Great River Energy helps to launch community storage initiative

While the introduction of the Tesla Power Wall was creating a stir in the electricity industry, Great River Energy You are leaving WAPA.gov. and several partners were quietly working to show utilities that they already have storage capacity that most haven’t begun to tap.

Artwork courtesy of Peak Load Management Association

Artwork courtesy of Peak Load Management Association

The Minnesota generation and transmission cooperative had teamed up with the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association You are leaving WAPA.gov. (NRECA), Peak Load Management Association You are leaving WAPA.gov. (PLMA) and the Natural Resource Defense Council You are leaving WAPA.gov. (NRDC) to reveal the “hidden battery in the basement.”

“That is what the electric water heater is,” declared Great River Member Services Director Gary Connett.

‘Battery’ almost banned
With three decades of experience in load shaping with electric water heaters and more than 100,000 units currently under the utility’s control, Connett knows whereof he speaks. That extensive history with demand response is what led Great River to initiate the study on the storage potential of the common household appliance.

When the Department of Energy was revamping its efficiency standards, Congress was set to ban electric resistance water heaters with a storage capacity of more than 55 gallons. Great River worked tirelessly to overturn the ban, and the Energy Efficiency Improvement Act of 2015 You are leaving WAPA.gov. ultimately included an exception for large water heaters.

“But that experience made us realize that we had work to do to make utilities understand how important this appliance is to their load management strategies,” recalled Connett. “It is even more so, now that we are being asked to integrate more variable resources into the power mix.”

Showing how it’s done
The long fight to save large water heaters also attracted the attention of the NRDC, an unlikely ally, Connett acknowledges. However, the utility and the environmentalists found common ground in the innovative use of water heaters to “store” renewable energy. The NRDC joined Great River, NRECA and PLMA to commission a study by the Brattle Group You are leaving WAPA.gov. economic consultants.

The six-month study evaluated several strategies familiar to Great River, using two types of water heaters—electric resistance and heat pump units—both of which the utility has on control programs. The electric thermal storage strategy involves heating water at night when electricity is cheaper. “And becoming greener over time,” added Connett. “As Minnesota moves closer to its 2025 goal of 25 percent renewables the percentage of green energy in the night time hours only increases.”

Peak shaving is another strategy, which curtails load during times of high demand on a limited number of days per year, usually in four- to eight-hour cycles. Great River has about 45,000 water heaters on its peak shaving program and 66,000 on the thermal storage program. “That’s 20 percent of all the water heaters on our system. How many utilities can say that?” Connett asked.

The study also looked at fast response, a way to provide balancing services in the form of quick load increases and decreases. “This strategy will be tremendously useful as utilities bring more variable generation onto their systems,” said Connett.

Proven right
The Hidden Battery: Opportunities in Electric Water Heating, You are leaving WAPA.gov. (pdf) the report resulting from the study, reinforced what Great River had already learned from years of water heater control. Depending on market conditions, the Brattle research shows that storage-enabled water heating could save the consumer as much as $200 annually. Based on that figure, payback for the appliance, associated control equipment and installation is five years.

The environmental benefits are significant too, as policy—and consumers—increasingly focus on clean energy and energy efficiency. Controlling water heaters not only saves homeowners money, but it reduces carbon dioxide emissions with the right power mix. As Connett noted, being able to shift electricity use to lower-cost generation in off-peak hours can increase the use of renewable resources like wind.

These findings were not so much a revelation as confirmation for Connett. “That validation was pretty exciting,” he admitted. “And now that storage is becoming more important to integrate variable generation, we will continue to move forward with our proven programs.”

Initiative to spread word
Shortly after the release of the report this January, the partnership behind it launched the National Community Storage Initiative to focus attention on opportunities to develop national, regional and local markets for electric storage technologies. American Public Power Association You are leaving WAPA.gov. and Edison Electric Institute You are leaving WAPA.gov. have added their endorsement to the initiative, too.

Similar to community solar projects, such programs would aggregate controlled residential appliances to build local energy-storage capability. In addition to giving utilities better control of their loads, these fleets could also potentially provide ancillary services. Connett noted that the new generation of “grid interactive water heaters” can be controlled over very short time intervals with nearly instantaneous response. “The market is driving manufacturers to develop smarter water heaters,” he said. “Utilities want more dynamic control, and manufactures are enabling that with Wi-Fi and global technology.”

Water heaters are not the only existing appliances that offer energy storage potential. Great River Energy also controls about 167,000 air conditioners and has 15,000 ceramic-block, electric thermal storage heaters on its system that could contribute storage capacity. “But the beauty of the water heater is that it is a year-round load,” Connett observed.

