Federal energy efficiency programs save energy, create jobs

A recent op-ed in the New York Times You are leaving WAPA.gov. serves as a reminder that energy efficiency is not only one of the most powerful resources we have for meeting energy and environmental goals, it is also a rare source of bipartisan agreement.

Agreed: Energy efficiency works
Citing a poll You are leaving WAPA.gov. by the Conservative Energy Network shortly after the November 2016 election, the writer noted that the majority of voters saw policies supporting energy efficiency as important. This is true despite the fact that energy efficiency itself is largely invisible, with economic impacts diffused throughout the economy. Imagine how enthusiastic Americans would be if they realized that more than 2.2 million people spend some or all of their work hours on energy-efficient technologies and services. That is more than the 1.9 million who work to produce electricity (solar, wind, nuclear), coal, oil and gas.

In addition to providing jobs, energy efficiency protects them by helping industries stay economically viable. Federal agencies develop efficiency standards for household appliances and work with American manufacturers to improve productivity. They provide testing and expertise to develop local and state building-efficiency codes for homes and commercial buildings.

Innovative, federally run efficiency programs boast a decades-long record of economic and environmental success across the nation, dating back at least 30 years. Energy Star is a shining example of a public-private partnership that saves American consumers and businesses billions of dollars per year. About three-quarters of U.S. households recognize the Energy Star label as way to control their energy costs while reducing power plant pollution.

The big picture tells an even more important story. The economy has grown by almost 150 percent since 1980 with a corresponding increase in energy consumption of about 20 quadrillion British thermal units. Over that same period, energy efficiency delivered more than 50 quads worth of energy services, far outpacing all other energy sources combined.

Waste still hurting economy
In spite of such impressive gains, however, energy waste still costs American businesses and households billions of dollars every year. In commercial buildings alone, where annual electricity costs are roughly $190 billion, about a third of this energy goes to waste, according to the Department of Energy. The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy ranks You are leaving WAPA.gov. the United States eighth among the top 23 energy-consuming nations in efficiency.

Emerging technologies and population growth are putting demands on our electricity grids that utilities of a generation ago never imagined. Knowing what is at stake, power providers are investing $7.5 billion annually in cost-effective electricity and natural gas efficiency programs.

The electricity industry can continue to build on the success that began when President Ronald Reagan signed the first legislation authorizing federal efficiency standards. Incorporate tools and strategies from federal energy-efficiency programs into your load management programs. Let your customers know about federal resources that might help them use less electricity. When we harness the power of the cheapest kilowatt—the one that is never used—everyone wins.

Source: New York Times, 11/7/17

Around the web: Home Performance with ENERGY STAR

AroundTheWebCreating an energy-efficient home is a worthwhile goal. It is cooler in the summer, warmer in the winter, costs the homeowner less money to keep it that way and helps the environment. What’s not to like? Well, the difficulty of finding financing for upgrades, choosing the right equipment or systems and hiring contractors who are experienced in properly installing high-performance systems, to name just a few challenges.

To help homeowners overcome these barriers to successful energy-efficiency upgrades, the Department of Energy launched Home Performance with ENERGY STAR (HPwES) in 2011. The program connects homeowners with program sponsors and contractors who can help them improve their home comfort, indoor air quality and safety, while lowering utility bills.HPXMLven

How it works
HPwES takes the “whole house” approach to energy improvements that helps make the most of the homeowner’s investment. Rather than focusing on a single problem, participating contractors look at how improvements throughout the house can work together to get the best results.

To find participating contractors, homeowners go through HPwES-sponsored local programs. The contractors, who are trained to understand how homes operate, identify health and safety issues and provide the homeowner with personalized recommendations for increasing the house’s energy efficiency.

HPwES sponsors perform quality assurance checks on their contractors to ensure that the improvements are done right. In states where incentives are available, sponsors may also help homeowners apply for rebates.

Supporting retrofit programs
Becoming a Home Performance with ENERGY STAR sponsor is good for utilities as well as homeowners. Starting a residential efficiency improvement program from scratch is difficult, even for large utilities. Sponsors have access to a variety of resources they can use to implement and grow their programs and reach their own local energy savings goals. Program support includes account management services, marketing material, partnership and collaboration opportunities and resources from the Better Buildings Residential Solutions Center.

