Western Area Power Administration published its Fiscal Year 2017 Annual Report, Jan. 31. This year’s theme, “Serving Communities, Saving Communities,” highlights WAPA’s accomplishments for the year and demonstrates how WAPA serves communities across the West by focusing on availability, reliability, security and quality.
“Delivering power is about so much more than moving electrons. Our power and our services make a difference in communities we serve,” said Administrator and CEO Mark A. Gabriel in his introductory letter. “We are honored to deliver reliable and renewable power to communities who need it most.” Read more.
The U.S. Department of Energy Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs and WAPA are once again co-sponsoring the Tribal Energy Webinar Series. The 2018 series of 11 webinars focuses on Tribal Sovereignty and Self-Determination through Community Energy Development. The free webinars are held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mountain Time the last Wednesday of each month, beginning in January and concluding in November.
Roughly two million American Indians and Alaska Natives from 567 federally recognized tribes live on or near 56.2 million acres of Indian land. These lands are also rich in energy resources that offer the tribes the opportunity for economic development and greater self-determination. The 2018 webinar series provides these diverse communities with the information and knowledge required to evaluate and prioritize their energy options.
Topics will cover establishing tribal consensus on energy goals and objectives; instituting short and long-range actions; and making informed technical, financial, market, policy, and regulatory decisions. Speakers will present tribal case studies highlighting proven energy development best practices. Attendees will discover tools and resources to facilitate and accelerate community energy and infrastructure development in Indian Country.
Action-oriented program The series begins on Jan. 31 with Office of Indian Energy: Advancing Future Leaders through STEM. This webinar will highlight the college student internship program for Native students interested in energy project planning and development activities. Former interns will talk about their experience with experts in the field and at DOE’s national laboratories, and how the program helped them make a positive impact in Indian Country. Applications are now being accepted through February 19 for the summer 2018 internship opportunity.
The rest of the schedule builds on past series with an emphasis on process, action and community-wide engagement:
The 2017 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard rated California as the second most efficient state in the nation behind Massachusetts. Minnesota came in at ninth place, Colorado scored a 15, Utah and Arizona tied for 17th place and Iowa rounded out the group as the 19th most efficient state.
The state of Nevada showed improvement, rising three positions from 2016 to rank 34th, partly as a result of state efforts like the Home Energy Retrofit Opportunities for Seniors (HEROS) program overseen by the Governor’s Office of Energy. Michael Jones of Carson City used the program to properly seal his home, saving money and—just as important for a person with disabilities—improving his comfort.On average, participants like Jones reduce annual electricity use by 5,143 kilowatt-hours and natural gas consumption by 266 therms, saving $927 on their energy bills annually.
For the first time this year, the state-specific score sheets included stories of individuals and communities. The ACEEE found schools that improved lighting and taught students about sustainability, state facilities that secured more reliable electricity and senior citizens who improved the comfort of their homes. The stories demonstrate the effect smart energy-efficiency policies and programs have on our wallets, local economies, productivity and quality of life.
Now in its 11th edition, the ACEEE State Energy Efficiency Scorecard benchmarks state progress on efficiency policies and programs that save energy while benefiting the environment and promoting growth. The scorecard ranks states in six categories—utility programs, transportation, building energy codes, combined heat and power, state initiatives and appliance standards—using data vetted by state energy officials.
You can download the report for free (registration required) and check out your state’s scorecard, compare it with others and learn about programs that are driving efficiency gains.
Source: American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, 9/27/17
The price of necessities only goes in one direction—up—but don’t tell Electrical District No. 3 (ED3). The Maricopa, Arizona, public utility is lowering its 2018 electric rates an average of 2 percent for residential, commercial, small industrial, large industrial and agriculture customers.
At a time when other utilities and businesses across the nation are raising their rates, the ED3 board of directors approved a rate decrease for the third year in a row. CEO and General Manager William Stacy attributes this exciting accomplishment to sound management and a diligent planning process.
Partnership cuts costs Specifically, Stacy noted the benefits of being part of the Southwest Public Power Agency (SPPA). In 2014, ED3 formed the joint action agency with 17 other Arizona public power and tribal utilities. Members enjoy economies of scale in terms of managing existing resources and developing new ones, Stacy explained. “We see a lot of benefits for our customers, particularly those in Arizona’s rural or tribal areas,” he added.
