RMUE presentations now available online

Networking and learning was at its best last week in Aspen with over 165 people attending the Rocky Mountain Utility Exchange You are leaving WAPA.gov.  Sept. 19-21.

More than 30 presentations and posters were presented that explored utility case study best practices and lessons learned from hands-on practitioners who develop, implement, and evaluate utility customer programs. Keynote presenters focused on how utilities can push themselves to the next level with technology, customer engagement, and setting high goals for performance and the future design of Utility Program Portfolios.

If you were unable to attend, you can download presentations related to energy and water efficiency, financing, renewable energy, storage and electric vehicles and key account customer management. Login is required, but access is free, so please forward this message to anyone who didn’t attend but who you know would benefit from the information presented.

Rocky Mountain Utility Exchange facilitates a networking and professional development conference for staff representatives of energy and water utilities serving Colorado and neighboring states. This event attracts about 150 utility and government staff who are responsible for the design and delivery of customer-centric utility programs, including resource efficiency, load management/growth, distributed energy and customer/member service operations.  Trade allies that provide products and services to support utility programs also contribute their expertise to an agenda that focuses on utility best practices, case studies and lessons learned.

Source: Utility Exchange, 9/27/18

Opportunities coming to share your big ideas

The Association of Energy Services Professionals You are leaving WAPA.gov.has two deadlines coming up for utility idea people:

Oct. 1: Submit your presentation for the Pitch a Pilot session at AESP’s 2019 Annual Conference in San Antonio in January. This unique session provides 10-minute time slots for talking about really interesting approaches, ideas, concepts or programs that would benefit utilities. Presenters will be talking to a utilities-only audience about innovative ways to deal with the challenges of demand response and energy efficiency. Your idea may be the next big program success!

Oct. 8: Entries close for the AESP 2019 Energy Awards. Recognize a new program, technology or initiative that’s making an impact in the energy-efficiency world. These awards also recognize people—whether an experienced industry leader or a new professional–who have contributed to the industry. The 12 award categories include commercial and residential, programs, evaluation, marketing, technology and for individuals.

Also, AESP members  need to get their ballots in for the board of director election by Oct. 15.

Do not miss your chance to float new ideas, honor great ones or shape the conversation about your industry.

Source: Association of Energy Services Professionals, 9/26/18

ACEEE report: Energy efficiency helps rural ratepayers

It is no secret that rural communities continue to struggle, even in the strong economy, or that they frequently get overlooked when assistance programs are being planned.

According to a recent report You are leaving WAPA.gov. by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, rural residents spend an average of 4.4 percent of their income on energy bills—energy burden—compared to the 3.3 percent national average. Low-income households, including the elderly, renters and residents of manufactured and multifamily housing, have an energy burden nearly three times that of higher income households.

The High Cost of Energy in Rural America: Household Energy Burdens and Opportunities for Energy Efficiency focuses on energy costs related to the physical housing structure.

The report concludes with program options to address energy affordability, and details challenges and opportunities related to serving rural households with energy efficiency.

Life-changing programs
Factors that contribute to energy burden include the physical condition of a home, a household’s ability to invest in energy-efficiency improvements and the availability of efficiency programs and incentives that put energy-saving technologies within reach. Energy-efficiency and home weatherization programs can greatly reduce this burden and make energy bills affordable. Rural utilities can help by offering these types of programs and partnering with local and regional organizations to increase their reach.

Aiken Electric Cooperative’s Help My House on-bill program, highlighted in the ACEEE video “Rural Energy Burden,” You are leaving WAPA.gov. demonstrates how utility programs can make a difference in low-income customers’ lives. Participants have been able to slash their electricity bills nearly in half by getting their homes weatherized through Aiken’s program. That is money homeowners can now use to pay for day-to-day necessities.

Learn more
A second report will be released by ACEEE this fall exploring lessons learned from rural program leaders across the country. In October, ACEEE is holding its first Rural Energy Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, to examine how energy-efficiency technologies and programs can help rural America revitalize its economy. Industry, utility, cooperative, nonprofit, academia and government representatives will be discussing how to improve and expand efficiency programs that serve rural communities.