Because sponsorship is not limited to one type of organization, utilities have the opportunity to partner with municipalities, state energy programs and financial institutions. Collaborating with other agencies can make programs more effective, multiplying the benefits of efficiency upgrades across communities.

Improving communication
Helping sponsors to develop their own programs and connecting them to contractor pools is not the only way HPwES works to break down the siloes that stand in the way of a more efficient marketplace. Last year, the program introduced the HPXML Implementation Guide to help program administrators and software developers integrate HPXML into their operations and products.

Developed by Building Performance Institute, You are leaving WAPA.gov. HPXML is a set of common definitions for the attributes of home systems. It also includes computing language to facilitate the quick and easy transfer of home-related data between different market actors. Collecting and sharing this data across the industry is critical to supporting, measuring and verifying energy performance. The DOE expects the use of HPXML to build stronger relationships within the industry, increase consumer trust in energy-efficiency improvements and enhance the ability to evaluate programs.

Most program managers agree that measurement and evaluation is one of the big challenges of administration, so the HPXML guide could be a valuable resource for utilities. Visitors can learn more about the value the HPXML guide can bring to businesses, along with implementation methods, from a recorded webinar on the website.

Efficient clothes dryer topic of free webinar

June 10, 2015
1 p.m. MDT

Join the Washington State University Energy Program on Wednesday, June 10, at 1:00 p.m. Mountain Time, for the Emerging Technologies Showcase webinar, Heat Pump Clothes Dryers – Will Life Ever Be the Same Again? Redirecting to a non-government site 

Schematics of a heat pump clothes dryer: 1. drum; 2. filter; 3. warm, humid air; 4. evaporator; 5. condensate; 6. compressor; 7. expansion device; 8. condensor; 9. blower; 10. hot dry air. (Artwork by Oak Ridge National Laboratory)

Schematics of a heat pump clothes dryer: 1. drum; 2. filter; 3. warm, humid air; 4. evaporator; 5. condensate; 6. compressor; 7. expansion device; 8. condensor; 9. blower; 10. hot dry air. (Artwork by Oak Ridge National Laboratory)

Residential clothes dryers are not known for their efficiency—in the U.S., these appliances consume 4 percent of our annual electricity use. Worse yet, 20 to 25 percent of their heat disappears up the dryer vent. No wonder clothes dryers are not included in the federal government’s Energy Star program. However, recent advances in dryer technology may be poised to change all that.

This webinar explores basic design types of energy-saving clothes dryers and the technologies that make them more efficient than current models. Lab and field testing results will be discussed in depth, with special focus on the importance of testing dryers on actual wet laundry and in different settings. Utilities can learn about the energy savings, cost and near-term availability of the appliances, as well as ideas for providing consumer guidance and financial support to interested customers.

A question-and-answer session follows the presentation. All webinars are recorded and available from Energy Efficiency Emerging Technologies Redirecting to a non-government site (E3T) and Conduit Redirecting to a non-government site energy efficiency forum.

Register today for this free event, or contact E3T for more information.

Bonneville Power Administration sponsors this monthly webinar series with support from Western. Get latest information about promising energy-efficiency technologies and practices that BPA is considering for future research.

Source: Bonneville Power Administration, 5/14/15

Around the web: Find qualified HVAC installation

An energy-efficient heating and cooling system can yield significant energy savings for home and business owners, as long as it is installed properly and that is the rub.HVACcontractor

Installation can make or break the system’s performance. Unfortunately, finding the right contractor—one experienced with today’s sophisticated, high-efficiency heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment—is not easy, even in a big metropolitan area. Some utilities solve this problem by creating a trusted contractor pool to support their HVAC efficiency programs. You may not have the time or budget to do that, but you can introduce your customers to online resources to help them select the right person for their job.

