Evergreen issues like customer engagement, quality assurance and program evaluation appeared alongside newer issues like electric vehicles, energy storage and smart buildings. If a theme ran through the event it was that utilities must look forward and plan for what is coming next. The industry must grapple with changing demographics, technologies that are altering the customer-utility dynamic and maturing strategies and policies that make energy and cost savings goals harder to reach.
If these issues ring a bell, browse the RMUEE presentations to learn more about how your colleagues are preparing for the future. Then you can save the date of Sept. 19-21, 2018, to join them in person at the 12th annual Rocky Mountain Utility Efficiency Exchange.
Sign up to receive notices of upcoming events, including the Call for Presenters for the 12th RMUEE in January 2018.
Residential solar installations on single family homes have soared over the last 10 years, yet most multifamily dwellers are still unable to access energy powered by the sun.
California implemented virtual net metering (VNM) tariffs that allow solar to be installed on multifamily building rooftops and allocate the benefits between tenants and common area accounts via electricity bill credits. Other states have similar enabling policies, either through their own versions of VNM or broader community or shared solar programs. In jurisdictions with rent control, however, limitations on how much a landlord may increase tenants’ rents can present a barrier to multifamily solar uptake. (Rent control is a policy implemented by local governments that prevents rents from being charged above a certain level or predetermined percentage.)
Speakers will explore ways in which local jurisdictions could (and have) sought to overcome these challenges while still preserving the important role that rent control plays in keeping rents stable and affordable. IREC’s webinar will do a deep dive into California’s experience and provide insights for other jurisdictions with rent control.
The Virtual Net Metering Market Development Project, funded by the Department of Energy SunShot Initiative Solar Market Pathways, identified rent-controlled apartment buildings as one of several barriers to the success of California’s VNM program. The project team—Center for Sustainable Energy, IREC and the California Solar Energy Industries Association—seeks to help advance solar deployment in the multifamily building sector and provide access to tenants in California and across the U.S.
The three-year project is rooted in expanding the awareness, effectiveness and use of VNM. The main objective is to identify obstacles and opportunities associated with the currently underutilized VNM tariff to overcome the challenges of expanding solar PV adoption beyond traditional commercial and single-family rooftop systems.
Erica S. McConnell, special counsel with Shute Mihaly & Weinberger, LLP, is presenting the webinar. Co-presenter Edward Schexnayder is an associate attorney with Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger, LLP.
Schexnayder’s practice includes multiple aspects of municipal law, as well as adjudicatory proceedings before the California Public Utilities Commission and California Energy Commission. He has advised municipal clients regarding rent stabilization ordinances and has successfully defended rent ordinances from legal challenges in court.
Source: Interstate Renewable Energy Council, 10/23/17
Utilities have a vested interest in working with homeowners and businesses to accurately estimate and control energy costs. It is not only good for load management goals, it is also good for the local economy. A new report from Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) and tools being developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) can help utilities and cities move toward a more efficient building stock.
The authors emphasize, however, that making home energy use data more accessible is part of a greater vision. True market transformation will require a change in both homebuyer behavior and policies and approaches across several interconnected industries. The real estate, finance, home improvement and—yes—utility industry would all play a part and could all benefit in the long run from improving home performance metrics and making the data more transparent and accessible to homeowners.
RMI notes that the “green real estate” movement is already starting to catch on with online real estate portals featuring home energy scores on property listings. Partnerships between the Zillow Group and UtilityScore, Estately and Clearly Energy and Redfin and Tendril are aiming to make home energy scores a bigger consideration in buying decisions.
Recent home purchases drove 26 percent of home renovations in 2015, and preparation for resale led to 13 percent of renovations, according to Houzz and Home: Overview of Renovation. Moreover, 67 percent of study respondents cited improving energy efficiency as an important reason for making a renovation. Clearly, renovation projects offer utilities an opportunity to promote energy-efficiency measures and programs to a receptive audience. Establishing relationships with housing professionals in the community could pay off for utility program managers in a big way.
