California utilities discuss concerns at UEF roundtable

An Energy Services Bulletin story last month looked at the results of a Utility Dive survey You are leaving WAPA.gov. that asked power providers what their biggest concerns were. This month, several California utilities—including many WAPA customers—gathered at the Utility Energy Forum You are leaving WAPA.gov. (UEF) Pre-Forum Roundtable to talk about the issues that kept them up at night.

Because of their potential as a revenue source and demand response tool, electric vehicles were a running topic at the UEF Pre-Forum Roundtable.

Because of their potential as a revenue source and demand response tool, electric vehicles were a running topic at the UEF Pre-Forum Roundtable. (Photo by DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy)

The UEF program committee asked utility and government representatives to weigh in on the topics they wanted to discuss in the exclusive session dedicated to those groups. Not surprisingly, the responses reflected California’s unique situation, even as they echoed the findings of the Utility Dive survey.

Energy storage
The question that was No. 1 in the minds of survey respondents was, “What is the value of energy storage for customers, utilities and the grid?” It is not hard to connect the dots between energy storage and concerns about distributed energy policy and aging grid infrastructure that ranked high in the Utility Dive survey. But in California, a combination of legislative and market forces have made energy storage specifically a relevant topic.

Most people automatically think about battery systems when they hear energy storage, and six utilities in the state have already installed and are experimenting with that technology. However, thermal storage—using available renewable electricity to heat water or make ice for later use in heating or cooling—is a proven technology in use at eight California utilities. Pacific Gas and Electric has the state’s only pumped storage project, which uses renewable energy to pump water to a higher-altitude reservoir where it is released to generate hydropower when needed.

Utilities and battery manufacturers still have much to learn about storage batteries, from funding and installation to operation and maintenance to best uses for the systems. Riverside Public Utilities You are leaving WAPA.gov. enlisted the University of California Riverside as You are leaving WAPA.gov. a research partner to discover more about solar-plus-storage capabilities. Imperial Irrigation District You are leaving WAPA.gov. installed 30 megawatts (MW) of storage last October. System operators find it valuable for balancing intermittent solar power during weekdays, but also note that it takes 220 tons of air conditioning to control battery temperatures. Maintaining constant battery temperature is crucial to extending the life of batteries. Tucson Electric Power (TEP) chose to lease 10 MW of storage from Next Era You are leaving WAPA.gov. and Eon You are leaving WAPA.gov. as a way of easing through the learning curve. The system supports 40 MW of solar and provides ancillary services for TEP.

So far, the business case for storage has yet to be made because utilities are still discovering the values associated with it. Also, each utility will have to learn how to maximize storage on its own system. Planning and rate design will play a critical role in unlocking the value of the technology. But utilities can’t afford to hang back, as big, energy-intensive businesses like data centers are already investigating going off-grid with their own solar-plus-storage systems. These customers may prove to be important partners for power providers seeking to meet storage mandates.

More to offer
Stagnant load growth appeared in the Top 10 Utility Dive survey results, a harbinger of reduced revenues utilities can expect from distributed generation and storage technologies. California utilities seem to be ahead of the curve in this respect, interested in exploring new business models to grow services and build relationships. Many roundtable participants have begun to create programs and services that offer customers more than kilowatts.

A number of industry surveys indicate that most consumers still rely on their power providers to help them sort out claims about electrical products and services. Utilities can leverage this trust to get customers to take a holistic approach to energy use, installing weatherization and efficient appliances and systems before moving on to renewables.

The City of Palo Alto Utilities You are leaving WAPA.gov. (CPAU), for example, offers comprehensive home audits and free concierge service that customers can call with any question about energy use. The service is just starting to take off as CPAU hones its message and outreach strategy. “Ongoing customer communication is critical, and not just for specific programs,” observed CPAU Key Account Manager Bryan Ward. “The issues are complex and education is tough, but the more customers understand, the more they can make good decisions for themselves.”

When the customer is ready to install a solar array, the utility has a vested interest in making sure the job is done right. Roseville Electric Utility’s Trusted Solar Advisor program has been highly successful in helping its customers make educated decisions about solar installations. The “Solar Guy,” Energy Program Technician David Dominguez, has even become something of a local celebrity. Roseville is considering expanding the program to other services, like electric vehicles and energy storage. The moral of Roseville’s story is that personalizing a program can take it to a whole new level.

EVs, rate design central to discussion
Of course, you can’t have a discussion about new utility services without the subject of electric vehicle charging stations coming up. Roundtable participants represented a number of different approaches to this service. Burbank Water and Power You are leaving WAPA.gov. installs level 1 (standard household) charger outlets on customers’ property and offers a rebate to customers to install a level 2 (240-volt) outlet.

