BONNEVILLE POWER ADMINISTRATION IS PROPOSING a wholesale rate discount to encourage energy conservation and renewable energy initiatives by its customers. This concept, contained in BPA's subscription proposal for federal power sales beginning in 2001, is widely seen as viable, although many details remain to be decided.
Also on the policy front, a new report from a Washington advocacy group envisions the Northwest as a clean energy mecca, with the help of supportive public policies. We also track the pending creation of the Renewable Technical Forum, which would track, assess and develop evaluation standards for Northwest conservation (and to some extent renewables).
The renowned WashWise market transformation program is undergoing its own transformation, with an end to rebates, a new name and a shift in focus to marketing resource-efficient clothes washers. The Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, which supports what is now known as the Energy Star Resource-Efficient Clothes Washer program, also continues to consider potential new market transformation projects.
Over in the Rocky Mountains, the Wyoming Wind Energy Project, owned by two Northwest utilities, is almost ready to begin commercial operation. And one of the owners, Eugene Water & Electric Board, plans to offer its retail customers a chance to buy wind-generated power.
Washington Water Power, meanwhile, wants to indefinitely extend its landmark demand-side management distribution charge.
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Bonneville Power Administration has proposed offering wholesale rate discounts for its customers that invest in energy conservation and renewable energy.
This novel approach to encouraging conservation and renewables initiatives in the Northwest is an important element of BPA's recent proposal for subscription to federal power beginning in 2001.
Although major details of the conservation/renewables rate discount are yet unknown--such as the amount and the qualifications--the idea at least has generated interest around the region.
"The early returns are [that] this is something that can be workable," said BPA energy efficiency vice president Terry Esvelt. "So far it's looking very promising . . . I've been getting positive feedback that, given there's a number of implementation questions yet before us, the concept seems to be attractive."
BPA is accepting public comments on the subscription proposal through Oct. 23. (Visit the subscription Web site for more details.)
The notion of a BPA wholesale-rate discount for conservation and renewables investments is generally credited to Angus Duncan, a former member of the Northwest Power Planning Council and now affiliated with the Columbia Pacific Institute at Portland State University.
Duncan, who described his role as "the seed in the oyster," traced the genesis of the proposed rate discount to BPA's conservation reinvention in the mid-1990s. The underlying concept then, he said, was "to try to shift a substantial amount of the [conservation] initiative to the customer utilities and to try in the process to make sure that accountability was not lost but that it was not an excessive burden on the customers.
"Probably the piece I added to it this time around was the notion this could be done just on a discount or credit against your bill . . . to keep the money where it's being used, rather than shift it back and forth and have to develop elaborate accounting processes."
BPA kicked around the idea, and concluded, "We think this is something that has a lot of merit," according to Esvelt.
Circumstances are in its favor.
"I think it's clear we now understand the region needs to have more [energy] resources, that absolutely we need to keep the flame alive . . . for conservation and renewables investments," said Esvelt. "We think we need to be providing an incentive for our customers to make investments in those resources for our future."
At the same time, he continued, BPA is not pursuing new energy resources on its own, nor does it anticipate doing so. Its spending on conservation and renewables are constrained by the recently concluded BPA Cost Review.
Meanwhile, Bonneville's wholesale power is looking increasingly valuable in the future electric market. This, Esvelt said, "give[s] us more latitude in our ability to use our rates as a tool for incentivizing action by our local utilities."
Esvelt said the rate discount idea appeals to BPA in a number of ways. It emphasizes voluntary local initiatives, and doesn't involve BPA collecting money for centralized programs. It can be administered with relative simplicity. It won't materially affect BPA costs (revenues are another matter). And because the discount would be proportional to a customer's power purchase from BPA, it addresses the issue of equity.
BPA's subscription proposal acknowledges Bonneville's "leadership responsibility for energy conservation and renewable resources," and it lists market-based incentives for their development as one of four principal goals in its strategy for power-sales contracts beginning in 2001. The other three are broadly spreading the benefits of the Federal Columbia River Power System, avoiding rate increases and fulfilling fish and wildlife obligations while assuring a high probability of making its payments to the U.S. Treasury.
In addition to the proposed rate discount for conservation and renewables investments, BPA also wants to institute rates that reflect the relatively higher value of on-peak energy compared with off-peak energy. This "should motivate customers to take conservation actions to reduce their peak use of energy," the proposal states.
BPA also plans to offer its customers "environmentally superior and renewable resource products" on a customized basis.
Rate Discount Issues
While the idea of a wholesale rate discount is widely appreciated, many important details remain to be solved.
One, of course, is the amount. BPA and others refer to the Regional Review's recommendation that at least 3 percent of Northwest retail electric revenues be dedicated to conservation and renewable initiatives. But that is retail, and Bonneville is a wholesaler. "We're trying to figure out what the amount is [for Bonneville], and how much of that would be captured under this proposal," said Duncan.