You can download this and other reports from ACEEE’s website for free.

Source: American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, 8/23/18

RMI publishes report on consumer-centered home energy services

According to the Rocky Mountain InstituteYou are leaving WAPA.gov. a large gap exists between consumers’ interest in home performance and their actual investments in home efficiency improvements. Utilities have a tremendous opportunity to develop a new line of services, and RMI’s recent report, The Consumer Connection: A Consumer-Centric Approach to Delivering Home Energy Services, tells power providers how to unlock this market.

RMI researchers found a clear path that consumers follow from being interested in technology to purchasing it for their home. The report helps contractors, utilities and energy auditors understand the pathway and recognize how and when to engage customers, and who is the best messenger for the information. The report also explores the financing options that are most likely to spur residential customers to adopt energy efficiency upgrades.

The basis of the report is a survey RMI’s Residential Energy+ team conducted with 1,210 homeowners from all 50 U.S. states. In addition to learning what types of messengers, financing and timing make most sense to consumers, the team also uncovered other important findings around financing, what customers are willing to pay and what the main motivations are for energy upgrades.

Utility program managers will recognize the triggers that drive home energy upgrades—a new home purchase, a renovation done to sell a home or broken equipment—but the key takeaway is that consumers buy a product when they want it, not when the provider wants to sell it. The study also emphasizes that consumers do not necessarily want to speak to every stakeholder at each step of the process.

Learning which stakeholder is best suited to convey information can be an important marketing tool for service providers. Stakeholders should focus on what they do best and build partnerships with other stakeholders to fill in the gaps and provide consumers with a seamless selection and installation process.

In today’s utility landscape, power providers need a variety of strategies to maintain strong customer relationships and build an environment of trust and collaboration. A customer-centric program that increases homeowners’ investment in energy-efficiency improvements could contribute much to that goal, while supporting utilities’ load management plans.

Download The Consumer Connection for free from the RMI website.

Source: Rocky Mountain Institute Spark, 8/22/18

Rocky Mountain Utility Exchange encourages utilities to build bridges

Sept. 19-21
Aspen Meadows Resort
Aspen, Colorado

Admittedly, it is no great sacrifice to visit Aspen, Colorado, in the fall, but the utility industry professionals from Colorado and nearby states who are making the trip Sept. 19-21 are not coming to enjoy the scenery. They are coming for the Rocky Mountain Utility Exchange You are leaving WAPA.gov. to meet their colleagues and industry allies and talk frankly about the triumphs and failures, goals and challenges of their jobs.

Utility program managers will be gathering at the Gold LEED-certified Doerr-Hosier Center at Aspen Meadows Resort Sept. 26-29 to share their ideas for taking customer efficiency programs to the next level.
Utility program managers will be gathering at the Gold LEED-certified Doerr-Hosier Center at Aspen Meadows Resort Sept. 19-21 to share their ideas for taking customer efficiency programs to the next level. (Photo by Randy L. Martin)

This unique forum has been drawing strong crowds of visionaries and idea people from energy and water utilities, nonprofits and technology vendors for 12 years, and shows no sign of slowing down.

Finding opportunity in challenge
The theme for 2018, “United we understand,” emphasizes the collaborative nature of the conference, and holds one key to why it continues to grow in popularity. The theme resonates with WAPA Energy Services Manager Ron Horstman. “The past model for doing business, where utilities rarely talked amongst themselves, let alone with consumers, won’t work in today’s industry,” he said. Horstman is on the RMUE planning committee and WAPA is a sponsor of the event.

“Consumers expect to have more choice in their services, and that includes their electricity. Providing those options to customers creates opportunities for utilities to build and manage load and develop new products, while meeting environmental goals,” Horstman went on. “But the industry is going to have to communicate with their customers, their communities, equipment vendors and other power providers to realize those opportunities.”

The communication begins Wednesday morning with the Utility and Government Agency Roundtable. Representatives from those entities will share the topics they would most like to discuss and the one thing they would most like to learn during the exchange. Following a break, industry allies are free to join the discussion. This roundtable is for people who are not ready to make a formal presentation but definitely have something to talk about.

