ACEEE report offers strategies to improve small business efficiency programs

Webinar: Serving All Customers with Utility Energy Efficiency Programs
Dec. 6
1 p.m. MT

Small businesses represent 90 percent of US businesses, consume about 20 percent of the energy and are of vital importance to our national economy, even more so in small towns and rural areas. Yet, utilities spend less than 4 percent of their energy-efficiency budget on these customers. ACEEEresearch

A new report from the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) looks at ways utilities can tap that potential for energy and demand savings in the small business sector. Big Opportunities for Small Business: Successful Practices of Utility Small Commercial Energy Efficiency Programs You are leaving identifies successful practices and emerging approaches for reaching those notoriously hard-to-access customers. The report then covers the major structural and organizational barriers that continue to stand in the way of fulfilling the energy needs of small businesses.

Diversity creates challenges
Those barriers include lack of staff, time and money, and the fact that many small businesses rent or lease, rather than own, their buildings. Customers across all sectors are often unaware of utility program offerings and the benefits of energy efficiency in general, and small business owners are no different in this respect.

But even addressing these challenges may not be enough to persuade small business customers to make upgrades that capture deep savings. Utility program managers, as well, may lack the resources to design, promote and provide programs that garner broad participation. The diversity of the small business sector, in terms of industry, energy uses, savings opportunities, financial needs, languages spoken, building types and cultures have important implications for program design.

Don’t stop at lighting
Facing such a broad range of needs, many utilities take a “one-size-fits-all” approach, focusing on the low hanging fruit of lighting upgrades. ACEEE research showed that even among several well-established programs, 90 percent of electric savings come from lighting—and not without good reason.

Almost every type of small, non-residential utility customer sees a quick payback and cost-effective savings from installing such measures as linear fluorescent and LED lamps, fixtures and controls. Adding direct—or even free—installation of qualified measures and high rebates make participation easier, and business owners start saving money right away.

Yet, utilities miss many opportunities by not looking at a wider variety of energy end-uses. In small grocery stores, for example, refrigeration can represent as much as 57 percent of the total electricity consumption. Also, most small business programs are electric only, and don’t provide any natural gas- and water-saving measures for space and water heating or cooking. Electric-only utilities might consider partnering with water and natural gas providers to create integrated efficiency programs.

Customize, partner
Report authors studied leading small business efficiency programs to find emerging trends that are delivering results today and point to a future for program designs and features. A more customized and customer-centric model is the key, according to the report. Recommendations include:

  • Segment your market and design customized offerings for each sub-segment
  • Provide personalized and relevant messages through targeted marketing and communications
  • Offer zero- or low-interest financing to encourage comprehensive retrofits and deeper savings
  • Offer a wide set of eligible measures, for multiple end-uses, based on target market research and data analytics
  • Where possible, assign dedicated project managers to give customers direct technical assistance, education and support
  • Establish partnerships with the local Chamber of Commerce, small business advocacy organizations and community groups to gain access to more commercial customers and engage them as trusted local partners

Download the report to learn more, or register for Serving All Customers with Utility Energy Efficiency Programs You are leaving on Dec. 6. This upcoming webinar looks at providing energy efficiency for hard-to-reach customer groups, including small businesses. ACEEE is partnering with Efficiency Cities Network You are leaving to present a series of webinars on cities and the transformation of the utility industry. Past topics include:

Source: American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, 11/21/16

Still time to register for Utility Energy Forum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thermostats are emphasis for newest PLMA interest group

The Peak Load Management AllianceRedirecting to a non-government site (PLMA) has announced that Brian Doyle and Lee Hamilton of Xcel Energy are co-leading PLMA’s new Thermostat Interest Group.

The PLMA Thermostat Interest Group will examine the costs and benefits of all types of utility-sponsored programs that leverage thermostat technology to deliver demand response, energy efficiency or other system benefits. A group goal is to identify the resources and partners that best communicate the value of smart thermostats to utility programs, rather than to focus on a specific technology or solution.

The group intends to collect documentation from published and not-so-public sources such as utility thermostat pilot and program evaluations. These and other third-party resources covering technology evaluations, program design concepts, market assessments, savings potential and more will be selectively shared with members.

The group has already conducted an initial meeting with founding PLMA organization representatives. Based on a strong interest level, the group will host a half-day workshop on Nov. 3 prior to the 15th PLMA Fall Conference in Philadelphia.

PLMA Interest Group membership is restricted to representatives from PLMA member organizations, but any organization is welcome to join PLMA. Source: Peak Load Management Alliance, 9/15/14

Ideas welcomed at 2014 Rocky Mountain Utility Efficiency Exchange

With more than 110 utility and energy industry professionals already packing their brief cases for the Rocky Mountain Utility Efficiency ExchangeRedirecting to a non-government site (RMUEE), you may want to take a look at the agenda to see what is attracting such a crowd to Aspen, Colo.