Also unresolved is what Esvelt called "a fundamental policy question . . . Is our intent to provide a boost to get utilities up to the 3 percent recommended by the Review, or should it motivate folks to go beyond?" And should it be a dollar-for-dollar discount, or some other measure?
The rate discount potentially could lead to some inequities in benefits, but Esvelt is optimistic it won't: "I think a reasonable hope is that everybody's rate after the discount would be identical to what it would be had we never put this feature in place . . . The desired outcome is that everybody participates in the discount program and if they're all participating to the maximum degree they're all getting the same discount amount."
Another major puzzle is figuring what conservation and renewables investments qualify for the discount. Bonneville plans to rely on a regional technical forum (see related story below) to create such a specific list.
The balance, according to Duncan, is to ensure customer accountability "without in the process either creating a very complex structure of making Bonneville the conservation cop it doesn't want to be and customers don't want it to be." Duncan believes an RTF should not decide which conservation measures pass muster and which don't; rather it should determine energy-saving values for specific measures, and Bonneville could vary its discount amount accordingly.
The rate discount "is very much a work in progress," Duncan said. "I think Bonneville gets a lot of credit here, and [BPA administrator] Judi [Johansen] gets credit, for deciding this was an important part of the subscription process and saying so."
Among the stakeholders discussing the rate discount are publicly owned utilities, public-interest groups, state governments and others. "So far," said Esvelt, "people have been working real positively to see how this idea can work."
Some are particularly enthused.
"I'm thrilled that there is a proposal to create an incentive for the investment in new conservation and renewable resources, and I'm anxious to work on the details of the proposal that would help bring that to fruition," said Rachel Shimshak of the Renewable Northwest Project.
A member of the Regional Review steering committee, Shimshak said she has "not yet been overwhelmed with utilities' investments" in conservation and renewables. "This incentive proposal provides great hope for meeting the goals that were outlined in the Review. Also, it really allows Bonneville to help the region meet the goals, and follow through on that part of its mission."
On specific issues, Shimshak would like solar, wind and geothermal energy investments eligible for the rate discount: "those resources the Northwest has in abundance, but aren't yet at market [prices]." She also argues for starting the rate discount at the 3-percent level.
In August, before BPA made its subscription proposal public, Stan Price, executive director of the Northwest Energy Efficiency Council, described the rate-discount notion as "a potential one-time-in-history opportunity to help move us towards re-energizing the region's commitment to efficiency."
The timing is ideal, Price said, with BPA power-sales contracts coming up and Bonneville power "clearly a good deal in the market . . . This is probably as close to a win-win proposition as you could construct from all the different perspectives."--Mark Ohrenschall
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A new entity charged with tracking, assessing and developing evaluation standards for Northwest energy conservation initiatives is nearing creation.
The Regional Technical Forum would be established as a standing committee of the Northwest Power Planning Council, under a proposal recently endorsed by the Council. Council staff is drafting an RTF charter, which the Council is expected to consider in the next few weeks, according to Council conservation resources manager Tom Eckman. If approved by the Council, the RTF would be official.
The Council's RTF proposal generated mostly positive reviews from interested parties. "Generally speaking the [public] comments were supportive of the RTF being created," Eckman said. "Everybody said the functions are probably needed."
However, differences of opinion surfaced on the prospective scope of the RTF's work and its budget. Publicly owned utilities shared concerns on "whether the scope was too broadly interpreted, and that therefore the resources that were posited to be needed to implement the RTF were too much," according to Eckman. Others, such as conservation advocates and state agencies, argued that "some [RTF] functions are really going to be needed in the new world," and to do them properly will require more resources than anticipated. The Council's annual budget for the RTF is estimated by Council staff in the range of $250,000 to $300,000.
If established, the new body would undertake functions spelled out for an RTF by Congress and the Regional Review.
The original function, sought by Congress in 1996, was developing standard protocols to verify and evaluate energy savings. This came up as Congress envisioned a more diversified approach to energy-saving initiatives, after Bonneville Power Administration started shifting conservation responsibilities to local utilities, according to the Council's RTF proposal.
The Regional Review, meanwhile, recommended that an RTF track regional progress on energy conservation and renewable resources, to help assess progress toward public-purposes goals. In addition, the Review thought an RTF could suggest ways to improve the effectiveness of conservation and renewables initiatives.
Eckman emphasized the RTF would be a "technical forum, not a policy forum." Policy issues would be handled by the Council itself.
Membership is envisioned at fewer than 15 people, drawn from technical experts to form "a well-rounded group with some depth and experience," said Eckman. RTF members would be solicited from the ranks of utilities, public-interest groups, governments, academia and the private sector, according to a Council news release.
In addition to the functions outlined by Congress and the Review, BPA's recent proposal for power-sales subscriptions (see story this issue) includes a notion to rely on an entity like the RTF for direction on what types of conservation and renewables initiatives would qualify for a wholesale rate discount.