Highlighting industry trends
The agenda shifts into high gear following lunch. Opening keynote speaker Ann Dougherty of market research firm Illume Advising You are leaving WAPA.gov. will be asking utilities to look at their own marketing efforts and question whether they are positioned to innovate. This will be Dougherty’s first time speaking at the RMUE.

The State of Energy Consumers Today will be presented by another newcomer, Nathan Shannon of Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative.You are leaving WAPA.gov. Shannon will draw on Smart Energy’s 2017 research projects for insights into what today’s consumers want and real-life examples of consumer engagement successes.

The rest of the day’s presentations read like a laundry list of trends that have morphed into looming challenges: utility-led distributed solar programs, climate action plan development, collaborations to expand utility programs’ reach and beneficial electrification. You will learn how other power providers have engaged, rather than resisted these issues to build successful programs.

Digging deeper
Thursday morning, RMUE continues with variations on a theme (working together). Sessions examine programs and initiatives that integrate customer experience and community input. Consumers are clearly no longer content to passively accept the electricity coming down their wires. Environmental concerns are pushing them to demand more options and new technology is giving them the power to take more control of their energy use. Hear from utilities and their partners that abandoned the old model of a one-way relationship to find ways to harness efficiency as a resource, manage loads more effectively and help their communities fight and mitigate climate change.

In the afternoon, the agenda splits into dual tracks, giving you the chance to delve into topics in more detail with smaller groups. See if you can identify the subtext. In the first set of tracks, you can explore either customer engagement (communicating with customers) or the technology of the internet of things (communicating with customers through smart devices). The final dual-track sessions look at energy as a service, not a product (communicating with customers in a new way) and reaching hard-to-reach customers (communicating with customers who don’t make it easy).

If you are looking for even more detail than the dual-track sessions provide, get ready for the Friday workshops. Choose from three different sessions:

  • Electrifying Transportation: Developing Integrated Charging Networks for Electric Vehicles – Explore the role of utilities and government in electrifying the transportation sector.
  • Customer Experiences Workshop: Journey Mapping – Customer journey mapping provides a framework that can break down departmental barriers that limit a program’s potential. Each workshop participant will represent a different contributor in “our” utility during the workshop.
  • Community Goals Meet Utility Realities: Developing Best Practices for an Evolving Landscape – This facilitated discussion is an opportunity for local government and utility leaders to communicate directly about understanding and advancing community renewable and energy efficiency goals.

Keep talking—to each other
As past attendees will tell you, the sessions are only half of what makes the RMUE such a great conference. Great speakers may bring in attendees, but networking opportunities and relationship building bring them back year after year.

The receptions keep conversations going after the end of the day in a casual atmosphere. The Wednesday night networking event is built around a poster session that allows you to learn more about products, services and programs that might fit into your operations. It also includes heavy hors oeuvres if you want to make a meal of it, rescue animals for the kids and this year, ice-breaker games. This is a family-friendly event and family members can attend for the friendly price of free.

Thursday night, the RMUE goes off-campus to the town of Aspen and the historic Hotel Jerome.You are leaving WAPA.gov.

Every refreshment break and meal offers you a chance to ask speakers and colleagues questions, to bounce ideas off other sharp minds and to load up on high-quality calories. Breakfast, lunch and break snacks are included in the price of registration, and the food is terrific.

Details, details…
Since the food is so abundant and delicious, you may want to pack your comfortable “business casual” attire—the RMUE is a “no-tie zone.” Those staying at the Aspen Meadows Resort also might want to pack their exercise gear as well, to take advantage of the onsite Aspen Health Club.

The Aspen Meadows RMUE room bloc has filled up, but overflow lodging at the Hotel Aspen and the Molly Gibson Lodge in town is still available. You can also contact Liz Pellerin at Aspen Meadows to get on a waiting list in case there are any room cancellations.