Western Administrator Mark Gabriel was a keynote speaker at the 2013 RMUEE. (Photo by RL Martin)
Western Administrator Mark Gabriel was a keynote speaker at the 2013 RMUEE. (Photo by RL Martin)

Admittedly, scheduling this popular conference for Sept. 24-26 puts it at the height of Colorado’s fall color season, but the real magnet is the diverse and packed agenda.

Now in its eighth year, the RMUEE is the regional conference for the people who design and deliver energy-efficiency programs to residential and business consumers. Look for utility and government program managers to share the speaker’s podium with trade allies who support those programs with cutting-edge products and services. Experts in marketing, finance and technology will weigh in on best practices alongside the people who turn the practices into action—and results!  

Something to talk about
Veterans of past RMUEEs are no doubt looking forward to lively discussions in which they are the “thought leaders.” Newcomers are always welcomed and may only need a little introduction to prepare for sharing their experiences, expertise and opinions with colleagues. The roundtable discussions that open the RMUEE on Wednesday morning are just the thing to put everyone at ease. Representatives from City of Aspen UtilitiesRedirecting to a non-government site, City of Fort Collins UtilitiesRedirecting to a non-government site, Platte River Power AuthorityRedirecting to a non-government site, Poudre Valley Electric CooperativeRedirecting to a non-government site and Colorado Springs UtilitiesRedirecting to a non-government site will stir up dialogue about the challenges that are most on attendees’ minds.

The afternoon sessions highlight specific topics including energy efficiency education, program integration and financing. While these presentations are more structured than roundtable discussions, questions, answers and observations are always encouraged.

The dual-track sessions on Thursday morning break down barriers even more with smaller group presentations. Choose between the residential track and the commercial track, but don’t be surprised to find yourself wishing you could be two places at once.  Don’t worry—you can ask your colleagues what you missed and fill them in on your session choices over lunch. In the afternoon, the whole group will reunite to talk about collaboration, system and building technology and program evaluation and evolution.

Friday brings a change of pace with the return of last year’s popular and fast-paced Switch~TalksRedirecting to a non-government site. Speakers have five minutes and 20 slides to share their thoughts on energy efficiency, renewable resources, the latest technology or anything else that interests them. The RMUEE closes with a screening of the documentary “Watershed,”Redirecting to a non-government site about the management of the Colorado River. This movie is a must-see for anyone who is involved in the delivery of electricity or water in the dry Rocky Mountain region.

And that’s not all
You will undoubtedly hear comments during the sessions that call for more discussion, but proceedings have to move along. Hold those thoughts for the leisurely meals, refreshment breaks and social hours scattered liberally throughout the RMUEE. Any past attendee will tell you that the networking opportunities are just as educational—and sometimes more so—than the formal presentations.

The poster session on Wednesday evening will introduce some new ideas in tasty, bite-sized portions, along with tasty, bite-sized hors d’oeuvres. Grab a beverage and a snack and quiz your colleagues about their mini-presentations on subjects ranging from heat pumps and building-manager training to social media and what it means to be an energy services provider.

Thursday night attendees repair to downtown Aspen to enjoy more socializing. Many a partnership and project have been hatched over a beer or a good meal at one of the city’s fine drinking and dining establishments.

Special guest stars
As usual, exciting keynote speakers will be contributing fresh insights and provocative points of view to the mix. Suzanne Shelton of The Shelton GroupRedirecting to a non-government site sustainability marketing firm returns as opening keynote speaker on Wednesday. Learn what Americans really think about energy efficiency and how those lessons applied to the firm’s recent campaigns, Avoid the Energy DramaRedirecting to a non-government site and FiveworxRedirecting to a non-government site.

James Mandel of the Rocky Mountain InstituteRedirecting to a non-government site will speak on Thursday about the institute’s partnership with the city of Fort Collins to reduce carbon emissions on a community-wide level. The groundbreaking project is yielding, among other things, a new business model for utilities of the future.

Clearly, the program committee, which includes several Western customers as well as Energy Services Manager Ron Horstman, is not afraid to lay the ideas on thick. The RMUEE is where program managers can take a break from the daily challenge of keeping the lights on to imagine their utility’s future. We hope to see you, and your ideas, in Aspen.

