Infographic makes case for building system controls

Earth Day comes only once a year, but helping commercial customers manage their loads and save on operating costs is an ongoing battle for power providers. Large key account managers may want to add this infographic from the Intelligent Utility Community ForumYou are leaving WAPA.gov. to their arsenal. It is from Zen Ecosystems, an energy management system designer, and it deftly sums up the value of building system controls from both an environmental and economic standpoint.

Art by Zen Ecosystems

The post also contains a link to a case study You are leaving WAPA.gov. Zen Ecosystems did on installing a multi-site energy management platform for a retail chain with 350 stores nationwide. With a centralized portal to manage building systems, National Stores was able to cut its energy consumption costs by 25 percent. The platform also enabled the chain to remotely program the space conditioning systems in each store. Heating and cooling systems in some locations had been running nonstop, causing equipment to fail from overwork. The avoided maintenance costs sped up National Stores’ return on investment.

Source: Energy Central, 4/18/17

Equipment Loan Program changes with the times

Chris Lyles, who took over as the new manager of WAPA’s Equipment Loan Program in August, is making some updates to the popular program that reflect the changing needs of our customers, as well as advances in technology.

The Equipment Loan Program stocks infrared cameras, power meters and other diagnostic tools for WAPA customers to borrow free of charge.

The Equipment Loan Program stocks infrared cameras, power meters and other diagnostic tools for WAPA customers to borrow free of charge.

Planning the future
The increasing availability of easy-to-use diagnostic tools is prompting Lyles to look at new ways the Equipment Loan Program can support WAPA customers. “It’s possible now to walk into Home Depot and pick up a pocket-sized infrared (IR) camera for a few hundred dollars that will serve the purpose for a home energy audit,” he observed. “So we are asking ourselves what other needs our customers have that the program can meet.”

One answer is to stock more sophisticated versions of consumer-level tools for linemen and electricians to use for industrial audits and transmission and distribution system maintenance. The boroscope, for example, allows the user to take thermal images in tight spaces where just pointing and shooting with an IR camera might fail to pinpoint the problem. Utility field crews can use the LineTracker power monitor to diagnose fast-moving and minute malfunctions in overhead lines.

Providing instruction on the proper use of borrowed equipment is another one of Lyles’s goals. Currently, customers can find general equipment training resources on the Energy Services website, but Lyles has something more specific in mind. WAPA plans to produce videos that explain how to use the equipment, and post them on WAPA’s YouTube channel. The URLs will be sent to customers in place of physical manuals when they borrow a tool, providing a quicker, easier start when using the equipment. Perhaps most importantly, the customized videos will give customers a more personal connection to Energy Services and WAPA.

Help shape the program
The Equipment Loan Program and Energy Services have always provided WAPA customers with a direct line to technical assistance and support for their maintenance, load management and planning needs. Those needs have evolved—a slow-sounding word for the rapid-fire change occurring in our industry—and we want to make sure our services keep pace. Your input, suggestions and feedback are crucial to the direction the program takes.

Tell us what kinds of tools you would like to see added to our library. “Our equipment inventory should reflect that we understand the changes going on in the industry and that we know how to help our customers deal with them,” Lyles explained.

If you know of an online resource that gave you a better understanding of a borrowed tool, share that with Energy Services. The same goes for that clever solution you discovered while using it. The Equipment Loan Program is your program and we are eager to hear how we can better serve you.

Colorado Energy Office, Grid Alternatives announce Holy Cross Energy Community Solar Project

Holy Cross Energy service territory to benefit from growing low-income solar access program

Holy Cross EnergyYou are leaving WAPA.gov. is teaming up with the Colorado Energy OfficeYou are leaving WAPA.gov. (CEO) and GRID AlternativesYou are leaving WAPA.gov. to develop a community solar array that will lower the electric bills of qualified low-income residents in the electric cooperative’s Western Colorado service territory. The project is part of a statewide initiative to demonstrate how the community solar model can be optimized to reduce energy costs for utilities’ highest need customers—those who spend more than 4 percent of income on utility bills.

Holy Cross employees, subscribers, local officials, schools and others participated in the “barn-raising” installation of the utility’s 145-kW community solar farm.

Holy Cross employees, subscribers, local officials, schools and others participated in the “barn-raising” installation of the utility’s 145-kW community solar farm. (Photo by GRID Alternatives Colorado.)

Colorado Energy Office Director Jeff Ackermann commended Holy Cross and GRID for their efforts to bring more clean energy options to low-income households. A primary goal of this initiative is to comprehensively address the energy burden upon low-income households by linking low-cost renewable energy with the energy savings provided through our Weatherization Assistance Program,” he explained.

GRID, a nonprofit solar development organization, received a $1.2 million CEO grant in August 2015 to partner with utilities to implement low-income community solar. Earlier this year, CEO and GRID announced project partners, each of which is piloting a slight variation on the low-income community solar model to address the unique needs of rural utility service areas and their customers. The projects selected are both affordable and scalable for utility partners, and offer great potential to expand across the state.

