Nominations sought for APPA DEED awards for utility innovators

Deadline Jan. 31, 2017

It is time to gain recognition for your energy services programs and share your success stories with your customers, communities and industry colleagues. The American Public Power Association You are leaving WAPA.gov. (APPA) presents two awards annually to member utilities that embody the spirit of the association’s Demonstration of Energy and Efficiency Developments (DEED) program. The research and demonstration program funds innovative activities dedicated to improving the operations and services of public power utilities.

The Award of Continued Excellence (ACE) recognizes a DEED member utility that has demonstrated continued commitment to the DEED program and its ideals. Criteria include involvement in the DEED program, including grants and scholarships; commitment to energy-efficiency; investigation or use of renewable resources and support of public power. This year’s award presentation will take place during the 2017 APPA Engineering and Operations Technical Conference, May 7-10, in San Antonio, Texas.

Several WAPA customers are among past winners of the ACE, including Riverside Public Utilities, You are leaving WAPA.gov. City of Palo Alto, You are leaving WAPA.gov. Silicon Valley Power You are leaving WAPA.gov. and Platte River Power Authority.You are leaving WAPA.gov.

The Energy Innovator Award (EIA) recognizes utility programs that have demonstrated advances in the development or application of creative, energy-efficient techniques or technologies. Projects and programs that provide better service to electric customers or that increase the efficiency of utility operations or resource efficiency are eligible, too. Judges will take into account transferability and project scope in relation to utility size.

WAPA customer Moorhead Public Service received an Energy Innovator Award in 2016 for developing its Capture the Sun community solar garden. Lincoln Electric System, You are leaving WAPA.gov. Omaha Public Power District, You are leaving WAPA.gov. Alameda Municipal Power You are leaving WAPA.gov. and Salt River Project You are leaving WAPA.gov.  are other WAPA customers that have earned the award with innovative programs.

APPA may give up to three awards in a given year. The awards will be presented during the 2017 APPA National Conference, June 16-21, 2017, in Orlando, Florida.

Nominations for both the ACE and the EIA may be submitted via the web-based application process. Submissions must be received no later than Jan. 31. For questions, contact the DEED program staff at 202-467-2960 or 202-467-2942 or via email.

After completing your nomination, don’t forget to share it with Energy Services Bulletin. Every utility program has an important story to tell and all WAPA customers are winners.

Source: Public Power Daily, 1/5/17

Irrigation workshop keeps ag customers informed, prepared

Having information available about future operating costs, supplies and regulations help business owners make sound decisions for the coming months and years. Utilities that provide such critical information form stronger relationships with their customers, which is why High West EnergyYou are leaving Western's site. hosted an irrigation workshop on Jan. 27 at its Pine Bluff, Wyoming, headquarters.

High West Energy hosts a workshop for agriculture customers every couple of years to keep the lines of communication open with their large customers. (Photo by High West Energy)

High West Energy hosts a workshop for agriculture customers every couple of years to keep the lines of communication open with their large customers. (Photo by High West Energy)

Irrigators are among the electric cooperative’s biggest consumers and High West considers it good practice to acknowledge that customer segment and keep the lines of communication open. “We like to get irrigators together every couple of years to share new technology developments and discuss changes on the horizon to help them prepare accordingly,” said High West Public Relations and Marketing Manager Lorrell Walter.

Around 25 attendees—primarily small growers but with a significant number of agribusiness producers—turned out for a look into the crystal ball. “They got a lot of tough news this year,” acknowledged Walter, “but they appreciate knowing ahead of time, so they can plan for it.”

The tough news included rate increases anticipated for the next three years, water restrictions affecting both Wyoming and Nebraska and a low futures market. “Basically, the worst possible combination,” said High West Energy Management Advisor Joy Manning, who helped organize the workshop.

Facing, tackling challenges
Some presentations clarified the situation the growers faced, while others explored assistance available to help cope with it. Speakers from the South Platte Natural Resources DistrictYou are leaving Western's site. and Wyoming State Engineer’s OfficeYou are leaving Western's site. focused on drought conditions and new state well water regulations. The outlook for grain markets in 2016 was the topic of a presentation by a representative from Platte Valley Bank.

The workshop covered not only challenges, but solutions too. Attendees learned about strategies for dealing with climate variability and integrating photovoltaics with irrigation equipment from the University of Wyoming School of EngineeringYou are leaving Western's site. and Extension. The Department of Agriculture Rural Energy for America Program discussed loans and grants it offers for renewable energy systems and energy efficiency improvements.