Upcoming deadlines

Changes come to Energy Services

WAPA has always been committed to helping customers deal with both the routine and unexpected challenges of powering the West, and that assistance has taken many forms over the past 40 years. Technical assistance, in the form of workshops, customer meetings, one-on-one troubleshooting and a wide variety of traditional and electronic publications, has been one way of supporting customers’ business and operational goals. Lately, WAPA has been looking at the programs and initiatives we offer to determine which bring the most value to customers and which have served their purpose.

Technology has changed rapidly over just the past decade, and it has reshaped the electricity industry and the way we communicate. Where Energy Services’ website and publications used to be a go-to, one-stop clearinghouse for energy planners and managers at WAPA utilities, it now competes with thousands of other high-quality information sources online. Many of the diagnostic tools customers used to borrow from the Equipment Loan Program have come down in cost to be within reach of even small utilities, and the number of customers checking tools out has dwindled accordingly. To support WAPA customers in this new environment, Energy Services must evolve, too.

Customers will continue to receive support from WAPA for their resource planning activities as they have for more than 20 years. Regional Energy Services representatives will still be available to answer questions about integrated resource planning or to suggest tools and programs that can help utilities reach their load management goals.

The communications component of the Energy Services program is being integrated with WAPA’s Public Affairs office to present a more cohesive message about the mission and value of the organization. The Energy Services Bulletin will publish its final issue Nov. 1. Over the next several weeks, subscribers will receive an invitation to transfer their subscription to Customer Circuit. Along with features about WAPA customers, this publication is filled with news about the organization that touches every part of utility operations: transmission, markets, budget and finance, environment, legislation and more.

At WAPA, customers are partners. Programs like Energy Services give us the opportunity to learn more about their operations so we can continue to build that relationship. Energy Services will continue to seek customer input on the direction of the program and on what services you value most. As always, we look forward to hearing from you.

APPA presents strategic planning webinar series

July 26, Aug. 16, Sept. 6
Noon-1:30 p.m. MT

If you don’t know where you are going, chances are you will wind up someplace else. As a public power utility, your goal is to provide reliable, affordable electricity, so you—and your customers—cannot afford to miss that destination. A new three-part webinar series from the American Public Power Association will show you how to draw an effective roadmap to your future.

Strategic Planning You are leaving WAPA.gov. invites chief executive officers, general managers, senior executives, board and council members, and others involved in strategic planning to deep dive into the background and implementation of this valuable process. The series reviews strategic planning options for public power utilities of different sizes and with a variety of governing structures. Strategic planning for state associations and joint action agencies will also be covered.

Planning in three steps
Participants will learn how to engage policymakers and staff, set realistic timetables and budgets, select the right process for your utility and when and how to hire consultants. The series also includes material on managing financial operations as part of long-term performance planning.

July 26Prepare for Change: Blueprinting Your Strategic Plan
Begin by taking a hard look at where your utility stands in the ever-evolving industry landscape and discover how to take control of your future. New technologies, new power sources, new competitors and changing customer expectations will change the way you do business. Expert speakers will help you determine if your organization is prepared to plan for change. You will leave the webinar with the tools to create a realistic blueprint to adapt to market and policy changes, as well as new customer needs and preferences.

Aug. 16—Finances and Performance: Building Your Strategic Plan
Monitoring your organization’s financial health is not the job of only your chief financial officer (if you have one). Your leadership and governance team need to participate in financial planning and oversight as well. Decisions about budgets, rates, power supply, services and system maintenance affect your strategic plan and performance. This webinar presents the big picture on the financial aspect of performance planning.

Sept. 6—Down to Brass Tacks: Implementing Your Strategic Plan
Finalizing your strategic plan is the beginning, not the end of your journey, as the next step—implementation—is where the rubber meets the road. This webinar gets into the details of staying the course and avoiding the common pitfalls in acting on your plan. Learn how to keep all stakeholders aware of the plan’s progress and engage productively with outside consultants or facilitators if needed.

Registration for the full webinar series is $550 or $250 for APPA members. Individual webinars are $199 or $99 for APPA members. Links to all handouts and an audio recording will be sent out shortly after the webinar, in case you are unable to attend.

Continue your education
To earn a completion certificate, you must register for a webinar and your participation must be confirmed by the webinar report log. The completion certificate is only available to the person who registered for the webinar.

