APPA honors WAPA customers for service, innovation

Congratulations to the four WAPA customers who were among 18 individuals and 10 utilities to receive awards at the American Public Power Association’s National Conference in Orlando, Fla., on June 20. Lincoln Electric System You are leaving WAPA.gov. (LES), Colorado Springs Utilities, You are leaving WAPA.gov. Fort Collins Utilities You are leaving WAPA.gov. and SMUD You are leaving WAPA.gov. earned recognition for their service to the public power industry and its member-customers

Continuing to excel
LES, a Nebraska municipal utility, earned the E.F. Scattergood System Achievement Award for outstanding accomplishments that enhance public power’s national prestige, improve customer service and demonstrate an earnest, coordinated effort on the part of the system.

LES distributes the Energy Detective Kit at schools to help students and their parents save money and electricity.

LES distributes the Energy Detective Kit at schools to help students and their parents save money and electricity. (Artwork by Nebraska Energy Office)

In 2016, LES unveiled the state’s largest and first utility-scale solar array, Lincoln’s 5-megawatt (MW) community solar facility. Customers can invest in virtual solar panels, receiving credits on their bill. Improvements were also implemented to the utility’s rate structure to encourage energy efficiency and protect customers sensitive to bill fluctuation.

In the community, LES’s Energy Detective Kits teach students and their parents about saving energy, reducing water usage and lowering their household bills.

With a 99.99-percent reliability record, the utility continues to take strides to make sure its power remains dependable. Its mobile meter-reading project upgraded nearly all of the system’s 137,000 analog meters.

Supporting community
An established and evolving community safety program won the Community Service Award for Colorado Springs Utilities of Colorado. This award recognizes “good neighbor” activities that demonstrate commitment to the local community.

The community safety program, which has been a cornerstone of the municipal utility’s community involvement for 20 years, provides educational outreach in schools and at community events to audiences of all ages. Each year, almost 15,000 students, adults, contractors and first responders learn about gas and electric safety and about the safe and efficient use of utility services.

“Your Nose Knows! Natural Gas Safety,” an outreach program by Colorado Springs Utilities, teaches children about natural gas safety. Shown: Safety education presenters Ray Anderson (in blue) and Tom Hutchison (in white) and the students of Colorado Springs School District 20 Woodmen-Roberts Elementary.

“Your Nose Knows! Natural Gas Safety,” an outreach program by Colorado Springs Utilities, teaches children about natural gas safety. Shown: Safety education presenters Ray Anderson (in blue) and Tom Hutchison (in white) and the students of Colorado Springs School District 20 Woodmen-Roberts Elementary. (Photo by Colorado Springs Utilities)

Recently, Colorado Springs Utilities revised and retargeted the education program to meet specific curriculum needs in schools and incorporate more messaging that is interactive and inquiry-based. “SafetyCircuit: Electric Safety and You” uses a live electric demonstrations board to show students the safe use of electricity indoors and outdoors, and how electricity affects our daily lives. An interactive live explosion demonstration is part of “Your Nose Knows! Natural Gas Safety & You,” a program teaching students about the properties and origins of natural gas and safety practices to prevent natural gas emergencies.

Increasing residential program participation
Fort Collins Utilities in Colorado and SMUD in California were among the four utilities to receive the Energy Innovator Award for utility programs or projects that demonstrate creative energy-efficiency measures or technologies. Eligible demonstrations can either improve customer service or increase the efficiency of utility operations. Judging criteria also includes transferability and takes into account project scope in relation to utility size.

The Efficiency Works-Neighborhood pilot program attempts to overcome barriers for customer project implementation, such as time and lack of money. The pilot is the next step for the Efficiency Works-Home program.

The Fort Collins Efficiency Works-Neighborhood pilot program attempts to overcome barriers for customer project implementation, such as time and lack of money. The pilot is the next step for the Efficiency Works-Home program. (Artwork by Fort Collins Utilities)

Fort Collins Utilities was honored for its successful Efficiency Works-Neighborhood You are leaving WAPA.gov. pilot program, which tested a streamlined process for home efficiency upgrades. The streamlined process made efficiency upgrades easy for customers by offering a choice of three packages—good, better and best—each custom-made for their homes. The packages provided upfront rebates, used standardized pricing, eliminated the need to get multiple contractor bids and ensured the quality of all completed work.