CPAU facilitates permitting and filing for residential and commercial charger installation and for transformer upgrades. Multifamily units, nonprofits and schools are eligible for rebates for chargers, but high-tech businesses in CPAU’s territory didn’t need an incentive to install the technology. The important thing, most agreed, was that utilities need to be involved in pushing out EV chargers, both for the new revenue stream and to ensure effective deployment and implementation.

EVs and technologies like home automation—another behind-the-meter product utilities could offer—lend themselves to load shifting, especially in residential settings. To take full advantage of such demand response strategies, utilities will have to design rates that give customers a reason to participate. The Public Utility Commission of California You are leaving WAPA.gov. has called for robust time-of-use rates, which would present utilities with another customer education challenge. Power providers will also want to make sure that vendors of behind-the-meter services are giving consumers honest and accurate information and appropriate support.

Energy efficiency ain’t easy
The final roundtable issue was one that is relevant across the country, but again with special significance to California: What hurdles are you encountering integrating and managing more energy efficiency in your mix?

In addition to the state getting half of its electricity from green energy by 2030, California buildings must also increase energy efficiency by 50 percent. As any utility program manager can tell you, the more successful you are at reducing your customers’ energy use, the harder it is to find new savings. The overall trend toward higher efficiency standards for appliances and equipment, along with some of the toughest building codes in the U.S., is already making it more difficult to design effective efficiency programs.

Encouraging customers to make energy-efficiency improvements is further complicated by the fact that electricity rates may continue to rise anyway. Consumers don’t generally care about the intricacies of load resource balance or system optimization, issues that resist simple messaging. To make matters worse, third-party vendors rarely bother to explain to their customers how installing a measure will actually affect their home utility bills—if they, themselves, understand.

When the subject is energy efficiency, talk always circles back to flat and falling revenues, something affecting almost everyone on the panel. Sacramento Municipal Utility District You are leaving WAPA.gov. attributes a noticeable decline in sales to building codes. EV charging and electric water heating could help to make up some load, especially since most water heaters in the state are still gas units. But CPAU found few takers for a pilot program offering customers a generous rebate to install electric heat pump water heaters.

Change still only constant
There is still plenty of low-hanging efficiency fruit that utilities have not yet picked, though participants acknowledged that it may be getting more expensive to reach. The “free” electricity from a solar array is a lot more appealing to customers than elusive “savings” from an energy-efficient appliance. It is enough to make utilities wonder if the best days of energy-efficiency programs and incentives are behind them.

And yet, industry research shows a strong correlation between energy efficiency and customer satisfaction. Such programs give utilities a chance to interact with customers in a way they wouldn’t get to otherwise. Board members may continue to support a traditional program that does not contribute much to financial or operational goals because they see the public relations value of it. If utilities are going to phase out traditional energy-efficiency programs, they will need to find other ways keep customers engaged and happy.

The two hours scheduled for the UEF Pre-Forum Roundtable passed quickly and—spoiler alert—we did not resolve our most pressing issues. That is likely to take trial, error and perhaps an appetite for risk that is hard to square with our historic mission of reliability and affordability. But it did remind us that customer relationships must be viewed as part of the solution.

Presentations from Utility Energy Forum now online

The 37th Utility Energy Forum You are leaving WAPA.gov. was one for the record books, including the record of “First Sold-Out Event.” If you were unable to join us in the Sonoma wine country of Northern California, you can at least get a taste of the informative sessions and expert speakers.

The Utility Program Standup Challenge gives attendees the opportunity to ask presenters questions in a small group.

The Utility Program Standup Challenge gives attendees the opportunity to ask presenters questions in a small group. (Photo by Randy Martin)

The location and dates for the 38th Utility Energy Forum (UEF) will be set in the coming weeks, so watch for an announcement soon. We hope you will save the date and plan to join your colleagues—and your WAPA Energy Services representatives—for three days of learning, networking and professional development.

Next year’s event may even sweeten the deal for busy utility employees with a limited travel budget. The UEF planning committee is considering offering training opportunities in conjunction with the annual Forum as a separate event. The training would take place on Tuesday afternoon before the Forum begins on Wednesday and would be open to Forum attendees for an additional fee.

Please take a moment to complete a brief survey You are leaving WAPA.gov. to tell the committee if this is of interest to you. If there is enough interest, there will be a pilot program at the 2018 event.