Utilities join conversation
Because water and energy use are intertwined, wholesale power providers had a place on the agenda, too. Tri-State Generation and Transmission AssociationYou are leaving Western's site. was on hand to update attendees on the G&T’s efforts to comply with the Clean Power Program and other activities. Tri-State Relationship Manager Gary Myers gave an overview of the 2016 Energy Efficiency Products Program.

Western Energy Services Representative Annette Meredith and Equipment Loan Manager Gary Hoffmann gave a short presentation on what Western is doing to support High West and its other customers. Although Western works with utilities rather than end-users, Energy Services can play a role in consumer education, noted Meredith. “Helping our customers’ customers to understand where some of their power comes from, and how electricity and water are so closely linked in the West, can help bolster efficiency programs,” she explained.

The workshop appeared to achieve that goal, observed Manning, in spite of sobering news. “The feedback was very positive,” she said. “They particularly appreciated that the information didn’t just touch on one aspect of irrigation.”

Partnering to reach customers
Getting input from many different sources is the secret to a good workshop, Walter said. “If I was going to give other utilities one piece of advice on putting together a workshop, I would tell them, ‘Don’t try to do it on your own,’” she said. “Even though I have an agricultural background, I couldn’t keep up with the hot topics.”

As the issues get more complex, pre-event research becomes more important. High West board members are a source of topics based on the concerns they hear from customers. Tri-State, High West’s wholesale provider, has helped organize past workshops. And if you find a good speaker, Walter advises, “Invite them back! Get that information out there.”

Meredith, who joined Energy Services a little over a year ago, also pitched in this time. “She really helped pull things together,” Manning added.

“Partnerships among several stakeholders are key for successful energy efficiency efforts,” said Meredith.

If your utility would like assistance in hosting a workshop for your members or customers, contact your Energy Services Representative or the Energy Services manager.

Tell us what you want from Energy Services

When Western’s Energy Services regional representatives get together to talk about the program, it is not a subdued affair. The five regions within Western are all different from each other, and each representative brings a different perspective on what customers in their service territory need. One thing we do share is a passion for serving our customers, so the discussions can get pretty lively. At the end of a good meeting, however, we walk away with new ideas, renewed determination and a better understanding of the challenges customers face in other regions.

That is a pretty good description of what happened at the annual “face-to-face” meeting Energy Services held at Western Headquarters in October. The meeting gives Energy Services representatives an opportunity to plan for the coming year and to let management, the marketing team and the Equipment Loan Program know what kind of support their efforts need. This year’s meeting was particularly crucial since Western recently parted company with Energy Experts. We are exploring ways to offer customers more relevant technical assistance to replace the resources of the online service provider.

Feeling changes
The utility industry is standing on shifting ground, and power providers across Western’s service territory are feeling the changes. Complying with new regulations, joining a regional transmission organization, competing with new technologies and services, planning for extreme weather and meeting renewable goals and mandates are only a few of the issues keeping customers awake at night.

As we talked (and talked!) about how we can help our customers manage these and other concerns, one word kept coming up: training. The old saying, “Knowledge is power,” is old for a reason. Understanding even just the basics about a situation gives you more control and more options for dealing with it.

Western is in a great position to deliver training, too, in part, thanks to its Electric Power Training Center. For years, EPTC has delivered the highest quality power systems operation training to diverse audiences from power plant operators to dispatchers to support staff who just want to learn more about the business. It  streamlines the process of enrolling participants and hosting workshops.

Creating new product
Energy Services would like to extend EPTC course offerings to other aspects of utility business, such as long-range resource planning, load management and renewables and efficiency integration. Our contacts at the departments of Energy and Agriculture, utilities, universities and professional organizations give us access to experts on a wide array of topics. Training could be offered as on-site workshops or webinars, depending on interest and subject matter.

Speaking of subject matter, this is where you, our customer, can help us. The regional representatives came up with a long list of potential training topics, and we need your help to prioritize it. Please look over the following topics and select your top five concerns:

Your input required
It is quite a list, and likely far from complete. Feel free to add your own ideas about training that could help you or your staff feel more prepared to deal with today’s challenges and the ones you see coming.

Send your suggestions for workshops (or publications, or other types of technical assistance) to your regional representative or to the Energy Services manager. Energy Services is, after all, your program, and we are eager to hear what you want it to be.

Silicon Valley Power responds to electric utility worker shortage with local scholarship awards

Deadline: Nov. 3, 2015

The utility industry is plagued by an aging workforce and by the challenge of finding employees qualified to replace those headed for retirement. In an effort to build its local pool of skilled electrical workers, Silicon Valley Power You are leaving Western's site. (SVP) in Santa Clara, California, is investing in the engineers and technicians of tomorrow.