Around the Web: Appliance Standards Awareness Project

Customer efficiency programs built around home appliances benefit both utilities and ratepayers, but keeping up with the latest technologies and standards can seem like a full-time job. Fortunately for utility program managers, there is the Appliance Standards Awareness ProjectRedirecting to a non-government site (ASAP) to make the task easier.ASAPlogo

Over the long term, highly efficient appliances are a valuable tool for keeping electricity rates stable by controlling load growth. Raising the efficiency standards for commonly used household appliances can also help to drive down climate-changing pollution while saving Americans billions of dollars annually in electricity costs.

Recognizing the need for more effective standards, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient EconomyRedirecting to a non-government site (ACEEE), Alliance to Save EnergyRedirecting to a non-government site, Energy Foundation and Natural Resources Defense CouncilRedirecting to a non-government site (NRDC) created ASAP in 1999. The coalition spearheads a broad-based effort to advance, win and defend new appliance, equipment and lighting standards. The ASAP steering committee includes representatives from energy and water efficiency organizations, the environmental community, consumer groups, utilities and state government.

Standards corralled
Whether you are planning a new incentive program or answering a customer’s question about efficient equipment and appliances, ASAP’s product table is the resource to bookmark.

Products are categorized as residential, commercial/industrial or lighting. Visitors can see at a glance when the last standard for an appliance was issued, the date the standard took effect, anticipated updates and which states have their own standard for that appliance. Each product is linked to a page describing the appliance and standard in detail and giving key facts about what the standard is intended to accomplish. Water conservation standards are also listed where applicable.

Whys, whens, wheres, hows
ASAP is loaded with resources that can help you persuade supervisors that an appliance rebate program is a good idea, or assist with evaluating an existing program.

Refer your board of directors—or curious customers—to The Basics to educate them on what appliance standards are, how they are developed and what they cover. DOE Rulemaking 101 is a useful overview of the Department of Energy process for setting standards. Given the industry’s stake in efficiency standards, utilities should understand rulemaking so they can provide input. FAQs and a scenario that imagines no appliance standards wrap up the primer on the importance of efficiency standards.

ASAP can help you sort out the sometimes-confusing differences between national and state standards. National standards apply to products manufactured or imported for sale into the U.S., while state standards apply to products sold or installed in a specific state. DOE reviews and updates national standards to keep pace with advancing technology, but states frequently take the lead in setting new standards (California, we are looking at you!) Visitors will find resources related to DOE rulemaking, laws and regulations on the national page, and current and historic state standards on the state page. An interactive map allows you to download a report on how national standards have benefited each state.

And that ain’t all…
Wrap up your research with a visit to Reports and Resources, where you will find fact sheets, consensus agreements for new national standards, comment filings, testimony, and laws and regulations. Links can put you in touch with other organizations that can help you navigate codes and standards nationally and regionally.

Lunchtime Webinar makes case for cost-effectiveness of utility energy-efficiency programs

April 16, 12 p.m. Central Time
The Clean Energy AmbassadorsRedirecting to a non-government site return in April with a webinar that helps to answer a question faced by many utility program managers: Is launching an energy-efficiency program a good investment for our utility?

Creating and implementing a customer program from scratch takes time and—yes—money. The board of directors, and even upper management, may see such programs as costing the utility more than they return.

Helping Your Utility Understand the Cost Effectiveness of Energy Efficiency will introduce you to cost tests that can help utilities decide what energy-efficiency measures are worth it. Dave Houser, formerly with the National Center for Appropriate TechnologyRedirecting to a non-government site will walk participants through the tests and help them navigate the alphabet soup of the cost test world.   

The Lunchtime Webinar Series is a monthly presentation by the Clean Energy Ambassadors. The hour-long events help utilities save money and better serve their customers. The material specifically targets issues faced by consumer-owned power providers serving rural areas and small towns in the Great Plains and the West. Expect candid and informal discussions that encourage the sharing of ideas among peers. If you have any questions, please contact Conor Tokaz at 406-969-1040.

Home energy checkup can find costly ailments

This excellent article from IntelligentUtility Redirecting to a non-government site illustrates the value of utility-provided home energy audits.

Jaspal Subhlok, a computer science professor at the University of Houston, thought his 1920s-era Montrose bungalow was ship-shape when it came to electricity efficiency.

Subhlok, who has owned the house since 2004, typically keeps his house at a moderate 78 degrees in the summer. He bought an energy-efficient refrigerator, energy-saving light bulbs and installed double-layered window shades for his front windows, to keep out the worst of Houston’s wilting summer heat. Read more. Source: IntelligentUtility, 9/23/13

Free webinar focuses on community-wide lighting efficiency

Tuesday, Feb. 19
Noon CST

Lighting is becoming more and more energy efficient, and upgrades continue to offer low-hanging fruit that utilities aren’t capturing. Join utility program managers for the Lunchtime Webinar, Best Opportunities for Community-wide Lighting Upgrades Redirecting to a non-government site to learn how they improved lighting efficiency, not just for a few businesses or homes, but for the entire community.