Change is in air at Utility Energy Forum

May 3-5, 2017
Santa Rosa, California

If the rapid pace of change in the utility industry has become almost a clichéd topic, it is because trying to assess and manage it is a constant challenge across large, small, investor-owned and public power providers alike. So don’t expect attendees at the 37th annual Utility Energy Forum You are leaving WAPA.gov. to run out of things to say about this year’s theme, “Change is the Only Constant – Customers, Policy and Technology.”

Packed agenda
Over three days, utility managers and marketers, customer service professionals, program developers, facility managers and industry allies will tackle that theme from many perspectives. The agenda covers the broad categories of policy, strategic planning, technology, customer programs and workforce development.

The opening keynote by Seth Kiner, managing director at Charlotte Street Advisors, You are leaving WAPA.gov. delves into the many shifts underway in the industry and what they mean for utilities, policy makers and electricity customers. Kiner will also explore how energy providers are evolving to meet the needs of consumers, regulators and stakeholders.

Sessions will explore topics such as electric vehicles, building retro-commissioning, window coverings and partnering with specific market segments. As always, WAPA customers play a prominent role in hosting panels and presenting. Roseville Electric You are leaving WAPA.gov. will discuss its revamped residential new construction program, formerly known as Best Home. Burbank Water and Power You are leaving WAPA.gov. will explain how teaming up with a gas utility encouraged conservation of water, electricity and gas, all at the same time. Sacramento Municipal Utility District You are leaving WAPA.gov. will talk about the Coalition for Home Electronics Energy Reduction, a collaborative effort to cut U.S. home entertainment energy consumption by 10 terawatt-hours annually by 2020.

Speaking of utilities, you won’t want to miss the Pre-Forum Workshop, for power providers and government representatives only. Registrants took a survey and voted on the questions they most wanted to address in this year’s roundtable discussion. The top questions are:

  • What is the value of energy storage for customers, utilities and the grid?
  • What beyond-the-meter services is your utility considering?
  • What hurdles are your utility encountering with integrating and managing more energy efficiency in your resource mix?

Make new friends, partners
In addition to the sessions, the forum offers many opportunities for attendees to compare notes, brainstorm, ask each other questions and come up with new answers together.

The Utility Stand-up Challenge is a fast-moving poster session during which attendees can visit up to six storyboards detailing utility-sponsored energy programs or research. Storyboard presenters have up to five minutes (seven with Q&A) to share their program’s goals, successes and lessons learned. A bell rings, attendees choose another storyboard and the clock starts again.

Networking breaks, receptions and meals provide more chances to mingle and chat. The ever-popular “Any Port in a Storm” wine tasting event will be back on Thursday night.

This year, the Utility Energy Forum is meeting at the Hilton Sonoma, in the heart of the California wine country.

This year, the Utility Energy Forum is meeting at the Hilton Sonoma, in the heart of the California wine country. (Photo by Hilton)

Different venue, same high quality
In keeping with the theme of change this year, the UEF is moving to a new home at the Hilton Sonoma in Santa Rosa, California. The hotel is located in the heart of the California wine country, near historic locations.

The nearest airport is the Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport, just three miles from the hotel. The largest airports are San Francisco International Airport and the Metropolitan Oakland International Airport, both 65 miles away. The Sonoma County Airport Express You are leaving WAPA.gov. provides scheduled shuttle service between San Francisco or Oakland airports to the Sonoma County Airport for $34 each way. You can use a taxi, Uber or Lyft to get to the hotel from the Sonoma County Airport.

Register today!
One of the great things about the Utility Energy Forum that hasn’t changed is its all-inclusive registration fee. You get all your meals and two nights in a standard room for one price. There is an add-on fee for additional nights if you decide to stick around for the weekend and enjoy wine country.

There are also opportunities to get your name in front of your colleagues through sponsorship, event hosting and exhibiting. Several packages come with multiple conference registrations, so they are a good value if your organization plans on sending more than one representative.

Another thing that has stayed the same about the Utility Energy Forum is that representatives from WAPA’s Energy Services will be attending. We look forward every year to meeting our customers in person, and we hope to see you there.

Requested: Your ideas for UEF Pre-Forum Workshop topics

Deadline extended to Feb. 15, 2017!

The 37th annual Utility Energy Forum You are leaving WAPA.gov. is just around the corner, and with it, the Pre-Forum Workshop for utility and government attendees. This exclusive session is a candid roundtable discussion about pressing issues facing power providers and the government agencies that support them. The program committee is inviting attendees from those sectors to share their greatest concerns in an online survey You are leaving WAPA.gov. by Feb. 8. The topics that get the most votes will be included on the workshop agenda.

This year’s theme, “Change is the Only Constant – Customers, Policy and Technology,” sums up the challenges of doing business in today’s electricity industry. The main agenda offers many perspectives on what customers want, what utilities can do to meet those expectations and what policy makers can do to help.