Kara Johnson, 2009 Silicon Valley Power Scholarship recipient and Santa Clara High School graduate, works on a prototype circuit for a sensor used in her alternative biofuel research. Johnson is a Ph.D. candidate at U.C. San Diego after earning degrees in genetics and biological systems at U.C. Davis. (Photo by Silicon Valley Power)

Kara Johnson, 2009 Silicon Valley Power Scholarship recipient and Santa Clara High School graduate, works on a prototype circuit for a sensor used in her alternative biofuel research. Johnson is a Ph.D. candidate at U.C. San Diego after earning degrees in genetics and biological systems at U.C. Davis. (Photo by Silicon Valley Power)

College and technical school students living in Santa Clara and pursuing careers related to the electric utility industry may be eligible to receive scholarships or tuition grants from the city and SVP. The city is offering $5,000 scholarships to new and continuing college students and $2,000 to trade school trainees who will be enrolled by October 2016 for the 2016-17 school year. Students must apply by Nov. 3, 2015.

Career opportunities and salaries are on the rise for engineers, technicians and power line workers in the industry. SVP, Santa Clara’s municipal electric utility, wants to encourage students to explore those options. “Like SVP, utilities all over the country are looking for qualified workers to be part of the exciting new world of the smart grid,” said John Roukema, Director of SVP. “Satisfying and lucrative career opportunities abound for students completing courses that prepare them for work in the many fields of the electric utility industry.”

The program has awarded 30 college scholarships and six technical school grants totaling $162,000 since it started in 2006.

Applicants studying energy services, electric utilities, or fields associated with the power industry in general may download the application, or call 408-261-5036 for more information. Santa Clara residents have until Nov. 3, 2015 to submit applications for the SVP Scholarship Awards program.

Western salutes our customer Silicon Valley Power for taking a proactive approach to workforce development.

Source: Silicon Valley Power, 10/9/15

Fort Collins forges ahead on climate goals

Throughout the nation, municipalities are showing leadership in addressing climate change, and Fort Collins, Colorado, is leading the leaders. The city recently revised its climate action goals to reduce its total greenhouse gas emissions 20 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2030 across all sectors relative to 2005 levels.

An article in the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) Outlet You are leaving WAPA.gov. notes that the 2030 target is 20 years sooner than the “80 by ‘50” goal other leading cities have set, making it among the most ambitious of any city in the world. RMI is among the many partners the Fort Collins City Council engaged to assess the costs and benefits to the community of accelerating the city’s greenhouse gas emissions goals. The partnership includes community leaders, local businesses, citizen advisory groups, the communities’ generation and distribution utilities and research institutes.

Investment required
Led by city government and Fort Collins UtilitiesYou are leaving WAPA.gov. the partnership has discussed, analyzed and reviewed approaches to achieving the goals. The forward-looking plan lays the groundwork to stimulate hundreds of millions of dollars of new investments in efficiency and renewable resources in the years ahead. The upfront capital requirements will be high, but RMI estimates that the investments in carbon reduction will begin producing real financial benefits to the community close to 2030.

In addition to investing in infrastructure upgrades and clean central generation, the community will need to improve its building stock as well. The targets the city has identified to achieve its goals include:

  • Reduce building emissions by 40 percent through greater efficiency and distributed solar adoption
  • Reduce carbon emissions from the utility electricity system by 79 percent from 2005 levels
  • Reduce transportation carbon emissions by 57 percent from 2005 levels
  • Create a zero-waste community

Utility tackles challenge
Increasing the efficiency of the building stock poses a special challenge, as buildings are responsible for 53 percent of emissions and participation in retrofit programs is often low. The city’s municipal utility plays a central role in encouraging citizens to invest in efficiency for homes and commercial facilities. A recently approved update to the utility’s on-bill financing program allows unprecedented access and flexibility for financing efficiency. The plan gives customers the ability to allocate costs between tenant and landlord, and includes longer financing terms that match the life of the upgrades, lower interest rates and an easier approval process.

The integrated utility services model You are leaving WAPA.gov. Fort Collins Utilities developed with RMI’s support could, if adopted, do even more to promote building efficiency. It would allow the utility to centrally deliver energy services; such as efficiency, distributed renewables and value-added services; at scales that will achieve cost savings and high-quality service, and be paid for on customers’ electricity bills. This approach offers an innovative model for utilities seeking to grow their business by diversifying their services to customers.

Long journey to sustainability
The new goals are part of continuing process that has engaged the city and its partners for more than 15 years.