APPA is presenting this series in cooperation with Hometown ConnectionsYou are leaving WAPA.gov. a nonprofit utility service organization formed by five public power joint action agencies. Hometown Connections offers products and services to public power utilities, including consulting support for organization assessment, strategic planning and governance development, customer service, market research, and staffing.

Source: Public Power Daily, 7/11/18

Office of Indian Energy internship program builds technical expertise

Students learn about different types of solar panels and arrays during the July 2016 Ute Mountain Ute Youth Energy Day in Colorado, hosted by the DOE Office of Indian Energy as part of its efforts to promote STEM education in tribal communities. The event is one of many education and training opportunities the Office of Indian Energy offers to tribes.
Students learn about different types of solar panels and arrays during the July 2016 Ute Mountain Ute Youth Energy Day in Colorado, hosted by the DOE Office of Indian Energy as part of its efforts to promote STEM education in tribal communities. The event is one of many education and training opportunities the Office of Indian Energy offers to tribes. (Photo by DOE Office of Indian Energy)

An educated and technically skilled workforce is paramount to the development of tribal energy resources and the protection of tribal lands. The Department of Energy Office of Indian Energy’s college student summer internship program has cultivated that workforce for more than 16 years.

Current full-time undergraduates and graduate students who are familiar with Native American culture and tribal issues apply to support Office of Indian Energy-funded projects in the field and at DOE’s Sandia National Laboratories. During the 12-week internship, interns work with cross-disciplinary teams to receive hands-on experience and gain valuable knowledge about numerous energy technologies. This helps to build awareness in the tribal community around important energy issues and research while bringing technically skilled Native Americans into the workforce.

Half of the interns who have completed their degrees work in tribal positions, including one who is the renewable energy engineer for WAPA customer, the Navajo Tribal Utility AuthorityYou are leaving WAPA.gov. Another 33 percent hold jobs in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields outside their tribes.

Graduates spread awareness
Recently, Chelsea Chee, a former intern and member of the Navajo Nation, received the National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity Rising Star award for leadership across several major projects in New Mexico. The award recognizes individuals at the beginning of their career who have demonstrated exemplary leadership traits promoting access, equity and diversity in education and the workforce.

One of the accomplishments that earned the honor for Chee began with an idea she had as an intern in the class of 2011-2013. She created the Natives In STEM You are leaving WAPA.gov. program through her current position as the diversity and inclusion coordinator for New Mexico’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research. “It wouldn’t have been possible if [my mentors and supervisors] hadn’t supported my work and my ideas, some of which were different,” Chee said. “But they trusted me and supported me and helped me turn those ideas into fruition.”

Chee’s initiative brings visibility to Native American STEM professionals, inspiring students of all backgrounds to pursue STEM careers. Now co-led with American Indian Science and Engineering Society You are leaving WAPA.gov., the project has distributed more than 4,500 posters that feature five Native STEM professionals, including to 137 Bureau of Indian Education schools, 14 tribal colleges and universities, and tribal libraries across the country. Chee is also active in the larger equity community at the state and national levels.

Inclusion matters
The importance of internships and programs like Natives in STEM for increasing diversity in technical fields cannot be understated. According to the National Science Foundation, American Indians or Alaska Natives hold just 0.2 percent of science and engineering occupations, and represent only 0.3 percent of highest degree-holders in S&E fields.

Especially to young people, it can make a world of difference to know that others from their community have followed a path that may seem beyond reach. Chee recalled that one of the reasons she applied to the internship program was Sandra Begay, the internship coordinator and principal member of the Sandia Lab technical staff. Begay was the first Navajo woman Chee met who was connected to STEM and became an instant mentor to the intern.

Since completing her internship five years ago, Chee has become a voice for tribal inclusion in STEM settings and has taken part in equity conversations at state and local levels throughout New Mexico. She pointed out that people from rural areas—tribal and otherwise—often cannot get to Albuquerque to take part in STEM-related conversations. “It is important to have that input,” she said.

Chee continues to make inclusion her mission, adding that the Indian Energy program and internship were instrumental for her. “It was one of the best, if not the best, internship programs I’ve ever been a part of,” she stated.

