Tell us what you want from Energy Services

When Western’s Energy Services regional representatives get together to talk about the program, it is not a subdued affair. The five regions within Western are all different from each other, and each representative brings a different perspective on what customers in their service territory need. One thing we do share is a passion for serving our customers, so the discussions can get pretty lively. At the end of a good meeting, however, we walk away with new ideas, renewed determination and a better understanding of the challenges customers face in other regions.

That is a pretty good description of what happened at the annual “face-to-face” meeting Energy Services held at Western Headquarters in October. The meeting gives Energy Services representatives an opportunity to plan for the coming year and to let management, the marketing team and the Equipment Loan Program know what kind of support their efforts need. This year’s meeting was particularly crucial since Western recently parted company with Energy Experts. We are exploring ways to offer customers more relevant technical assistance to replace the resources of the online service provider.

Feeling changes
The utility industry is standing on shifting ground, and power providers across Western’s service territory are feeling the changes. Complying with new regulations, joining a regional transmission organization, competing with new technologies and services, planning for extreme weather and meeting renewable goals and mandates are only a few of the issues keeping customers awake at night.

As we talked (and talked!) about how we can help our customers manage these and other concerns, one word kept coming up: training. The old saying, “Knowledge is power,” is old for a reason. Understanding even just the basics about a situation gives you more control and more options for dealing with it.

Western is in a great position to deliver training, too, in part, thanks to its Electric Power Training Center. For years, EPTC has delivered the highest quality power systems operation training to diverse audiences from power plant operators to dispatchers to support staff who just want to learn more about the business. It  streamlines the process of enrolling participants and hosting workshops.

Creating new product
Energy Services would like to extend EPTC course offerings to other aspects of utility business, such as long-range resource planning, load management and renewables and efficiency integration. Our contacts at the departments of Energy and Agriculture, utilities, universities and professional organizations give us access to experts on a wide array of topics. Training could be offered as on-site workshops or webinars, depending on interest and subject matter.

Speaking of subject matter, this is where you, our customer, can help us. The regional representatives came up with a long list of potential training topics, and we need your help to prioritize it. Please look over the following topics and select your top five concerns:

Your input required
It is quite a list, and likely far from complete. Feel free to add your own ideas about training that could help you or your staff feel more prepared to deal with today’s challenges and the ones you see coming.

Send your suggestions for workshops (or publications, or other types of technical assistance) to your regional representative or to the Energy Services manager. Energy Services is, after all, your program, and we are eager to hear what you want it to be.

Advanced Metering Initiatives and Residential Feedback Programs: A Meta Review for Household Electricity-saving Opportunities

Karen Ehrhardt-Martinez, Senior Research Associate; Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute

The potential for savings in the residential sector in the near term are 20 to 25 percent, according to the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy. And consumer interest is surprisingly large: 78 percent of survey respondents would spend several thousand dollars to improve home efficiency.

If we provide feedback in a way that engages consumers, they will make those changes. Feedback takes energy from being an invisible resource to a visible one. Once people get feedback on their consumption, they start taking measures to experiment with the results.

The Meta Review took place from 1974 to 2004. The decade between 1994 and 2004 is considered the “Climate Change Era.”

There are two types of feedback—indirect, which occurs after consumption, and direct, which occurs roughly in real time.  Enhanced billing that gives consumers a frame of reference—what they used last year or average use of similar homes or what more efficient neighbors are using—is indirect feedback.  Estimated feedback tells customers what they are likely to use, and daily/weekly feedback reports energy use in shorter intervals, but after the fact.

Real time feedback tells customers how much energy they are using when they are using it, and real time plus gives “immediate” feedback at an appliance level. The savings improve as feedback gets more frequent and specific, from 4 percent improvement at the lower end up to 12 percent for real time plus.

Feedback programs focused on demand response reduce energy consumption by 3 percent while overall conservation programs reduced consumption by 10 percent. The savings are persistent.

The evidence from the Meta Review shows that the residential sector could be a big player in energy conservation. Feedback programs give consumers the flexibility to figure out which measures fit their lifestyle. Advanced meters are good tools but you must find a way to get that information to the customer and make it meaningful to engage them.