Platte River RFP calls for solar power, storage proposals

Colorado-based Platte River Power Authority You are leaving WAPA.gov. on Feb. 21 issued a request for proposals (RFP) for at least 20 megawatts of new solar energy capacity that could be added to its system. The RFP also calls for up to 5 megawatt-hours (MWh) of energy storage capacity.

In the RFP, Platte River said it would consider proposals for a long-term power purchase agreement for solar projects that could be built and operational between June 2019 and the end of 2021.

Platte River also expressed strong interest for technologies that could store up to 5 MWh of energy.

Proposals in response to the RFP will be due by 4 p.m. Mountain time on March 30.

Read more. You are leaving WAPA.gov.

Source: Public Power Daily, 2/22/18

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.

Check out tools for resource planning, program development

Everyone loves to get a new tool that will make their job easier, whether it is a power sander for refinishing furniture or a calculator to help you choose the most cost-effective renewable resource or efficiency measure. Here are some “gadgets” that might be just what you need.

Choose your clean power
The Green Power Partnership, a program of the Environmental Protection Agency, has released a new Green Power Supply Options Screening Tool to help you sort through the different supply options. There are many ways to purchase green power—such as green tariffs, competitive green power products and off-site power purchase agreements—and determining which purchasing method works for you can be difficult.

Users answer a few simple questions about their organizations, including their locations and annual energy consumption. The Excel-based tool will describe which supply options might be most feasible, according to the relevant federal, state and utility policies. Background documents accompany the tool to explain how the results are defined and the logic used to produce the result for each supply option.

Calculate equipment efficiency
The DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) created the Better Buildings Residential Program Solution Center as a repository for the lessons learned from other EERE programs dedicated to improving building efficiency. Utility program administrators will find resources here that help them plan, operate and evaluate residential energy efficiency programs.

Artwork by DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

Artwork by DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

The Solution Center has recently been branching out with more information about the technical aspects of home performance programs. A new section focused on technology solutions explores innovative technologies, offers installation guidance and estimates potential energy savings.

New pages highlight HVAC systems and heat pump water heaters, two applications that account for about 67 percent of home energy consumption. Use the reports, best practices and other resources to support program offerings and help you to reach your energy-efficiency program targets.

Identify energy savings potential
Researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have developed ResStock, a versatile tool that takes a new approach to large-scale residential energy analysis.

The ResStock software achieves unprecedented granularity and accuracy in modeling the diversity of the single-family housing stock by combining:

  • Large public and private data sources
  • Statistical sampling
  • Detailed sub-hourly building simulations
  • High-performance computing

The research team has run more than 20 million simulations using a statistical model of housing stock characteristics. The results uncovered $49 billion in potential annual utility bill savings through cost-effective energy efficiency improvements.

Using ResStock analysis, utilities can target energy-efficiency improvements to specific customer segments to improve cost-effectiveness. Resource planners can determine which measures and distributed energy resources are best for relieving grid congestion and what housing stock segments can provide the greatest load flexibility.

Utility program managers, municipalities and state energy agencies can use ResStock to identify the most cost-effective—and energy-saving—home improvements. The tool is also valuable for helping cities and states figure out how buildings contribute to energy or emissions targets. NREL is pursuing partnerships with industry to adapt ResStock for specific utility, manufacturer, state and local applications.

NREL will be offering the ResStock software at no cost, leveraging DOE’s open-source building energy modeling ecosystem of OpenStudio® and EnergyPlus. These cloud-based collections of software tools allow users to model energy use for heating, cooling, ventilation, lighting and plug-and- process loads without a supercomputer.

To learn how ResStock can help your utility contact Eric Wilson at NREL.

Source: US Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, 1/30/18

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

CSVP Solutions Toolbox supports community solar development

With the average price of utility-scale solar electricity now at 6 cents per kilowatt-hour, it makes more sense than ever for utilities to consider adding community solar projects to their generation portfolios. And if your utility is new to the shared solar model, then you are in luck—the Community Solar Value Project You are leaving WAPA.gov. (CSVP) has just introduced a new Solutions Toolbox to help you develop a successful program.