The workshop, however, is the place to really get into the weeds on how change is reshaping everything from daily operations to long-term planning. If you are worrying about depreciating assets or new net-zero developments in your territory, this is the place to talk about it. If you wonder what kind of skills your employees will need to manage the new environment, suggest that topic. If you are trying to figure out how to work with customers who want to install energy storage batteries on their homes or businesses, the workshop offers the chance to learn from others. And that only scratches the surface.

You don’t have to be attending the Utility Energy Forum, May 3-5, to vote in the survey. All utility professionals and government representatives can contribute their valuable and much-needed perspective. For those who miss the event, Energy Services Bulletin will be reporting on the big stories, and speaker presentations will be posted on the website.

But there is nothing like a face-to-face conversation with your colleagues to get the wheels turning. We hope you will join us at the Hilton Sonoma in Santa Rosa, California, to share ideas, discuss solutions and think about where you—and our industry—are going.

New Year offers many educational opportunities

Changes and challenges are coming to the utility industry in 2017, along with plenty of new tools and innovative approaches you can use to not only manage but master the shifting landscape. Here are some upcoming workshops and courses to help you prepare for what the New Year has in store:

Utility Scale Storage Battery Investments: The Technology, Challenges and Business Case You are leaving WAPA.gov. 
Feb. 7-8, 2017
San Francisco, CA

Storage batteries have been around for a while, but integrating them into transmission and distribution systems is new territory for electric utilities. Until recently, it was difficult to make a business case for investing in utility-scale storage. However, the integration of more intermittent and non-dispatchable resources into utility portfolios is changing the cost-benefit equation. Storage batteries provide high-speed response, controllability, modularity, scalability, expandability, flexibility and transportability—exactly the attributes utilities are going to need for the foreseeable future.

Make it your New Year’s resolution to expand your professional horizons and prepare for the changes coming to the utility industry.

This seminar provides an overview and guided tour of proven battery technologies from different manufacturers, challenges of interconnection, investment requirements, typical storage battery power purchase agreements, settlement equations and investment guidelines. The seminar materials cover the full spectrum of applications for utilities, regulatory agencies, project developers, private investors, finance firms, wholesale market participants and owners of wind and solar power plants.

The International Association for Continuing Education and Training You are leaving WAPA.gov. (IACET) has authorized energy training and consulting firm EUCI You are leaving WAPA.gov. to offer one continuing education unit for the course. Attendees will also receive a copy of the presentations and other reference materials.

Introduction to Forecasting for Utility/Power Industry Professionals You are leaving WAPA.gov. 
Feb. 7-8, 2017
New Orleans, Louisiana

Load forecasting has always been an invaluable tool for helping utilities manage uncertainty. But pre-computer era forecasting practices do not account for a host of bewildering conditions that now affect electricity use. Changes in the mix of supply- and demand-side resources, the impact of technology on the grid and access it allows to system and customer data and dramatic shifts in commodity prices are just a few of the factors that traditional methodologies are failing to capture.

Fortunately, new forecasting methods have been developed to address challenges such as demand forecasting, renewable generation forecasting and price forecasting. This course offers an introduction to modernized forecasting principles, practices and their applications in the utility industry. It will be loaded with examples and illustrations that translate these methodologies into the resulting utility practices.

Attendees will get the essential tools for making sense of today’s power environment and delivering proper guidance for industry decision-makers. An IACET credit is also available for this class.

AESP National Conference 2017 You are leaving WAPA.gov.
Feb. 13-16, 2017

Orlando, Florida

“Destination Innovation” is the theme of the 27th annual conference of the Association for Energy Services Professionals. This event draws top program managers, policy makers, implementers, marketers, evaluators, consultants and vendors in energy efficiency. The extensive agenda will cover the range of current topics in marketing, tools and technology, implementation, program design, research, evaluation and more.

In addition to speaker presentations, panel discussions and networking events, this year’s conference offers pre-conference training courses. Attendees can either focus on program planning, design and implementation or brush up on their critical thinking skills, while earning .5 CEU.

2017 PACENation Summit You are leaving WAPA.gov.
Denver, Colorado

Feb. 13-15, 2017

New and innovative versions of property-assessed clean energy (PACE) legislation and programs are gaining support across the country. Learn more about this 100-percent voluntary strategy to fund energy upgrades to buildings while creating jobs, increasing property value and making progress on state policy goals. The second annual Summit will offer an in-depth look into the growth in residential PACE financing, new PACE products, strategies and programs in development and more.