"That's a much more discrete enterprise than was envisioned either in the Comprehensive Review or by Congress," noted Eckman. "It gives a whole lot more weight to what the RTF does," and may involve policy questions.
In a separate but related matter, the Council, prompted by BPA concerns, also is embarking on an analysis of potential future Northwest winter power shortages of more than 6,000 megawatts. Prospective solutions include regional investments in conservation and renewables, along with other new energy resources and power-pricing policies, according to a Council news release. Although this study will not be nearly as comprehensive as a full-blown regional power and conservation plan, "It will have many of the same components," Eckman said. The analyses will help inform the RTF's work.--Mark Ohrenschall
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The Pacific Northwest can enhance its position as a clean energy leader with concerted regional action, and particularly with favorable public policies, according to a new report from a Washington-based advocacy group.
Initiatives on behalf of clean energy--renewables primarily, but also efficiency--would reap economic benefits in the Northwest and also contribute to global environmental gains, concludes a new report by the Olympia-based Atmosphere Alliance.
"Solutions to Global Warming: How the Northwest Can Lead a Clean Energy Revolution" outlines an increasingly rosy outlook for renewable-energy technologies, along with the nascent competition among regions and nations for shares of this emerging market. The Northwest is well-positioned from commercial, technical and policy perspectives to take advantage of this opportunity, the Alliance believes, but further government action is needed.
Author Patrick Mazza lists 13 specific recommendations, some of which already are in place in the Northwest. He also broaches five thoughts on how electric industry restructuring can benefit renewables and efficiency.
The current period of "discontinuity" in energy affairs offers great potential for clean energy, according to Mazza.
"Renewables are moving to full competitiveness with conventional sources over coming decades. The need to stabilize the climate demands acceleration of the process. It is a classic joining of crisis and opportunity.
"The Northwest has all the institutional skills and resources needed to take hold of that opportunity, and lead the world into the age of clean, renewable energy," he writes. "With its leading-edge public policies, world-class producers and natural advantages, the elements are all there. The only remaining question is whether we will assemble them into a coherent vision and decisively move forward.
"If we do," he continues, "it will of course generate significant economic gain. But it will also mean something more--a chance for the children of today and tomorrow to live on a planet where climatic catastrophe has not eradicated the possibility for full and healthy lives."
The Atmosphere Alliance believes in seeking "practical and profitable solutions" to global warming, according to a mission statement on the report.
Mazza's report briefly outlines the potential for climate disruption, and cites the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's conclusion that carbon dioxide emissions must immediately be cut 50 to 70 percent to stabilize the climate. "The only equation that will yield such results is a major leap in efficiency on the demand side, and on the supply side a huge increase in renewable energy production. The good news, in the testimony of many experts, is that both are within our reach."
The Alliance report acknowledges the "limited market niche" of renewables today, but foresees huge growth. Wind energy is the world's fastest-growing power source--with annual growth rates exceeding 25 percent--and its cost is reasonably competitive with conventional energy resources, in the range of 5 cents per kilowatt-hour. Solar photovoltaics are the second fastest-growing energy resource, and their costs, although still much higher than market-priced electricity, have dropped substantially over time, and should fall much lower as production increases. Fuel cells represent another promising clean-energy technology with potential to use renewable sources as a fuel.
Northwest Clean Energy
"With the renewables industry in take-off mode and the climatic disruption threat demanding an even more rapid ramp-up, the time of opportunity for the Pacific Northwest is now," according to the Alliance report. "An inventory of the region's actual and potential competitive advantages presents an impressive picture."
Mazza cites a description of the Northwest as a Silicon Valley of clean energy. It is home to a number of major renewable-energy companies, including Siemens Solar (the self-described world's leading manufacturer of solar modules), Trace Engineering (the world's largest manufacturer of power inverters) and Applied Power (one of the world's largest solar system design and installation firms). In addition, public institutions such as state and local governments and utilities have fostered a reputation for the Northwest as a world leader in energy efficiency and renewable energy policy, according to the report. And, the report continues, the region possesses such other beneficial values as an export orientation, a skilled technical work force and a high quality of life.
Still, the race for clean-energy preeminence is crowded, according to Mazza. Internationally, he cites Denmark, Germany and Japan as nations that have "aggressively" supported their domestic renewable-energy industries. Denmark, for example, has made expanding its wind-energy industry a national priority. Japan has embarked on the world's largest solar-subsidy program, aiming to reach 400 megawatts of PV production by 2000 and 4,600 MW by 2010; major Japanese corporations are getting in on the action.
In America, a number of states are actively promoting clean-energy industries, including Colorado, Virginia, Texas, Arizona, North Carolina, Connecticut and Nevada. The giant of them all is California, which--in addition to its extensive infrastructure of renewable-energy facilities and companies--is poised to spend about $800 million through 2002 on renewables and energy-related research, from public-purposes funding.
