renewable energy goals and added new regulations, other California municipal utilities followed M-S-R toward the coal off-ramp. In some ways, Owen observed, the group effort gave utilities more leverage to negotiate their exit from coal power providers. On the other hand, “The more participants, the more complexity,” he said. “And there was a lot more competition for renewable energy. Ultimately, though, the cooperation among utilities was impressive.”

SVP knew that leaving their coal provider and finding cleaner power sources to replace the 51 MW was going to be difficult. But it paid off in the end when San Juan Generating Station permanently closed down half of its units. “We expected that they would just find another buyer for that power, so SVP going coal-free turned out to have a much wider impact by actually decommissioning two of the four units,” said Owens. “That was a nice surprise.”

SVP’s innovative use of wind technology on behalf of its Santa Clara, California, customers earned it the U.S. Department of Energy’s annual Public Power Wind Award.

SVP’s innovative use of wind technology on behalf of its Santa Clara, California, customers earned it the U.S. Department of Energy’s annual Public Power Wind Award. (Picture by Silicon Valley Power)

Future is affordable
The greatest fear that grips utilities when they contemplate a future without coal—that it will force them to raise rates—has not materialized for SVP customers.

Utilities are always retiring and acquiring purchase power contracts over time, Owens pointed out, and that will affect pricing. Shifting to the Lodi Energy Center and ramping up green power caused some upward pressures on price for SVP. In the long term, however, “The forward price curves for natural gas and renewables look better than coal,” he stated.

Switching to those resources is also an investment in meeting federal mandates to reduce carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide emissions, he added.

Given the many factors that shape energy costs, SVP still boasts some of the lowest electricity rates in California. The utility recently announced that there will be no rate increase for 2018, and rates are expected to remain flat for the next couple of years.

Efficiency still matters
When rates inevitably change, SVP’s strong customer relationships and menu of long-established efficiency programs will help to ease acceptance.

SVP residential customers can get rebates for efficiency measures including attic insulation, ceiling fans, electric clothes dryers, electric heat pump water heaters and pool pumps. In addition to Santa Clara Green Power, the Neighborhood Solar Program allows customers to sponsor solar installations on public buildings. SVP also provides homeowners with energy audits and loans diagnostic tools to do-it-yourselfers.

While SVP counts some of the world’s most progressive companies among its large key customers, Medeiros McEnroe said that the small commercial customers are surprisingly engaged too. “Quite a few of our small businesses support Santa Clara Green Power, from dentists to auto shops, and many have installed solar arrays on their buildings,” she said. “Sustainability is a community value in Santa Clara.”

Keeping costs down is, nevertheless, still a top concern for small businesses, so SVP offers rebates for specific systems like lighting, as well as custom measures. The utility has also partnered with the Food Service Technology Center for a program to teach food service employees to manage energy and water costs.

SVP also provides energy benchmarking to help companies understand their energy and water use and set goals for improvement. “We have been able to help many customers through free snapshot audits and by educating them about the value of purchasing energy-efficient equipment,” Medeiros McEnroe said.

A utility customer program manager’s work is never done, and sustainability will always be a moving target. Achieving the coal-free goal is impressive but there are still peaks to manage and costs to control. WAPA has no doubt that with the support of its committed customers, SVP will meet each new challenge, exceed expectations and continue to impress.

ACEEE releases third, final video in ‘Health and Environment’ series

Energy Retrofits Clear the Air in Pittsburgh, You are leaving WAPA.gov. the final installment in a three-part video series from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), is now available to watch online.

The videos share the stories of homeowners in three eastern states, and the effect energy-efficiency upgrades have had on their lives. The theme running through the series is that reducing energy waste lessens the need to burn fossil fuels to generate electricity. Those cuts deliver big gains in health, because pollutants from burning fossil fuels contribute to four of the leading causes of death in the United States: cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, heart disease and stroke.

The series is part of ACEEE’s new Health and Environment program, launched last year to research the linkages among health, environment and energy efficiency, and to educate policymakers. Later this year, ACEEE will release a series of reports that will further explore the health and environmental benefits of saving energy.