Newcomers and PACE practitioners alike can will benefit from the opening workshop, PACE 101 Workshop. Presentations will cover legislation to project implementation, including best practices in legislation, local ordinances, program design, financing options, marketing to building owners and training of contractors. Add a wide range of sessions led by PACE experts and an abundance of networking opportunities, and you have a crash course on a valuable tool for growing energy efficiency in your community.

Utility Energy Forum You are leaving WAPA.gov.
May 3-5, 2017

Santa Rosa, California

Program development and networking are central to the Utility Energy Forum, now in its 37th year. The sessions will challenge traditional thinking and ask attendees how they are preparing for a different energy utility industry than the one they knew.

This year’s theme, “Change is the Only Constant – Customers, Policy and Technology,” is appropriate not only for our industry, but also for the new location. The Hilton Sonoma, in Santa Rosa near California’s wine country, will host the forum. What hasn’t changed, however, are the sessions “ripped from today’s headlines” (or rather, from our daily experiences), the outstanding speaker roster, and the abundance of networking opportunities. WAPA Energy Services representatives will be there, too, and we look forward to some face-to-face time with our customers.

E Design 2020: Accelerating Utility Innovation for the New Energy Consumer You are leaving WAPA.gov. 
May 10-11, 2017
San Francisco, California

This first-of-its-kind event focuses on creating utility products, services and experiences for the customer of today and tomorrow. Forward-thinking utility leaders and experts from outside the utility space will explore innovative approaches and design-oriented experiences from a variety of industries to demonstrate how these strategies can be applied at utilities. E Design 2020 askes attendees to leave their comfort zone, uncover high-potential partnerships and discover ways to embrace technological changes that will affect residential and non-residential customers.

After introducing attendees to the design-oriented approach, the comprehensive agenda covers distributed energy, demand-side management, energy services, technology and targeted customer programs. The event highlights empathetic thinking to discover customers’ underlying needs and find new ways of developing products and services that will turn customers into allies.

Learn from past, shape future
It is not too late to benefit from some of the excellent training events of 2016, either. Presentations from the previous Utility Energy Forum and Rocky Mountain Utility Efficiency Exchange You are leaving WAPA.gov. are available online.

You can also download materials from the Behavior, Energy & Climate Change Conference (BECC), presented annually by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE). The conference looks at human behavior and decision-making and how to use the knowledge to accelerate the transition to an energy-efficient and low-carbon future. The session abstracts You are leaving WAPA.gov. and some PowerPoint presentations You are leaving WAPA.gov. are available for free, or you can buy the full proceedings.

This is the time to let ACEEE know what you would like to see on the 2017 BECC agenda. ACEEE will issue the call for abstracts Feb. 10 for presentations that:

  • Identify key lessons about behavior and decision making that advance energy/climate solutions
  • Help integrate research insights throughout the value chains of energy-using goods and services
  • Expand support for social science research as applied to the biggest contributors to today’s energy challenges
  • Facilitate knowledge accumulation, exchange and collaboration across analytical approaches from micro to macro (e.g., individual, group, organizational, societal behavior, and decision making)

Even if you can’t make it to any of these events, you still have plenty of options in online education. From the Community Solar Value Project You are leaving WAPA.gov. to webinars presented by the Energy Department’s Better Buildings Initiative to the American Public Power Association DEED programYou are leaving WAPA.gov. Make it your New Year’s resolution to check the events calendar on the Energy Services home page regularly and take time to expand your professional horizons.

Home of Utility Energy Forum gets efficiency facelift

36th annual Utility Energy Forum
May 4-6, 2016
Tahoe City, California

Artwork by the Utility Energy Forum

Artwork by the Utility Energy Forum

The Utility Energy Forum You are leaving WAPA.gov. (UEF) generates a lot of ideas about energy efficiency and management, and it seems to have rubbed off on Granlibakken TahoeYou are leaving WAPA.gov. the event’s most frequent host. When the premier networking event for utility program managers in western states meets May 4-6, it will be in Placer County, California’s showcase project for the Better Buildings Challenge.

“The Transformed Utility: Connecting for Success” is the theme for the 36th annual UEF. “So it’s fitting that the forum is taking place in a facility that has recently undergone an efficiency transformation,” observed Western Energy Services Manager Ron Horstman. “Energy efficiency is going to be a critical component in tackling the challenges utilities are facing.”

“We started focusing on transformation as a theme last year because so much is changing so fast in our industry,” acknowledge Mary Medeiros McEnroe, Silicon Valley Power You are leaving WAPA.gov. Public Benefit Program manager and UEF president. “We need to be looking at the future, to see where we need to go with customer service and technology.”