“Holy Cross Energy has a reputation as a community solar leader in Colorado—they were the first utility in the state to embrace and develop a community solar project. It’s exciting to bring HCE’s innovation and GRID’s innovation together for a project that will help families in HCE’s service territory,” noted GRID Executive Director Chuck Watkins.

Holy Cross Energy Chief Executive Officer Del Worley said the utility is interested in expanding renewable energy access with this innovative model. “This project is a win-win, it helps Holy Cross members who are having a hard time making ends meet and adds more renewable energy to our power supply mix.”

GRID’s barn-raising model of engagement brought community members together in the town of Gypsum on Aug. 11 to install the 145-kilowatt (kw) solar array. Employees from the utility, the benefiting subscribers, local elected officials, schools and others participated in installing 546 solar panels that will help save up to 35 to 45 local qualified families approximately $500 per year.

GRID’s team is excited to be working with local partners on this project. The Community Office for Resource EfficiencyYou are leaving WAPA.gov. has long been a supporter and outreach partner with GRID in the mountain region and continues to be a strong advocate as this program develops. GRID is also partnering with Colorado Mountain CollegeYou are leaving WAPA.gov. and Walking Mountains Science CenterYou are leaving WAPA.gov. to offer practical hands-on solar job training and experience for local youth.

Source: Holy Cross Energy, 8/9/16

USDA releases funding for rural economic development

Electric cooperatives should take advantage of $500 million the Department of Agriculture (USDA) has set aside for projects that support economic and community development plans across multi-jurisdictional areas.

Electrical co-ops can be part of the planning process that secures grants and loans for rural businesses and community facilities through USDA's Strategic Economic and Community Development program.

Electrical co-ops can be part of the planning process that secures grants and loans for rural businesses and community facilities through USDA’s Strategic Economic and Community Development program.

The Strategic Economic and Community Development program (SECD) is the first new funding available from the USDA in a long time. The USDA put the provision into the 2014 Farm Bill with an eye on advancing projects that support long-term community and economic growth strategies and capitalize on the unique strengths of the rural area. The four Rural Development programs under the SECD program include Community Facilities, Water and Environmental Programs, Rural Business Development Grants and Business and Industry Guaranteed Loans.

Because co-op service territories often cover multiple towns, cities and counties, there’s an opportunity for power providers to work with councils of governments, regional authorities, coalitions of municipalities and similar associations. Co-ops should reach out to these entities to make sure their priorities are part of regionally adopted plans.

USDA will base consideration on:

  1. How well the project supports a multijurisdictional plan
  2. How well the plan addresses collaboration, regionalism and investments from other federal and philanthropic agencies

Interested participants should have their plans reviewed by their state’s staff early in the process for feedback and possible modification before submitting it with the formal application.

The National Association of Development Organizations presented an informational webinar on Jan. 12 covering an overview of the SECD program and how to apply for funding. A recording of the webinar You are leaving WAPA.gov. and the full slide presentation are available to download.

Applications are due June 30, 2016. Contact your local USDA Rural Development office or contact Farah Ahmad in the national office for more information.

Source: Electric Co-op Today You are leaving WAPA.gov. via Green Power News, 3/7/16 

City of Banning utility appreciates value of integrated resource plan

The utility industry is going through a period of intense change—some would say upheaval—that makes planning more important than ever and well worth the time involved. Just ask Jim Steffens of the City of Banning, California, Electric Utility. You are leaving Western's site. “I like that the integrated resource plan (IRP) touches on so many areas of the utility,” said the Electric Utility Power Resources and Revenue Administrator. “The process made us think about how all the different parts, like the distribution system, play into delivering electricity.”

California’s Public Benefits Charge of 2.85 percent of retail sales make the municipal utility eligible to file a minimum investment report instead of an IRP. Yet the city opted to do the full IRP process for Banning’s 2015 report. “Historically, our five-year IRPs were very simple and didn’t change much because not much had changed since we last did a full IRP,” explained Steffens. “Then over the last few years, due to legislative and regulatory mandates, everything started changing fast and we really needed the comprehensive picture you get from an IRP.”

Times a-changin’
Banning Electric gets the majority of its electricity supply through contracts with the Southern California Public Power Authority You are leaving Western's site. for coal, nuclear and hydropower. Because California law does not permit electric utilities to invest in coal-fired power, SCPPA will be divesting its part ownership of the San Juan Unit 3 coal plant in New Mexico in 2017. “So there goes 20 megawatts (MW) of baseload power, which is a big deal for Banning,” said Steffen, adding, “Yes, we are a tiny utility.”

Some of that power will be replaced by 9.6 MW of landfill gas power from the Puente Hills facility You are leaving Western's site. built by the Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County. A utility-scale solar farm on the border of Kern and Los Angeles counties will provide another 8 MW. In other words, Banning is looking down the road at a whole new resource mix by 2018.