In community or shared solar development, customers subscribe to solar project output or purchase or lease solar panels. According to the Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA), some 170 utilities nationwide currently offer or are planning to offer community solar.

The CSVP focuses on helping utilities to develop programs that meet the needs of both the utility and the customer. This includes programs that are developed entirely by the utility, as well as programs where the utility works with non-utility service providers.

Six sides of box
The Toolbox distills the wisdom and experiences of dozens of utilities and their trade allies to identify best practices that deliver value while speeding the project to market. The site, “Solutions Outside the Box,” addresses six challenge areas:

  1. Cross-departmental program design
  2. Strategic solar project design
  3. Best-practice financing and procurement
  4. Target marketing for customer acquisition
  5. Integration with solar-plus measures, such as energy storage and demand response (DR)
  6. Analytics, streamlined to get from project economics to program pricing

These issues will sound familiar to anyone who attended the CSVP workshop WAPA hosted at the Electric Power Training Center last June. One takeaway from that event was that every utility planner faces problems unique to their policy environments, organizational structures and customer demands.

Rich in resources
With that in mind, the CSVP built flexibility into the toolbox, stocking each topic with top planning guides, technical summaries, presentations and training webinars.

  • The Process is a flexible, solutions-oriented roadmap utilities can follow to develop their own community solar programs. High-Value Community Solar: A Brief Guide to Utility Program Design, a report in presentation format, summarizes lessons learned and introduces the planning resources on the website.
  • Strategic Design introduces the benefits of local, community-scale solar and of designing with strategic integration value in mind. This section provides tips for making high-value design choices, from strategic siting and solar tracking to gaining added value from solar shade structures. It dovetails with economic analysis process discussed in Section 6, Net-Value Assessment & Pricing.
  • Procurement for Products & Services is an area offering many opportunities for improving net value. Among the resources here, you will find CSVP’s concise outsourcing decision key, project financing models suitable for investor-owned or consumer-owned utilities and a procurement resource guide with direct links to publications on developing a solar request for proposal.
  • Target Market Research & Segmentation is a relatively new approach for utilities, but it is required for success with community solar. This topic covers best practices for community solar programs, with references to relevant resources, a webinar, market research checklist and step-by-step guide to Market Research and Market Segmentation for Community Solar Program Success. WAPA customer SMUD You are leaving WAPA.gov. and other Utility Forum members joined CSVP on fieldwork for these resources.
  • Companion Measures, such as solar-plus-storage and DR, can be integrated into community solar projects to create new options and value streams. CSVP’s guide to DR companion measures and guide to storage companion measures define options on either side of the meter that can complement community solar. An annotated resource list is a useful companion guide.
  • Net-Value Assessment & Pricing provides detail on CSVP’s streamlined analytic process to speed the path from early-stage program design to competitive program pricing. It begins with an overview presentation and a paper on CSVP’s streamlined economic analysis and includes three generic scenarios illustrating how this analytic approach applies in different utility settings. A presentation and blog on pricing strategy clarifies the last step in this approach.

The CSVP developed the Solutions Toolbox in partnership with energy industry experts and utilities, including SMUD. The DOE SunShot Initiative provided funding for the project under its Solar Market Pathways program. For more information about Solutions Toolbox or the Community Solar Value Project, contact Jill Cliburn at 505-490-3070.

Solar stock tank group purchase ‘a huge success’

Utility program managers know that equipment rebates are not only a building block of load management strategies, but are also an effective customer outreach tool. Surprisingly effective, in the case of Holy Cross Energy’s You are leaving WAPA.gov. recent Passive Solar Livestock Tank Sales Event.

The passive solar stock tank Holy Cross Energy members Kevin White and Rachel Marble got for their horses was the start of a promotional sale that succeeded beyond the utility's expectations.