Placer County demonstrated that forward-looking spirit when it took the Better Buildings Challenge. The upgrade combined innovative financing, public-private partnerships and high-tech solutions to reduce Granlibakken’s energy consumption by up to 43 percent. “That is the kind of flexibility and creative thinking utilities will need to meet new mandates and shifting customer expectations,” said Horstman.

Agenda highlights big issues
Those topics and more appear throughout the UEF agenda and in the pre-forum workshop for utilities and government representatives only. Eligible attendees voted on the issues they will be discussing Wednesday morning prior to the UEF kickoff. Their leading concerns include how utilities can benefit from energy storage technology, measuring energy savings from water conservation and the new roles being thrust on utilities. “One of the reasons the UEF has grown so much over the past few years is the work the planning committee has done in reaching out to identify relevant topics,” noted McEnroe.”

The forum officially opens with a keynote address by Sue Kelly, president of the American Public Power Association, on possibilities for incorporating new technologies and services into their customer service options. The afternoon continues with the strategic policy panel discussion, co-chaired by Modesto Irrigation District You are leaving WAPA.gov. Energy Services Supervisor Bob Hondeville. “Co-chairing different panels is always interesting and educational for me,” said the UEF veteran. “It is rewarding to be able to have a dialogue with the speakers and introduce relevant topics to the discussion.”

The second morning of the UEF begins with a session on communicating thermostats. “Customers are asking for the thermostats and other smart tools, while utilities are still figuring out how to design effective programs with them,” said Medeiros McEnroe, who is chairing the session. “There is definitely a learning curve for both parties. I’m looking forward to hearing what Energy Star has to say about the technology.”

Vanessa Lara of Merced Irrigation District You are leaving WAPA.gov. is co-chairing the “customer’s view” session later that day. The panel includes Ron Parson of Granlibakken Management Company, who will be discussing their retrofitting experience.

Technology is the subject of afternoon sessions, exploring the latest in programs and tools to improve building design, retrofitting and energy audits. Attendees will also learn about demand response, supply- and demand-side management resources, as well as advances in electric vehicle and heating and cooling technologies. The final day features deeper explorations of specific systems and equipment.

Greening up networking
Much of Granlibakken’s energy savings are coming from replacing obsolete refrigerators, dishwashers and stove-hood exhaust systems with energy-efficient models. So the informal networking over great meals and snacks—where so many important connections are made—is now an energy saver, too. Consider that a good excuse to enjoy an extra dessert or appetizer.

Many partnerships, plans and programs have been hatched over the excellent meals in the Granlibakken dining room.

Many partnerships, plans and programs have been hatched over the excellent meals in the Granlibakken dining room. (Photo by Randy Martin)

Attendees will also enjoy sessions and events like the networking reception and the “Any Port in a Storm” port wine tasting in newly efficient comfort. Automated heating and air conditioning systems were installed to increase the efficiency of the facility’s natural gas boilers. You can leave your suits at home—the UEF is still a business casual function—but you may want to bring your swimwear and gym gear to make use of the resort’s fitness facilities.

The most important thing to bring to the Utility Energy Forum, however, is yourself: your ideas, your experience and your curiosity. “The UEF is unique in that it brings together people who are ready to build relationships and collaborate,” said Medeiros McEnroe. “I have come up with a number of partnerships with other utilities and service providers from past events.”

There is still time to register and, if you are a Western customer who is attending for the first time, to save some green. Western offers first-timers a small stipend to help offset the cost of the event. Contact Sandee Peebles, Audrey Colletti or Ron Horstman to learn more.

New resource added to Energy Services Water Conservation page

Coal, the most abundant fossil fuel, currently accounts for 52 percent of US electricity generation, and each kilowatt-hour generated from coal requires withdrawal of 25 gallons of water. That means US citizens may indirectly depend upon as much water turning on the lights and running appliances as they directly use taking showers and watering lawns.

Photo by Sandia National Laboratory

(Photo by Sandia National Laboratory)

Utilities can expect water conservation to play a growing role in their efforts to comply with the Clean Power Plan. In fact, Water/Energy Nexus: Claiming Energy Savings for Water Measures and the Associated Calculations was chosen by utilities as a topic for the pre-forum workshops You are leaving Western's site. at the Utility Energy Forum.

Working out these issues will take time, but you don’t have to wait to encourage your customers to save water. Summer is the season for gardening, swimming and—yes—extra showers, so take a moment now to explore Energy Services’ Water Conservation resources. This page is loaded with information about drought management, irrigation and water-saving tips for commercial and residential customers.