The Fort Collins City Council passed a resolution in 1999, committing the city to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions significantly by 2010. The landmark year of 2007 saw the formation of the city’s Climate Task Force and the implementation of FortZED, funded by an $11 million federal grant. The project created a zero-energy district in Fort Collins’ downtown business district and the Colorado State University You are leaving WAPA.gov. campus. It also launched a dialogue between the university, the utility and the city that continues today, and led directly to the city council’s vote to adopt the historic new goals.

The process has not been smooth or easy, but the city has already made significant progress. By continuing its methodical, inclusive and thoughtful approach, Fort Collins is showing how even a town of 150,000 can make big strides in fighting climate change.

Source: RMI Outlet, 3/4/15

Planning at heart of Energy Services

The utility business may seem dry and matter-of-fact to consumers, but those in the business know it is a rollercoaster ride. To keep the lights on and the electricity affordable, power providers must balance a host of competing demands: renewable portfolio standards, carbon regulations, state mandates, federal mandates, customer desires, environmental concerns, new technology, aging infrastructure. The only way to keep all the plates spinning is to think ahead, and that is where Energy Services comes in.

Energy Services exists to facilitate the resource planning that Western’s firm power contracts require. Firm power customers must complete a comprehensive integrated resource plan (IRP) every five years, along with annual updates. “That may sound like a lot of reports,” acknowledged Energy Services Manager Ron Horstman, “but circumstances change so quickly in this industry, a business plan can easily be out of date in 12 months or less. It was true in 1992 when congress passed EPAct, and it is doubly so today.”

More than good idea, it’s law
EPAct, the Energy Policy Act of 1992, established the IRP requirement to ensure that Western firm power customers are using their federal hydropower allocations efficiently. Also, it encourages utilities to engage in long-term planning, a process that benefits any business, regardless of size, location, regulatory environment and a host of other influential factors. “Low-cost hydropower from federal dams is crucial to keeping the nation’s electricity supply affordable, especially for small towns and rural communities,” Horstman pointed out. “Our rivers are among the nation’s greatest resources and they belong to the general public. Western has a responsibility to protect the health of those waterways and to make sure that the greatest possible number of public utilities have access to it.”

In 1995, Western adopted the Energy Planning and Management Program (EPAMP) setting out the IRP requirements and launching the Power Marketing Initiative (PMI) for marketing long-term firm hydropower. The PMI provides resource pools of power that Western can allocate to new customers.

Not only does resource planning extend the availability of federal hydropower, it helps utilities provide the services their communities want and need to stay vibrant and thrive. But any process that accomplishes so much is bound to be complicated, especially for frequently understaffed small co-ops and municipalities. To provide Western customers with the technical assistance to facilitate effective planning, EPAMP commissioned Western’s Energy Services Program.

It’s complicated
The IRP is as much an ongoing process as it is a plan, the point of which is to provide a utility’s consumers with adequate and reliable service at the lowest cost to the system. The definition of the “lowest cost” has been changing as utilities realize that they must consider factors beyond the price tag of a kilowatt. Increasingly, consumers are calling on power providers to address environmental, political, social, economic and technical concerns in their plans as well. These concerns carry their own indirect costs that a more sophisticated public expects the utility to acknowledge and mitigate.

Determining the optimum approach requires the utility to evaluate a range of different resources and strategies on both sides of the meter. The planning process might assess new generating capacity, power purchases, energy conservation and efficiency, co-generation and district heating and cooling applications and renewable energy resources, to name a few.

A certain amount of economic forecasting must be part of the process, too. A community can change a lot in five years, with the population growing or shrinking, businesses coming to the area or leaving and new energy-consuming technologies reaching the mainstream.

Ideally, the utility will reach out to its consumers throughout the planning process to discuss their expectations and share upcoming challenges. This “public participation process” is critical to crafting comprehensive solutions and getting buy-in from consumers on implementing the plan.

An assistance buffet
Since rolling all these considerations into one plan is about as easy as it sounds, our customers need all the information Energy Services can provide and that turns out to be a lot.