Tools analyze home, infrastructure projects Once you connect with customers who are interested in making energy-efficiency improvements, the next challenge is determining what upgrades will save them the most money and energy. The ResStock analysis tool from NREL provides detailed information on the technical and economic potential of residential energy-efficiency improvements and packages for 48 U.S. states.
By combining large data sources and statistical sampling with detailed building simulations, the program achieves unprecedented accuracy in modeling the diversity of the single-family housing stock. The ResStock software leverages DOE’s open-source building energy modeling platforms OpenStudio® and EnergyPlus™ so you won’t need a supercomputer to run the program. Contact NREL to find out more.
On a larger scale, NREL’s Energy Systems Integration Facility is working on a demonstration project that is developing a buildings and district energy modeling tool, URBANopt. The demonstration integrates URBANopt with grid modeling software, OpenDSS, to analyze the projected dynamic energy consumption of a planned 382-acre mixed-use development. The Denver, Colorado, site includes corporate office space, retail space, multifamily dwellings, a hotel and parking and street lighting. This project will result in several tools that others can use to replicate this project across the country, including an enhanced version of URBANopt and a developer’s handbook.
The United States is on track to install 4 million residential solar photovoltaic (PV) arrays by 2020. Ensuring that these installations meet current codes and standards is the job of building and electrical inspectors. To help code officials, architects, builders and solar installers keep up with the latest solar codes and safety requirements, Interstate Renewable Energy Council(IREC) has added new informational videos to its suite of training resources.
IREC partnered with the International Association of Electrical Inspectors(IAEI) and the International Code Council(ICC) to develop resources for code officials to learn the key aspects of solar technology related to their trade. The educational videos target a broad audience by highlighting the inspection process. Code officials who have experience inspecting solar installations will be reminded of important details of the process. Inspectors who are new to solar PV will be introduced to essential aspects of the inspection and referred to more detailed training.
“Officials involved in the planning, inspection and permitting of residential solar installations now have access to solar training and education in their office, at home and in the field,” says IREC Director of Workforce Development Laure-Jeanne Davignon. “The wide variety of tools allows code officials new to solar and experienced professionals to learn in the format they choose: in-person, online, printable documents or videos.”
IAEI CEO David Clements called the videos a “must-see” and an excellent resource to educate code officials and inspectors working in the field on residential solar installations. “Training from the NEC®(National Electrical Code), along with other codes and standards, has become a critical combination to ensure a safe installation,” he stated in a press release. “Knowledge and knowing how to apply it will ensure a code compliant installation.”
More than 5,000 professionals have engaged in the PV Online Training since it became available in 2012. The new in-person plan review course is being very well received, too, with more than 2,500 participants to date. Evaluations from participants have applauded the hands-on approach to the material and the way it connects the different aspects of inspection to each other and to real-life scenarios.
For more information on these training opportunities, contact IREC at 518-621-7379.
Source: Interstate Renewable Energy Council, 9/13/17
As more and more businesses offer instant, effective and personalized communication, customers are naturally going to expect their power providers to do the same—and that is in addition to all the other challenges facing the utility industry.
The material is designed to showcase the potential of online solutions for a broad range of utility professionals, from senior executives to renewable and energy service program managers to customer service representatives. Public communications professionals and information and operations technology personnel will also benefit from the webinars.
The success of a utility community solar project depends on keeping subscribers happy and committed to the program. Utilities with active community solar programs or those considering implementing one will not want to miss this webinar. Presentations will examine some engagement strategies and tools needed to improve the customer experience while saving valuable internal team resources and bandwidth. Attendees will gain a greater understanding of how to best prepare their teams to transition smoothly to the evolving world at the grid edge.
Public power officials will use case studies to present proven strategies for using a variety of digital platforms to build customer relationships and drive up energy program participation. Speakers will also address how to create a web presence and digital strategy that will appeal to customers under 35.
The registration for each webinar is $99 for APPA members and $199 for non-members. A discount is available for registering for both webinars, however you can register for the individual events. APPA will be recording the webinars and making them available for playback later in case enrollees miss the live event.