"Though the Northwest stands in a strong position, it will take a concerted agenda at state and regional levels to transform its [clean energy] potential into reality," according to Mazza. This strategy should focus on expanding the Northwest renewable-energy market, and helping the clean-energy industry increase its "productive capacities."
Mazza lists 13 specific actions. One is net metering, in which small-scale renewable-energy producers are billed for their net power consumption (Washington already has such a law; see Con.WEB, April 28, 1998). Another is guaranteeing a minimum purchase price for large-scale renewables.
Mazza also suggests clean-energy tax deductions (such as Oregon's business and residential tax-credit programs) and property-tax breaks for renewable-energy facilities.
In addition, the report continues, governments can provide direct cash assistance for clean-energy equipment, buy renewable and efficiency technologies, license solar contractors, embark on clean-energy economic development initiatives, promote exports by Northwest clean-energy firms, provide below-market-rate loans, and educate influential market players. A public-private partnership for a regional clean energy research and development initiative is another option.
There are many historical precedents for public assistance of American industries, the report notes. "Indeed, many now great industries were only able to take off from the foundation laid by public investment and guaranteed government markets. From transcontinental railroads in the 19th century to aerospace, electronics, computers and advanced telecommunications in the 20th, a public hand-up was necessary." The Boeing Co., for example, "gained skill in building large airframes through military contracting . . . [the] Internet began under Department of Defense auspices."
Finally, the Alliance report advocates "five key ideas for shaping electric industry restructuring towards clean energy, efficiency and social equity." The five: a system benefits charge, a renewable portfolio standard, aggregation of small electricity customers, green-power packages for utility customers, and labeling information on energy sources and their environmental impacts.--Mark Ohrenschall
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One of the premier market transformation programs in the Pacific Northwest is undergoing its own major transformation.
Amidst signs of some success, and in the face of budget limits, the WashWise program promoting resource-efficient washing machines is following its plan to eliminate consumer rebates, change its name and shift its focus to marketing. The Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance venture is demonstrating consumer acceptance of this technology, and appears to be making headway toward its ultimate goal of increasing federal energy-efficiency standards for clothes washers.
As of Oct. 1 WashWise will be known as the Energy Star Resource-Efficient Clothes Washer program, tying in with the federal Energy Star initiative that promotes energy-efficient appliances. Also as of that date, the $75 consumer rebate ends for purchasing a qualifying resource-efficient washer, although other financial incentives remain available in some Northwest locales.
The new Energy Star program will continue to promote the purchase of resource-efficient washers on a regional level, through mass-media advertising, material and informational support for retailers and local utilities, and other means.
Alliance staff acknowledge some risks and a few objections to these actions, particularly cutting the rebate, but the time is believed to be right. Although the typical retail cost of resource-efficient washers remains above--and in some cases, far above--conventional machines, generally listing between $600 and $1,000 apiece, the price appears to be dropping somewhat. The high price tag does continue to pose "a major barrier," according to an August WashWise market progress evaluation report prepared for the Alliance by Dave Hewitt, Jeff Pratt and Gary Smith of Pacific Energy Associates (PEA).
Still, a number of indications suggest WashWise has already made a noticeably positive impact regionally and even nationally on the resource-efficient washing machine market, influencing consumers, retailers and manufacturers.
And, largely because of the popularity of resource-efficient machines, WashWise have already spent about $7.5 million of its $9.1 million Alliance budget from 1997 through the end of 1999. Incentive payments alone have amounted to $4.9 million through late September, according to Dana Banks of Portland Energy Conservation Inc., the Alliance's Energy Star Resource-Efficient Clothes Washer Program contractor. "I think the timing's pretty good" for the changes, she said.
Sales and Rebates
WashWise-rebated sales in the Northwest just passed the 40,000 mark, and resource-efficient washers now command about 12 percent of the regional market for all new clothes-washing machines. Those numbers vastly exceed the projections made about two years ago, when high-efficiency washers had a Northwest market share below 2 percent.
"Clearly, the WashWise program has successfully accelerated the introduction of RECWs [resource-efficient clothes washers]," according to the PEA market progress evaluation report. "It is clear that rebates have been important to manufacturers, retailers, and consumers in developing a solid market for RECWs in the Northwest."
The initial WashWise consumer rebate of $130 was reduced to $75 in March of this year. That interrupted a relatively steady increase in WashWise sales since May 1997, but after an initial drop with the $75 rebate the monthly figures have rebounded to previous levels.
A similar dip is considered possible when the rebates disappear entirely. Some retailers, utilities and manufacturers fret about the impact on sales, but Gabrielle Foulkes, the Alliance project manager, noted the program has a finite budget: "The reality is we can't continue to fund this indefinitely."