  • Knowledgeable staff—Our technical assistance menu begins with our people. Customers with questions about their IRPs can contact Horstman or their regional representative.
  • Robust website—The Energy Services website is the next stop in the search for guidance, inspiration and industry news. On the home page, visitors will find links to calculators for estimating energy use by air conditioning and heating systems, pool pumps and irrigation equipment. These calculators can help utility program managers make the case to consumers for equipment upgrades, or estimate potential savings from incentive programs. An interactive calendar on the home page displays upcoming workshops, conferences, webinars and other training opportunities focused on energy use.
  • Technical servicesWashington State University Energy Extension,Redirecting to a non-government site  which created the calculators and the calendar, provides other technical services to aid with planning. Western customers can ask questions about specific technologies or programs to the Energy Experts hotline by calling 800-769-3756, or submitting their question online. Visitors might research successful energy management programs using the Energy Solutions database, or the Utility Options database. Users can also submit their own examples of innovative programs to Utility Options.
  • Equipment Loan Program—Western customers who need special equipment to implement a program can borrow it free of charge from the Equipment Loan Program. An equipment loan is a good way to test drive a tool before you buy it or to get the use of an expensive piece of equipment that is not in your utility’s budget this year. Borrow infrared cameras, power meters and more to perform audits on consumer homes and businesses or maintenance on your own system. Bring educational kits and diagnostic tools to customer meetings and schools. A quick visit to the extensive library of training resources will get you up to speed on how to use the tool.

Library on your desktop
Effective planning requires utilities to stay on top of best practices, new technologies and the changing political scene. The Energy Services Bulletin features stories on the latest industry news about reports, policies, education opportunities and—most important—our customers. Western customers are  the mother lode of ideas for load management strategies and portfolio diversification.

The blog just scratches the surface, however. Energy Services also publishes guides, fact sheets and collateral material on topics related to energy efficiency. Better yet, we can customize those publications with utility logos so our customers can use them in their consumer education programs.

Resources,” as the name implies, connects utilities with other agencies that can help them shape their own future. Visitors will find lists of carefully curated links to organizations specializing in energy and water conservation, renewable energy, project funding and incentive programs to name a few.

Putting it in writing
Armed with proven programs, a clear picture of the road ahead and a nimble strategy for navigating it, utilities must overcome one more obstacle in the planning process: Fear of Paperwork.

Yes, customers still have to produce a plan that checks off all the boxes in an arcane-seeming rule, but Energy Services has that covered too. The online IRP Compliance Training walks customers through the process step by step, with clear explanations of what they need to put into their reports. A quick refresher course in the form of IRP and alternative plan checklists comes in handy for seasoned planning pros in charge of annual updates.

More lessons from the trenches can be found in actual customer IRPs, available online. These examples offer a great opportunity to find out what worked for other utilities in your area and how they presented their plan.

There is no replacement for being prepared when you face a long journey down a twisting road of shifting priorities, disruptive and new technologies and unanticipated challenges. Each Western customer must chart its own course, but Western Energy Services is here to point the direction toward the final destination of reliable, affordable and sustainable power.

Customer Connections Conference offers focus on energy services

The American Public Power Association’s 2011 Customer Connections Conference,  Nov. 6 to 9 in Savannah, Ga., will feature a full track of sessions devoted to energy services topics.

The conference will cover:

  • Low-cost ways to deliver Smart Grid benefits to your community
  • Smart grid stories: sharing smart practices
  • Justifying your utility’s energy-efficiency programs
  • Energy-efficiency technologies for C&I customers
  • Programs to meet your energy-efficiency and renewable portfolio standards
  • Changing infrastructure developments

The Customer Connections Conference also offers sessions on key accounts, public communications, marketing and customer service, as well as roundtable discussions, networking breakfasts, receptions and other opportunities for networking and information exchange.

Conference participants will have the opportunity to attend a full-day pre-conference seminar on Sunday, Nov. 6, on “Energy Services that Work: Commercial Energy-efficiency Programs.” This in-depth seminar will focus on commercial energy-efficiency activities, energy audit programs and the importance of evaluation, measurement and verification (EM&V) of results. It has close ties to the new APPA publication, Energy Services That Work, produced with the association’s Demonstration of Energy-Efficient Developments program.

Conference fees are $645 for APPA members and $1,290 for non-members who register before Oct. 14. Pre-conference seminars require a separate registration fee.

Reader shares National Safety Month tip

While researching carbon monoxide alarms for National Safety Month, an alert website visitor discovered a broken link in an archived issue of Energy Services Bulletin–sadly, an all-too frequent occurance in the fast-changing world of energy efficiency and renewable energy. 

Happily, this reader sent Energy Services an e-mail to let us know about the broken link. Even better, she shared a resource that she found during her research: Carbon Monoxide: The Silent Killer. This page has a wealth of valuable information about how to identify and prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.

We at Energy Services greatly appreciate hearing from our readers, whether you are reporting a broken link, sharing a helpful resource or commenting on a story. Breaking news and the Energy Services website  are meant to be interactive, so please do talk back.  And Happy National Safety Month!