Source: American Public Power Association, 9/25/17
According to the Food Service Technology Center(FSTC), an energy-efficiency and appliance testing facility funded by Pacific Gas and Electric, the industry has a $40 billion utility bill and is five to 10 times more energy intensive than other commercial customers. Since food service employs one in 10 U.S. workers, the chances are good that you have at least one restaurant in your service territory. That gives you the opportunity to help an important customer segment succeed, support your local economy and conserve critical resources.
Teaching food service employees to manage energy and water costs the same way they manage their food cost has the potential to reduce billions of dollars of waste annually. But behavior change takes education, and delivering training to a diverse, busy and mobile workforce is a big challenge, to put it mildly. FSTC has tackled this challenge by introducing online sustainability training to turn food service professionals into energy-efficiency experts: FE3certification.
Industry-wide application Based on 28 years of lab and field work, energy surveys and design consultations by industry experts, FE3 has built a practical curriculum focused on results. Like most industries, food service encompasses not only those involved in day-to-day operations, but also a wide network of supporting trades and employees. FE3 training can help all of these professionals understand their role in improving sustainability.
Restaurant owners, managers and staff will learn how to operate and maintain an efficient kitchen and how to choose more efficient equipment. Utilities and suppliers will learn about the industry’s energy challenges so they can develop programs and services to help restaurants become more profitable. Facility designers, equipment manufacturers and service agents can gain skills that will make them resources for restaurants seeking to increase sustainability.
Culinary and hospitality schools can add the sustainability curriculum to their programs. FE3 derived the online course material from classes taught live to university, college, community college and culinary students for over a decade.
Convenient, comprehensive learning Recognizing that hectic schedules can be a big barrier to training in the food service industry, FE3 makes the six modules available online 24/7.
Each module covers a different area of food service energy and water use with interactive exercises. Topics include:
Intro to energy efficiency – How energy use relates to sustainability and why energy efficiency is a necessary component of a commercial food service sustainability program
Efficient and effective lighting – The basics of electric lighting and how to choose lighting products that use less energy, look good and meet the special needs of commercial food service
Efficient refrigeration – The basic principles of refrigeration and how to select and maintain energy-efficient refrigeration systems
Water conservation – The basic principles of water use and conservation in a food service operation and how to select and compare energy- and water-efficient dish machines
Energy-efficient cooking equipment – The basics of food-prep and cook-line energy use and how to reduce cooking appliance operating costs
Commercial kitchen ventilation – The basics and best practices to optimize kitchen ventilation systems
The material is narrated, loaded with easy-to-understand graphics and employs gamification and avatars to make learning more fun. Modules conclude with a short exam that reinforces learning.
After successfully completing the FE3 training, students will understand basic energy terms and have practical skills that will positively impact their restaurant’s bottom line. They will be prepared to choose the right lighting for specific tasks, calculate the cost of water leaks, properly maintain refrigeration, select energy-efficient cooking appliances with online tools and troubleshoot and optimize commercial kitchen ventilation systems.
Help for key accounts Although FE3 training was developed by the California-based FSTC, the curriculum is relevant to food service employees across the country, as are many other resources the center offers.
Utility key account supervisors should explore FSTC, bookmark it and share it with their food service customers. Let restaurant owners and operators in your territory know about the recommendations for energy-efficient kitchen equipment, design guides for water and ventilation systems, equipment test results and a variety of calculators. Tell them about the presentations from FSTC seminars and webinars archived online. Share the industry links and publications with your local coffee shop or five-star dining establishment. In an industry with notoriously thin margins and high turnover, utilities can make a difference.
The discussion will be divided into coverage of the following questions and more:
Where’s the balance point between utility freedom and regulatory push?
Which lessons-learned are most often ignored—and at what price?
Which utilities have found the best pricing solutions, and how?
How do you speed up the program-design process?
Do pilot programs help or hinder?
Besides looking inside the machinery of successful community solar programs, speakers will explore the question of what kinds of policies most help—or hurt—community solar program innovation.
The webinar will also include an advanced look at CSVP’s new Solutions Toolkit, which offers practical approaches in the six top challenge areas CSVP has identified through its work with utility partners. In addition to some familiar analytic methods and guides that CSVP has field tested this year, the toolkit features brand new resources to help utility program designers make community solar better.
