Check out presentations from 11th RMUEE

This year's RMUEE was one of the best-attended in the event's 11-year history. More than 150 utility program managers and trade allies from around the Rocky Mountain region came to Aspen to learn and brainstorm.

This year’s RMUEE was one of the best-attended in the event’s 11-year history. More than 150 utility program managers and trade allies from around the Rocky Mountain region came to Aspen to learn and brainstorm.(Photo by UtilityExchange.org)

If you did not make it to Aspen this year to network with more than 150 utility professionals and trade allies, you can still find out what everyone was talking about (some of it, anyway). Download the presentations You are leaving WAPA.gov. from the Rocky Mountain Utility Efficiency Exchange (RMUEE), Sept. 27-29, to get a taste of this year’s hot topics.

Energy Auditor Eileen Wysocki of Holy Cross Energy shares her experience with her colleagues during a presentation. "Share, not stare," is the guiding philosophy of the RMUEE.

Energy Auditor Eileen Wysocki of Holy Cross Energy shares her experience with her colleagues during a presentation. “Share, not stare,” is the guiding philosophy of the RMUEE. (Photo by UtilityExchange.org)

Evergreen issues like customer engagement, quality assurance and program evaluation appeared alongside newer issues like electric vehicles, energy storage and smart buildings. If a theme ran through the event it was that utilities must look forward and plan for what is coming next. The industry must grapple with changing demographics, technologies that are altering the customer-utility dynamic and maturing strategies and policies that make energy and cost savings goals harder to reach.

And did we mention, Aspen, Colorado, in September? (Photo by UtilityExchange.org)

If these issues ring a bell, browse the RMUEE presentations to learn more about how your colleagues are preparing for the future. Then you can save the date of Sept. 19-21, 2018, to join them in person at the 12th annual Rocky Mountain Utility Efficiency Exchange.

Sign up to receive notices of upcoming events, including the Call for Presenters for the 12th RMUEE in January 2018.

Report, tools seek to boost building efficiency

Utilities have a vested interest in working with homeowners and businesses to accurately estimate and control energy costs. It is not only good for load management goals, it is also good for the local economy. A new report from Rocky Mountain Institute  You are leaving WAPA.gov. (RMI) and tools being developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) can help utilities and cities move toward a more efficient building stock.

Changing real estate conversation
According to the online real estate platform Redfin, You are leaving WAPA.gov. energy bills can add as much as 40 percent to annual housing costs in some parts of the country. An MPG for Homes: Driving Visible Value for Home Energy Performance in Real Estate, the RMI report, makes the argument for incorporating energy use data into the total cost of homeownership calculations.

The authors emphasize, however, that making home energy use data more accessible is part of a greater vision. True market transformation will require a change in both homebuyer behavior and policies and approaches across several interconnected industries. The real estate, finance, home improvement and—yes—utility industry would all play a part and could all benefit in the long run from improving home performance metrics and making the data more transparent and accessible to homeowners.

RMI notes that the “green real estate” movement is already starting to catch on with online real estate portals featuring home energy scores on property listings. Partnerships between the Zillow Group You are leaving WAPA.gov. and UtilityScore, You are leaving WAPA.gov. Estately You are leaving WAPA.gov. and Clearly Energy and Redfin and Tendril You are leaving WAPA.gov. are aiming to make home energy scores a bigger consideration in buying decisions.

Recent home purchases drove 26 percent of home renovations in 2015, and preparation for resale led to 13 percent of renovations, according to Houzz and Home: Overview of Renovation. You are leaving WAPA.gov. Moreover, 67 percent of study respondents cited improving energy efficiency as an important reason for making a renovation. Clearly, renovation projects offer utilities an opportunity to promote energy-efficiency measures and programs to a receptive audience. Establishing relationships with housing professionals in the community could pay off for utility program managers in a big way.

