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.

Nebraska City Utilities celebrates Arbor Day year-round

Trees are so beautiful and useful—they provide food, fuel and lumber, prevent soil erosion, cool the planet and inspire poets—so it is fitting that they have their own national holiday: Arbor Day. It is also fitting that the city that held the first Arbor Day in 1872 makes tree planting a part of its ongoing resource planning efforts.

The home of J. Sterling Morton, the founder of Arbor Day, is now an historic landmark and park in Nebraska City.

The home of J. Sterling Morton, the founder of Arbor Day, is now an historic landmark and park in Nebraska City. (Photo by Arbor Day Farm)

Recognizing the important role trees play in the environment and in its history, Nebraska City Utilities You are leaving WAPA.gov. (NCU) offers its customers not one, but two tree planting programs. Customers can choose the municipal utility’s own “Energy Saving Tree” program.  Also offered in partnership with the National Arbor Day FoundationYou are leaving WAPA.gov. (NADF) is the foundation’s “Three Free Trees” program, which NCU helps to facilitate for its customers. Both programs give NCU the chance to educate customers about planting “the right tree in the right place,” and together have saved more than 67,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh).

Tale of two programs
The “Energy Saving Tree” program reimburses the customer for half the cost of a pre-approved tree up to $100. “An NCU arborist—someone from our tree line clearance crew —helps the homeowner pick the spot to plant it based on best tree-planting practices,” explained NCU General Manager Leroy Frana.

Wire-friendly varieties that are eligible for the rebate include the Armur maple, hedge maple, serviceberry, eastern redbud, flowering crabapple, Japanese tree lilac and thornless cockspur hawthorn.

Participants receive the reimbursement as a credit on their bill and then enjoy lower utility bills during the summer cooling season. The strategically planted tree also increases the value of the property.

National Arbor Day Foundation’s “Three Free Trees” provides up to three trees of 2 to 4 feet in height at no cost to the customer. The truly dedicated environmentalist can get 10 free seedling trees by joining the foundation. The trees come to the customer by mail and the NADF website helps them with choosing the site for planting. “We budget for 100 trees annually,” said Frana, “It’s a popular program because everybody loves getting something for free.”

Tree-lined history
Soon after arriving in Nebraska City in 1854, journalist J. Sterling Morton began planting orchards, experimenting with various crops and spreading the gospel of trees and conservation to his fellow pioneers. The vast expanse of treeless prairie needed windbreaks to prevent soil erosion, and settlers need building material and shade. Morton not only encouraged individuals to plant trees; he urged civic groups to join in. His work led to an appointment as Secretary of the Nebraska Territory.

Morton organized the first “tree-planting holiday” in 1872 and it is estimated that more than one million trees were planted in Nebraska by individuals and counties in celebration. Nebraska declared Arbor Day a state holiday in 1885 and chose April 22, Morton’s birthday, as its permanent date.

Today, Arbor Day is celebrated around the world on different dates (based on the best time to plant trees in the region), and Morton’s Nebraska City farm is now a 260‐acre National Historic Landmark known as the Arbor Day FarmYou are leaving WAPA.gov.

Like most states, Nebraska now celebrates Arbor Day on the third Friday of April. Frana recalled having their newly purchased tree riding a float with his children in the city’s 2011 Arbor Day parade, and planting the State Street Maple at their home later in the day. “That tree is about 16 or 18 feet tall now,” he said.

Plant your future
Planting trees is a good investment for a utility even if it is not in the middle of the Great Plains. Nationwide, the Energy Saving Trees program has saved more than 300 million kWh and 4 million therms, sequestered or avoided almost 1 billion pounds of carbon dioxide emissions and provided $106 million in combined energy and community benefits. To put it in personal terms, “Shading the home is one of the best ways to cut your electric air conditioning load,” Frana pointed out.

Utilities that partner with the Arbor Day Foundation on the Energy Saving Trees program will get help building their program with educational resources, celebration materials and more. Partners can use a calculator on the NADF website to help homeowners determine the right tree for the right place and show much money planting it will save them. Participating in the program can generate positive media attention for your utility, raise public awareness about your programs and beautify your community.

Join other WAPA customers like Sacramento Municipal Utility DistrictYou are leaving WAPA.gov. Colorado Springs Utilities You are leaving WAPA.gov. and, of course, Nebraska City Utilities in planting for the future. Show your customers that you believe as J. Sterling Morton did, that each generation takes the earth as a trustee. Happy Arbor Day from WAPA and Nebraska City Utilities!