Register for this free event today. Please contact Anthony Cutler at 406-969-1040, if you have any questions.

Clean Energy Ambassadors  Redirecting to a non-government site presents its Lunchtime Webinar series on the third Tuesday of each month. Candid, informal discussions center on ways consumer-owned utilities can save money and better serve their customers. Webinars are held from 12 to 1 p.m. Central time (11 a.m.-12 p.m. Mountain).

ACEEE: Energy-efficiency programs evolve to achieve greater savings

New technologies and innovative program designs are combining to create energy-efficiency programs that can meet the aggressive saving targets many states are setting, according to a new report from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy Redirecting to a non-government site (ACEEE).

Frontiers of Energy Efficiency: Next Generation Programs Reach for High Energy Savings finds that these next-generation technologies and programs can potentially achieve and sustain savings as high as 27 percent of forecasted electricity use and 19 percent of forecasted natural gas use by 2030. “As our report shows, new technologies and practices plus new program approaches unlock further opportunities to achieve large energy savings,” said Dan York, ACEEE utilities program director, and lead-author of the report.

Energy-efficiency programs for utility customers have been in place for over three decades in many areas in the United States. In the last 10 years, policies establishing high, specific energy savings targets have contributed to significant growth of these programs. For example, increasingly stringent building codes and energy-efficiency standards for appliances and other technologies are moving baselines for energy-efficiency performance higher.

The challenge facing these programs over the next two decades is to continue to achieve and sustain high savings levels. Certain types of programs in particular are having difficulty achieving high participation rates. The report profiles technologies and programs that offer an answer to these concerns.

While savings opportunities exist for all types of customers, the report finds some of the greatest potential exists for renovations and retrofits of homes and commercial buildings. Lighting also remains a large source of energy savings along with building mechanical systems and a variety of electronics.

Reaching more customers is another direction for next generation programs. Better data analytics improve understanding of more narrowly defined customer segments, enabling program administrators to focus incentives and marketing. Programs serving historically hard-to-reach customers, such as multifamily housing residents and manufactured home owners, are finding more success.

Another clear trend across program portfolios is an emphasis on better understanding customer behavior and motivations. Utilities are using such insights to design programs that engage greater numbers of customers to take actions that save energy.

The report examines a total of 22 different program types and concepts, from residential lighting to commercial buildings to industrial processes, along with a wide range of energy-efficiency technologies, including light-emitting diode (LED) lighting; high-efficiency heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) equipment; and combined heat and power (CHP) systems. The authors interviewed a large number of experts on customer programs and technologies, and collected numerous examples of these leading principles and practices in action.

Maggie Molina, ACEEE state policy senior manager and report co-author, called the report a valuable resource for utilities looking to help consumers save money by using less energy. “With a wealth of information on the leading edge of program designs and energy-efficiency technologies, this report shows that program designers have an increasing number of options to achieve greater energy efficiency,” she said. Source: American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, 1/9/13

Nominate your energy-efficiency program for ACEEE 3rd National Review

 Deadline: Oct. 5, 2012

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) is accepting nominations Redirecting to a non-government site for its 3rd National Review of Exemplary Energy Efficiency Programs.

The review recognizes and profiles America’s leading utility sector energy-efficiency programs. ACEEE seeks exemplary programs across the full spectrum of customers and program types for both electric and natural gas customers. With the most recent national review completed in 2008, it’s time for a new look at the best utility-sector energy efficiency programs.  

An expert panel will review and assess nominated programs to select the most noteworthy and successful programs-those that embody best practices, deliver proven energy savings cost-effectively, and provide high value to customers. ACEEE will award these programs a “Certificate of Recognition” and feature them in the council’s compendium of program profiles to be published in spring of 2013.

ACEEE is looking for leading examples of energy-efficiency programs for all types of customers (residential, commercial, industrial, agricultural) and end-uses. The only constraint is that they must be “utility sector” energy-efficiency programs—funded by customers through utility rates, public benefits charges, or other similar utility revenue mechanisms. The programs may be administered by utilities, government agencies or “third party” independent administrators. Both electric and natural gas programs are eligible. Programs recognized in ACEEE’s 2003 and 2008 reviews are eligible for this new review. In these cases, program data and results must be updated to reflect the latest information available.

For more information, contact Seth Nowak at 608-256-9155, or nominate programs online Redirecting to a non-government site. Nominations are due by midnight, Oct. 5, 2012.