Ask questions, look for credentials
Energy Star’s 10 Tips for Hiring a Heating and Cooling Contractor is a good place to start for basic common-sense advice. It includes a link to the Energy Star Guide to Energy Efficient Cooling and Heating, also available in Spanish. While your customers are on the website, they can research Energy Star-qualified heating and cooling equipment.

Air Conditioner Contractors of America (ACCA) has an outstanding page for homeowners Redirecting to a non-government site that discusses system maintenance, interviewing contractors, and even talks about Manual J, the industry standard for determining the size of an HVAC system. There are short, informative videos about the value of licensed contractors, questions to ask before hiring one and what to expect from a professional installation.

ACCA strongly recommends hiring a licensed contractor with technicians certified by North American Technician Excellence Redirecting to a non-government site (NATE). The nationally recognized, industry-supported certification organization has its own website with helpful Tips and Resources covering everything from safety to HVAC terminology. However, visitors should use the ACCA contractor locator to find local credentialed technicians as it is more up to date than the NATE database.

Building Performance Institute is another organization that certifies contractors and provides a searchable databaseRedirecting to a non-government site The results include not only company location, but technician core certifications as well.

Visitors will find BPI’s contractor comparison form useful when getting estimates. The form lists 10 questions and space for the answers from three different contractors for easy comparison. It also lists the steps homeowners should expect during the installation process.

Be proactive
Homeowners generally don’t think about HVAC purchases and repairs—not exactly the stuff of daydreams, after all—until something goes wrong. Utilities can think ahead for their customers by creating a bill stuffer with contractor questions and links to online contractor finders. Make sure your customer service representatives have hard copies and electronic copies they can share with anyone who asks.

If you offer an incentive program for high-efficiency HVAC systems, place links to selected online resources on your program Web page. Make sure equipment vendors have copies of the contractor questions on hand to pass out with sales.

Educating customers about the value of hiring certified HVAC installers can create a ripple effect that motivates contractors in your service territory to seek certification. Utilities can be ready with information about credentialing organizations in case contractors call with questions. In a business where much of the training is passed from generation to generation, technicians in small towns and rural areas may not be aware of certification opportunities. If enough customers are asking about contractors’ credentials over time, you may find that your trusted contractor pool builds itself.

ENERGY STAR lists Top 5 reasons to give energy-efficient gifts

The holiday shopping season is about to shift into high gear, and new electronics will undoubtedly appear on many wish lists. Unfortunately, those gifts can come with a hidden price tag—higher utility bills in the New Year. Help your customers add energy efficiency to their shopping carts with these five suggestions from ENERGY STAR.EnergyStarXmas

  1. TVs offer the hottest featuresYou don’t have to sacrifice those sought-after bells and whistles like smart TV functionality, ultra-high definition, large screens, LED backlighting to keep your electricity bill down. ENERGY STAR-certified TVs offer all the latest features, as well as being more than 25 percent more energy-efficient than standard models.
  2. Sound bars sound even betterSound bars, wireless speakers and gadgets with Bluetooth connectivity are among the most popular new products, and some of the latest to earn the ENERGY STAR. You can make the audiophile on your list happy with gifts that are up to 60 percent more efficient.
  3. Give the “bright” giftENERGY STAR-certified LED, or light-emitting diode, bulbs make great gifts and stocking stuffers. Lighting technology is changing so quickly that it can be hard to keep track of the latest developments. Choosing the ENERGY STAR label is an easy way to make sure you get the energy efficiency and performance you expect. LED bulbs that earn the label are independently certified to ensure they deliver on brightness and color, and shine light where you want it.
  4. ‘Tis the season to be streamingTell your loved ones who like to stream movies and videos that laptops and tablets use the least amount of energy. Or better yet, give them an ENERGY STAR-certified slate or tablet. These personal devices use 10 times less power to stream than a game console does, seven times less power than streaming directly to a television and six times less than streaming to a desktop computer and monitor.
  5. The environment is on everyone’s wish listShopping for electronics can be overwhelming, but the little blue label makes the choice easier. ENERGY STAR products are designed and certified to save energy, a gift that keeps on giving long after the decorations are packed away and the last sugar cookie is eaten. It is the thought that counts and ENERGY STAR gifts show that you are thinking about innovative technology today and a cleaner environment tomorrow.