A new power pooling agreement with SPPA for electricity from the Hoover Dam has allowed ED3 to reduce costs for balancing services. This year ED3 was able to move its controlling area into the Arizona Electric Power Cooperative’s controlling area for additional savings on operating costs.
Planning for growth To keep rates down, you also have to keep an eye on the future, especially in a community that is growing as fast as ED3’s service territory. “We are constantly reanalyzing our 10-year load growth plan,” said Stacy.
ED3 is the largest electrical district in the state, currently serving about 25,000 residential, commercial and irrigation meter connections. The district operates 12 distribution-level substations, and is building a new one to accommodate the average of 65 new homes springing up in the area each month. “In terms of rates, being large helps because we are able to spread fixed costs over a wide customer base,” Stacy acknowledged.
Wise use still important Even with standard residential rates that are 10 percent lower than investor-owned Arizona Public Service, ED3 does not take customer satisfaction for granted. Programs to help customers manage their own energy use are very much a part of the district’s business model.
ED3 offers customers a Home Performance with Energy Star® Home Energy Audit for the heavily discounted price of $49. Homeowners can choose from a list participating contractors posted online. Customers can also attend free quarterly conservation workshops ED3 presents, and find energy conservation tips in the district’s bimonthly newsletter.
Rate, payment flexibility In addition to having the lowest rates in the area, ED3 residential customers also have the choice of two time-of-use (TOU) rate schedules. The peak time for TOU-A is 9 a.m.-9 p.m. and 12-7 p.m. for TOU-B. The applications provide energy-saving tips so that customers can maximize the benefits of the schedule. “They can choose whichever one works best for them,” said Stacy.
ED3 also implemented a pre-paid metering program last year. Customers pre-pay for their electricity and receive daily text or email notifications of the amount they use and the amount remaining on their account. Studies have shown that customers who use a pre-pay option tend to use less electricity. Whether it is the energy savings or the feeling of control it gives customers, the program has proved surprisingly popular, Stacy observed. “We have 1,470 customers participating in it,” he said.
Which brings up another truism: People are always looking for ways to pay less for necessities. Luckily for ED3 customers, their utility is always looking for ways to help them.
A recent op-ed in the New York Times serves as a reminder that energy efficiency is not only one of the most powerful resources we have for meeting energy and environmental goals, it is also a rare source of bipartisan agreement.
Agreed: Energy efficiency works Citing a poll by the Conservative Energy Network shortly after the November 2016 election, the writer noted that the majority of voters saw policies supporting energy efficiency as important. This is true despite the fact that energy efficiency itself is largely invisible, with economic impacts diffused throughout the economy. Imagine how enthusiastic Americans would be if they realized that more than 2.2 million people spend some or all of their work hours on energy-efficient technologies and services. That is more than the 1.9 million who work to produce electricity (solar, wind, nuclear), coal, oil and gas.
In addition to providing jobs, energy efficiency protects them by helping industries stay economically viable. Federal agencies develop efficiency standards for household appliances and work with American manufacturers to improve productivity. They provide testing and expertise to develop local and state building-efficiency codes for homes and commercial buildings.
Innovative, federally run efficiency programs boast a decades-long record of economic and environmental success across the nation, dating back at least 30 years. Energy Star is a shining example of a public-private partnership that saves American consumers and businesses billions of dollars per year. About three-quarters of U.S. households recognize the Energy Star label as way to control their energy costs while reducing power plant pollution.
The big picture tells an even more important story. The economy has grown by almost 150 percent since 1980 with a corresponding increase in energy consumption of about 20 quadrillion British thermal units. Over that same period, energy efficiency delivered more than 50 quads worth of energy services, far outpacing all other energy sources combined.
Waste still hurting economy In spite of such impressive gains, however, energy waste still costs American businesses and households billions of dollars every year. In commercial buildings alone, where annual electricity costs are roughly $190 billion, about a third of this energy goes to waste, according to the Department of Energy. The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy ranks the United States eighth among the top 23 energy-consuming nations in efficiency.
Emerging technologies and population growth are putting demands on our electricity grids that utilities of a generation ago never imagined. Knowing what is at stake, power providers are investing $7.5 billion annually in cost-effective electricity and natural gas efficiency programs.
The electricity industry can continue to build on the success that began when President Ronald Reagan signed the first legislation authorizing federal efficiency standards. Incorporate tools and strategies from federal energy-efficiency programs into your load management programs. Let your customers know about federal resources that might help them use less electricity. When we harness the power of the cheapest kilowatt—the one that is never used—everyone wins.
