New clothes washer efficiency standards take effect in 2018

Newly-manufactured clothes washers for homes, multi-family buildings and laundromats are good candidates for customer incentive programs aimed at saving energy and water.

Clothes washers meeting the new standards provide not only significant energy and water bill savings, but also better cleaning performance and more features than older washers.

Clothes washers meeting the new standards provide not only significant energy and water bill savings, but also better cleaning performance and more features than older washers.

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 You are leaving WAPA.gov. 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.

Source: Appliance Standards Awareness Project, 1/3/18

Seminars cover California building code changes

California utilities have benefitted from strong building efficiency codes that have helped keep energy use constant in the state for decades. Power providers also appreciate the challenges building owners and developers face in complying with the toughest efficiency codes in the nation. Green Technology Training is offering a seminar You are leaving Western's site. that can help construction and real estate professionals, as well as utility key account staff and program managers, get up to speed on the latest revisions.

2016 Building Efficiency Standards: Changes and Challenges will cover the Title 24 changes that go into effect January 2017 for both residential and commercial buildings, from high performance walls and attics to lighting and lighting controls. With each round of revisions, the state’s Energy Code moves closer to the goal of zero net energy for all new construction. Staying up to date with its evolution will help utilities as they design new efficiency programs, update preferred contractor lists and advise commercial customers on retrofits.

For convenience, Green Technology is offering the seminar on multiple dates at locations throughout the state:

Attendees will be eligible to receive five Health, Safety and Welfare Continuing Education Units (CEUs) from the American Institute of Architects You are leaving Western's site. and .5 International Code Council You are leaving Western's site. CEUs for the course. Sessions will also offer Build it Green CEUs (one credit per hour) and Construction Management Association of America You are leaving Western's site. renewal points (one per hour). All registrants will receive a certificate of participation.

This training is a good opportunity to prepare your staff to support customers as they work toward creating the most efficient building stock in the country. Knowledge is power, and knowledge of the California Building Code is the power to become an indispensable resource your customers can rely on.

Western customers score high in customer satisfaction on annual study

When J.D. Power released its 2016 Electric Utility Business Customer Satisfaction Study You are leaving Western's site., the list of eight U.S. electric utilities included Western customers.

(Art by JD Power)

(Art by JD Power)

The 17th annual study ranked utilities based on customer satisfaction by size and region. Omaha Public Power District You are leaving Western's site. (OPPD) rated highest in the Midwest Midsize category. Salt River Project You are leaving Western's site. (SRP) in Arizona outperformed other utilities in the Large West category and Sacramento Municipal Utility District You are leaving Western's site. (SMUD) excelled in the West Midsize category. OPPD and SRP also ranked highest in last year’s study, the only two among the eight power providers to repeat their appearance on the list.

The other five electric utilities with highly satisfied business customers are:

  • Con Edison (East Large)
  • Met-Ed (East Midsize)
  • Ameren Missouri (Midwest Large)
  • Entergy Arkansas (South Large)
  • JEA (South Midsize)

Except for JEA, based in Jacksonville, Florida, these are all investor-owned utilities. “The public power utilities that have won the J.D. Power honors all exemplify this excellence in customer service,” said Sue Kelly, president and CEO of the American Public Power Association You are leaving Western's site. (APPA).

Focused on sustainability
OPPD works with more than 45,000 commercial and industrial (C&I) customers to help them improve energy efficiency and develop new renewable energy sources, such as wind, solar and biomass. In an interview with APPA for Public Power Daily, Jim Krist, OPPD manager of key account sales and service, pointed to a heightened interest among business customers in sustainability and driving their own energy choices. “The customer continues to change the way we think, operate and serve,” he said.

OPPD has 10 account executives dedicated to servicing the utility’s largest C&I customers. These customers receive annual energy reviews and work with the utility on economic development issues. OPPD account executives and electric service designers consult with business customers on demand-side management programs to help them reduce energy demand and receive rebates.

Communicating proactively
Even a brief power outage can cost a business thousands of dollars—or worse—so providing timely, accurate information about outages and quickly restoring electric service strongly affects a utility’s rating.

SRP has introduced online and mobile-friendly apps to provide detailed power outage information to businesses, and to send power outage notifications and weather alerts to customers via email and text. Every business customer who contacts SRP to report an outage receives a follow-up call by the next business day. The utility uses the opportunity to educate them on how to use online outage map and reporting tools.