Over an 18-month period, the pilot program tripled the number of customers proceeding with energy-efficiency improvements and renewable systems installation. The upgrades lead to 50 percent greater electrical use reduction, 70 percent greater natural gas use reduction and 60 percent greater greenhouse gas savings per home.

Piloting cooling efficiency
SMUD received the Energy Innovator Award for its work with the hyper-efficient Climate Wizard air conditioner. You are leaving WAPA.gov. Manufactured in Australia, the Climate Wizard has the potential to use up to 90 percent less energy to cool the same space as an equivalent refrigerated system.

SMUD tested the Climate Wizard cooling system on two commercial customers to find out if the technology could be an effective peak-shaving measure.

SMUD tested the Climate Wizard cooling system on two commercial customers to find out if the technology could be an effective peak-shaving measure. (Photo by Climate Wizard)

Replacing conventional air conditioners with these indirect evaporative heat-exchange core systems could have a huge impact on SMUD’s peak cooling load during scorching Sacramento summer days. To evaluate the Climate Wizard’s performance, SMUD installed units with two industrial customers, a data center and a tool manufacturer You are leaving WAPA.gov..

The Tri-Tools production floor is not only hot from milling, turning and cutting metals, it is also humid from using water to cool materials during cutting. Because the Climate Wizard does not add moisture to the cooled air; it keeps employees more comfortable and improves the production process while saving the business energy and money.

The challenge for the data center Datacate is to maintain a consistently low temperature to keep servers and other equipment running 24/7. This pilot project, which will continue through 2017, has allowed the data center to operate more efficiently, add more capacity and lower operating costs.

The hallmarks of public power are dedication to community, commitment to innovation and constant striving to improve service. At WAPA, we already know our customers are leaders in the industry and we are excited to see that the industry recognizes them, too.

Source: American Public Power Association, 6/21/17

LES, APPA create Clean Power Plan modeling tool

The Clean Power Plan, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule that seeks to reduce the United States’ carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 32 percent in 2030, presents state regulators and the electricity sector with new challenges as well as opportunities. Utilities and states will need to work closely to find cost‐effective means of reducing CO2 emissions from existing power plants and, in some cases, to demonstrate performance for EPA requirements. Many states may find it necessary to implement a CO2 emissions trading program.CleanPowerPlanModel

While utilities have a history of using complex modeling and forecasting tools, state regulators are less familiar with these processes. To help bridge that communication gap, Lincoln Electric System You are leaving WAPA.gov. and the American Public Power Association You are leaving WAPA.gov. have developed the Clean Power Plan Modeling Tool. This model is utility-focused, making it unique among various tools available for assessing a state’s potential compliance under the final rule. Users are able to assess the potential compliance position of a specific utility, providing for much deeper insight into the potential ramifications for your company and the customers it serves.

The tool is designed to:

  • Provide a useful, quantitative look at potential compliance options based upon planned and/or forecast generation capacity additions and retirements
  • Allow public power utilities to evaluate their potential compliance position
  • Provide deep insight into the potential ramifications for utilities and their customers

Utilities may also find the model useful for integrated resource planning.

The Clean Power Plan Modeling Tool is free to APPA members. Upon ordering, the user will receive an email with instructions on accessing the tool.

Source: Public Power Daily, 5/24/16

Lincoln Electric System keeps refining efficiency incentives

Like rose bushes, customer energy-efficiency programs only flourish with careful attention, like Lincoln Electric System You are leaving Western's site. (LES) gives to its Sustainable Energy Program You are leaving Western's site..

The Nebraska municipal utility is funding its incentive program with $3 million this year to help customers make their homes and businesses more energy-efficient. The program is intended to encourage customer-owners to upgrade to equipment and systems that are more efficient than they would have purchased on their own.

Program participants are not the only LES customers who benefit, either. “The Sustainable Energy Program also reduces the need to purchase more expensive power during the summer months and delays the need for new power generation,” said Marc Shkolnick, LES manager of energy services. “This is a good investment for all our customer-owners.”

