Utility industry survey identifies top concerns in 2017

The results are in from Utility Dive’s State of the Electric Utility Survey 2017
and the report is available to download. You are leaving WAPA.gov.

The top five issues utilities identified as their biggest challenges will no doubt sound familiar to WAPA customers, whether or not they participated in the survey:

  • Physical and cyber security
  • Distributed energy policy
  • Rate design reform
  • Aging grid infrastructure
  • Reliable integration of renewables and distributed energy resources (DERs)
72 percent of utility professionals said physical and cyber security is either "important" or "very important," making it the most pressing issue for the sector in 2017.

72 percent of utility professionals said physical and cyber security is either “important” or “very important,” making it the most pressing issue for the sector in 2017.

The results of the survey, disclosed in late March, found that 72 percent of respondents see physical and cyber security as either “important” or “very important” today, making it the industry’s most pressing issue in 2017. A total of 65 percent considered distributed resource policy either important or very important. Rate design reform ranked as important for 31 percent and very important for 32 percent of respondents. As for aging grid infrastructure, 34 percent of survey respondents see it as important today, while another 28 percent say it is very important. The reliable integration of renewables and DERs finished in the top five with 60 percent identifying it as an important or very important concern.

State regulatory model reform, the aging utility workforce, changing consumer preferences, compliance with state power mandates and stagnant load growth rounded out the top ten issue responses.

Two years ago, physical and cyber security ranked as sixth, behind aging infrastructure, aging workforce, current regulatory models, stagnant load growth and federal emissions standards.

More than 600 electric utility employees from the U.S. and Canada took online questionnaire, offered to Utility Dive readers in January. Investor-owned utilities represented 54 percent of the survey respondents, followed by municipal or public power utilities (32 percent) and electric cooperatives (14 percent).

Among other key takeaways in the 2017 report, the survey found that utilities are most confident in the growth of utility-scale solar, distributed energy resources, wind energy and natural gas generation over the next 10 years. They also expect coal generation to decline significantly, while nuclear generation will stagnate or retire, depending on the region. Utilities consider uncertainty over future energy policies and market conditions to be the most significant challenge associated with the changing power mix, according to the survey.

Region played a role in how utilities viewed challenges. The majority of respondents across the country identified physical and cyber security, DER policy and renewable energy and DER integration as serious issues. However, that concern was markedly stronger in the West Coast, Great Plains, Rocky Mountain and New England regions. Utility Dive noted that those regions feature states with both robust DER growth and utility reform dockets to reshape power sector business models for DER deployment.

Rate design reform and aging infrastructure were of greater concern on the West Coast, while utilities in the Southwest and South Central states were the least worried about those issues.

You can download the report for free and see how your responses stack up to those of your colleagues. Then, share your thoughts on these issues with Energy Services, let us know how you are handling them and how you would like us to help you address them.

Source: Public Power Daily, You are leaving WAPA.gov. 4/10/17

New OSHA Regs for Confined Spaces Safety

New confined space regulations from the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) taking effect Jan. 8, 2016, have significant implications for home performance companies and weatherization professionals.

This rule is designed to help prevent tragic situations like a recent one where a construction foreman died from asphyxiation after entering a manhole with an uncontrolled hazardous atmosphere.

Under the new rule (29 CFR 1926 Subpart AA), permits to access specific confined spaces are granted by the general contractor or lead contractor on each job. There are numerous safe entry procedures that require the contractor to plan and prepare ahead of time. The rule will apply to any space that meets three criteria:

  • It is large enough for a worker to enter it
  • It has limited means of entry or exit
  • It is not designed for continuous occupancy

A space may be a permit-required confined space if it has a hazardous atmosphere, the potential for suffocation, a layout that might trap a worker through converging walls or a sloped floor, or any other serious safety or health hazard.

Employers will be required to train workers to ensure they know about the existence, location and dangers posed by each permit-required confined space.Report - Protecting Construction Workers in Confined Spaces

To help small businesses become compliant, OSHA has published The Small Entity Compliance Guide (pdf). This is plain language explanation covers all aspects of the Confined Space in Construction Rule, including how eliminating or isolating hazards can allow the contractor to reclassify a permit-required confined space as a non-permit confined space.

