Platte River Power Authority 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, 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.
History of commitment PRPA and its municipal utility owners—Estes Park, Fort Collins, Longmont and Loveland—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.
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.
The market for electric vehicles is growing quickly, and utilities can expect to play a central role in minimizing the potential grid impacts of this new load and increasing access to charging infrastructure. With that in mind, the Smart Electric Power Alliance has surveyed more than 480 utilities about their EV programs to create the industry’s first ever state-of-the-market report for EV programs.
Utilities and Electric Vehicles: Evolving to Unlock Grid Value couldn’t come at a better time, with many industry EV adoption forecasts being revised due to exponential growth. Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicts that electricity consumption will grow from a few terawatt-hours a year in 2017 to around 118 TWh by 2030. Many utilities may be unprepared for this sudden change in load growth. SEPA has collected information and tools in this report that can help utilities and their partners find a path forward.
The report includes:
A first-of-its-kind analytical framework for establishing the maturity of utility EV programs
Fourteen types of utility EV programs and activities categorized into early, intermediate and late stages
An overview of regulatory decisions regarding utility investments in EV charging infrastructure
Recommendations for strategic utility planning on EVs
Regulatory analysis and regional trends from over 70 EV-related regulatory dockets
A detailed analysis of the collected data revealed that 75 percent of utilities were in the earliest stages of EV program development. Time is not on the utilities’ side and they must begin now to work with peers and others in the industry to develop a robust EV strategy and identify ways to leverage EVs as a grid asset. Preparation today will equip power providers with the knowledge and technologies they need to unlock value in this new load.
You can download Utilities and Electric Vehicles: Evolving to Unlock Grid Value for free. SEPA members can gain access to the dataset by logging in to the SEPA EStore. The dataset includes the list of utilities included in the analysis, the total number of programs and activities identified by stage for each utility and the identified utility stage.
Electric vehicles potentially offer many benefits—as a distributed energy resource with the ability to modulate charge or even dispatch energy back into the grid—along with many unknowns for utilities. Use this report to introduce yourself to the promise and pitfalls of a load that could change our industry.
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.
Only the beginning The announcement of the expansion coincided with signing a long-term solar contract for the sale of firmed energy and environmental attributes from Kayenta II, as the project is called. SRP and NTUA also signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) in which they committed to pursuing future renewable energy projects.
“The Kayenta I Solar Project has become the Navajo Nation’s showcase renewable energy project to demonstrate that the Navajo Nation is ready for large-scale renewable energy development and operation,” said NTUA General Manager Walter Haase.
SRP General Manager and CEO Mark Bonsall said that the agreement is an essential platform for the utility and the tribe to develop future projects. “The renewable energy credits from this project will also help SRP expand its renewable portfolio to further reduce carbon emissions,” noted Bonsall.
More renewables to come Under the MOU, SRP will provide technical support in developing interconnection facilities for large-scale renewable development within the Navajo Nation. The utility will also provide procurement and financing expertise related to the development and ownership of such projects. The agreement targets the development of at least 500 megawatts (MW) of renewable energy projects over the next five to 10 years within the Navajo Nation.
During the development of Kayenta I, SRP signed a two-year energy and environmental attribute contract. Once Kayenta II reaches commercial operation, the utility will add another year to the Kayenta I contract with options for further extensions resulting from the commitment to jointly pursue additional projects.
So far, development has focused on solar and wind resources, but the tribe is open to exploring other types of renewable generation. “We believe it is our responsibility to take the lead role in the development of renewable energy projects to promote economic development within the Navajo Nation,” said NTUA Spokeswoman Deenise Becenti.
Developing workforce, economy NTUA anticipates that Kayenta II will further prove the tribe’s ability to develop renewable energy projects and build on the economic gains of the first solar facility.
The 27.3-MW Kayenta Solar Project generates electricity to power an estimated 18,000 homes served by NTUA. At the height of construction, around 278 people worked on the project, 236 of whom were of Navajo descent.
The Navajo workforce was paid $5.2 million and received over 4,700 hours of specialized training in solar-utility construction for Kayenta I. The construction of Kayenta II will likely employ even more Navajo workers and is expected to produce similar salaries for the employees.
Tribe members have taken the skills they learned on the first Kayenta facility to other projects, added Becenti. “That trained workforce was able to find construction jobs at a solar farm in nearby Gallup, New Mexico,” she said.
The construction also generated $3,017,055 in taxes paid to the Navajo Nation. Overall, it is estimated that $15.6 million in economic activity occurred within the surrounding communities during construction.
Creating bright energy future The Navajo Nation considers Kayenta II to be the next step toward the tribe producing energy for its own use. The facility is expected to begin commercial operation in the May 2019.
There are no current plans to add storage to the project, but the technology is on the tribe’s radar for future opportunities. This is another area where the Navajo Nation may be able to leverage its partner’s expertise. Last year, SRP signed two power purchase agreements with NextEra Energy Resources, one for a 20-MW solar array with energy storage and a separate agreement for a 10-MW grid-scale battery. The utility also plans to work with NextEra to test the economic viability of using storage to integrate intermittent renewable resources on its grid.
The Navajo Nation appreciates SRP’s willingness to continue to work alongside NTUA, Haase stated. He looks forward to Kayenta II generating not only clean electricity, but more jobs and promising economic activity in the region, as well. “This partnership is all about progress,” said Haase.
Colorado-based Platte River Power Authority 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.
Various renewable resources and natural gas-fueled generation from Lodi Energy Center 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.
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.”
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.
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.
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
Detailed sub-hourly building simulations
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
The 38th annual Utility Energy Forum (UEF) will begin as it has for the past several years with a Pre-Forum Workshop just for the people who keep the lights on—staff from utilities and government agencies.