WashWise rebates have boosted sales, Banks acknowledged, but customers buy resource-efficient washers for other reasons as well. "What the rebate really has done is provided a tool to salespeople to guarantee the customer is brought in front of that machine," she said. "The resource savings and all the features of the machine sell it probably more than the rebate. The rebate is often that thing that pushes them over." Market research cited in the market progress evaluation report showed that one-third of Northwest consumers surveyed said a rebate would make them more likely to buy a resource-efficient washer, even if more expensive.
Should sales of resource-efficient washers drop after Oct. 1, Banks and the Alliance believe it will be temporary.
"Based on interviews with retailers, manufacturers, and consumers, PEA expects that the RECW market can be maintained at about the 10%-12% level in the Northwest over the next year, assuming a significant Alliance-funded marketing effort," reads the market progress evaluation report. "Both retailers and manufacturers expect significant market growth over the next five years. The market for RECWs appears to have gained the first level of sustainability."
Market Transformation Indicators
Among the positive indicators of market transformation are improved and diversified offerings from manufacturers--notably the September introduction of the first resource-efficient machine from Whirlpool, which dominates the national washing-machine market with about a 50-percent share.
The Whirlpool Resource Saver model loads from the top, in contrast to the horizontal-axis washer dominant in the resource-efficient category. Estimated water savings are as much as 47 percent over conventional machines, while energy savings range up to 56 percent, according to a news release from the Consortium for Energy Efficiency, which promotes resource-efficient washers nationally. Suggested retail price for the Resource Saver is around $600.
Foulkes called Whirlpool's market entry "a great coup for us." Charlie Stephens of the Oregon Office of Energy, who represents the Alliance in the national standards-setting process, described Whirlpool as "very concerned about permanent market-share loss. They don't worry if it's temporary." He suspects the burgeoning popularity of resource-efficient washers has cost Whirlpool 1 or 2 percent of its national market share for clothes washers. The PEA market progress report, meanwhile, cites a Whirlpool acknowledgment that "the presence of RECW products from other manufacturers has had a small, but noticeable, impact on their sales and market share."
In a press release announcing the Resource Saver's introduction, and the company's partnership in the Energy Star program, Whirlpool executive Mike Thieneman said, "Whirlpool continually looks for ways to make our appliances more energy-efficient and water-efficient. Technologies like the new Resource Saver Wash System will help consumers around the world who have become concerned about protecting our environment . . . It's our responsibility to ensure that Whirlpool appliances provide superior performance in a resource-conscious manner."
In the Northwest Maytag is the leading manufacturer in the resource-efficient market, with about 50 percent of resource-efficient washer sales for its two Energy Star-qualifying models, according to the market progress evaluation report. Frigidaire is in second place regionally, at about 40 percent, while the remaining manufacturers (now nine, with Whirlpool's entry) split the last 10 percent.
Maytag and Frigidaire report that their resource-efficient machines have increased their respective overall market shares for clothes washers, according to the PEA market progress report. Both are bullish on the future. Maytag has boosted production levels of resource-efficient washers three times, and expects continued demand growth as consumer awareness expands. "Maytag believes that the RECW technology will come to dominate the market, and may eventually become the only option available," the report noted.
Indeed, resource-efficient washers could become the norm, particularly if the federal government makes it so.
The U.S. Department of Energy is considering new efficiency standards for clothes washers, which are scheduled to be issued in final form by late 1999. The next formal step is an Advanced Notice Of Proposed Rulemaking (ANOPR), which Stephens said is due for imminent release. This will spell out a broad range of potential efficiency levels for clothes washers, along with an analysis of the national energy implications and life-cycle costs.
"We're not very worried about the analysis," said Stephens. "It will show that for the vast majority of consumers . . . the efficiency levels exhibited by today's horizontal-axis washers will be cost-effective."
However, he noted, this advanced notice will not delve into such topics as the impacts of new efficiency standards on manufacturers, low-income consumers and utilities.
Three major issues are in play, according to Stephens. One is potential separate standards for conventional washers and high-efficiency washers, a distinction supported by at least one and possibly two manufacturers. Another is the actual efficiency levels. And third is the date of implementation, which at the earliest would come three years after the final rule.
Regardless of the outcome, Stephens believes WashWise has made its mark. "The impact on the standards process has been fairly great," he said. "What it's done is its removed a whole lot of the questions that were raised by some manufacturers about the utility of the [resource-efficient] technology, the performance, the price . . . Without the WashWise program and other programs like it that came along, none of those questions could have been answered."
Through the Alliance program, consumers have shown they will buy resource-efficient washers, and will like them, Stephens said. The market progress evaluation report concurs; PEA found "very high satisfaction rates with RECWs."
Now that consumers have shown they like resource-efficient washers, Stephens said the onus is on manufacturers "to come up with some other reasons why this is not a good idea" to substantially boost efficiency standards.
Should the standards reflect Energy Star-qualifying levels, the energy savings would be quite large: the Alliance estimates regional efficiencies of more than 100 average megawatts over 10 years. Resource-efficient washers also save considerable amounts of water (35 percent to 50 percent over conventional machines), while reducing drying time and improving clothes-washing performance.