And although we would never recommend giving large home appliances as Christmas gifts, January and February are big months for those kinds of purchases. Use holiday bill inserts to remind your customers of the benefits of ENERGY STAR appliances and any customer rebates your utility offers.

Happy holidays from Western and ENERGY STAR.

Source: ENERGY STAR, 11/19/14

ENERGY STAR launches ‘Change the World’ tour

EnergyStarLogoEnvironmental Protection Agency Celebrates ENERGY STAR Day, Highlights Youth Leaders Protecting the Climate

To raise awareness about the value of energy efficiency to our communities, the ENERGY STAR program is taking its show on the road during the month of October.

The Change the World tour started in Pinconning, Michigan, Oct. 2, when ENERGY STAR partner Community Energy hosted an efficiency makeover of the town’s Boys & Girls Club. Tour events in Western’s territory include building energy-efficient homes in San Francisco, educating low-income customers about saving energy in Colorado and planting trees in Southern California. The tour ends in Arizona on Oct. 28, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony for an extensive energy-efficiency upgrade on a nonprofit housing facility for homeless veterans in Phoenix.

Get on the bandwagon
Check the tour schedule to get ideas about ways your utility could partner with ENERGY STAR to improve your community. In the meantime, you can turn every month into Energy Awareness Month with materials from ENERGY STAR. Let schools in your territory know they can download door hangers and display signs to spread the word about energy efficiency all year round. ENERGY STAR suggests other activities to turn kids into efficiency allies:

  • Take the ENERGY STAR pledge and commit to taking actions such as adjusting thermostats, adding insulation and using ENERGY STAR-certified lighting.
  • Attend local events such as energy efficiency fairs and energy-saving demonstrations and workshops. Current local events can be found on the ENERGY STAR’s Across America map.
  • Share energy-saving stories online, and inspire others to take action.
  • Sign kids up to join Team ENERGY STAR, where they will learn smart energy use with easy-to-download games, tips and tools and activities.

And don’t forget to share your plans and events with Energy Services so we can brag about your accomplishments in the Energy Services Bulletin.

Help for utilities, consumers
For more than 20 years, the ENERGY STAR program has provided utilities with reliable resources for managing loads and building lasting customer relationships. Americans have saved nearly $230 billion on utility bills, preventing more than 1.7 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

Today, the ENERGY STAR label can be found on more than 65 different kinds of products, as well as new homes and buildings. Products that have earned the ENERGY STAR designation prevent greenhouse gas emissions by meeting strict energy-efficiency specifications set by the government. For more information about ENERGY STAR, call 888-STAR-YES (888-782-7937) toll free. Source: Environmental Protection Agency, 10/2/2014

Energy Star program adds clothes dryers

EnergyStarLogoUtilities looking to expand their energy-efficiency programs to include new appliances may want to consider offering rebates for Energy Star-certified clothes dryers. On May 19, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized the ENERGY STAR Version 1.0 Specification for Clothes Dryers. The standard will take effect on Jan. 1, 2015. 

Effective in 2015, the new specifications will recognize a selection of high-efficiency electric, gas and compact dryers that will use approximately 20 percent less energy than what the minimum efficiency standards require, the EPA stated. If all residential clothes dryers sold in the United States meet the Energy Star requirements, utility cost savings will grow to more than $1.5 billion annually According to the agency, the increase in efficiency could prevent more than 22 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions each year.

Clothes dryers are in more than 80 percent of U.S. homes, and account for about 6 percent of residential electricity consumption. “The addition of clothes dryers expands the range of Energy Star products to include one of the most energy-intensive home appliances not yet covered by the program,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “Working with industry on innovative approaches to address our changing climate, we are helping consumers select more energy efficient appliances, save money and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

Dryer models that meet the new Energy Star requirements are likely to have improved auto termination sensors, which help reduce energy use by ending the drying cycle once clothes are dry. Some of the more efficient gas and electric Energy Star dryers will employ a promising new technology to recapture the hot air the dryer uses and pump it back into the drum to dry more clothes. Re-using most of the heat creates a heat pump dryer that is more efficient and avoids the need for ducts to exhaust heat out of the laundry room.