Holy Cross Energy Program Administrator Mary Wiener learned about the SunTank passive solar stock tank from members Kevin White and Rachel Marble, who got one for their horses. (Photo by Joey Calabrese, Holy Cross Energy Communications Specialist)

The Colorado electrical cooperative teamed up with Clean Energy Economy for the Region You are leaving WAPA.gov. (CLEER) and Pine Ranch Products You are leaving WAPA.gov. in October to offer the SunTank stock watering tank at wholesale pricing to livestock owners in three Rocky Mountain counties. Members responded enthusiastically to the offer, placing 30 orders for a total of 58 tanks. “It caught us a little off guard,” admitted Mary Wiener, Energy Efficiency Program administrator for Holy Cross Energy.

Manufactured by the Utah-based company, the tank eliminates the need either for costly electric heating units or for manually breaking and shoveling ice that forms on tanks in subzero weather. The water in the heavily insulated tank is not exposed directly to sunlight so it is algae resistant and requires less cleaning than a conventional stock tank. As far as Wiener can tell, it is the only product of its type on the market.

Product opens doors
Holy Cross has offered a $250 rebate on solar stock tanks for several years as part of its WE CARE carbon reduction program, but there have been few takers. “We don’t have a big agricultural load,” Wiener explained. “It’s mainly a few irrigation pumps.”

At $649 to $825, the retail price for the 25- and 42-gallon SunTanks might be a barrier as well. However, Wiener thinks that the lack of interest in the rebate mainly stemmed from members not being aware of the offer. “I didn’t know about solar stock tanks until a member told me about them,” she said.

Wiener learned about the water tanks during a home energy audit she performed for members Rachel Marble and Kevin White, who are horse owners. The couple was understandably excited to show off their new solar-heated SunTank to their power provider’s efficiency expert. Wiener, for her part, immediately recognized an opportunity to connect with members she rarely saw outside of the occasional request for an energy audit.

CLEER, a public benefit organization which frequently partners with Holy Cross on member efficiency programs, had expressed interest in doing an outreach project for agricultural members. While the stock tank is not likely to have a big impact on Holy Cross’s load, “It was something that would really help our members,” Wiener said. “Utilities should be looking for services they can offer besides just electricity.”

Word gets out, orders come in
Getting members’ attention is just as critical to a program’s success as identifying valuable products and services. Holy Cross started the promotion with a booth at the local Potato Day Festival, which attracted a lot of members with a drawing for one of the stock tanks. Two articles in local newspapers followed the festival and the October sale was posted on the utility website event calendar.

If Pine Ranch received orders for more than 10 tanks, buyers would get the wholesale price. The company eliminated the shipping fee by agreeing to drive the tanks from the Santa Clara, Utah, factory. To sweeten the deal, Holy Cross increased the rebate from $250 to $300 and covered the 2.9 percent sales tax in the rebate. How could livestock owners resist?

Booboo and his owner Rodney, a Holy Cross Lineman Foreman, wait for the installation of their new SunTank.

Booboo and his owner Rodney, a Holy Cross lineman foreman, wait for the installation of their new SunTank. (Photo by Joey Calabrese, Holy Cross Energy Communications Specialist)

In fact, not many did. Colorado Mountain College You are leaving WAPA.gov. alone ordered 10 tanks for the veterinary technology program on its Spring Valley campus. The SunTanks support the school’s sustainability efforts while providing the program’s animals with a cleaner, more accessible water source. The sale was so successful, Pine Ranch was swamped by the number of orders and had to move the late November delivery date to mid-December. “I didn’t realize we had so many livestock animals in our territory,” observed Wiener.

Success has its price
Although the partners are pleased that the promotion succeeded far beyond their expectations, Holy Cross has no plans to repeat the Passive Solar Stock Tank Sale soon. “I would do some things differently if we did it again,” Wiener acknowledged. “It was a lot of work for a very small member segment.”