The Alliance plans a concerted effort to continue to influence, and closely follow, the national standards process.
The name change from WashWise to Energy Star has been under consideration for some time, according to Banks. She called it "a great vehicle for us to . . . continue the momentum" created by WashWise.
The reasoning behind the switch is outlined in an August memo from Foulkes: " . . . the name Energy Star has greater consumer recognition, all the [WashWise] products meet the Energy Star specifications, and the name will have longevity beyond Alliance involvement . . . The Alliance is interested in seeing a long-term sustainable market for resource efficient washers in the Pacific Northwest [after 1999], where dealers sell and consumers purchase these washers even without the Alliance presence."
Over the next 15 months the Alliance program will continue to promote resource-efficient washers. The means will include mass-media advertising, outreach at home shows, fairs and other gatherings, distribution of point-of-purchase materials to retailers, a consumer toll-free phone line, and sharing of information and written materials with local utilities.
"We want to let people know who are supporting this effort that we're here to help it be more successful for you," said Banks.
A majority of the 577 Northwest WashWise dealers--439--already have agreed to join the Energy Star program, according to Banks.
A Few Incentives
Although the WashWise consumer rebate is history, some financial incentives for resource-efficient washers remain in the region.
On the retail level the Energy Star Resource-Efficient Clothes Washer program will give salespeople $10 per machine sold, for up to 40,000 additional units regionwide. WashWise also gave dealer incentives, initially $20 and later $10, but this money generally went into corporate coffers to cover administrative expenses, according to Banks. "We think we need to use the money we do have to help motivate sales, in the absence of this instant rebate," she said.
In addition, Northwest consumers still can take advantage of a number of rebate programs offered by electric, water and wastewater utilities within their service territories. Oregon continues to offer a tax credit for qualifying Energy Star clothes-washing machines. Other programs around the nation--notably in New England and California--also provide incentives for resource-efficient washers. PEA's report mentions the New England venture as a potential spur for the national market.--Mark Ohrenschall
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Eighteen potential market transformation projects remain under formal consideration by the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, which continues to assess ideas received in a general solicitation this spring.
The Alliance board, meeting in Spokane on Sept. 14 and 15, turned down eight market transformation proposals, on top of 19 others previously rejected in July (see Con.WEB, Aug. 31, 1998). A total of 45 proposals were originally submitted to the Alliance by mid-May.
Although the Alliance has yet to officially accept any of the market transformation offerings, the board in Spokane assigned highest priority to further staff work on five proposals. These five target industrial air compressors, wastewater treatment facilities, schools, grocery store refrigerators and pneumatic sawdust-conveying systems. Alliance staff recommendations on these five are anticipated in time for the next board meeting, Oct. 29 and 30 in Portland. The other 13 remaining proposals also will be formally considered by the Alliance board, by year's end.
The eight proposals turned down in Spokane involved energy-efficient transformers, commercial property valuation, affordable housing, an energy efficiency buyer's club, rooftop condensers, benchmarking for corporate energy efficiency investment strategies, industrial services and motor systems management certification. The commercial property valuation proposal may resurface in another form as part of the Alliance's Efficient Building Practices Initiative Other proposals rejected through this solicitation also may be incorporated into current Alliance projects.
The Alliance estimates it could spend in the range of $6.4 million to $9.2 million on new market transformation ventures adopted through this solicitation. The five highest-priority proposals add up to $7.1 million as presented to the Alliance, although that cumulative figure is likely to be pared in staff recommendations to the board.
The great majority of the Alliance's $65.5 million budget from 1997 through 2001 is already accounted for, and most of it, $41.3 million, is projected to be spent on current market transformation projects. (Editor's note: Some Alliance funding has been allocated beyond the official expiration of the Alliance's current charter at the end of 1999.)
Executive director Margie Gardner and board member John Hines both noted in Spokane that the Alliance doesn't have to spend all its remaining money on new projects.
In addition to discussing proposals during the Spokane meeting, the board also heard an extensive presentation on a potential drive-power market transformation initiative to succeed the Alliance's earlier premium efficiency motors program.
Crafted by Alliance staff and other interested motor people around the region, this proposed new venture would aim "to improve the overall plant-wide efficiency of the entire integrated system of motors, loads, and controls" in Northwest industries, through "individual, but integrated, market transformation ventures that are aimed towards the ultimate goal of achieving full energy savings potential of the motor system. The general approach will focus on building customer demand for efficient technologies and services while simultaneously assuring that the market can effectively supply the demand." The first stage would involve a quality motor-reconditioning project and a motor management pilot program.
The Alliance board has already approved $775,000 for a new motors venture, which would virtually cover the estimated $800,000 cost of this proposed venture for two years.
A majority of Alliance board members in Spokane informally supported further development of this proposal, although no formal vote was taken.