Tools analyze home, infrastructure projects
Once you connect with customers who are interested in making energy-efficiency improvements, the next challenge is determining what upgrades will save them the most money and energy. The ResStock analysis tool from NREL provides detailed information on the technical and economic potential of residential energy-efficiency improvements and packages for 48 U.S. states.

By combining large data sources and statistical sampling with detailed building simulations, the program achieves unprecedented accuracy in modeling the diversity of the single-family housing stock. The ResStock software leverages DOE’s open-source building energy modeling platforms OpenStudio® You are leaving WAPA.gov.  and EnergyPlus You are leaving WAPA.gov. so you won’t need a supercomputer to run the program. Contact NREL to find out more.

On a larger scale, NREL’s Energy Systems Integration Facility is working on a demonstration project that is developing a buildings and district energy modeling tool, URBANopt. The demonstration integrates URBANopt with grid modeling software, OpenDSS, to analyze the projected dynamic energy consumption of a planned 382-acre mixed-use development. The Denver, Colorado, site includes corporate office space, retail space, multifamily dwellings, a hotel and parking and street lighting. This project will result in several tools that others can use to replicate this project across the country, including an enhanced version of URBANopt and a developer’s handbook.

New solar learning videos target local code officials, other building professionals

The United States is on track to install 4 million residential solar photovoltaic (PV) arrays by 2020. Ensuring that these installations meet current codes and standards is the job of building and electrical inspectors. To help code officials, architects, builders and solar installers keep up with the latest solar codes and safety requirements, Interstate Renewable Energy Council You are leaving WAPA.gov. (IREC) has added new informational videos to its suite of training resources.

In just a few short years, the number of residential solar installs in the US has increased exponentially.

In just a few short years, the number of residential solar installs in the US has increased exponentially. (Artwork by Interstate Renewable Energy Council)

IREC partnered with the International Association of Electrical Inspectors You are leaving WAPA.gov. (IAEI) and the International Code Council You are leaving WAPA.gov. (ICC) to develop resources for code officials to learn the key aspects of solar technology related to their trade. The educational videos target a broad audience by highlighting the inspection process. Code officials who have experience inspecting solar installations will be reminded of important details of the process. Inspectors who are new to solar PV will be introduced to essential aspects of the inspection and referred to more detailed training.

“Officials involved in the planning, inspection and permitting of residential solar installations now have access to solar training and education in their office, at home and in the field,” says IREC Director of Workforce Development Laure-Jeanne Davignon. “The wide variety of tools allows code officials new to solar and experienced professionals to learn in the format they choose: in-person, online, printable documents or videos.”

IAEI CEO David Clements called the videos a “must-see” and an excellent resource to educate code officials and inspectors working in the field on residential solar installations. “Training from the NEC® You are leaving WAPA.gov. (National Electrical Code), along with other codes and standards, has become a critical combination to ensure a safe installation,” he stated in a press release. “Knowledge and knowing how to apply it will ensure a code compliant installation.”

ICC and IAEI regional chapters have begun hosting one-day trainings where code officials can learn the steps of accurate, consistent solar permit plan review. The trainings focus on the pre-inspection work of reviewing and approving the plan. To complement what they learn in the class, or as an introduction beforehand, participants can watch two new brief videos on the details of residential solar inspection. Residential Solar Inspection Best Practices Part 1: RooftopYou are leaving WAPA.gov. and Residential Solar Inspection Best Practices Part 2: Ground Level You are leaving WAPA.gov. both run a little over four minutes. Professionals can take a deeper dive into field inspection practices in a self-paced online trainingYou are leaving WAPA.gov. All classes and resources are free to participants as part of the Department of Energy SunShot Solar Training and Education for Professionals (STEP) program.

More than 5,000 professionals have engaged in the PV Online Training since it became available in 2012. The new in-person plan review course is being very well received, too, with more than 2,500 participants to date. Evaluations from participants have applauded the hands-on approach to the material and the way it connects the different aspects of inspection to each other and to real-life scenarios.