Broadening program
LES launched the Sustainable Energy Program in 2009 to reduce demand with energy efficiency and renewable energy to offset the utility’s projected five-year growth on a rolling basis. “We retooled a heat pump incentive to go after our summer peak,” explained Shkolnick. “Over time, we added more equipment and systems as we realized that it would take a more aggressive approach to ensure that all our customers were benefitting.”

LES offers funds to help customer-members upgrade insulation and seal their homes and businesses. (Photo by Lincoln Electric System)

LES offers funds to help customer-members upgrade insulation and seal their homes and businesses. (Photo by Lincoln Electric System)

The current version of the Sustainable Energy Program offers incentives for:

  • High-efficiency heat pumps and air conditioners for residential and commercial customers replacing existing cooling systems or installing them in newly built homes and buildings
  • Commercial and industrial energy-efficiency measures that achieve peak demand savings, such as commercial lighting retrofits, air conditioner or heat pump replacements, variable-frequency drive upgrades, compressed air system analysis and upgrade, energy management system installation, optimization or upgrade and system commissioning
  • Whole-house and facility sealing and insulation to seal penetrations and bring insulation levels to current code standards in existing homes and facilities

Air conditioner and heat pump upgrades are the most popular residential measures, and for commercial customers, “It’s lighting, by a slam dunk,” declared Shkolnick. “Over time, between the changes in technology and dropping prices, we’ve seen the most activity in lighting incentives.”

LES commercial customers overwhelmingly choose lighting upgrades to reduce their electricity bills. (Photo by Lincoln Electric System)

LES commercial customers overwhelmingly choose lighting upgrades to reduce their electricity bills. (Photo by Lincoln Electric System)

Spreading savings, awareness
Since 2009, residential customers have implemented 6,000 projects and commercial customers have completed 5,000 upgrades to save a cumulative estimate of 100,000 megawatt-hours. Leveraging $18.3 million in incentives, LES customers invested $87 million in energy-efficiency upgrades for an estimated annual savings of $7 million on electric energy bills, a win for the local economy, too.

In fact, trade allies have been among the program’s biggest promoters, noted Shkolnick. “People don’t think about these kinds of purchases until they need to. Contractors are talking to customers when they are ready to buy new equipment or systems, and they talk about the incentives,” he said. “LES promotes the program through the usual channels—bill stuffers, newsletters, ads—but the vendors are our most effective marketers.”

Getting off on the right foot with the local contractor pool—and staying there—helped. LES brought vendors in during the development of the Sustainable Energy Program to get their input. “We still do an annual orientation to update our trade allies on program changes, terms and conditions,” Shkolnick said. “Also, we moved the reimbursement system online to streamline the process and make it more user-friendly.”

Reaching out to contractors has paid off in more than program participation. A recent survey LES conducted showed not only a growing awareness among customer-owners about the Sustainable Energy Program, but also about energy use and reducing waste in general.

Making good even better
All of which is to say that the Sustainable Energy Program is doing a good job of saving energy and engaging customers. But is it keeping up with the times? Since LES launched the program, lighting technology has made great strides, building energy codes have tightened and federal efficiency standards have toughened.

Far from taking success for granted, LES recently hired a consultant to analyze seven years’ worth of data and experience. The third-party critique will review the program’s cost-effectiveness, and look at assumptions for claiming energy and demand savings and how the savings are modeled in the utility’s load forecast. “We want to make sure the program is following industry best practices,” said Shkolnick.

It takes work to build an effective energy-efficiency program—one that meets the needs of both customers and utility—and Lincoln Electric System is sowing what it wants to reap.

Wind, solar acquisitions make sense for Lincoln Electric System

Staring down a future of potential environmental regulations and uncertain production tax credits, Lincoln Electric System Redirecting to a non-government site (LES) in Lincoln, Nebraska, is surging forward on “greening up” its power portfolio.

Elkhorn Ridge is one of five wind facilities currently supplying green power to Lincoln Electric System. In 2015, LES will add another 173 MW from the Prairie Breeze II in Nebraska and Buckeye in Kansas. (Photo by Nebraska Public Power District)

Elkhorn Ridge is one of five wind facilities currently supplying green power to Lincoln Electric System. In 2015, LES will add another 173 MW from the Prairie Breeze II in Nebraska and Buckeye in Kansas. (Photo by Nebraska Public Power District)

The municipal utility closed 2014 with a power purchase agreement to add 173 megawatts (MW) of wind energy and 5 MW of solar energy to its power supply resource portfolio by 2016. The move will reduce coal resources from 43 percent of LES’s installed nameplate capacity to 34 percent.