More smart appliances are in the pipeline, such as electric vehicles and the Power Wall. “There are plenty of opportunities coming up, but we don’t need to wait for new technology,” Connett said. “The water heater is here now, and this type of program is made for co-ops—it is collaborative, economical and innovative. It helps everyone on the system.”

Find out how your utility can get involved in the National Community Storage Initiative. And don’t forget to share your program with Energy Services Bulletin.

Collaborative seeks data for new industrial efficiency initiative

ACEEEdataRequest
Large industrial energy consumers have a chance to join a collaborative effort to create a new type of energy-efficiency program that would ultimately provide them with incentives to purchase more efficient industrial equipment. The Extended Motor Product Label Initiative (EMPLI) would also give utility efficiency program managers prescribed savings values for the energy performance of industrial motor-driven products.

The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) is working with the Hydraulic Institute (HI), Air Movement and Control Association International, Compressed Air and Gas Institute, Fluid Sealing Association, National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) and a dozen utilities and energy-efficiency programs to launch this initiative. Central to the program are voluntary performance labels that show the comparative efficiency of an “extended product” comprised of a driven component (e.g., fan, pump, or compressor), a motor and associated controls.

Donate data to science
EMPLI has reached the point where the working groups need product category-specific application and operational data to determine the average potential savings. The collaborative is starting with collecting water pumping system operating hours and loads. This information will be used in program proposals to state public service commissions to document that labeled products save energy.

HI and NEMA Business Information Services (NEMA Biz) have contracted with the collaborative to collect, anonymize and aggregate the data. Organizations interested in participating can download a data collection sheet on the HI website, fill it out and submit it electronically to NEMA Biz for analysis. The submission deadline is Sept. 30, 2015. All individual company data will remain secure and will not be shared with anyone.

The EMPLI pump working group is requesting general data, such as hours of operation, percentage loading, product performance and markets served. NEMA Biz will anonymize and aggregate the data and return it to the working group in a format that state public utility commissions will be able to use for program justification and evaluation. Participating organizations will also receive a copy of the aggregated data.

This information will provide insights into the marketplace and enable participants to position their products for new utility-sector funding opportunities. The better the data, the more complete the report will be for all involved.

Building better programs
Collecting operational data is necessary for the success of the EMPL Initiative. The goal of the collaborative effort is to develop product performance labels that companies and public institutions can use as purchasing specifications. The labels will also provide the basis for an entirely new type of prescriptive rebate energy-efficiency program that attributes or “deems” an average energy savings to a qualifying product.

EMPLI has the potential to help industrial consumers and their power providers to move beyond individual equipment upgrades to increase the efficiency of entire systems. ACEEE is urging utilities to share this request with their commercial and industrial customers, and to participate in the survey themselves if it is appropriate for the utility.

Source: The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, 7/17/15

Study to explore connection between energy efficiency, community resilience

ACEEEresearchThe American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy You are leaving WAPA.gov. (ACEEE) is launching a new research project this year to explore how energy-efficient systems can help a community withstand extreme weather and economic stresses.

A recent ACEEE blog post suggested ways in which energy-saving measures might enhance a community’s resiliency. In a direct example, combined-heat-and-power (CHP) systems kept the power on at critical facilities during Superstorm Sandy in 2012. While 8.5 million customers lost power, some hospitals, residential buildings, universities and public services were able to continue operating and provide services to citizens. CHP generators tend to use natural gas and highly efficient turbines and engines to serve very local loads, but can also run on biomass or biogas in times of disaster.

Embracing energy efficiency may protect communities in less obvious ways. “Resource resiliency” refers to reducing a community’s demand for natural resources, thereby freeing income to spend on other needs that benefit the local economy. Individuals and communities could invest their energy cost savings in safer and more durable buildings, distributed generation systems or effective emergency management plans.

Energy efficiency offers other long-term benefits to the community, such as creating more economic activity and jobs. Should the unthinkable happen, a vital local economy will be in a better position than a depressed one to recover from a disaster. Reduced energy use also means fewer emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants, leading to improved public health.

The ACEEE study will explore opportunities in policy and program development to integrate efficiency and resilience efforts, and attempt to determine metrics for measuring efficiency-related resiliency. Researchers are encouraging members of the energy- efficiency and resilience communities to share their views on the efficiency-resilience interconnection. Suggestions about valuable literature, case studies, potential metrics and policy and program opportunities are also welcomed. ACEEE expects to release the research report this coming summer.

Source: American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, 2/4/15