For more information on these training opportunities, contact IREC at 518-621-7379.

Source: Interstate Renewable Energy Council, 9/13/17

APPA webinar series offers strategies to modernize customer relations

Oct. 31 and Nov. 16
12-1:30 pm MT

As more and more businesses offer instant, effective and personalized communication, customers are naturally going to expect their power providers to do the same—and that is in addition to all the other challenges facing the utility industry.

Web-based customer engagement programs and activities offer public power utilities a way to build ongoing interactive connections with consumers. The American Public Power Association (APPA) is inviting utilities to learn about these opportunities with Customer Engagement: New Tools and Strategies for Modernizing Customer Relations, You are leaving WAPA.gov. a two-part webinar series beginning Oct. 31.

The material is designed to showcase the potential of online solutions for a broad range of utility professionals, from senior executives to renewable and energy service program managers to customer service representatives. Public communications professionals and information and operations technology personnel will also benefit from the webinars.

Oct. 31 – Boosting Community Solar Program Success Through Customer Engagement explores the often misunderstood and undervalued process of strategic, long-term customer engagement and management.

The success of a utility community solar project depends on keeping subscribers happy and committed to the program. Utilities with active community solar programs or those considering implementing one will not want to miss this webinar. Presentations will examine some engagement strategies and tools needed to improve the customer experience while saving valuable internal team resources and bandwidth. Attendees will gain a greater understanding of how to best prepare their teams to transition smoothly to the evolving world at the grid edge.

Nov. 16 – Using Online Customer Engagement Strategies to Improve Satisfaction and Program Participation looks at best practices and lessons learned from implementing digital communications strategies such as personal energy forecasting and customer service representative applications.

Public power officials will use case studies to present proven strategies for using a variety of digital platforms to build customer relationships and drive up energy program participation. Speakers will also address how to create a web presence and digital strategy that will appeal to customers under 35.

The registration for each webinar is $99 for APPA members and $199 for non-members. A discount is available for registering for both webinars, however you can register for the individual events. APPA will be recording the webinars and making them available for playback later in case enrollees miss the live event.

Source: American Public Power Association, 9/25/17

Online training takes aims at energy, water use in food service

According to the Food Service Technology Center You are leaving WAPA.gov. (FSTC), an energy-efficiency and appliance testing facility funded by Pacific Gas and Electric, the industry has a $40 billion utility bill and is five to 10 times more energy intensive than other commercial customers. Since food service employs one in 10 U.S. workers, the chances are good that you have at least one restaurant in your service territory. That gives you the opportunity to help an important customer segment succeed, support your local economy and conserve critical resources.

Teaching food service employees to manage energy and water costs the same way they manage their food cost has the potential to reduce billions of dollars of waste annually. But behavior change takes education, and delivering training to a diverse, busy and mobile workforce is a big challenge, to put it mildly. FSTC has tackled this challenge by introducing online sustainability training to turn food service professionals into energy-efficiency experts: FE3 You are leaving WAPA.gov. certification.

Industry-wide application
Based on 28 years of lab and field work, energy surveys and design consultations by industry experts, FE3 has built a practical curriculum focused on results. Like most industries, food service encompasses not only those involved in day-to-day operations, but also a wide network of supporting trades and employees. FE3 training can help all of these professionals understand their role in improving sustainability.

Restaurant owners, managers and staff will learn how to operate and maintain an efficient kitchen and how to choose more efficient equipment. Utilities and suppliers will learn about the industry’s energy challenges so they can develop programs and services to help restaurants become more profitable. Facility designers, equipment manufacturers and service agents can gain skills that will make them resources for restaurants seeking to increase sustainability.

Culinary and hospitality schools can add the sustainability curriculum to their programs. FE3 derived the online course material from classes taught live to university, college, community college and culinary students for over a decade.

Convenient, comprehensive learning
Recognizing that hectic schedules can be a big barrier to training in the food service industry, FE3 makes the six modules available online 24/7.