The session gives power providers and government representatives their own time to candidly discuss issues that concern them, strictly from their own point of view. “The UEF attracts a lot of trade allies and representatives from related field, but it is first and foremost for utilities,” explained WAPA Energy Services Manager Ron Horstman. “Giving utilities a chance to ‘talk amongst themselves’ first sets the tone for the meeting. They go into the forum with a clear idea of their shared challenges and what they hope to learn.”
Join us! The UEF is a California-centric event, but don’t let that stop you from attending. You may have more common ground with West Coast utilities than you realize.
It is a great opportunity to network with energy services colleagues and learn about their customer programs related to energy efficiency, renewable energy, key account management and other customer services. This year’s theme, Preparing for the New Energy Future, asks us to challenge our traditional thinking to be ready for the rapidly changing energy utility industry.
The Double Tree Hotel in Rohnert Park, California, will host the UEF this year. The registration rate includes not only your conference registration, but your lodging and all your meals. The views of the Sonoma Wine Country are free.
Horstman will be attending the UEF and moderating the Pre-Forum Workshop along with Paul Reid of Azusa Light and Power, so attendees will get to share their thoughts and concerns about WAPA as well. Your Energy Services Bulletin editor (me) will also be on hand to hear your stories and pick your brain about services you would like us to offer. We look forward to meeting WAPA customers and learning all about your challenges—and your innovative solutions—April 25-27.
Wi-Fi-enabled thermostats give homeowners unprecedented opportunity to control their energy use, and Omaha Public Power District (OPPD) has now created a program that rewards customers for sharing that control with the utility.
Different kind of demand response Residential customers who have installed, or who plan to install, Nest thermostats™ are eligible to enroll in “Nest Rush Hour Rewards.” They receive a $100 credit on their electric bill for enrolling in the program and an additional $20 credit annually.
On certain days in May through October, when demand for electricity is high, OPPD may declare a Rush Hour event during which Nest adjusts participants’ air conditioning through their thermostats. This can occur for up to four hours, between noon and 9 p.m. Participants generally have two hours’ notice before the event, giving Nest time to pre-cool the home. OPPD may schedule critical Rush Hour events in an emergency, where customers would receive a 10-minute notice.
Customers don’t need to be home to turn down their heating or cooling and if they get uncomfortable during the Rush Hour, they are able to adjust their home temperature remotely.
Automation makes it easy Nest Rush Hour Rewards is a partnership between the smart-thermostat manufacturer and energy providers. By teaming up with Nest, utilities gain a tool for lowering demand while helping consumers get the most value from their investment.
The OPPD request for proposals (RFP) for a smart-thermostat program called for a cost-effective, easy-to-use unit that had high acceptance in the marketplace. Jay Anderson, project director for OPPD’s Power Forward Initiative, noted that Nest best matched the RFP’s criteria. “We will consider other thermostats as we learn from operating the program,” he said.
Nest is among the most popular interactive thermostats on the market today. It can learn homeowners’ behaviors, keep the house comfortable and save money on energy bills. Homeowners can adjust their heating and cooling systems remotely and allow their power providers to do the same.
Part of big picture The Thermostat Program is part of a broader initiative OPPD launched with the goal of reducing demand by 300 megawatts (MW) by 2023. “Reducing our need for electricity, when demand is at its highest, helps reduce our need to purchase electricity or build a new power plant,” said Anderson. “And that helps keep costs down for all of OPPD’s customers.”
OPPD is not relying on smart thermostats alone to achieve such an ambitious goal. The initiative encompasses programs that tackle commercial and industrial, as well as residential loads. The utility’s Cool Smart program currently controls 60 MW of residential air conditioning, not including the Nest thermostat™ program. Cool Smart participants must cancel their enrollment in that program before signing up for Nest Rush Hour Rewards. “The two programs use different strategies to curtail the same load, so there are no additional savings to be gained from participating in both,” Anderson explained.
The Thermostat Program and Cool Smart are the only residential demand response programs that OPPD offers at this time. But the “bring-your-own-device” model for Rush Hour may prove to be a way OPPD can adapt to a rapidly changing marketplace. “This allows us to see what customers are interested in and add new technology to our efficiency programs as it makes sense,” said Anderson.
Smart technology offers many potential benefits to the consumer who is willing to try something new. Omaha Public Power District, a smart utility, is discovering it can share in those benefits by rewarding its customers’ pioneering spirit.
Newly-manufactured clothes washers for homes, multi-family buildings and laundromats are good candidates for customer incentive programs aimed at saving energy and water.
Efficiency standards taking effect Jan. 1, 2018, will reduce energy use in residential top-loading clothes washers by 18 percent and water use by 23 percent. The standards for the generally more efficient front-loading washers were increased in 2015 and will remain unchanged in 2018.
Combined, the changes in the 2015 and 2018 standards will eliminate the need for 1.3 gigawatts of electricity generating capacity over 30 years, according to a Department of Energy estimate. That is roughly the output of two average-sized coal plants. For water utilities, the new appliances will save 3 trillion gallons of water over the same period of time, and consumers can net up to $30 billion in savings.
Commercial washers, of the type used in multi-family buildings and laundromats, will see energy use reductions of 15 percent for top-loading models and 18 percent for front-loaders. The standards will also cut the water consumption of front-loaders by 20 percent, while the water use of top-loaders will remain essentially unchanged.
A blog post by the Appliance Standards Awareness Project goes into depths on the history of standards for clothes washers, along with the benefits to consumers and the potential for more savings. Electricity and water providers stand to gain new tools to meet their load management goals and build stronger customer relationships, making strong efficiency standards a win for everyone.