This aggressive approach has paid off in significant increases in the satisfaction scores. “And our customers are telling us how much they appreciate this proactive outreach,” Jennie King, the utility’s director of strategic energy management, told APPA.

SRP’s robust portfolio of 20 energy-efficiency programs is another reason the utility has ranked first in the West by J.D. Power for three consecutive years. Program offerings range from low- to no-cost options for limited-income residential customers to comprehensive programs for industrial clients.

Expanding customer engagement
Taking the proactive approach for keeping in touch with business customers figures heavily in SMUD’s business customer service strategy, too. Account representatives serve as trusted energy advisors to their assigned business customers, matching various utility programs with the specific needs of their clients.   The Sacramento utility has 67,000 contract accounts representing the 32,000 businesses in its service territory. Last year, the utility decided to ramp up its outreach by putting a C&I customer strategic plan in place. A staff training program aimed at engaging more business customers was a key part of the plan.

Rob Lechner, manager of SMUD’s commercial and industrial account solutions team, said the five-person team now averages 150 face-to-face meetings per week. Team members spend much of their time in the field, visiting the customers and getting to know them. The customer representatives bring a list of questions to in-depth sit-down meetings that might last more than an hour, Lechner explained. “We want customers to be our partners,” he said, and the first step is to understand those customers.

Study benchmarks
J.D. Power, a marketing information services firm, annually measures satisfaction among business customers of 102 targeted U.S. electric utilities that serve more than 25,000 business customers. The survey rates for overall satisfaction, calculated on a 1,000-point scale across six factors (in order of importance): power quality and reliability; corporate citizenship; price; billing and payment; communications; and customer service.

The 2016 results show overall satisfaction among electric utility business customers to be at its highest level in eight years, driven mainly by communications, corporate citizenship and price. John Hazen, director of energy practice at J.D. Power, observed that communication and corporate citizenship are important to businesses. “Business customers like to see their provider giving back, whether it’s through charities and civic organizations or through economic development such as buying locally and creating jobs,” he said.

Western congratulates Omaha Public Power District, Sacramento Municipal Utility District and Salt River Project for recognizing what their business customers want and delivering it.

Source: APPA Public Power Daily, 2/9/16

DOE, Appraisal Foundation to develop resources for green building appraisers

When it comes to educating customers about the value of energy efficiency in buildings, building owners are not the only group utilities need to keep in mind. Real estate appraisers in your territory may well need a crash course in the benefits of high-performance buildings, too. The Energy Department (DOE) and the Appraisal Foundation are working on resources to help the real estate industry figure out what sustainability is worth.ValueOfGreen

“Green” features can lower a building’s operating cost and make it a less financially risky investment, as shown in a case study by the Institute for Market Transformation. A commercial building in Wilmington, North Carolina, that implemented energy conservation measures reduced its annual energy costs by nearly $11,000, increasing the building’s valuation by up to $275,000. The study also showed that installing a renewable system has a similar effect. Buildings in California with solar panels can be valued at a premium as high as $5,911 per kilowatt of energy capacity.

Yet building owners often worry—with reason—that they will not recoup their investment in energy-efficiency upgrades when it comes time to resell the building. If appraisers are not educated about green strategies, they might overlook some of the benefits that could make the building more marketable, such as reduced operational and environmental risks. And that adds just one more barrier to getting customers to implement such measures.

To address this concern, DOE has teamed up with the Appraisal Foundation to improve resources for appraisers who are involved with energy-efficient buildings. The first of these resources, the Appraisal Practices Board (APB) Valuation Advisory #6: Valuation of Green Buildings: Background and Core Competency, is available to download. Technical experts and industry leaders collaborated on the APB Valuation Advisory to give appraisers a basic educational background on green or high-performance buildings. Two upcoming resources will build on this guide’s foundation with methodological guidance for valuing residential and commercial buildings.

DOE supported this work by providing subject matter experts and soliciting feedback from members of the Better Buildings Alliance. Appraisers can also find software tools, databases and education courses on the website that they can use to better evaluate green buildings.