The new Energy Star specification also establishes optional “connected” criteria for residential clothes dryers. This connected functionality offers consumers convenience and energy-savings features, such as an alert indicating there is a performance issue, or feedback on the energy-efficiency of different cycle selections. These products will also be “smart grid” ready, making the appliances a natural for demand response programs. Consumers will be able to connect the dryer with their local power provider to take advantage of programs that save them money on their energy bills, and help the utility with load control.

To earn the Energy Star label, products must be certified by an EPA-recognized third party, based on testing in an EPA-recognized laboratory. In addition, manufacturers of the products must participate in verification testing programs operated by recognized certification bodies.

In 2013 alone, Energy Star helped Americans save $30 billion on their utility bills and prevent greenhouse gas emissions equal to those of 38 million homes.

Free webinar to help utilities save money, better serve their customers

Clean Energy Ambassadors (CEA) Lunchtime Webinar Series continues with a FREE webinar, Best Practices in Energy Star Programs for Utilities, Tuesday, July 17, at 12 noon CDT.

Wondering what a successful energy efficiency program looks like? Hear from utilities that have gained mass participation in Energy Star programs, and discover proven strategies for getting customers to embrace energy efficiency.

CEA Webinars are held from 12-1 pm Central time (11 a.m.-12 p.m. MDT) on the third Tuesday of each month. Because the webinars are focused on the needs of consumer-owned utilities, the discussion can be specific, candid, and informal. If you have just learned about the webinar series, listen to the recording of the May webinar, How to Induce Energy Efficient Behavior Among Your Members/Customers Redirecting to a non-government site.

Visit Clean Energy Ambassadors Redirecting to a non-government site to register for this free event and to see the full line-up of CEA services and events. If you have any questions, please contact Stevie Moe at 406-969-1040.

Collaboration produces results in Roaring Fork Valley

Aspen Utilities Energy-efficiency Manager Jeff Rice eschewed the usual slide show on the Roaring Fork Valley Utility Collaborative to share his presentation with partners. Jason Haber of the nonprofit Community Office for Resource Efficiency (CORE) and Rob Morey of the nonprofit Clean Energy Economy for the Region (CLEER) in Carbondale, Colo., joined Rice on stage to discuss the value of teamwork.

The Collaborative comprises utilities that serve the Roaring Fork Valley in the central Rocky Mountains—the municipal utilities of Aspen and Glenwood Springs, Holy Cross Energy, SourceGas and Xcel—as well as the two nonprofits. Rice explained that by working together, the utilities are able to provide a level of programming and services far beyond their individual resources. “If one of us doesn’t have the expertise, equipment or rebate a customer needs, someone else does,” he said.

Where funding is concerned, teaming up has created a larger pool. The utilities receive funding individually from sources such as Energy Star Partners, but leverage their funds to offer stronger incentives, or build larger projects. For example, working together on a solar thermal/photovoltaic installation on a senior housing facility, CLEEN and CORE were able to install a system that met 20 percent instead of 10 percent of the building’s load.

Aspen and Holy Cross teamed up with CORE to apply for Recovery Act funding. The nonprofit, which has funded renewable and energy-efficiency projects, and provided consumer education and policy recommendations to Pitkin County for 16 years, is administering the grants for the utilities.  “It frees me up to take care of my customers, instead of spending time on paperwork,” said Rice.

The advantages are not all financial, either. When Aspen set out to develop a program to improve the efficiency of existing buildings, Rice turned to Holy Cross and SourceGas to make sure he wasn’t duplicating any efforts. Borrowing from the two utilities’ established programs, Aspen has completed 91 home energy audits this year and has a dozen more scheduled. Local auditing and retrofit contractors have enjoyed an increase in business as a result.

Recently, the Roaring Fork Utility Collaborative successfully applied for a grant from the Small Commercial Efficiency Initiative, offered by the Colorado Governor’s Energy Office. They are now in the process of devising a program to deliver greater efficiency to small businesses. You can be sure it will benefit the entire Roaring Fork Valley.