This latest acquisition is not part of a predetermined goal, but simply a good business decision, observed LES Administrator and CEO Kevin Wailes. “When viewed as a package, our wind and solar contracts are expected to save LES customer-owners approximately $429 million over the next 25 years,” he pointed out when announcing the agreements.

LES Communications Manager Kelley Porter added, “Responding to customer input and being good environmental stewards is part of doing business as a public power utility.”

Wind brings development
The wind additions, spread across two contracts with developer Invenergy Redirecting to a non-government site, involve the 73-MW Prairie Breeze II Wind Energy Center in northeastern Nebraska and 100-MW Buckeye Wind Energy Center in north-central Kansas. The projects will bring LES’ total wind portfolio to 304 MW, and increase the utility’s renewable generation portfolio to the equivalent of 48 percent of LES’ retail energy.

Prairie Breeze II is an expansion of Invenergy’s first Nebraska wind farm, which began operation in May 2014. The developer expects to complete Prairie Breeze II by the end of 2015. The project will create an estimated 90 jobs during the construction phase, and is expected to require seven permanent full-time employees to operate and maintain the 41 turbines.

Let the sun shine
Cost savings from the wind agreements will help supplement customer participation in LES’s new SunShares community solar program. LES launched the program in partnership with its customers to bring a community solar project to the Lincoln area. The 5-MW solar array—the largest in the state—will provide the utility with valuable solar experience.

The solar contract was in response to an LES survey indicating customers were willing to support more local solar energy. About 44 residential customers take advantage of LES’s renewable generation program and net-metering policy, but the city has a lot of older neighborhoods with large trees, Porter noted. “The solar project offers an affordable alternative for customers who would like to be involved with solar but don’t have the ideal circumstances,” she said.

The enthusiastic response to the solar farm indicates that a good many LES customers fall in that category. The program launched on Aug. 1, 2014. “We held a press conference to announce it on Aug. 2, and 1,200 customers had signed up by the time we signed the agreement,” Porter recalled.

Marketing of the solar installation was not limited to the news conference. LES enlisted the same local environmental groups and citizens who had pushed for the project to speak to community groups. Promotion also included a two-month blitz of social media, radio interviews, posters, newspaper ads and bill stuffers.

Future builds on past
Now that LES has had a chance to gauge the real interest in the solar project, the promotion has entered its second phase. “The site is highly visible from Interstate 80, so the community can watch as the project is constructed and feel like a part of it,” Porter said.

The solar farm will significantly increase the amount of solar power in the municipal utility’s resource mix. In addition to the customer rooftop systems, LES recently added 50 kilowatts of solar energy through a rooftop solar array on one of its service buildings.

LES prides itself on a history of aggressively building its renewable energy portfolio, starting with two utility-owned and customer-financed wind turbines in 1998. The new solar program further diversifies an energy supply that includes 4.8 MW generated by the Bluff Road Landfill waste-to-energy facility, commissioned in 2013.

The new wind and solar contracts are only the latest example of the municipal utility’s move toward greater sustainability. In a changing industry, this openness to innovation has helped LES control costs, ensure reliable power delivery and keep rates affordable for its customer-owners. As Wailes explained, “We make decisions to best reflect the values of our community.”

Lincoln Electric System makes plans to reduce load growth

In the October 2011 issue of Public Power Magazine, the American Public Power Association shined a spotlight on Western customer Lincoln Electric System (LES) for its Sustainable Energy Program.

The Nebraska municipal utility launched the program in 2009, even though it offers customers some of the lowest rates in the country. According to LES Energy Services Manager Marc Shkolnick, the Sustainable Energy Program will help keep the rates down by dampening peak load when purchased energy rates are at their highest. Perhaps more important, carefully chosen energy-efficiency measures could help LES put off building a new power plant for up to 10 years.

Learn more about how LES is encouraging customers to change their energy use habits without paying out incentives.