DGIC announces new website, case studies, webinar schedule

Artwork by Distributed Generation Interconnection Collaborative

Utilities faced with questions posed by the growth of residential photovoltaic (PV) systems and the emergence of battery storage can find answers with the Distributed Generation Interconnection Collaborative (DGIC). This forum enables electric utilities, solar industry participants and other stakeholders to exchange best practices for distributed PV interconnection.

Now in its fourth year, the DGIC has updated its website to make it easier for visitors to find exactly what they are looking for. Content is organized by four topic areas:

  • Data transparency
  • Business models and regulation
  • Application processing
  • Analytical methods for interconnection
  • Technology solutions

Webinars, reports and blog articles are just a click away, and DGIC can easily add the latest research on distributed generation coming from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. You will want to bookmark the new website and visit regularly to check for updates.

Suggest case studies
Do you know of an organization doing high-quality, innovative work on the interconnection of distributed generation? You can nominate that organization to be profiled in a series of case studies DGIC is planning to produce. The case studies will extend DGIC’s peer exchange beyond the webinar format to highlight leading practices in the field.

Help DGIC identify industry leaders by submitting your nominations by April 30. The nomination form will remain open after that date but only nominations received by the deadline will be considered for completion in 2017.

Attend webinars
The DGIC webinar schedule for 2017 has been released and it showcases a diverse array of topics and expert speakers from utilities, research organizations and other industry participants.

The peer exchange events begin April 5 with Energy Storage Permitting, Interconnection, and AnalysisYou are leaving WAPA.gov. This webinar will focus on one of the most talked about and fastest growing distributed energy resources in the country. This relatively new technology has the ability to act as both a load and a generator, posing unique challenges when interconnecting to the grid. Attendees will learn about permitting, interconnection requirements, and the specific analytical needs of energy storage systems.

Distributed Solar for Smaller UtilitiesYou are leaving WAPA.gov. on May 18, will highlight the experiences of smaller utilities that are shifting their business processes, staffing, planning and operations to integrate distributed solar into their systems.

The July 19 webinar, Plug-and-Play SolarYou are leaving WAPA.gov. will discuss new technologies and techniques that could reduce equipment and labor costs, but may require changes to interconnection standards and procedures.

The webinar series concludes in September with Aggregation of Distributed Energy Resources which will feature lessons learned from utilities exploring the possibility of putting a variety of distributed resources under unified operational control. The date and registration information for this webinar will be announced later this year.

All scheduled webinars will be presented from 12 to 1 P.M. Mountain Time. There is no cost to participate, but registration is required.

Source: The Distributed Generation Interconnection Collaborative, 2/24/17

Equipment Loan Program changes with the times

Chris Lyles, who took over as the new manager of WAPA’s Equipment Loan Program in August, is making some updates to the popular program that reflect the changing needs of our customers, as well as advances in technology.

The Equipment Loan Program stocks infrared cameras, power meters and other diagnostic tools for WAPA customers to borrow free of charge.
The Equipment Loan Program stocks infrared cameras, power meters and other diagnostic tools for WAPA customers to borrow free of charge.

Planning the future
The increasing availability of easy-to-use diagnostic tools is prompting Lyles to look at new ways the Equipment Loan Program can support WAPA customers. “It’s possible now to walk into Home Depot and pick up a pocket-sized infrared (IR) camera for a few hundred dollars that will serve the purpose for a home energy audit,” he observed. “So we are asking ourselves what other needs our customers have that the program can meet.”

One answer is to stock more sophisticated versions of consumer-level tools for linemen and electricians to use for industrial audits and transmission and distribution system maintenance. The boroscope, for example, allows the user to take thermal images in tight spaces where just pointing and shooting with an IR camera might fail to pinpoint the problem. Utility field crews can use the LineTracker power monitor to diagnose fast-moving and minute malfunctions in overhead lines.

Providing instruction on the proper use of borrowed equipment is another one of Lyles’s goals. Currently, customers can find general equipment training resources on the Energy Services website, but Lyles has something more specific in mind. WAPA plans to produce videos that explain how to use the equipment, and post them on WAPA’s YouTube channel. The URLs will be sent to customers in place of physical manuals when they borrow a tool, providing a quicker, easier start when using the equipment. Perhaps most importantly, the customized videos will give customers a more personal connection to Energy Services and WAPA.

Help shape the program
The Equipment Loan Program and Energy Services have always provided WAPA customers with a direct line to technical assistance and support for their maintenance, load management and planning needs. Those needs have evolved—a slow-sounding word for the rapid-fire change occurring in our industry—and we want to make sure our services keep pace. Your input, suggestions and feedback are crucial to the direction the program takes.