A two-day Conference on Health, Environment & Energy ACEEE is planning for December will showcase the research and promote others’ work in this growing field. Utilities are welcomed to attend the conference in New Orleans to add their voices to this critical conversation.

Source: American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, 2/6/18

Annual Report highlights WAPA’S service to customers, communities in American West

Fiscal Year 2017 Annual Report, Serving Communities, Saving Communities

Western Area Power Administration published its Fiscal Year 2017 Annual Report, Jan. 31. This year’s theme, “Serving Communities, Saving Communities,”​ highlights WAPA’s accomplishments for the year and demonstrates how WAPA serves communities across the West by focusing on availability, reliability, security and quality.

“Delivering power is about so much more than moving electrons. Our power and our services make a difference in communities we serve,” said Administrator and CEO Mark A. Gabriel in his introductory letter. “We are honored to deliver reliable and renewable power to communities who need it most.” Read more.

Schedule announced for 2018 DOE Tribal Webinar Series

The U.S. Department of Energy Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs and WAPA are once again co-sponsoring the Tribal Energy Webinar Series. The 2018 series of 11 webinars focuses on Tribal Sovereignty and Self-Determination through Community Energy Development. The free webinars are held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mountain Time the last Wednesday of each month, beginning in January and concluding in November.

Roughly two million American Indians and Alaska Natives from 567 federally recognized tribes live on or near 56.2 million acres of Indian land. These lands are also rich in energy resources that offer the tribes the opportunity for economic development and greater self-determination. The 2018 webinar series provides these diverse communities with the information and knowledge required to evaluate and prioritize their energy options.

Topics will cover establishing tribal consensus on energy goals and objectives; instituting short and long-range actions; and making informed technical, financial, market, policy, and regulatory decisions. Speakers will present tribal case studies highlighting proven energy development best practices. Attendees will discover tools and resources to facilitate and accelerate community energy and infrastructure development in Indian Country.

STEM interns, here at the Acoma Pueblo, assist with Office of Indian Energy-funded projects. Former interns will talk about their experiences with the program at the Jan. 31 Tribal Energy Webinar.

STEM interns, here at the Acoma Pueblo, assist with Office of Indian Energy-funded projects. Former interns will talk about their experiences with the program at the Jan. 31 Tribal Energy Webinar. (Photo by DOE Office of Indian Energy)

Action-oriented program
The series begins on Jan. 31 with Office of Indian Energy: Advancing Future Leaders through STEM. You are leaving WAPA.gov. This webinar will highlight the college student internship program for Native students interested in energy project planning and development activities. Former interns will talk about their experience with experts in the field and at DOE’s national laboratories, and how the program helped them make a positive impact in Indian Country. Applications are now being accepted through February 19 for the summer 2018 internship opportunity.

The rest of the schedule builds on past series with an emphasis on process, action and community-wide engagement:

There is no charge to attend, but registration is required. Attendees must have Internet access, computer compatibility with GoToMeeting software, and a phone line.

Source: DOE Office of Indian Energy via Green Power News, 1/19/18

ACEEE releases 2017 state energy-efficiency scorecard

WAPA salutes six states in our territory that ranked in the Top 20 most energy-efficient states, according to the annual ranking by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy. You are leaving WAPA.gov.

The 2017 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard rated California as the second most efficient state in the nation behind Massachusetts. Minnesota came in at ninth place, Colorado scored a 15, Utah and Arizona tied for 17th place and Iowa rounded out the group as the 19th most efficient state.

ACEEE annually ranks the energy efficiency of each state in six categories. How did your state do?

ACEEE annually ranks the energy efficiency of each state in six categories. How did your state do? (Artwork by American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy)

The state of Nevada showed improvement, rising three positions from 2016 to rank 34th, partly as a result of state efforts like the Home Energy Retrofit Opportunities for Seniors You are leaving WAPA.gov. (HEROS) program overseen by the Governor’s Office of Energy. Michael Jones of Carson City used the program to properly seal his home, saving money and—just as important for a person with disabilities—improving his comfort.On average, participants like Jones reduce annual electricity use by 5,143 kilowatt-hours and natural gas consumption by 266 therms, saving $927 on their energy bills annually.