New Better Buildings toolkit dives into training techniques

Utilities often struggle to educate contractors, staff and volunteers on building science; sales and marketing; program offerings and business development. To help residential energy-efficiency program managers plan technical, outreach and professional training, the Department of Energy Better Buildings Residential Network recently launched a Training Toolkit.

Eden Housing affordable housing developer in Alameda County, California, has partnered with the Better Building Initiative to reduce the energy intensity of its properties by 20 percent. Reduced energy intensity results in lower utility bills for tenants and building owners. (Photo by Eden Housing)

Eden Housing affordable housing developer in Alameda County, California, has partnered with the Better Building Initiative to reduce the energy intensity of its properties by 20 percent. Reduced energy intensity results in lower utility bills for tenants and building owners. (Photo by Eden Housing)

This toolkit—the fourth Residential Network Voluntary Member Initiative—includes tips, resources and examples to help you realize the value of providing training opportunities for contractors, staff and volunteers. A study of more than 140 energy-efficiency programs across the country found that contractor training activities led to more comprehensive upgrades, a higher assessment-to-upgrade conversion rate, improved program processes, improved quality control and increased revenues, among other benefits.

To achieve such results, program staff, volunteers and contractors must have a thorough understanding of building science; sales and marketing; residential energy efficiency program offerings and business development. In the Training Toolkit, program managers will discover training resources and opportunities, compiled and reviewed by Better Buildings Residential Network members, to build that expertise in-house.

The toolkit provides resources on three types of training:

  1. Technical training – Covering building science, energy assessments, technologies and techniques
  2. Outreach training – Covering promotion of program offerings, sales training and customer engagement
  3. Professional training – Covering business development and management for participating contractors

Additional resources at the end of the toolkit include more details on the Better Buildings Residential Program Solution Center. This online collection of resources and lessons learned concerning training and other topics is based on years of on-the-job experience in residential energy-efficiency programs.

Get involved
The Better Buildings Residential Network connects energy-efficiency programs and partners to share best practices and learn from one another to increase the number of energy-efficient homes. Several Western customers, including the cities of Fort Collins, ColoradoYou are leaving WAPA.gov. and Palo Alto, CaliforniaYou are leaving WAPA.gov. participate in the initiative.

Members of the Residential Network join with other energy-efficiency programs and partners to identify and address common challenges and market opportunities through voluntary initiatives that result in the development of new tools and resources. Your feedback concerning this toolkit and your training efforts help the network improve its resources and identify new issues.

Contact the Residential Network for more information about joining or participating in the next voluntary initiative.

Source: DOE Better Buildings Initiative, 3/25/16

Conference focuses on resource planning for utilities

If integrated resource planning (IRP) seemed difficult in the past, a whole new set of factors; including the Clean Power Plan, advances in storage, renewable energy portfolios and smart devices galore; are piling on to make it more challenging—and more important—than ever. An upcoming conference, How Changes in the 2016 Grid Affect IRPs You are leaving Western's site., may help your utility address those challenges, while building general planning skills.

The professional development company EUCI is presenting its 16th Annual Integrated Resource Planning Conference, March 20-22, in Long Beach, California. The conference provides a showcase for IRP “best practices” that takes into account the new pressures utilities face in managing and forecasting their loads.

Far-reaching program
The agenda is designed not just for resource and strategic planners, but for financial analysts, efficiency and demand response program managers and professionals who are responsible for mandate compliance as well.

Speakers include leading utility and power resource planning professionals and related industry experts. Presentations will use case studies to illustrate methodologies that predict and plan for future operational and investment requirements. Key topics include:

  • Properly modeling energy storage and integrating it into an IRP
  • How Clean Power Plan requirements should be rendered in the IRP planning process and document
  • How to factor operational flexibility requirements into resource selection decision-making
  • Planning for uncertainty and risk related to fuel prices and transportation infrastructure
  • Determining a utility’s avoided cost for PURPA [Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act]and variable generation (VG) resources

In addition to two days of packed sessions, EUCI has also scheduled pre- and post-conference workshops. IRP Planning Challenges and Critical Analysis for Emerging Business Models, March 21, provides analytic, modeling and planning insights as they relate to the new business forces that are transforming the utility industry. On March 23, following the conference wrap-up, Energy Storage Valuation examines the questions utilities and system planners have relating to modeling and implementing storage.