In addition to further project discussions in October, the Alliance board also will elect new officers to lead the organization for the next year.--Mark Ohrenschall
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By the end of 1998, the Wyoming Wind Energy Project could be producing electricity for the Pacific Northwest.
The physical infrastructure of the 41.4-megawatt-capacity wind plant is essentially complete, according to officials of PacifiCorp, the majority owner, and SeaWest Energy, the project developer. All 69 turbines are towering into the Wyoming sky, and a 29-mile transmission line and associated substation link the project site to the Western power grid.
Testing of the $60 million renewable-energy facility is the next phase. If no significant problems are revealed, and the Wyoming weather cooperates, commercial operation could begin by year's end, said PacifiCorp project manager Gail Miller. However, she added, it might not happen until early 1999--still within the original estimated completion date.
"Everything has gone very smoothly," said Miller, crediting favorable weather conditions and accurate construction scheduling.
This may or may not be the first commercial-scale wind-energy project to directly serve the Northwest. Another wind venture--the Vansycle Ridge project in northeastern Oregon, near Pendleton--is under construction with a projected operational date of late 1998 or early 1999. ESI Energy is developing the 24.9-MW-capacity Vansycle Ridge project, and Portland General Electric will receive the entire energy output. (See Con.WEB, July 31, 1998, for a story on Vansycle Ridge.)
For the Wyoming wind project PacifiCorp has committed to a 79-percent ownership share, and the remaining 21 percent ownership is set aside for Eugene Water & Electric Board. "We pay for the project when all the testing is completed and when we're satisfied we have a completed project without any flaws," said Miller. "When that happens, we will purchase the plant and take ownership."
Bonneville Power Administration has agreed to buy 37 percent of the energy produced from the project, located between Laramie and Rawlins on a windswept mesa known as Foote Creek Rim.
In addition, BPA in mid-September announced plans to purchase power from three additional Wyoming wind turbines with a total capacity of 1.8 MW. SeaWest will own and operate these turbines and sell the output exclusively to BPA, according to a Bonneville news release. The anticipated on-line date for this expansion is mid-1999.
Miller said other entities, including utilities and cities, also have expressed interest in buying Wyoming wind-generated electrons. Although no formal agreements have been reached as of mid-September, "I think there's probably a pretty strong likelihood there will be other purchasers, those who are supportive of wind power and understand the environmental benefits of wind power," she said. (See below for a story on EWEB's plans for its share of Wyoming wind power.)
Details: Cost, Site, Technology
PacifiCorp forecasts a levelized cost for Wyoming wind energy of 4.5 cents per kilowatt-hour, which incorporates a 1.5 cents/KWh federal tax credit over 10 years. The project must be commercially operable by June 30, 1999, to receive that credit.
"We obviously want to have the entire project operational prior to that date," said Mike Azeka, SeaWest vice president of project development. "We're months and months in advance of that deadline."
The basic infrastructure is in place, Azeka said Sept. 10, although some electrical components were still to be connected. SeaWest will conduct functional and electrical testing of the turbines. Azeka anticipated a straightforward testing phase, taking into account potential delays from early-winter blizzards in the Rocky Mountains. And he believes the project will be spinning out electrons by the new year.
"Our company is very happy with the way it's gone," Azeka said. "We're very confident it's going to be one of the best projects in the Western states, and it will be one of the best-producing projects in North America, in terms of the amount of energy that's actually produced. The site is not only very windy, but the wind blows very often. We know that the site will generate power more than 80 percent of the time." Fall, winter and early spring are the windiest times on Foote Creek Rim.
PacifiCorp forecasts a capacity factor of 42.5 percent, which Miller noted is high for a wind-energy project. Power will be produced at wind speeds ranging from about 9 miles per hour to slightly more than 60 mph.
Foote Creek Rim lies in a break in the Rocky Mountains where prevailing winds funnel through and actually accelerate, according to meteorological research cited by Walter George of the federal Bureau of Land Management in Wyoming. Average year-round wind speeds are about 24 mph; Azeka noted this measurement incorporates calm periods, so when the wind does blow it often exceeds 24 mph.
The 69 turbines strung out along 2,100-plus acres on Foote Creek Rim were manufactured by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, a division of Mitsubishi Corp. Each three-bladed turbine carries a nameplate rating of 600 kilowatts. The hub height (at the center of the rotor) is 131 feet, while the rotor diameter is 138 feet.
Azeka described these as "typical of the latest generation of wind turbines," with a local variation: "The particular model we're using has been tailored or optimized for cold-weather conditions as well as the high winds of that site in Wyoming." A computer control system will adjust the power output at low temperatures, to avoid excessive strain, and thermostatic controls within the turbine will help the machine function in Wyoming's brittle cold.
Each turbine has a special reflective finish designed to increase its visibility to birds. The towers, meanwhile, are tubular, and the distribution lines between the turbines and the substation are all underground--features intended to eliminate perching opportunities for birds. In addition, Miller noted, many of the turbines are sited away from the edge of the rim, where birds like to fly.