Some changes she would make to the program include taking preorders and holding the sale in September to make sure that the tanks arrive by November, ahead of the freezing weather. Wiener also advises choosing your partners carefully, as some organizations that initially wanted to join the promotion failed to follow through with the promised support. Pine Ranch, however, did a great job, she added. “The company was really well organized, which helped them handle the big order.”

Ultimately, Holy Cross Energy counts the Passive Solar Stock Tank Sale as a win, and Wiener believes other cooperatives with livestock customers should consider doing a group purchase event. “Try something new,” she urged. “It was good for our customers and our relationship with them, and it brought attention to a great product made by a small business.”

Source: Clean Energy Economy News, 12/4/17

Wholesale electric rate for federal hydropower decreases in nine states

Starting Jan. 1, 2018, electric utilities receiving federal hydropower in nine Rocky Mountain and northern Great Plains states will see lower firm hydropower rates from Western Area Power Administration for the second year in a row. The lower rates will result in savings of roughly $40 million dollars annually for customers.

Firm power customers with contracts with WAPA’s Pick-Sloan Missouri River Basin – Eastern Division will experience a 15-percent decrease in the composite rate, and customers with Loveland Area Projects contracts will see a 14–percent decrease.

The two projects serve 415 electric utilities in Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska with federal hydropower and related services. ​Read more.

Source: WAPA Newsroom, 12/8/17

Eco Pulse 2017 ends year on message of unity

Artwork by Shelton Group

In a country that increasingly seems to be defined by its division, it can be hard to market products and services that everybody needs, a challenge not lost on electric utilities. Happily, there are still some things people agree on—energy efficiency comes to mind—and the latest Eco Pulse report explores how to use those areas of agreement to tell your product’s story.

Agreeing on Earth
United We Understand You are leaving WAPA.gov. takes a deep dive to look at the values that drive the attitudes and behaviors people have with regard to sustainability. The data collected in the report suggest that the values structure in our country has more common roots than news headlines would indicate.

A survey of 2,000 respondents showed that Americans believe three things:

  1. We all deserve a clean planet.
  2. There’s a big problem happening with our environment.
  3. Everyone bears responsibility for fixing environmental problems.

Also, the number of respondents who say sustainability is an important part of their consumer choices has increased since 2013 and they believe that companies should do their part. However, a majority of respondents believe companies won’t take action unless a law requires them to.

Words matter
The report shares words that can unify Americans and thereby help brands connect with consumers. Using words that unite can help businesses use sustainability to build their brands across a broader audience. For utilities, the carefully chosen marketing language can create support for sustainability initiatives and program offerings, ensure a message that resonates and increase customer loyalty.

Language that divides rather than unites is also covered in the report. Words that trigger neutral or negative responses tend to have a less clear meaning across different demographics and do not resonate with our broader beliefs about how the world works.

Speak to values
Researchers concluded that Americans value the environment more than we might expect, but their reasons for doing so differ. Using a set of agreement statements developed in the seminal book, Environmental Values in American Culture, the Eco Pulse report found motivations that can be categorized into three distinct groups: earth-centric, human-centric and economic-centric. By understanding these values, and how to articulate them, you can better leverage your sustainability story, build your customer relationships and drive program participation.

You can download United We Understand for free from the Shelton Group, but registration is required. Start off 2018 with a revitalized marketing strategy for your customer programs and don’t forget to tell Energy Services how it goes. Happy New Year!

Source: The Shelton Group, 12/7/17

GCEA program introduces members to clean transportation

Electric vehicle (EV) technology has come such a long way in a short time that Gunnison County Electric Association (GCEA) has included member education in its marketing plan to promote this promising new load.

GCEA added the Chevy Spark-e to its fleet of company cars in 2016. According to a study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, one reason people don't buy electric vehicles is that they have never had the chance to drive or ride in one.