For the first time this year, the state-specific score sheets included stories of individuals and communities. The ACEEE found schools that improved lighting and taught students about sustainability, state facilities that secured more reliable electricity and senior citizens who improved the comfort of their homes. The stories demonstrate the effect smart energy-efficiency policies and programs have on our wallets, local economies, productivity and quality of life.

Now in its 11th edition, the ACEEE State Energy Efficiency Scorecard benchmarks state progress on efficiency policies and programs that save energy while benefiting the environment and promoting growth. The scorecard ranks states in six categories—utility programs, transportation, building energy codes, combined heat and power, state initiatives and appliance standards—using data vetted by state energy officials.

You can download the report for free (registration required) and check out your state’s scorecard, compare it with others and learn about programs that are driving efficiency gains.

Source: American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, 9/27/17

ED3 announces 2018 electric rate decrease of 2 percent

The price of necessities only goes in one direction—up—but don’t tell Electrical District No. 3 You are leaving WAPA.gov. (ED3). The Maricopa, Arizona, public utility is lowering its 2018 electric rates an average of 2 percent for residential, commercial, small industrial, large industrial and agriculture customers.

At a time when other utilities and businesses across the nation are raising their rates, the ED3 board of directors approved a rate decrease for the third year in a row. CEO and General Manager William Stacy attributes this exciting accomplishment to sound management and a diligent planning process.

Partnership cuts costs
Specifically, Stacy noted the benefits of being part of the Southwest Public Power Agency You are leaving WAPA.gov. (SPPA). In 2014, ED3 formed the joint action agency with 17 other Arizona public power and tribal utilities. Members enjoy economies of scale in terms of managing existing resources and developing new ones, Stacy explained. “We see a lot of benefits for our customers, particularly those in Arizona’s rural or tribal areas,” he added.

A new power pooling agreement with SPPA for electricity from the Hoover Dam has allowed ED3 to reduce costs for balancing services. This year ED3 was able to move its controlling area into the Arizona Electric Power Cooperative’s You are leaving WAPA.gov. controlling area for additional savings on operating costs.

Planning for growth
To keep rates down, you also have to keep an eye on the future, especially in a community that is growing as fast as ED3’s service territory. “We are constantly reanalyzing our 10-year load growth plan,” said Stacy.

ED3 is the largest electrical district in the state, currently serving about 25,000 residential, commercial and irrigation meter connections. The district operates 12 distribution-level substations, and is building a new one to accommodate the average of 65 new homes springing up in the area each month. “In terms of rates, being large helps because we are able to spread fixed costs over a wide customer base,” Stacy acknowledged.

Wise use still important
Even with standard residential rates that are 10 percent lower than investor-owned Arizona Public Service, ED3 does not take customer satisfaction for granted. Programs to help customers manage their own energy use are very much a part of the district’s business model.

ED3 offers customers a Home Performance with Energy Star® Home Energy Audit for the heavily discounted price of $49. Homeowners can choose from a list participating contractors posted online. Customers can also attend free quarterly conservation workshops ED3 presents, and find energy conservation tips in the district’s bimonthly newsletter.

Rate, payment flexibility
In addition to having the lowest rates in the area, ED3 residential customers also have the choice of two time-of-use (TOU) rate schedules. The peak time for TOU-A is 9 a.m.-9 p.m. and 12-7 p.m. for TOU-B. The applications provide energy-saving tips so that customers can maximize the benefits of the schedule. “They can choose whichever one works best for them,” said Stacy.

ED3 also implemented a pre-paid metering program last year. Customers pre-pay for their electricity and receive daily text or email notifications of the amount they use and the amount remaining on their account. Studies have shown that customers who use a pre-pay option tend to use less electricity. Whether it is the energy savings or the feeling of control it gives customers, the program has proved surprisingly popular, Stacy observed. “We have 1,470 customers participating in it,” he said.

Which brings up another truism: People are always looking for ways to pay less for necessities. Luckily for ED3 customers, their utility is always looking for ways to help them.

Source: Public Power Daily, 11/6/17