Each module covers a different area of food service energy and water use with interactive exercises. Topics include:

  • Intro to energy efficiency – How energy use relates to sustainability and why energy efficiency is a necessary component of a commercial food service sustainability program
  • Efficient and effective lighting – The basics of electric lighting and how to choose lighting products that use less energy, look good and meet the special needs of commercial food service
  • Efficient refrigeration – The basic principles of refrigeration and how to select and maintain energy-efficient refrigeration systems
  • Water conservation – The basic principles of water use and conservation in a food service operation and how to select and compare energy- and water-efficient dish machines
  • Energy-efficient cooking equipment – The basics of food-prep and cook-line energy use and how to reduce cooking appliance operating costs
  • Commercial kitchen ventilation – The basics and best practices to optimize kitchen ventilation systems

The material is narrated, loaded with easy-to-understand graphics and employs gamification and avatars to make learning more fun. Modules conclude with a short exam that reinforces learning.

After successfully completing the FE3 training, students will understand basic energy terms and have practical skills that will positively impact their restaurant’s bottom line. They will be prepared to choose the right lighting for specific tasks, calculate the cost of water leaks, properly maintain refrigeration, select energy-efficient cooking appliances with online tools and troubleshoot and optimize commercial kitchen ventilation systems.

Help for key accounts
Although FE3 training was developed by the California-based FSTC, the curriculum is relevant to food service employees across the country, as are many other resources the center offers.

Utility key account supervisors should explore FSTC, bookmark it and share it with their food service customers. Let restaurant owners and operators in your territory know about the recommendations for energy-efficient kitchen equipment, design guides for water and ventilation systems, equipment test results and a variety of calculators. Tell them about the presentations from FSTC seminars and webinars archived online. Share the industry links and publications with your local coffee shop or five-star dining establishment. In an industry with notoriously thin margins and high turnover, utilities can make a difference.

Webinar: Improve chances for success of your community solar project

Oct. 5
11 a.m.-12 p.m. MT

The Community Solar Value Project You are leaving WAPA.gov. is back with a free live webinar on Oct. 5.

What Makes the Biggest Difference in Achieving Community Solar Success? You are leaving WAPA.gov. will feature utility industry journalist Herman K. Trabish discussing case studies he covered for Utility DiveYou are leaving WAPA.gov. CSVP leaders will join Trabish to share case studies that illustrate their best-practice picks.

The discussion will be divided into coverage of the following questions and more:

  • Where’s the balance point between utility freedom and regulatory push?
  • Which lessons-learned are most often ignored—and at what price?
  • Which utilities have found the best pricing solutions, and how?
  • How do you speed up the program-design process?
  • Do pilot programs help or hinder?

Besides looking inside the machinery of successful community solar programs, speakers will explore the question of what kinds of policies most help—or hurt—community solar program innovation.

The webinar will also include an advanced look at CSVP’s new Solutions Toolkit, which offers practical approaches in the six top challenge areas CSVP has identified through its work with utility partners. In addition to some familiar analytic methods and guides that CSVP has field tested this year, the toolkit features brand new resources to help utility program designers make community solar better.

This webinar is free, but registration is required. Don’t miss this opportunity to learn the keys to making the most of your community solar project.

Source: Community Solar Value Project, 9/11/17

LES looks to cloud for better program implementation, evaluation

Maintaining a successful utility efficiency program involves a never-ending quest to improve the customer experience and evaluate the effectiveness of each measure. Moving its Sustainable Energy Program You are leaving WAPA.gov. to the cloud has given Lincoln Electric System (LES) of Nebraska a win on both fronts. 

Launched in 2009, the Sustainable Energy Program was intended to show that energy efficiency and demand-side management were viable alternatives to building new generation and buying expensive energy to meet peak demand. “It had a healthy participation rate relative to our expectations from the beginning,” said LES Energy Services Manager Marc Shkolnick. “But you still have to keep refining and evaluating.”