GCEA added the Chevy Spark-e to its fleet of company cars in 2016. According to a study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, one reason people don’t buy electric vehicles is that they have never had the chance to drive or ride in one. (Photo by Gunnison County Electric Association)

GCEA offers members a rebate on EV chargers and a time-of-use (TOU) rate to encourage EV owners to shift their charging to off-peak times. The program has been in place for almost two years and now supports an estimated 40 vehicles—about a dozen all-electric—in the cooperative’s service territory. That is an impressive uptake rate for the new technology, especially in a largely rural area with harsh winters. It points to the importance of laying the groundwork with customers to help them embrace innovation.

Fueling up
Expanding the supporting infrastructure for EVs was the first step GCEA took to launch an EV program. A January 2016 report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) exploring barriers to EV adoption found that awareness of charging stations was the biggest factor in public acceptance. “We were already gearing up the program when the NREL report came to our attention,” recalled GCEA CEO Mike McBride. “It mostly just confirmed what we already suspected.”

Working with the nearby ski resort town of Crested Butte, Colorado, GCEA energized the first public EV charging station in Gunnison County in late 2015. A grant from the Colorado Energy Office assisted with the purchase and installation. Crested Butte dedicated two parking spots in the middle of town to the charger, a generous gesture considering the shortage of parking in the ski town. “We were understandably nervous about letting a parking space go unused,” McBride observed. “Fortunately, a member who likes to ski there bought a Chevy Volt in December 2015, which certainly helped with utilization early on.”

GCEA's Chevy Spark-e refuels at the charging station the co-op installed in Lake City , Colorado. The model has a range of up to 80 miles from a full charge.

GCEA’s Chevy Spark-e refuels at the charging station the co-op installed in Lake City , Colorado. The model has a range of up to 80 miles from a full charge. (Photo by Gunnison County Electric Association)

Another grant from the Charge Ahead Colorado program supported the installation of another public electric vehicle charging station in Lake City in October of 2016. The station is the same model as the Crested Butte charger, so EV owners enjoy ease of use and familiarity with the equipment.

Meet the EVs
The NREL study also asked if respondents had been in an EV, and most answered that they had not. That hands-on experience is central to convincing people that an EV is a viable choice for personal transportation, noted McBride. “Few people have actually driven, or even ridden in a plug-in electric vehicle,” he added.

By the spring of 2016, two GCEA staff members had their own plug-in EVs and GCEA acquired a plug-in hybrid for its CEO’s use: GCEA got a Ford Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid, a lineman bought a Nissan Leaf and McBride got a Fiat 500 E. Co-op employees had the chance to drive the vehicles at a company meeting, and “People were surprised by the performance,” said McBride.

GCEA board members decided that it would be great for members to have the same opportunity to test drive an EV at the open house for the Crested Butte charging station. McBride began to look for a rental car but couldn’t find a company that carried EVs. “It seems they had trouble renting them out, so they just phased EVs out of their fleets,” he said.

Not to be deterred, board members authorized the purchase of an EV for the GCEA fleet. Saving gas costs, using the company product to fuel the car and showing members that their co-op walked the walk seemed like a win all the way around, so GCEA bought a Chevy Spark EV.

The company EV has made appearances at open houses, member meetings and even a car show in Gunnison, along with a couple of the employee-owned EVs. One particularly savvy market strategy has been to loan the car for a week to members who are community or thought leaders or who show some interest in the technology.

Making inroads
These efforts have resulted in a slow but steady change in GCEA members’ perception of electric vehicles. “People would say, ‘It’s great but it won’t work for me—I live 20 miles out of town.’ But that is well within range of a charged vehicle,” McBride said. “They worry about not being able to drive an EV in the winter, but now they are seeing EV owners driving their cars year-round.”

Challenges remain, including those specific to a Colorado mountain town. While familiarity tends to ease drivers’ “range anxiety” over time, “When the temperature drops below 32 degrees, the range does go down,” McBride acknowledged.

