How will Title 24 affect energy efficiency programs moving forward?

AJBOn July 1, 2014, California’s Energy Commission dropped a regulatory bomb on the energy efficiency industry. Its name is Title 24, a set of aggressive building standards that aims to reduce energy usage by drastically changing the baseline for new construction and existing building retrofits. For turnkey energy efficiency programs, this change could spell the end of an era. Before 2012, implementing a lighting project for a small or medium sized business was a relatively straightforward affair. Savings were calculated based on the wattage delta between the existing and replacement measures. Continue reading

The Smarter Home – How about the regulated utility’s role?

LUISAFREEMANTIME Magazine recently published an extensive series of articles in its July 7th special report called The Smarter Home. The various articles showcase a range of consumer technologies that can be remotely controlled—or control themselves (e.g., the NEST thermostat)—to improve the home environment and consumers’ daily lives.  The overall theme that can be gleaned from this issue is that wireless technology is providing an important platform that will increasingly allow people to interact with their gadgets, appliances, and various home systems to provide them better services. Continue reading

The future of Distributed Energy Resources in retail markets: What’s next?

Kanlier_PRINTThe 2014 Retail Energy Executive ForumTM brought together leaders in the retail energy industry to facilitate discussions about differentiating between price and non-price products and services, retail and wholesale price and contracting dynamics, the role of M&A, and partnerships in retailers’ growth strategies, while also addressing potential scenarios that may evolve in an incredibly competitive environment with compressed margins and no new competitive markets expected to open in the foreseeable future. Participants shared their perspectives on forecasts, trends, and customer relationships, while also generating excitement about the potential paths forward for competitive retail energy markets. Continue reading

How do you cope with the “double risk trend” in reliability? (Part 2)

Peter Vaessen - smallThis is the second post in a series of blogs that discusses how to cope with “the double risk” trend in reliability, and how smart transmission and distribution grids can mitigate this risk. In my first blog I introduced the double risk trend and provided some background information on reliability. In this blog I will elaborate on the five factors that highly contribute to this double risk trend, as well as discuss how they will shape the future of the electric power system. These factors include:

1)    Increasing age of (most) western power systems
2)    Growing complexity and interdependencies
3)    Time duration of the planning process for generation plants and transmission & distribution (T&D) infrastructure
4)    Geographic distribution of generation and load
5)    Flexibility to balance between supply and demand
Continue reading

Industrial Efficiency: A Tale of Two Continents – Part 1: U.S. Manufacturing Renaissance

John Sheffield“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom…” –A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens

The U.S. industrial sector will soon become the country’s largest energy consumer, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) 2014 Annual Energy Outlook (AEO) report. (See Figure 1.) This U.S. Manufacturing Renaissance has been stimulated, in part, by abundant and cheap natural gas. By 2040, the manufacturing share of total U.S. energy consumption will be 18 percent as projected in the AEO 2014 report, compared with 16 percent in the 2013 report. Continue reading

How much energy efficiency savings can we count on?

FCoito_photoThis is a question we hear frequently from resource planners, energy efficiency program administrators, and policy makers as energy efficiency is becoming more of a preferred resource. The answer: conduct an energy efficiency potential study and find out.

Energy efficiency potential studies are designed to estimate the magnitude of the energy efficiency resource and the costs of obtaining it. In a typical study, three types of energy efficiency potential are addressed:

  • Technical potential, which identifies savings available if all conceivable energy efficiency measures are installed in all feasible market segments and applications
  • Economic potential, which identifies the amount of technical potential that is cost-effective when compared to supply-side alternatives
  • Achievable potential, the amount of savings that would occur in response to program initiatives, taking into account level of program effort and customer likeliness to implement measures

Continue reading

Offshore costs: shape-up or ship-out

Joe Phillips 150x200I am currently trying to get into shape. The (early) onset of middle-aged spread means that I find myself on a wacky diet and exercise regime in an effort to look and feel better. As I write this on a day of fasting, I can attest that it can feel like an uphill battle. Yes, you’ve guessed it, here comes the tenuous analogy: as the offshore wind sector gets to grips with its own existential challenge—that of cost reduction—it too has a range of options to consider, if it is going to shed the pounds (or Euros for that matter).

Scaling-up the supply chain can be thought of as industrial weight-training—hitting the gym in order to establish a strong manufacturing base, capable of delivering cost reduction over time through economies of scale in production and learning effects in construction. But rather like cash-strapped gym-subscribers, the UK and German Governments have scaled back market size, which has in turn diminished supply chain confidence. Despite this and against a background of stuttering installation rates over the last few years, the industry has got to the point where it now has its own supply chain—largely decoupled from the previously competing needs of onshore wind and Oil & Gas sectors. A solid, if limited, range of experienced and credit-worthy contractors are now available to project developers in the procurement market. So perhaps “mega market scale” was not the panacea some held it up to be. The industry appears to have reached some level of critical mass in establishing the underlying industrial infrastructure needed. Continue reading

Can cities become islands?

Frits Verheij-smallLast week, more than 2,000 people attended 32 events in Brussels during the annual European Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW). As a result of last week, another 700 Energy Days have been organised in more than 40 countries across Europe and beyond.

Demand response, energy storage, and other solutions to create a smart energy system have recently been mentioned in various events. Others plea for standardisation, and talk more to the importance of interoperability; all needed to coop with distributed generation and the fast growing number of renewable energy systems. However, what strikes me most is the passionate speakers sharing their experiences and results in local energy communities. They all took a step-by-step approach and have close relationships with the local people making them part of the energy community instead of treating them as “end-users.” Two examples came from islands—one from the Orkneys in Scotland and one from Krk in Croatia. People living on islands have a special bond with their fellow islanders and, thus, can create energy communities in a rather natural way. Continue reading

Microgrids – Gaining experience and momentum

Walter Levesque PhotoThe economic value of a microgrid, at least for a single user, is sometimes reduced to two elements: its value in providing power when the rest of the grid is not functioning, and its ability to reduce energy cost. When one doesn’t have power its value is more appreciated, but quantifying the value for an economic analysis can be difficult. When there is loss of product or production it can be quantified. Not so when an outage represents an inconvenience. And, when the loss of power results in a life threatening situation to the user, an economic analysis will seem irrelevant.

The second element, reducing energy cost, could be a simple cost-benefit analysis of grid power and the associated tariff structures versus a single source of generation such as solar or combined heat and power (CHP). Sellers of these technologies have models that provide a payback analysis. However, what if you are considering multiple sources of generation and you’d like to consider storage? What if your objective is to minimize carbon or maximize the time your microgrid can remain isolated from the larger grid? In these cases, an optimization analysis of a portfolio of energy assets is required. Continue reading

The ins and outs of residential water savings

Water conservation is becoming increasingly important, especially in periods of extended drought like our friends in Southern California are experiencing. There are simple and effective ways you can significantly reduce water consumption at your home and benefit both your household and the wider community.

1) Swap your faucet aerators for models rated at 1.5 gallons per minute (GPM) at the kitchen sink and 1.0 GPM in the bathroom. Traditional faucets use 2.2 GPM.  According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), these efficient aerators offer water savings of 32 to 45 percent.

2) If the average family replaced its high-flow toilet with a high-efficiency toilet, water use could be reduced up to 60 percent. That’s nearly 13,000 gallons of water saved per year! It’s also important to periodically test your toilet flapper for leaks. Simply drop some food coloring in the tank and see if it appears at the bottom of the bowl. If it does, pick up a new toilet flapper the next time you’re at the hardware store. They’re inexpensive and you can install them yourself. Continue reading