This webinar is free, but registration is required. Don’t miss this opportunity to learn the keys to making the most of your community solar project.
Oct. 5 is fast approaching, and the message for Energy Efficiency Day 2017—save energy, save money—is one your customers will surely appreciate.
Following the success of last year’s first-ever national event, the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economyis looking to expand participation and awareness of the event. More than 175 were official supporters in 2016. Your utility could join the more than 175 government agencies, companies, power providers, cities and other organizations that supported Energy Efficiency Day in 2016.
Outreach includes a website, a Facebook account, more official declarations and a challenge to save energy in homes and businesses. An ACEEE blog post lists four suggestions for challenging your community to save energy.
Sign up on the new event website as an individual or as an organization. You will receive ideas and fun facts to share on social media as Energy Efficiency Day gets closer.
Urge your residential and commercial customers to take the Lightbulb Challengeor the Office Lighting Challenge. Challengers agree to replace at least one light bulb with an LED. If each US household purchases just one LED bulb, consumers could save $500 million annually.
Share your own energy efficiency story. Promote your news about Energy Efficiency Day and the benefits of saving energy–and money–through blog posts, emails, newsletters and social media. Create your own content with videos, photos, graphics or other messages. Sign up on the EE Day website to get more material you can use from ACEEE.
You can use your imagination, too–creativity and humor are welcomed. And don’t forget to share your ideas with ACEEE and WAPA. We would love to highlight your activities in an Energy Services Bulletin story.
Source: American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, 9/5/17
Energy efficiency is a big and growing business with $231 billion invested globally in 2016, according to an estimate by the International Energy Agency (IEA). The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) used the release of the IEA Worldwide Investment report in July as a springboard to examine how much the United States invests in energy efficiency, what is driving that investment and how it could be increased.
We spend how much? The first blog post, How Many Billions do US Businesses and Individuals Invest in Energy Efficiency Each Year?, gave $41 billion as the estimated figure for efficiency spending in our country. This was the first year that the IEA report gave a separate estimate for the U.S., but spending was not broken out by sector. Based on the worldwide estimate, about 58 percent of that spending is for buildings, 26 percent for transportation and 16 percent for industry.
Drawing on other spending reports to get a clearer picture, ACEEE concludes that our energy-efficiency investments may actually range from $60 billion to $115 billion annually. This wide-ranging estimate results from different studies employing different measurement methods and parameters. However, additional research by ACEEE and by the U.S. Green Building Council suggest this range is reasonable.
Policy appears to be the primary driver in energy-efficiency investments, with building codes and appliance and vehicle standards responsible for about $20 billion worth. “Spillover” occurs when policies and programs, such as utility incentives and customer programs, indirectly influence consumer decisions.
Reasons why Other factors driving the decision to invest in energy efficiency include income and education levels among residential consumers and type of industry for business customers.
Who Invests in Energy Efficiency and Why?, the second blog post, cites a survey by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) showing that large firms are more likely to engage in energy management activities than small companies. Businesses participating in the Shelton Group’s 2016 B2B Pulse study rated how important sustainability and conservation were to their company’s operating and capital expenditure decisions. Commercial real estate development and property management were the industry groups that gave energy issues the most consideration.
The EIA’s 2015 Residential Energy Consumption Survey found that consumers with higher incomes are more likely to make energy-efficiency investments large enough to be eligible for federal energy-efficiency tax credits. Smaller investments, such as new lightbulbs, do not appear to be affected by consumer income. Another study found an education effect along with the income effect, but income and education are usually closely related. Households that have moved within the last three years spend more on efficiency improvements, as do younger families.
The reasons commercial customers offer for making efficiency upgrades, while not unexpected, show a subtle shift in priorities. From the Shelton Group study, business customers cited “energy savings or other cost reductions” as the leading motivation for investing in efficiency. Although concern about climate change ranked toward the bottom of the list, the percentage of respondents that mentioned it has nearly doubled in the last year.