Tell us what kinds of tools you would like to see added to our library. “Our equipment inventory should reflect that we understand the changes going on in the industry and that we know how to help our customers deal with them,” Lyles explained.

If you know of an online resource that gave you a better understanding of a borrowed tool, share that with Energy Services. The same goes for that clever solution you discovered while using it. The Equipment Loan Program is your program and we are eager to hear how we can better serve you.

Roseville customers get solar advice they can trust

Recognizing customer needs in the growing residential solar market, Roseville Electric Utility You are leaving WAPA.gov. has developed a program to help homeowners make sound decisions about installing solar systems and, in the process, is increasing customer satisfaction.Got solar questions? I've got answers. Connect with your Trusted Solar Advisor today at Roseville.ca.us/solar.

Solar installers are now marketing more aggressively to consumers who are definitely interested but want to be better informed before investing in a system. This creates an opening for utilities to become trusted energy advisors, said Alanya Schofield, a senior director at consulting firm E Source.

Schofield made her remarks at the American Public Power Association’s You are leaving WAPA.gov.(APPA) Public Power Forward summit in November and participated in a panel that included Roseville Electric Utility Director Michelle Bertolino. Public Power Forward is an APPA strategic initiative to help public power utilities prepare for a new era in electricity.

Seeing, meeting need
California passed a law in 2015 requiring utilities to get 50 percent of their electricity from renewables by 2030, increased from the previous goal of 33 percent by 2020. Many public power utilities in the state, however, have been proactively encouraging clean power and energy efficiency for years. Roseville Electric Utility’s Trusted Solar Advisor program is just the latest among many examples.

Roseville Electric Utility launched the program in April 2014, in response to the growing number of customers calling with questions about installing solar arrays. A promotional campaign and workshops followed to introduce the website to customers.

Educating first
The website provides a starting point for customers who are trying to figure out if solar is right for them. A solar calculator—the WattPlan created by Clean Power Research You are leaving WAPA.gov. —allows customers to make cost-benefit comparisons based on electricity use, generation, financing options and system size.

Visitors will also find frequently asked questions and information about rebates Roseville offers for solar installation. The Trusted Solar Advisor stresses the importance of doing efficiency upgrades first, and links to a DIY Home Energy Analyzer. You are leaving WAPA.gov.

Install when ready
Once a customer decides to go forward with a solar installation, the permitting process begins. Roseville customers can download the residential PV packet and find links to residential and business installation and interconnection forms.

Rather than maintain an approved contractor list, the utility provides helpful resources. The website includes links to Go Solar California, You are leaving WAPA.gov. sponsored by the California Energy Commission, and the Contractor State Licensing Board You are leaving WAPA.gov. so that customers can ensure their contractors have a valid license.

Staying neutral and staying current are the keys to gaining customer trust, noted Energy Program Technician David Dominguez. “We focus on making sure we give our customers the most relevant and up-to-date information,” he said. “That allows them to come to their own conclusions.”

Dominguez, who handles the utility’s retrofit solar interconnections, is the Trusted Solar Advisor and he was answering customers’ solar questions before Roseville created the program. Some customers just feel more comfortable talking to a representative, or they may still have questions after visiting the website, Dominguez acknowledged. “But now, with the website, when people call, they often have a much better idea of what they need to know.”

Source: Public Power Daily, 11/29/16

Learn more about WAPA from these resources

Our mission in Energy Services is to keep WAPA customers informed about tools and technologies that help you with resource planning. Now, for those who would like to know more about how WAPA works and why, we offer two online resources: The Source and The Customer Circuit.

The theme for the Customer Circuit Spring 2016 was working with Washington D.C.
The theme for the Customer Circuit Spring 2016 was working with Washington D.C.

Launched in spring of this year, The Source is a one-stop online shop for operational data and financial information about WAPA. Western Administrator and CEO Mark A. Gabriel explained, “We recognize people’s desire to have information at their fingertips. With that in mind, we created this site for stakeholders and the public to quickly find the information they need. When our customers have requests, we are well positioned to deliver.”

Nearly all the information is already available throughout Western’s primary website. The Source, however, provides one convenient location for visitors to find WAPA’s annual reports, budget allocation, presentations and speeches, regional rates and a searchable index of WAPA’s power systems called “By the Numbers.”

The Customer Circuit is a quarterly newsletter that provides customers with information about WAPA’s operations, programs, budget and initiatives. Each issue explores a specific theme; the most recent issue includes a story about how WAPA’s Washington, D.C., Liaison Office works with other federal agencies. The winter issue covered the state of WAPA’s assets including regional offices, hydrology conditions, transmission, security and cyber assets. Customers and other visitors can download the Customer Circuit, including past issues, on The Source.