In that last category is a new resource from the Southwest Florida Water Management District You are leaving Western's site. that could help motivate your customers to get on board with a water conservation program. The Water Use Calculator is an easy-to-use tool that allows the user figure out how much water they consume at home, both individually and as a family.

Most people will be surprised—even a little alarmed—to discover how much water everyday activities use (the Energy Service staff was, and we think about these things a lot). Try placing the link on your website or running it in your online newsletter to get your customers’ attention. Then follow it up with customer communication on tips for cutting down water consumption, such as Water Use it Wisely You are leaving Western's site. for residential customers. You can find those resources on the Water Conservation page as well.

While you are there, check out the information on water efficiency for commercial and agricultural customers. This customer segment is already motivated to cut water use, so be ready to help them with Best Management Practices for Water Efficiency and Water Efficiency Case Studies.

For many utilities, water conservation is already an important part of their resource management activities. If you have a favorite tip sheet, calculator or strategy for determining savings, share it with Energy Services. Once an esoteric concept, the water-energy nexus is now everybody’s business.

Still time to register for Utility Energy Forum

May 13-15, 2015
Granlibakken Resort
Lake Tahoe, California

The 35th annual Utility Energy Forum Redirecting to a non-government site (UEF) is only eight weeks away. If you have been putting off your registration, now is the time to sign up for three days of networking, learning, building bridges and finding inspiration in Lake Tahoe, California.

Even better, if you are a Western customer attending the event for the first time, there are still $100 scholarships available to offset the already-reasonable fee. Western encourages its customers to attend the forum because it offers so much to utility professionals who work with consumers.

“I am really excited by this year’s agenda,” said Energy Services Manager Ron Horstman, who is on the planning committee. “Utilities face a growing list of issues that have the potential to completely remake the way we do business. The forum offers a relaxed and informal space to look at these challenges from different angles and identify hidden opportunities to create stronger business models.”

Tackling tough questions
Take, for example, the top three topics up for discussion during the Pre-forum Workshop exclusively for utility and government representatives:

  • Community solar and potential impacts on utilities
  • Distributed generation, and using micro-grid technologies to replace utility infrastructure and improve reliability
  • Utility benefits from net metering and feed-in tariffs

Some attendees may be lying awake at night wondering what to do if a mandate or consumer demand pushes them into adoption before they can assess the impacts. Others have already had experience integrating these technologies and programs into their operations and are eager to share what they have learned. The Pre-conference Workshop gets both camps together to address concerns, learn from past missteps and brainstorm innovative solutions.

Once the conference gets rolling, experts across the industry will discuss potential carbon regulations, emerging technologies, workforce development and—most importantly—consumer programs. “Our industry is in transition,” noted Horstman. “Ultimately, it is going to be the consumer that drives most of the change that threatens to disrupt business as usual.”

Utility customers have higher expectations and are more educated about energy now, he added. “They still want reliable, affordable power, but they are concerned about the environmental costs,” explained Horstman. “New technologies are becoming more affordable and giving people more choices. The ratepayers of the future may be more like partners to power providers, rather than conventional customers.”

Meeting movers
What sets the Utility Energy Forum apart from most other conferences is more than just a packed roster of (admittedly excellent) speakers. More than anything, the forum is about the opportunity to engage with the people who are doing the real work of creating and launching utility programs.

Graham Parker of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory quizzes attendees on the finer points of efficiency program management. (Photo by Randy Martin)

Graham Parker of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory quizzes attendees on the finer points of efficiency program management. (Photo by Randy Martin)

Maybe you aren’t the type to speak up during the question-and-answer portion of a presentation, or maybe you thought of a crucial and pressing question half an hour later. Don’t worry, you can ask the speaker during the break or the next meal. That would also be a good time to buttonhole the attendee who mentioned a program during the “Utility Snapshots” session that sounds a lot like one you started at your utility.

If you are shopping around for new program and policy ideas to help you meet load management goals, consider giving “speed-dating” a try. The Utility Program Stand-up Challenge assembles a veritable smorgasbord of storyboards on successful utility-sponsored energy programs. In four lightening rounds, attendees get to question presenters about the program’s goals, successes and lessons. There will be time at the end to check out other presentations to see what you missed. Or you can get more details from presenters over a glass of port during the “Any Port in a Storm” reception later that evening.

Like a mini-presentation, the Utility Program Stand-up Challenge covers the highlights of a successful program or technology in just a few minutes. (Photo by Randy Martin)

Like a mini-presentation, the Utility Program Stand-up Challenge covers the highlights of a successful program or technology in just a few minutes. (Photo by Randy Martin)

Such a deal
Another thing that distinguishes the UEF from other events is what a great bargain it is. The registration fee covers not only the high-quality sessions and networking activities, but the lodging at Granlibakken Resort and all meals as well. The off-season rates make it tempting to extend your stay before or after the conference to enjoy springtime at Lake Tahoe.