Saving on electric bills also topped the reasons residential customers gave for undertaking energy-efficiency improvements at 61 percent. Making the home more comfortable followed with 35 percent and making the home healthier was mentioned by 27 percent of respondents. Taken together, comfort and safety are an equal consideration to financial concerns. The study recommends focusing homeowners on both the financial and non-financial benefits of energy efficiency to explain the value of their investment.
Let’s do more The final post addresses the question on every utility program manager’s mind—How Can we Increase Energy Efficiency Investments?—and offers 10 suggestions to make it happen. According to ACEEE, only about one-quarter of households and businesses implement efficiency upgrades, in spite of the benefits.
The suggestions focus on expanding what is already working, while remaining open to new approaches. More measurement and benchmarking could help program providers identify successful programs and help customers see the value of energy-efficiency improvements. The article also recommends seeking partnerships with real estate, financial and construction industries to reach consumers through different channels.
Energy-efficiency investments were 8-9 percent higher in 2016 than in 2015. The ACEEE blog series offers some starting points to help utilities keep the momentum going. Energy Services looks forward to hearing about your ideas for getting more results from your existing programs and for creative new service offerings.
Source: American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy
Rolling into its second decade, the Rocky Mountain Utility Efficiency Exchange has now been around long enough for its many participants to see the fruits of meeting annually to swap program ideas and stories of successes and failures with colleagues from across the region.
Forward-looking agenda This year’s theme, “Initiatives worth Imitating,” focuses on using lessons learned from past programs to address the new issues and opportunities utilities are facing. Programs incorporating time-of-use rates, community solar, the internet of things and big data will be in the spotlight. Sessions will also cover new spins on demand response, customer outreach, behavior change and incentive programs.
“Technology often integrates tools and strategies that were part of successful energy-efficiency and load management programs in the past,” explained Energy Services Manager Ron Horstman. “Load management today and going forward requires updates and changes in approach that will maximize the new resources and technology that are constantly being introduced to the industry. This year’s agenda encourages that kind of thinking.”
The future is on the minds of keynote speakers, too. Mark Martinez, the senior portfolio manager for emerging markets and technologies with Southern California Edison will deliver the opening keynote, Preparing Today for an Integrated Demand Side Management Future. He will draw on his more than 25 years of experience in the design, management and evaluation of electric demand side management (DSM) programs to present a vision of how DSM needs to change.
The closing keynote by Ellen Steiner, the vice president of Opinion Dynamics, will explore how utility customer programs can adapt to meet the needs of changing demographics. A master methodologist, Steiner has strong energy-efficiency industry experience encompassing workforce education and training, marketing, community outreach and HVAC program design and evaluation.
Friday offers a special treat with a focus on electric vehicles and storage. These topics were overwhelmingly popular at the 2017 Utility Energy Forum in California, and Rocky Mountain area utilities will be facing the same issues sooner than we expect.
Network toward your goals If the sessions are a great way to explore the nuts and bolts of program design and delivery, the networking opportunities let you take the pulse of the regional industry.
In addition to breaks and meals (pack your “comfortable” business casual wear), attendees will have plenty of time to mingle with their colleagues and swap ideas. On Wednesday, Sept. 27, grab a snack and a beverage and check out the poster session reception. These mini-presentations allow attendees to talk one-on-one with presenters about topics as diverse as community solar, connected home devices and infrastructure planning.
Relaxed networking continues Thursday night at the Limelight Hotel in downtown Aspen. This venue provides a low-key atmosphere where it is easy to carry on a conversation. If you hatch dinner plans at the end of the evening, the city’s world-class dining options are close by, or, you can catch an airport shuttle from the hotel lobby if need to depart early.
Enjoy Aspen Of course, it would be a shame to cut your conference experience short, between the intriguing Friday sessions and the pleasures of September in the Rockies. We can’t promise good weather, but, most years, the days have sparkled with sunshine and fall colors and the nights have been crisp and clear.
Aspen Meadows Resort is now sold out, but you can still stroll the grounds. The city is close enough that you could park your car at your hotel and walk off the delicious meals—included in your registration fee—on your way to and from the conference.