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.
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.
WAPA Administrator Mark Gabriel will present WAPA’s prestigious Administrator’s Award to South Sioux City, Nebraska, Oct. 18 at the Delta Hotels in South Sioux City. The presentation is part of 2017 National Bioenergy Day, an event that will be attended by local, state and federal officials and high-ranking industry representatives. Gabriel will also deliver the keynote address, “The Importance of Renewable Energy Diversification,” at Bioenergy Day. The event will also include a tour of the new Green Star Energygasifier power plant.
Despite its small size—a population just over 13,000—South Sioux City has consistently delivered innovation along with affordable, reliable power year after year, warranting the honor the award confers on a WAPA customer. But these accomplishments feel almost secondary to the vision that made them happen. South Sioux City is well known among its peers and many other WAPA customers for being exceptionally forward thinking and tenacious at finding and leveraging win-win partnerships.
Leading in renewables South Sioux City is pursuing clean, low-carbon electricity with a unique mix of projects.
A 2.3-megawatt (MW) photovoltaic array is only the latest example of the town’s efforts to reduce its carbon footprint. The 21-acre solar park began operation in January and generates the equivalent of 5 percent of the city’s total electricity needs. South Sioux City also recently selected a firm to build 15 MW of new wind power and signed an agreement to begin receiving generation from it in 2018. Both the wind and the solar projects are public-private partnerships.
In a region where agriculture and related businesses are the leading industries, biomass represents an energy resource that South Sioux City has captured through different projects. Three major food processing plants divert animal, grain and other wastes to an anaerobic digester that extracts methane from the stream and feeds it into the natural gas pipeline. The nearby Siouxland Ethanol Plantdisplaces up to 9 percent of its natural gas needs for ethanol production with landfill gas from the LP Gill landfill.
The Scenic Park campground was the site of a pilot program in 2015, using a gasifier woody biomass system to generate 50 kilowatts of electricity from wood waste from storm damage. The unit was so successful that South Sioux City entered into an agreement with Green Star Energy to build a 3-MW gasifier. The new power plant will take city and industrial waste wood and dead and dying trees destined for the landfill and convert it into electricity.
Another potential project with Green Star Energy shows that South Sioux City has not lost sight of the tried-and-true renewable resources. The partners are seeking funding to build an innovative hydropower generator along the Missouri River that flows through the south end of the city. The run-of-river turbine design resembles a boat dock, would be safe for fish and aquatic animals and could produce enough electricity to save South Sioux City about $450 each day.
Conserve, reduce, manage Energy innovation in South Sioux City is not limited to developing new resources. Planning and wise use are just as important to creating a cleaner, sustainable energy supply.
When peak demand needs to be curtailed, the city takes a two-pronged approach. First, a major industrial load voluntarily ramps down its demand by 11 percent to save not only its own energy costs but the energy costs for the city as a whole. On the residential side, the municipal utility has placed demand meters into service to control peak demand from air conditioner use. Both strategies have helped the community to contain electric costs.
The municipal utility has performed energy audits on all city buildings and facilities to identify energy-saving opportunities. Improvements included adding variable speed drives, converting street and signal lighting to LED and installing LED office lighting. Energy-efficient heating and cooling measures and practices have also been implemented in city buildings.
To address the need for backup support and electric demand relief during peak times, the city is designing a 5-MW, state-of-the-art natural gas-powered generating station. Excess generation from the unit will be offered to the Southwest Power Poolmarkets.
Practicing stewardship South Sioux City was the first city in Nebraska to implement a paperless city council. In addition to reducing environmental impacts, the approach simplifies the archiving of council activities and makes it easier for the public to access more information. A voice-activated council chamber video recording system allows citizens to access live and archived meetings.
Tree health and sustainability are important to South Sioux City, which has qualified for the Arbor Day Foundation’sTree City USA designation for 25 years and earned the Growth Award for 10 years. For the past eight years, the city has planted one new tree for every 30 residents.
Residents enjoy the city’s two community gardens and the more than 200 fruit trees the city planted in 2014. The orchard is part of a facility designed in partnership with the University of Nebraska – Lincoln to provide storage and opportunities for youth outdoor learning activities. The new building is the first compressed laminated timber structure in Nebraska. Ash tree planks salvaged from emerald ash borer kill and milled by the Nebraska Forest Service side the building. The project received the 2017 Community Enhancement Award from the Arbor Day Foundation.