Participate in Indian Energy programs
The 2018 internship program placed interns on projects such as on- and off-grid photovoltaic installations and a distributed energy resource system comprising large PV array, micro-turbine, fuel cell and large battery bank. Applicants must be U.S. citizens and have a grade point average of 3.0 for undergraduates and 4.0 for graduate students. Learn more about the application process and past interns on the Office of Indian Energy website.

In addition to the internship program, the Office of Indian Energy provides education and training opportunities, including regional workshops, webinars, Tribal Leader Forums, a comprehensive online training curriculum and an energy resource library. WAPA cosponsors the Tribal Energy Webinar series to help the diverse tribal communities evaluate and prioritize their energy options.

Source: DOE Office of Indian Energy blog, 5/29/18

Efficient electrification worth talking about

According to EPRI, the key to efficient electrification is an integrated energy network that gives grid operators more resources to draw upon for balancing supply- and demand-side resources.
According to EPRI, the key to efficient electrification is an integrated energy network that gives grid operators more resources to draw upon for balancing supply- and demand-side resources. (Artwork by Electric Power Research Institute)

The Electric Power Research Institute recently launched its Efficient Electrification Initiative You are leaving WAPA.gov. to analyze the impacts of electrifying the end use of energy, where it makes sense from an efficiency standpoint.

In an article in the EPRI JournalYou are leaving WAPA.gov. President and CEO Mike Howard drew a distinction between the original meaning of electrification—extending electrical service to people who lacked it—and EPRI’s demonstration program. Efficient electrification, Howard explained, looks to integrate the energy network to help achieve the most efficient use of energy and the cleanest production, delivery and consumption of that energy.

As defined in EPRI’s U.S. National Electrification Assessment, electrification refers to the adoption of electric end-use technologies to displace other commercial energy forms and provide new services. According to the assessment, electrification yields benefits to the economy that include:

  • Lower-cost power
  • Lower energy use
  • Reduced air emissions and water use
  • Improved health and safety for workers, potentially leading to gains in productivity and product quality
  • Greater grid flexibility and efficiency

More uses, less consumption
Among the assessment’s key findings is the expectation that electricity’s share of final energy consumption will grow from 21 percent today to 32–47 percent in 2050. Transportation—for personal vehicles and for commercial truck fleets and other heavier-duty applications—accounts for a large share of this growth. Advanced heat pumps, industrial process equipment and other technologies will also contribute to that increase.

The analysis considers regulatory and economic barriers and points to opportunities for financing, recalling how rural electrification financing enabled technology that dramatically increased farm production. In the 21st century, indoor agriculture through electrified production of crops could sharply reduce water and other resource consumption, Howard asserted.

Balancing act with benefits
One surprising fact that emerged from EPRI’s analysis is that even as electricity use increases, the overall use of energy decreases, hence the pairing of “efficient” with “electrification.” The entire energy system would become more efficient through efficient electrotechnologies, and become cleaner as it uses less energy to do the same work.

The efficient electrification scenario makes the entire system more dynamic, too. As more applications rely on electricity, grid operators have more resources to manage and draw upon for balancing supply- and demand-side resources.

Discover possibilities
To move the conversation about electrification forward, EPRI is hosting the inaugural Electrification 2018 International Conference & Exposition You are leaving WAPA.gov. Aug. 20-23 in Long Beach, California. Manufacturers, policymakers, academia, researchers, utility professionals and more will come together to explore the potential for electrifying at the point of end use.

This is an excellent opportunity to find out where electrification is today and where it could go tomorrow. Attendees will see the latest technologies in action and learn about the quantifiable benefits of electrification for consumers and the environment. Utilities and vendors will share cutting-edge practices from innovative programs they have implemented.

Now is the time for power providers to be talking about efficient electrification. Utilities that are ready to address the challenges and seize the opportunities can become leaders in efficiency, sustainability, service and customer satisfaction. Learn more about the conference You are leaving WAPA.gov. and don’t forget to share your stories with WAPA.

Source: EPRI Journal, 5/17/18