What you get
Participants will learn about developing comprehensive resource plans that provide solutions to operational issues and accurately account for variables. Sessions will offer insights on the impact of renewables on carbon emissions, and on communicating IRP results to stakeholders and regulators. Attendees can gain practical resource planning skills that will help position their utilities to negotiate the industry’s rapidly evolving business model environment.

Besides new skills, EUCI is offering .9 continuing education units (CEU) for the conference and .3 CEUs for each workshop. The International Association for Continuing Education and Training You are leaving Western's site. has accredited EUCI as an authorized training provider.

Good for you, for Western
Energy Services is not only suggesting that our customers investigate this training opportunity—we are planning to send representatives to the IRP Conference, as well. It is critical that Western understands the demands of the new planning environment thoroughly to give our customers the support they need as the industry changes.

Register before March 4 to receive the early-bird discount. EUCI is offering a discount for organizations wishing to send multiple attendees. Send three delegates and the fourth attends for free, as long as all registrations are made at the same time. Contact Ron Horstman for more information about the package discount.

Rooms at Hyatt the Pike, the conference location, must be reserved before Feb. 20 to receive the special group rate.

Learn about irrigation strategies for West Coast growers

West Coast Irrigation Efficiency
Sept. 28, 2015
1 p.m. MDTCA-irrigation

Agricultural growers are more concerned than ever about increasing both water and energy efficiency in addition to improving crop yield and quality. Knowing when, where and how much to water can improve a grower’s bottom line in good times, and save the business in an ongoing drought such as California is experiencing. Join Western Area Power Administration on Sept. 28 for a free webinar You are leaving Western's site. focusing on technology and best practices in precision irrigation for West Coast agricultural customers.

Changes in irrigation technology over the last two decades have helped farmers in the Golden State make impressive reductions in water use. For example, the Almond Board of California You are leaving Western's site. claims that using drip irrigation has reduced the amount of water it takes to grow a pound of almonds by 33 percent.

However, achieving this kind of success requires an understanding of smart controls and monitoring tools, as well as data on crops, soil, weather, topography and more. Irrigation districts, water utilities and municipalities are challenged to persuade agricultural customers that relearning everything they know about irrigation is worth the effort, and to connect growers with the experts who can help them.

West Coast Irrigation Efficiency features presentations on emerging technologies for precision irrigation. Speakers with expertise on both drip and pivot irritation systems will discuss how to turn a mountain of raw data into an actionable plan and design for an irrigation system.

Brian Bassett is founder of H2O OptimizerYou are leaving Western's site. a company that provides data- and technology-driven strategies to maximize returns in production agriculture. The company has been working with the Fresno Water, Energy and Technology Center You are leaving Western's site. to improve drip irrigation technology.

As the Agricultural Technical Lead for Bonneville Power Administration, Tom Osborn has developed programs and tools to help Northwestern growers improve water and energy efficiency. His areas of specialization include scientific irrigation scheduling and irrigation system testing and performance.

Presentations will offer examples of successful irrigation efficiency programs, along with contacts for participants who wish to learn more. A Q&A period will follow the speakers.

Western encourages growers, utilities, irrigation consultants, researchers and policy makers to attend West Coast Irrigation Efficiency. There is no cost to participate in the webinar, but registration is required.

Source: Washington State University Energy Extension, 9/14/15

Webinar describes utility trends in adopting community solar programs

SEPAWAPAFeb. 4, 2015
2 p.m. MST

Western Area Power Administration and the Solar Electric Power Association Redirecting to a non-government site (SEPA) are teaming up to present a webinar that explores the utility’s role in the community solar market segment on Feb. 4, 2015, from 2:00 to 3:30 p.m. Mountain Standard Time.

The community solar model offers utilities an innovative way to engage with customers who want to invest in renewable energy but, for a variety of rea­sons, may not be able to install rooftop arrays. Community solar programs offer utility customers the opportunity to buy “shares” in a centralized project, often called a solar farm or solar garden. Utilities around the nation are using these programs to meet growing consumer interest in supporting renewable energy.

SEPA has been tracking the spread of these proj­ects across the United States since early 2012. With nearly 60 active programs, utilities represent 87 percent of all com­munity solar programs now online.