The Source and Customer Circuit, like WAPA’s website redesign project, are all part of the same effort to enhance and expand transparency and to improve our website functionality. We encourage customers to visit the WAPA website and take the redesign survey. If you would like to have more input in how WAPA shares information with its customers, contact Public Affairs at 720-962-7050, to volunteer for remote user testing.

Chief Public Affairs Officer Teresa Waugh said, “Our goal is to present relevant and timely information in the clearest, most efficient way possible.”

Western needs customer help to update website

Communication with customers is the key to productive business relationships, and the Energy Services website is how we maintain that dialogue. So we are excited to be a part of the project to redesign Western’s agency-wide website, because it gives us the opportunity to ask you what kind of changes you would like to see.

To ensure that the new design meets your needs, we are asking you, our customers, to weigh in with your ideas and experiences. When you visit any page on the Energy Services website, you will notice a line at the top of the page, “Help us re-design this page. Click here to assist.” Follow that link to complete a short questionnaire about your use of the website.

Energy Services visitors can help out by paying particular attention to question 7. This is where you can offer specific suggestions about the website. Don’t pull any punches—let us know what works for you, what doesn’t, what you would like to see more of and what leaves you scratching your head.

If you really want to make a difference in the direction of the website redesign, fill out the form on question 8. We will contact you to schedule a short user testing session, where we share our screen with you. You will be asked to locate content within the site, talk about your experience navigating through it and offer suggestions on improving your experience. The whole process should take about 30 minutes or less, and you would be making a great contribution to Energy Services and your fellow customers. You may also contact the Energy Service Bulletin editor if you are interested in participating in user testing.

Maintaining a website for a rapidly changing and highly technical industry like the utility industry requires constant vigilance and ongoing communication. We appreciate your input on our website content, now and in the future.

Energy Experts hotline, website discontinued

As part of an effort to serve our customers more effectively, Western has discontinued the Energy Experts hotline and website.  Our Energy Services website still provides plenty of technical assistance resources and information on integrated resource planning, along with a direct connection to your Western regional representative.

Watch for new tools and calculators to help you plan your load management programs and consumer energy programs. We welcome suggestions from customers who have found online tools that proved useful in their planning efforts.

We are still here to answer your questions about energy-efficiency measures, new technologies and customer service programs. Contact Western’s Energy Services program manager at 720-962-7419, and please don’t hesitate to share other ideas and feedback about how Energy Services can best support your utility.

Planning at heart of Energy Services

The utility business may seem dry and matter-of-fact to consumers, but those in the business know it is a rollercoaster ride. To keep the lights on and the electricity affordable, power providers must balance a host of competing demands: renewable portfolio standards, carbon regulations, state mandates, federal mandates, customer desires, environmental concerns, new technology, aging infrastructure. The only way to keep all the plates spinning is to think ahead, and that is where Energy Services comes in.

Energy Services exists to facilitate the resource planning that Western’s firm power contracts require. Firm power customers must complete a comprehensive integrated resource plan (IRP) every five years, along with annual updates. “That may sound like a lot of reports,” acknowledged Energy Services Manager Ron Horstman, “but circumstances change so quickly in this industry, a business plan can easily be out of date in 12 months or less. It was true in 1992 when congress passed EPAct, and it is doubly so today.”

More than good idea, it’s law
EPAct, the Energy Policy Act of 1992, established the IRP requirement to ensure that Western firm power customers are using their federal hydropower allocations efficiently. Also, it encourages utilities to engage in long-term planning, a process that benefits any business, regardless of size, location, regulatory environment and a host of other influential factors. “Low-cost hydropower from federal dams is crucial to keeping the nation’s electricity supply affordable, especially for small towns and rural communities,” Horstman pointed out. “Our rivers are among the nation’s greatest resources and they belong to the general public. Western has a responsibility to protect the health of those waterways and to make sure that the greatest possible number of public utilities have access to it.”

In 1995, Western adopted the Energy Planning and Management Program (EPAMP) setting out the IRP requirements and launching the Power Marketing Initiative (PMI) for marketing long-term firm hydropower. The PMI provides resource pools of power that Western can allocate to new customers.

Not only does resource planning extend the availability of federal hydropower, it helps utilities provide the services their communities want and need to stay vibrant and thrive. But any process that accomplishes so much is bound to be complicated, especially for frequently understaffed small co-ops and municipalities. To provide Western customers with the technical assistance to facilitate effective planning, EPAMP commissioned Western’s Energy Services Program.