Key account representatives should consider sharing the APM Valuation Advisory with local realtors’ associations. Municipal utilities in particular are in the position to bring these new resources to the attention of the appropriate city departments. Utilities might understandably see market transformation of the real estate industry as outside of their scope. On the other hand, it could be an opportunity to create new allies who can make the business case for energy-efficiency improvements for you.

Source: DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy via Green Power News, 7/23/15

Ask the Energy Experts: Reduce energy use in commercial bathrooms

Question:eexpert_small
Can you recommend ways to save energy in commercial bathrooms?

Answer:
Commercial bathrooms offer many opportunities for energy savings. Bathroom efficiency measures can have a positive effect on any business, but hotels, schools, recreation centers and other facilities with large multiple bathrooms can really benefit from the following measures.

Insulate piping
Most codes require insulation for hot-water piping, but insulation may have been damaged or removed during maintenance operations. Replace it with the minimum insulation required by your jurisdiction’s most recent energy code, or better. For example, the Washington State Energy Code requires a minimum of half an inch of insulation, with a conductivity between 0.24 and 0.28 (roughly R-4 per inch) for supply lines up to 2 inches in diameter, and 1-inch insulation for piping up to 4 inches in diameter.

Reduce flow
Reduction of domestic hot water (DHW) consumption can be accomplished by limiting the flow rate from fixtures, automatically shutting off the hot (and cold) water after a measured time interval and reducing supply temperatures. The first two measures are required by most plumbing codes for facilities open to the general public. Flow rates are usually limited to 2 gallons per minute (gpm) with the requirement that the valve self–close within 30 seconds. Self-closing faucets can save money and energy – and prevent vandalism. Also, the Building Energy Software Tools Directory, by the Department of Energy, provides links to several useful general water conservation software tools.

Reduce temperature
Many codes and statutes also limit the maximum temperature at lavatories in commercial buildings to 120 degrees. Resetting the water heater thermostat to deliver 120-degree water is usually a simple and cost-effective way to save energy in bathrooms. For water heaters serving additional, higher temperature hot water loads (dishwashers, etc.), equip the fixture with a thermostatic mixing valve or a booster heater for the higher temperature loads.

Control recirculation
Larger commercial buildings usually have systems to recirculate hot water from the most remote hot water fixture back to the water heater. The idea is to keep the water in the distribution piping hot at all times and reduce the time a user must wait for hot water. Many state and federal energy codes now require a time clock or other automated means to shut down the hot water recirculation pump during unoccupied hours. These controls save energy by eliminating heat loss from the recirculation piping when the building is unoccupied. They also cut the run time and electrical consumption of the recirculation pump by almost half.

Upgrade lighting
Bathrooms are occupied only intermittently, usually less than 20 percent of the time. That makes bathroom lighting in a commercial establishment the perfect application for occupancy sensors that turn off the lights when the bathroom is not in use.

Recover heat
Exhaust systems are another energy-user in bathrooms. In larger commercial buildings, a single fan often serves several bathrooms and it runs during the occupied hours. In small commercial buildings, the exhaust fan is often wired to the light switch and only runs when the lights are on. This can lead to under-ventilation of the bathrooms and indoor air quality (IAQ) problems. Modifying light switch-operated fans to run during the occupied hours will increase building energy use slightly, but will improve IAQ.

You can make up that loss by using the moist exhaust air leaving the building to preheat (or cool) outside air. Learn more about heat recovery ventilatorsRedirecting to a non-government site, from the Energy Efficiency Emerging Technologies Database. This collection of practical, commercially available, but not yet widely used energy efficiency technologies is regularly reviewed and evaluated by energy experts and engineers.

Upgrade heating system
Bathrooms are usually located in the core of larger buildings with no outside walls. However, some smaller buildings have bathrooms on outside walls that need to be heated in winter. The heat source for outside wall bathrooms is often an electric resistance heater that runs constantly. Consider installing a programmable thermostat (line voltage or 24v. as appropriate) or a connection to the building energy management and control system to limit operating hours and save energy.

Thursday is track day at CUE

Welcome to the second day of the Colorado Utility Efficiency Exchange. Attendees will be dividing their time between dual track sessions. In the morning the focus is on residential and commercial efficiency; afternoon sessions will highlight technology and partnerships. See the schedule below for our coverage, and check back often throughout the day for updates. Feel free to leave comments or questions.