Utility Trends in Adopting Community Solar Models Redirecting to a non-government site will open with Becky Campbell, SEPA Senior Manager of Research and Advisory Services, defining community solar and explaining why some utilities see it as a valuable customer engagement tool. Using case studies of actual utility programs to support the discussion, she will highlight nationwide utility trends in program adoption.

Presentations will cover additional data, including actual participation statistics that SEPA collected through a 2014 survey of utility program administrators. Atttendees will also learn about design characteristics common to some of the nation’s most successful community solar programs.

Randy Manion, manager of Western’s Renewable Resource Program, is urging Western customers to attend the webinar to learn more about this strategy for adding solar power to utility resource portfolios. “Several of our customers have already launched community solar programs, including Colorado Springs Utilities, Poudre Valley Rural Electric Association and Kit Carson Electric Cooperative,” he noted. “Their members have been enthusiastic, and many projects are fully subscribed before construction is complete.”

There is no cost to attend the webinar, but registration is required.

NREL launches website for distributed PV group

A working group created to provide a forum for exploring issues and solutions related to deploying grid-connected, distributed photovoltaic (PV) resources now has a website where members and stakeholders can find the latest information on the topic.

The Distributed Generation Interconnection Collaborative (DGIC) aims to bring utilities and other energy industry professionals together to arrive at innovative approaches to distributed generation that address concerns of time, costs, grid safety and reliability. The website, hosted by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), provides visitors with a meeting schedule, contact information and a link to registration. Presentations from past webinars are available to download, no password necessary.

DGIC invites stakeholders to participate in monthly webinars focusing on specific PV interconnection practices and related research. Minimum Day Time Load Calculation and ScreeningRedirecting to a non-government site is the subject of the next meeting on April 30. It is the first in a three-part series on supplemental screening procedures. Discussions will cover current and emerging processes and protocols for interconnecting distributed PV, with the goal of encouraging stakeholders to share information and data to improve practices.

Western is partnering with NREL and the Electric Power Research InstituteRedirecting to a non-government site to sponsor the Distributed Generation Interconnection Collaborative. “Western customers are at both ends of the spectrum in terms of experience integrating solar, and at all points in between,” noted Randy Manion, Western Renewable Energy Program manager. “We would like to see as many utilities as possible get involved in DGIC, because each one has something unique and valuable to contribute to the conversation.”

Meetings generally occur on the last Wednesday of each month, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. MDT. Participation is free but registration is required. Topics to be covered in upcoming webinars include:

  • Lessons Learned with Early PV Plant Integration
  • Supplemental Screening Procedures: Voltage and Power Quality
  • Supplemental Screening Procedures: Safety and Reliability
  • Interconnection as Part of a Strategic Resource Planning Process

For more information on how to participate in the DGIC, visit the website or contact Kristen Ardani, NREL Solar Technology Markets and Policy Analyst, at 303-384-6461.

Existing home efficiency –covering all the bases

John Phelan, PE, Energy Services Manager, Fort Collins Utilities

The city of Fort Collins municipal utility has a home audit rebate program designed for maximum customer contact.

Residents are eligible for a comprehensive menu of rebates for air sealing, insulation, HVAC systems and more. A standard audit, available for $60, is followed by a report that recommends measures. The recommendations are targeted to the contractors as well as the homeowner.

The retrofits are performed by a list of approved contractors. To get on that list, contractors must sign a legal contract with the city agreeing to meet standards based on best practices and attend specialty trainings. The utility trains the contractors, provides a metric list and holds quarterly meetings contractors must attend.

Contractors must bid and complete the job according to the city’s in order to receive the rebates. The intent is to level the bidding field. Everyone is bidding on doing the job a specific way.

Both the city and the contractor can request a third-party evaluation.  The best practices list provides legal cover for the city having a preferred contractor list.

The program has a stringent quality assurance component. The city does improvement verification on 100 percent of the jobs. Performance testing was done on 100 percent of the first 10 jobs. Fort Collins is making sure that the program really works. We have the building science—use it!

Along the way, the utility had to figure out such things as legal contacts, replication tools and more. This is not a Home Performance program. The auditors work directly for Fort Collins. The training and quality assurance are also under the city, but the contractors work for the customers.

To date, Fort Collins has done 348 audits, and has processed 45 rebate applications. Most are for multiple measures. Insulation has been a popular measure, even though people start out saying they want windows.

The contractor list has 30 participating contractors. The utility has conducted trainings for insulation, HVAC and window installation.