It’s complicated
The IRP is as much an ongoing process as it is a plan, the point of which is to provide a utility’s consumers with adequate and reliable service at the lowest cost to the system. The definition of the “lowest cost” has been changing as utilities realize that they must consider factors beyond the price tag of a kilowatt. Increasingly, consumers are calling on power providers to address environmental, political, social, economic and technical concerns in their plans as well. These concerns carry their own indirect costs that a more sophisticated public expects the utility to acknowledge and mitigate.

Determining the optimum approach requires the utility to evaluate a range of different resources and strategies on both sides of the meter. The planning process might assess new generating capacity, power purchases, energy conservation and efficiency, co-generation and district heating and cooling applications and renewable energy resources, to name a few.

A certain amount of economic forecasting must be part of the process, too. A community can change a lot in five years, with the population growing or shrinking, businesses coming to the area or leaving and new energy-consuming technologies reaching the mainstream.

Ideally, the utility will reach out to its consumers throughout the planning process to discuss their expectations and share upcoming challenges. This “public participation process” is critical to crafting comprehensive solutions and getting buy-in from consumers on implementing the plan.

An assistance buffet
Since rolling all these considerations into one plan is about as easy as it sounds, our customers need all the information Energy Services can provide and that turns out to be a lot.

  • Knowledgeable staff—Our technical assistance menu begins with our people. Customers with questions about their IRPs can contact Horstman or their regional representative.
  • Robust website—The Energy Services website is the next stop in the search for guidance, inspiration and industry news. On the home page, visitors will find links to calculators for estimating energy use by air conditioning and heating systems, pool pumps and irrigation equipment. These calculators can help utility program managers make the case to consumers for equipment upgrades, or estimate potential savings from incentive programs. An interactive calendar on the home page displays upcoming workshops, conferences, webinars and other training opportunities focused on energy use.
  • Technical servicesWashington State University Energy Extension, You are leaving WAPA.gov. which created the calculators and the calendar, provides other technical services to aid with planning. Western customers can ask questions about specific technologies or programs to the Energy Experts hotline by calling 800-769-3756, or submitting their question online. Visitors might research successful energy management programs using the Energy Solutions database, or the Utility Options database. Users can also submit their own examples of innovative programs to Utility Options.
  • Equipment Loan Program—Western customers who need special equipment to implement a program can borrow it free of charge from the Equipment Loan Program. An equipment loan is a good way to test drive a tool before you buy it or to get the use of an expensive piece of equipment that is not in your utility’s budget this year. Borrow infrared cameras, power meters and more to perform audits on consumer homes and businesses or maintenance on your own system. Bring educational kits and diagnostic tools to customer meetings and schools. A quick visit to the extensive library of training resources will get you up to speed on how to use the tool.

Library on your desktop
Effective planning requires utilities to stay on top of best practices, new technologies and the changing political scene. The Energy Services Bulletin features stories on the latest industry news about reports, policies, education opportunities and—most important—our customers. Western customers are  the mother lode of ideas for load management strategies and portfolio diversification.

The blog just scratches the surface, however. Energy Services also publishes guides, fact sheets and collateral material on topics related to energy efficiency. Better yet, we can customize those publications with utility logos so our customers can use them in their consumer education programs.

Resources,” as the name implies, connects utilities with other agencies that can help them shape their own future. Visitors will find lists of carefully curated links to organizations specializing in energy and water conservation, renewable energy, project funding and incentive programs to name a few.

Putting it in writing
Armed with proven programs, a clear picture of the road ahead and a nimble strategy for navigating it, utilities must overcome one more obstacle in the planning process: Fear of Paperwork.

Yes, customers still have to produce a plan that checks off all the boxes in an arcane-seeming rule, but Energy Services has that covered too. The online IRP Compliance Training walks customers through the process step by step, with clear explanations of what they need to put into their reports. A quick refresher course in the form of IRP and alternative plan checklists comes in handy for seasoned planning pros in charge of annual updates.

More lessons from the trenches can be found in actual customer IRPs, available online. These examples offer a great opportunity to find out what worked for other utilities in your area and how they presented their plan.

There is no replacement for being prepared when you face a long journey down a twisting road of shifting priorities, disruptive and new technologies and unanticipated challenges. Each Western customer must chart its own course, but Western Energy Services is here to point the direction toward the final destination of reliable, affordable and sustainable power.

Webinar introduces tool for comparing efficient building products, technologies

Aug. 27
12 p.m. Pacific Time

Commercial building engineers and designers are often hesitant to incorporate new or underused energy-efficiency technologies and products because, in many cases, they cannot verify the performance claims. To overcome this barrier to adoption, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory is collaborating with other agencies to create the Technology Performance Exchange (TPEx).