Western can make the Utility Energy Forum an even better deal for first time attendees from utility customers. Contact Ron Horstman at 720-962-7419 to learn more about eligibility and to apply.

Have your say: Suggest topics for Pre-forum Workshop at Utility Energy Forum

May 13-15, 2015
Tahoe City, Calif.

The 35th annual Utility Energy Forum Redirecting to a non-government site is just around the corner and there is still time to shape the agenda.uef

What’s on your mind?
The program planning committee is accepting topic suggestions for the Pre-Forum Workshop for utility and government employees. The session is a roundtable discussion where power providers and government representatives can talk candidly about the issues that concern them most.

Community solar, distributed generation, net metering, new utility business models, partnering to stay in the game and microgrids are just few of the subjects that might be on attendees’ radar. But don’t stop there—this is your chance to learn from colleagues who wrestle with the same demons, and to take home new solutions, and possibly, new partners.

Paul Reid of Azusa Light and Power Redirecting to a non-government site and Ron Horstman, Western’s Energy Services Manager, are co-chairing the workshop. No topic is off limits, no idea too “out there,” for these UEF veterans, so expect a no-holds-barred session that will rock a few boats.

Use this online survey Redirecting to a non-government site to share what is keeping you up at night. Remember, participation in the Pre-Forum Workshop is limited to utility and government employees. Speak your mind, and complete the survey by Feb. 5.

And that ain’t all…
Of course, the Pre-Forum Workshop is only the appetizer for the information banquet that is the Utility Energy Forum. Utility managers and marketers, energy manager and program developers and customer service professional return to the forum year after year to stay current on the latest trends in the energy utility industry.UEFbot

This year’s theme, Transformation is NOW, will weave through sessions that challenge traditional thinking and encourage participants to find innovative ways to cope with the rapidly changing energy utility industry. If you have never attended the UEF, this is a good year to start, and if you are planning to attend, register today. Early bird discounts end March 14.

As if outstanding professional development and networking opportunities were not enough reason to attend, Lake Tahoe is beautiful in May and registration includes all (terrific) meals, as well as lodging at Granlibakken Resort Redirecting to a non-government site.

Share your concerns today, and then join other utility and government employees to brainstorm the answers May 13-15. See you in Granlibakken.

Join the crowd at Utility Energy Forum

May 14-16
Tahoe City, Calif.

Judging from this year’s high registration numbers, the 34th Utility Energy ForumRedirecting to a non-government site is going to be a great place to meet and network with your colleagues from other western utilities and trade allies. 

Attendees at the 2013 Utility Energy Forum listen to a five-minute presentation during the Utility Program Stand-Up Challenge and Ice Cream Social. (Photo by RLMartin)

Attendees at the 2013 Utility Energy Forum listen to a five-minute presentation during the Utility Program Stand-Up Challenge and Ice Cream Social. (Photo by RLMartin)

Utility professionals in marketing, planning, energy services and customer service will gather at Granlibakken Conference Center May 14-16, to explore strategies for creating successful load management programs.

Several Western customers are not only attending, they are also sponsoring the event. You will have the opportunity to learn how Riverside Public Utility, Roseville Electric, Sacramento Municipal Utility and others are leveraging consumer interest in energy efficiency and renewable energy to respond to our rapidly changing industry. Exhibitors from energy services and technology companies will introduce you to products and programs that can help your utility achieve its energy management goals.

The agenda is set up to examine how legislation and policy, customer demands and expectations and technology advancements affect utility programs and operations. Western Administrator Mark Gabriel will deliver the opening keynote address. Speakers from government facilities and agencies, energy consulting firms, universities, businesses and nonprofit groups will provide insights from their unique perspectives.

Low-key, informal networking opportunities set the forum apart from other industry events, and there are plenty on offer. In addition to leisurely snack breaks and meals, attendees can network around the campfire or learn about utility-sponsored programs, speed-dating style—with ice cream. Cement new professional relationships at the ever-popular “Any Port in a Storm” port wine tasting, with live music.

The registration fee of $795 for utility and government professionals covers two nights of standard lodging, all meals and receptions. Upgrades are available if you want to bring a friend and stay an extra day to enjoy springtime in beautiful Lake Tahoe.

The Utility Energy Forum is an excellent investment in professional development for utility program managers. The things you learn, the people you meet and the ideas you hatch will pay off all year around.