Learn more about the new regulations on OSHA’s Confined Space website, or check out The New Confined Spaces in Construction – The Big Picture, You are leaving Western's site. a free archived webinar from the National Association of Home Builders.

Also, if you have found a good resource for training energy auditors, customer program representatives and preferred contractors to comply with the new regulation, please share it with Energy Services. Safety always comes first!

Learn how new climate regulations to effect energy programs

Monday July 22
12 p.m. CDT

Join Clean Energy AmbassadorsRedirecting to a non-government site (CEA) for a free webinar, What the New EPA Climate Regs Mean for Energy Efficiency and Renewables in Your CommunityRedirecting to a non-government site, on July 22 at noon Central Time.

This webinar is too timely to pass up! Speaker David Wooley of Keyes, Fox & Weidman, LLP, is a long-time friend of CEA who is now working nationally to facilitate win-win strategies for utilities and the communities they serve. He will share an inside look at the new EPA climate regs, focusing on how energy efficiency and renewables may offer cost-effective solutions. You have a lot of questions on this topic, so the event will include an extended Q&A session.

Register today to reserve your place.

Around the Web: Appliance Standards Awareness Project

Customer efficiency programs built around home appliances benefit both utilities and ratepayers, but keeping up with the latest technologies and standards can seem like a full-time job. Fortunately for utility program managers, there is the Appliance Standards Awareness ProjectRedirecting to a non-government site (ASAP) to make the task easier.ASAPlogo

Over the long term, highly efficient appliances are a valuable tool for keeping electricity rates stable by controlling load growth. Raising the efficiency standards for commonly used household appliances can also help to drive down climate-changing pollution while saving Americans billions of dollars annually in electricity costs.

Recognizing the need for more effective standards, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient EconomyRedirecting to a non-government site (ACEEE), Alliance to Save EnergyRedirecting to a non-government site, Energy Foundation and Natural Resources Defense CouncilRedirecting to a non-government site (NRDC) created ASAP in 1999. The coalition spearheads a broad-based effort to advance, win and defend new appliance, equipment and lighting standards. The ASAP steering committee includes representatives from energy and water efficiency organizations, the environmental community, consumer groups, utilities and state government.

Standards corralled
Whether you are planning a new incentive program or answering a customer’s question about efficient equipment and appliances, ASAP’s product table is the resource to bookmark.

Products are categorized as residential, commercial/industrial or lighting. Visitors can see at a glance when the last standard for an appliance was issued, the date the standard took effect, anticipated updates and which states have their own standard for that appliance. Each product is linked to a page describing the appliance and standard in detail and giving key facts about what the standard is intended to accomplish. Water conservation standards are also listed where applicable.

Whys, whens, wheres, hows
ASAP is loaded with resources that can help you persuade supervisors that an appliance rebate program is a good idea, or assist with evaluating an existing program.

Refer your board of directors—or curious customers—to The Basics to educate them on what appliance standards are, how they are developed and what they cover. DOE Rulemaking 101 is a useful overview of the Department of Energy process for setting standards. Given the industry’s stake in efficiency standards, utilities should understand rulemaking so they can provide input. FAQs and a scenario that imagines no appliance standards wrap up the primer on the importance of efficiency standards.

ASAP can help you sort out the sometimes-confusing differences between national and state standards. National standards apply to products manufactured or imported for sale into the U.S., while state standards apply to products sold or installed in a specific state. DOE reviews and updates national standards to keep pace with advancing technology, but states frequently take the lead in setting new standards (California, we are looking at you!) Visitors will find resources related to DOE rulemaking, laws and regulations on the national page, and current and historic state standards on the state page. An interactive map allows you to download a report on how national standards have benefited each state.

And that ain’t all…
Wrap up your research with a visit to Reports and Resources, where you will find fact sheets, consensus agreements for new national standards, comment filings, testimony, and laws and regulations. Links can put you in touch with other organizations that can help you navigate codes and standards nationally and regionally.