Always room to improve
In its current iteration, the program provides incentives to residential and commercial customers for whole-building sealing and insulation and high-efficiency heat pumps and air conditioners. Lighting and prescriptive energy-efficiency measures are available to commercial and industrial customers, as well.

The Sustainable Energy Program offers incentives for whole-building insulation and sealing to both residential and commercial customers.

The Sustainable Energy Program offers incentives for whole-building insulation and sealing to both residential and commercial customers. (Photo by DOE Weatherization Assistance Program)

For end users, participation in the program is simple and straightforward by design. Customers select a participating contractor to install the measure, LES pays the incentive to the contractor when the work is completed and the contractor passes it on to the customer as a credit on their invoice. Beyond searching the online trade ally list, the customer does very little paperwork, and that did not change with the move to the cloud. “The big difference for end users is that the system makes it easier to keep our trade ally list up to date,” Shkolnick noted.

For contractors and utility staff, however, the cloud system has significantly streamlined the process, Shkolnick said. “There was something of a learning curve the first year, with transitioning to a paperless system,” he recalled. “Once the contractors got their information entered, it became much more efficient for them.”

Given that more than 90 percent of the customers who use the Sustainable Energy Program come in through contractor recommendation, LES has a big stake in improving their trade allies’ experience. Make life easier for the people who are driving customer engagement in your efficiency program and your program will become stronger, too.

Learning from data
Evaluation, measurement and verification is one of the greatest challenges of customer program management, and one of the biggest attractions of automating program administration. In the two years since LES converted the Sustainable Energy Program to cloud management, the system has confirmed hunches and revealed trends.

LES customers who took advantage of the air conditioner incentive also had a high response rate to the post-project survey.

LES customers who took advantage of the air conditioner incentive also had a high response rate to the post-project survey. (Photo by Energy Star)

The post-project survey the customers can complete online has proven highly useful to Shkolnick. Air conditioning customers respond at a high 20-percent rate. One question in particular—“How much impact did the incentive play in your choosing the higher-efficiency unit?”—has allowed LES to adjust the deemed energy savings attributed to the program. “You know there are ‘free riders’ who were going to spring for a high-efficiency unit, incentive or not, but we now have a better idea of how many participants that is,” he said.

Another lesson from data is that incentives play different roles in motivating residential customers as opposed to commercial customers. This is a fact that experienced program managers already grasp intuitively, but, “The difference is just stark,” Shkolnick declared. “Businesses clearly look at efficiency as an investment, while a lot of homeowners give as much weight to comfort, convenience and other intangibles.”

A significant number of customers have given their names and addresses on their surveys, allowing LES to contact them for testimonials to include in future outreach. But negative responses are just as valuable. “Customer experience is the part of the program where we have the most control,” explained Shkolnick. “If someone rates their experience as poor, we can contact them, find out what went wrong and use that knowledge to improve our customer service.”

Future is cloud-y
In choosing the cloud system, Shkolnick observed that flexibility was a top priority. “We are in an ever-changing industry, so we needed a system that would be easy to modify from year to year,” he said.

The LES Technology Services department was very helpful in developing the requests for proposal (RFPs) and evaluating bids to ensure that the system was easy to use for trade allies, had robust reporting abilities and had a reasonable price tag. “One thing we learned in the RFP process is that the market space is not overly populated with services targeting utility programs,” Shkolnick acknowledged.

Perhaps software developers will take note and address that gap in the near future. A great deal of industry attention has been focused on systems and devices that track consumer energy use and assist with load management. But LES knows that building more responsive, effective customer programs is just as important, and the cloud has helped the utility do just that.

Source: Public Power Daily

Long road leads to solar success for Southern Ute tribe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conference highlights initiatives worth imitating

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UNL embraces proven storage technology to control costs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: District Energy, 2nd Quarter 2017