Being located in a state on the cutting edge of transforming the power supply means that the city of 30,000 will have to look for ways to innovate, and that is where planning comes in. California’s carbon cap-and-trade program You are leaving Western's site. gives utilities allowances for compliance that can be auctioned. The IRP helped Steffens figure out how much of the auction proceeds Banning can bank to help cover the cost of prematurely getting rid of the San Juan plant.

Steffens also used the plan to track the city’s progress meeting the state’s aggressive renewable portfolio standard. “It showed that we may come up slightly short in one particular year, so we can start planning for that year now,” he said. “However, we are very proud of the fact that the utility power supply will be more than 70 percent renewable by 2018.”

Evolving load
Like the power supply, Banning’s load is also starting to change after decades of relative stability. Electricity demand dropped during the recession and has not yet fully recovered, but signs point in different directions.

In an economically challenged area, Banning residents have not adopted rooftop solar systems or electric vehicles (EVs) at the same rate as in other parts of the state. But both of these technologies are becoming more common and more affordable, so the city has to be ready. EVs could bring load growth, even as distributed generation reduces the utility’s load. Such uncertainties make the annual IRP progress report that much more important.

The rooftop solar array topping The Banning police department carports are topped with a solar array. Although solar power is still a relatively small piece of the city's power supply, Banning will be adding more in the near future.

The Banning police department carports are topped with a solar array. Although solar power is still a relatively small piece of the city’s power supply, Banning will be adding more in the near future. (Photo by City of Banning, California)

Population growth is putting more pressure on Banning too, with two large housing developments scheduled to start construction soon after 2020. “The past 10 years have been a real lesson in how quickly things we used to take for granted can change,” observed Steffens.

Plan points way
Efficiency is also included in Banning’s plan for the future. “A good portion of our Public Benefits funding covers the low-income Banning Electric Alternative Rate, or BEAR, but we also fund rebates,” noted Steffens. “Efficiency programs are an important part of customer service.”

Residential and commercial rebates are available for Energy Star appliances, air conditioner replacements, shade trees, weatherization, low-flush toilets, new construction, renewable systems and refrigerator and freezer recycling. The utility just launched a new commercial efficiency plan, the Business Energy Efficiency Fund, or “The BEEF, developed specifically for our small and mid-sized business community,” said Steffens.

Banning Electric created its new commercial efficiency plan, the Business Energy Efficiency Fund, the BEEF, specifically to help small and mid-sized businesses like Star Auto Parts.

Banning Electric created its new commercial efficiency plan, the Business Energy Efficiency Fund, the BEEF, specifically to help small and mid-sized businesses like Star Auto Parts. (Photo by City of Banning, California)

Most of the businesses in Banning are small mom-and-pop operations that often don’t have extra capital for upgrades but could benefit greatly from lower utility bills.

Participants receive a free walk-through energy assessment to identify potential energy-saving upgrades to lighting, heating and cooling, water heating, motors and refrigeration. The businesses can then select the retrofit that best meets their needs and the utility pays up to $2,750 for the project.

When asked what percentage of Banning customers were commercial, Steffens checked his IRP. “Twenty-seven percent,” he replied. “The great thing about the IRP is that I have the answer to questions like that right in front of me.”

Steffens pointed out that the benefits of the IRP go well beyond just getting information in one place. “When things are changing as much as they are for Banning, you need to see the big picture and dive deep into the details,” he said. “We didn’t have to do the full IRP, but it is a great exercise to show you where you are going.”

Study to explore connection between energy efficiency, community resilience

ACEEEresearchThe American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy Redirecting to a non-government site (ACEEE) is launching a new research project this year to explore how energy-efficient systems can help a community withstand extreme weather and economic stresses.

A recent ACEEE blog post suggested ways in which energy-saving measures might enhance a community’s resiliency. In a direct example, combined-heat-and-power (CHP) systems kept the power on at critical facilities during Superstorm Sandy in 2012. While 8.5 million customers lost power, some hospitals, residential buildings, universities and public services were able to continue operating and provide services to citizens. CHP generators tend to use natural gas and highly efficient turbines and engines to serve very local loads, but can also run on biomass or biogas in times of disaster.

Embracing energy efficiency may protect communities in less obvious ways. “Resource resiliency” refers to reducing a community’s demand for natural resources, thereby freeing income to spend on other needs that benefit the local economy. Individuals and communities could invest their energy cost savings in safer and more durable buildings, distributed generation systems or effective emergency management plans.

Energy efficiency offers other long-term benefits to the community, such as creating more economic activity and jobs. Should the unthinkable happen, a vital local economy will be in a better position than a depressed one to recover from a disaster. Reduced energy use also means fewer emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants, leading to improved public health.

The ACEEE study will explore opportunities in policy and program development to integrate efficiency and resilience efforts, and attempt to determine metrics for measuring efficiency-related resiliency. Researchers are encouraging members of the energy- efficiency and resilience communities to share their views on the efficiency-resilience interconnection. Suggestions about valuable literature, case studies, potential metrics and policy and program opportunities are also welcomed. ACEEE expects to release the research report this coming summer.

Source: American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, 2/4/15