Quality of life is part of environmental health too, and South Sioux City actively promotes healthy lifestyles. The city’s extensive network of developed trails earned the first “Bicycle Friendly Community Award” in Nebraska in 2006. The trail system connects to 60 miles of trails in four cities and three states, and hosts many rides, runs and other events throughout the year.
Partners make it happen Innovation doesn’t occur in a vacuum and partnership is as critical to South Sioux City’s efforts as vision is. City Administrator Lance Hedquist acknowledges that the city’s success with energy efficiency and renewable energy projects results from the support and trust of the mayor, council and staff who share his passion to make the city a great place to live and work.
South Sioux City’s collective approach to innovation, partnerships, governance and trust would be impressive in a city many times its size. In a small municipality, it deserves recognition: WAPA is proud to honor South Sioux City with the Administrator’s Award.
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.
The future is here and resistance is futile. Public power utilities of all sizes are facing a new world shaped by technology, customer preferences and changing policies. These changes are most evident in five key areas:
The American Public Power Association wants to help power providers navigate these changes and explore the opportunities this new environment presents. Beginning Aug. 15, a five-part webinar series looks at new initiatives through the experiences of the utilities that implemented them.
APPA recommends this series for general managers, CEOs, senior utility executives, governing boards, policymakers, utility managers, future leaders in policy and strategy and public communications professionals.
Comprehensive agendas You can sign up for webinars individually or register for the full series at a discounted rate. Participants will also get access to recordings and slides of the webinars for future reference or if they miss one. All webinars are scheduled for 12-1:30 p.m. Mountain Time.
Aug. 15 – The Future of Rate Design: Distributed generation and energy-efficiency programs are creating cost-shifting concerns. Catch up on the latest industry rate trends and discover how to move toward stable rate structures that accurately recover costs from all customers. Review the pros and cons of different rate models—time of use, higher customer charge, demand charges and bi-directional billing. Learn how other utilities like yours have created long-term rate plans, selected and implemented new rate designs, and obtained buy-in from board and city council members as well as customers.
Sept. 7 – Community Solar Success Stories: Community solar is becoming an increasingly popular option for utilities that want to increase solar in their generation portfolios and offer this option to customers who cannot install rooftop solar. An industry expert will share experiences, insights and predictions for the future of community solar. Your utility colleagues who’ve launched community solar programs across the country will explain how they made decisions in key areas like program structure, implementation, financing, customer outreach, rates and marketing. They’ll discuss challenges and the secrets to success so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel.
Sept. 26 – Charging Ahead with Electric Vehicles: The price of electric cars is falling, and more fast-charging stations are being installed. The Brattle Group predicts that a steady conversion of vehicles and heating to electricity could possibly lead to a 105-percent increase in electricity demand by 2050. If these new loads start to proliferate in your community, are you ready to support them? Now is the time to plan for EV infrastructure and to make important cost-benefit decisions. Learn about new developments and advances in EVs and how they are impacting the utility industry. Hear about innovative public power EV programs and get insights regarding how to work with customers to spur investment in EVs, develop fair pricing models and plan for potential load growth.
Oct. 12 – Best Practices in Battery Storage: The evolution of energy storage is changing how we produce and consume energy like never before. Technological advances, reduced costs and mandates from regulators have positioned energy storage for unprecedented growth. Get up to speed on where we are and what to expect in the future. Three public power utilities will talk about their award-winning storage projects and the realities of implementation, from selecting a developer and siting to leveraging benefits such as peak shaving and financial impacts. Your pioneering colleagues will help you navigate the bold new path of utility-scale battery storage.
Oct. 26 – Smart Meters for Smart Solutions: Learn from utilities that have installed advanced metering infrastructure (AMI). Gear up for the real-world challenges and understand how other utilities like yours are using AMI and integrating with other technologies. Understand how to fully leverage the benefits of smart meters — to predict load and usage, implement time-of-use rates, respond better to outages, assess the need for system upgrades and offset peak demand charges. Gather best practices on transitioning rate structures, educating customers and soliciting feedback.
Registration information You can sign up for the entire series or register for each webinar individually. Individual webinars cost $99 for APPA members and $199 for nonmembers. Register for all five webinars for $395 for APPA members or $795 for nonmembers, a discount equivalent to one webinar.
Source: American Public Power Association, 7/10/17