This web-based database compiles unbiased product energy performance data onpromising energy-efficiency and renewable energy technologies. Consumers, manufacturers, vendors, modelers, researchers and utilities can leverage reliable data to improve their assessments and comparisons of building-related products.

The next free webinar in the “Emerging Technologies Showcase” series highlights the TPEx. Register for the webinarRedirecting to a non-government site to learn more about the web tool’s status and potential, and how utilities, manufacturers and research institutions can further its development. A question and answer session follows the presentation.

Sponsored by Bonneville Power Administration, and supported by Western, the Emerging Technologies Showcase series brings you the latest information about promising energy-efficiency technologies and practices.

All webinars are recorded and available on the Emerging Energy Efficiency Technologies websiteRedirecting to a non-government site and ConduitRedirecting to a non-government site energy efficiency resource.

NREL launches website for distributed PV group

A working group created to provide a forum for exploring issues and solutions related to deploying grid-connected, distributed photovoltaic (PV) resources now has a website where members and stakeholders can find the latest information on the topic.

The Distributed Generation Interconnection Collaborative (DGIC) aims to bring utilities and other energy industry professionals together to arrive at innovative approaches to distributed generation that address concerns of time, costs, grid safety and reliability. The website, hosted by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), provides visitors with a meeting schedule, contact information and a link to registration. Presentations from past webinars are available to download, no password necessary.

DGIC invites stakeholders to participate in monthly webinars focusing on specific PV interconnection practices and related research. Minimum Day Time Load Calculation and ScreeningRedirecting to a non-government site is the subject of the next meeting on April 30. It is the first in a three-part series on supplemental screening procedures. Discussions will cover current and emerging processes and protocols for interconnecting distributed PV, with the goal of encouraging stakeholders to share information and data to improve practices.

Western is partnering with NREL and the Electric Power Research InstituteRedirecting to a non-government site to sponsor the Distributed Generation Interconnection Collaborative. “Western customers are at both ends of the spectrum in terms of experience integrating solar, and at all points in between,” noted Randy Manion, Western Renewable Energy Program manager. “We would like to see as many utilities as possible get involved in DGIC, because each one has something unique and valuable to contribute to the conversation.”

Meetings generally occur on the last Wednesday of each month, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. MDT. Participation is free but registration is required. Topics to be covered in upcoming webinars include:

  • Lessons Learned with Early PV Plant Integration
  • Supplemental Screening Procedures: Voltage and Power Quality
  • Supplemental Screening Procedures: Safety and Reliability
  • Interconnection as Part of a Strategic Resource Planning Process

For more information on how to participate in the DGIC, visit the website or contact Kristen Ardani, NREL Solar Technology Markets and Policy Analyst, at 303-384-6461.

Around the web: LED streetlight retrofit calculator

http://www.streetlightingfla.com/roi.htm Redirecting to a non-government siteAroundTheWeb

In just a few short years, LEDs—light-emitting diodes—have jumped from being a specialty product to being the standard for new lighting. From small towns like Fountain, Colo., to megalopolises like Los Angeles Redirecting to a non-government site, municipalities are updating their public spaces with highly efficient, easy-to-maintain LED streetlights.

There are many reasons for cities to consider upgrading public lighting to LEDs. According to the Energy Department, the United States could avoid 1,800 million metric tons of carbon emissions by switching entirely to LED lights over the next two decades. Municipalities with Dark Sky ordinances Redirecting to a non-government site might choose LEDs that provide cutoff and semi-cutoff Redirecting to a non-government site for compliant solutions.

When it comes to capital projects, however, the bottom line often carries the day, and here, too, LEDs justify their installation. By reducing the cost of ownership, LED lighting quickly offsets the higher upfront costs of the technology. For example, Los Angeles estimates that the new streetlights will reduce its annual electric bill by at least $7 million, and save another $2.5 million through reduced maintenance needs.

Still, every case is different, so before presenting a proposal to your city council, get the hard numbers from the LED Universal ROI [return on investment] Calculator. Developed by Street Lighting Equipment Corp., this calculator gives payback time, both the annual and lifetime savings for energy, maintenance and carbon dioxide production. You can also use it to calculate return on investment for other types of lighting technology. 

The cost of LED fixtures continues to drop as the technology improves, so high-efficiency streetlights are increasingly within the reach of many municipal budgets. Visit the ROI calculator today to find out what LEDs could do for your city’s operating costs. If the results look good (or great), you may not want to wait for the next round of capital replacements. Funding for retrofit projects may be available through your state energy office Redirecting to a non-government site or the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development Program. You can also search Grants.gov for federal grant opportunities.