The relative lack of charging stations between GCEA’s stations and neighboring communities still presents a barrier, too. “If it is cold and snowing and the nearest charger is 65 miles away, that is a real problem for an EV owner,” said McBride. He added, however, “In many two-car households, there would be no inconvenience if one of the cars was electric with the other capable of longer trips.”

Raising awareness, gathering data
As EV ownership becomes more common among GCEA members, the marketing—and education— messages are shifting to focus on time of use.

Most consumers are only vaguely aware of concepts like on-peak rates and demand charges. “But we don’t want them to fuel their vehicles with the least-efficient resource or wind up paying more than necessary for cleaner transportation,” McBride explained.

By requiring members who apply for the charger rebate to sign up for TOU rates, GCEA is encouraging consumers to be more thoughtful about when and how they use energy. The charger rebate has also created a ready-made sample for a case study on TOU rates. “EVs are a great subject because they are a discrete load,” said McBride. “Members know when their vehicles are charging and can clearly understand how that affects their usage pattern.”

Therein lies the difference between a good customer program and a great one. A good program helps customers save money and energy and helps the utility control its load. A great program teaches customers about energy use and creates a dialogue between consumers and their power provider. By that measure, GCEA’s EV program is on track to achieve greatness.

 

Webinar explores rent control, other barriers to solar for apartment buildings

Nov. 8
11 a.m. MT

Residential solar installations on single family homes have soared over the last 10 years, yet most multifamily dwellers are still unable to access energy powered by the sun.

California implemented virtual net metering You are leaving WAPA.gov. (VNM) tariffs that allow solar to be installed on multifamily building rooftops and allocate the benefits between tenants and common area accounts via electricity bill credits. Other states have similar enabling policies, either through their own versions of VNM or broader community or shared solar programs. In jurisdictions with rent control, however, limitations on how much a landlord may increase tenants’ rents can present a barrier to multifamily solar uptake. (Rent control is a policy implemented by local governments that prevents rents from being charged above a certain level or predetermined percentage.)

The Interstate Renewable Energy Council You are leaving WAPA.gov. is presenting a free webinar You are leaving WAPA.gov. on Wednesday, Nov. 8, to discuss the benefits of solar on apartment buildings for tenants and property owners and the challenges presented by rent control policies.

Speakers will explore ways in which local jurisdictions could (and have) sought to overcome these challenges while still preserving the important role that rent control plays in keeping rents stable and affordable. IREC’s webinar will do a deep dive into California’s experience and provide insights for other jurisdictions with rent control.

The Virtual Net Metering Market Development Project, funded by the Department of Energy SunShot Initiative Solar Market Pathways, identified rent-controlled apartment buildings as one of several barriers to the success of California’s VNM program. The project team—Center for Sustainable Energy, You are leaving WAPA.gov. IREC and the California Solar Energy Industries Association You are leaving WAPA.gov.—seeks to help advance solar deployment in the multifamily building sector and provide access to tenants in California and across the U.S.

The three-year project is rooted in expanding the awareness, effectiveness and use of VNM. The main objective is to identify obstacles and opportunities associated with the currently underutilized VNM tariff to overcome the challenges of expanding solar PV adoption beyond traditional commercial and single-family rooftop systems.

Erica S. McConnell, special counsel with Shute Mihaly & Weinberger, LLP, is presenting the webinar. Co-presenter Edward Schexnayder is an associate attorney with Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger, LLP.

As IREC’s representative on renewable energy regulatory matters, McConnell leads the council’s shared renewable energy policy engagement. She was also a major contributor to IREC’s Model Rules for Shared Renewable Energy Programs and Shared Renewable Energy for Low-to Moderate-Income Consumers: Policy Guidelines and Model Provisions.

Schexnayder’s practice includes multiple aspects of municipal law, as well as adjudicatory proceedings before the California Public Utilities Commission and California Energy Commission. He has advised municipal clients regarding rent stabilization ordinances and has successfully defended rent ordinances from legal challenges in court.

Source: Interstate Renewable Energy Council, 10/23/17