The project will be monitored for its impact on birds, and adjustments could be made if warranted.--Mark Ohrenschall
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Eugene Water & Electric Board plans to offer its 75,000 customers an opportunity to buy wind-generated electricity when it becomes available from Wyoming in the near future.
"We have developed a marketing plan and our intent is that the portion of the project output we're bringing back here to our system [will be made] available to interested customers, residential and commercial," said EWEB's Ken Beeson.
Although still preliminary, the approach by Oregon's largest publicly owned utility is likely to involve a number of options, according to EWEB's Mat Northway. Residential customers could choose to buy wind energy in monthly blocks--tentatively set at 100 kilowatt-hours, 200 KWh and 500 KWh. They also could purchase all their electricity from the wind. Commercial customers, meanwhile, would be offered a wind-generated percentage (possibly 10 percent) of their total EWEB load.
The added retail price of the wind energy will probably fall in the range of 3 cents per KWh. That reflects the difference between EWEB's projections of its wind-power costs (about 5 cents/KWh) and the wholesale market price of electricity (about 2 cents/KWh).
Under this pricing scenario a 100-KWh wind-energy block would cost a residential customer an extra $3 each month. For a "typical" Eugene household this would represent a 6-percent increase, according to Beeson. "Our view as we've put this thing together is that by offering the 100-KWh block it offers this opportunity for just about anyone to participate."
EWEB's share of the Wyoming Wind Energy Project's 41.4-MW capacity is 8.78 MW, of which 2.28 MW is earmarked for Bonneville Power Administratioin. That leaves 6.5 MW of wind energy capacity for the EWEB system, which, assuming a 42-percent capacity factor, translates to about 24 million KWH (2.7 aMW) of annual available Wyoming wind energy for EWEB customers.
Eugene Wind Energy Demand Promising But Uncertain
Beeson and Northway are optimistic about the demand for wind energy in green Eugene, but they acknowledge this is a learning experience with an uncertain outcome.
Based on extensive customer surveys over the past year, "If everybody who said they were interested in paying at least $5 a month for renewables were to do that, we'd sell it all out, instantly," Northway said. "A more pragmatic, realistic view says we'll probably sell a major portion right away and have a reasonable marketing challenge, but not impossible, to complete the sale within a year or two."
Should customer demand for wind power exceed EWEB's supply, Northway said, the utility could arrange to install more turbines on Foote Creek Rim. The project is permitted for up to 500 MW and the transmission and distribution infrastructure already is in place. More capacity could be added in a relatively short time, a year or less.
Conversely, if EWEB doesn't find a sufficient retail market for its wind energy, the utility could meld any unsubscribed electrons into its system. EWEB has no current plans to sell its wind power on the wholesale market.
In any case, Northway said the Wyoming project will not raise Eugene retail electric rates. This will be the latest in a series of bond-financed new energy resources for EWEB, he explained. A couple of high-efficiency industrial cogeneration plants already on-line are generating positive revenues for the utility. Consequently, the Wyoming wind project "can be absorbed into our system and have no adverse impact on rates," according to Northway.
Some Eugenians have wondered why EWEB is investing in a renewable-energy project in Wyoming, which isn't Oregon and isn't even the Pacific Northwest by conventional geography.
Northway responds with several points. EWEB, a minority owner of the project, is partnering with PacifiCorp, which helps spread the risks. The site itself is relatively close to long-distance transmission, which greatly improves the project's cost-effectiveness. This remote part of Wyoming is a premier spot for consistent and substantial wind--perhaps one of the best on the entire North American continent, and better than such closer potential wind sites as the Columbia Gorge and the Oregon coast. "I'm not sure people want the Oregon coast covered with windmills," said Northway.
Finally, the Wyoming Wind Energy Project will create a direct environmental benefit, through slight displacement of coal-fired electricity produced at nearby power plants.
Although wind power from Wyoming may be officially available by year's end, Northway indicated EWEB is likely to hold off its local marketing campaign until after the holiday season. "The six-week period between Thanksgiving and Christmas is the worst time in the world to get anybody's attention," he said.--Mark Ohrenschall
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Washington Water Power has asked its regulators in Washington and Idaho to approve an indefinite extension of the investor-owned utility's demand-side management distribution charge.
The charge, first implemented in 1995, applies to all WWP retail electric sales except pre-existing special contracts. The 1.5-percent surcharge generates between $4.5 million and $5 million annually for DSM activities, depending on total kilowatt-hour sales, according to WWP energy services manager Roger Curtis.
Curtis said the utility is about halfway through its current three-year period for the distribution charge, and it decided to file for an indefinite extension to ensure funding for DSM programs beyond 1999. "We wanted to make it more of a transition program" that would provide funds for DSM until state legislatures have taken action on electric utility restructuring and a potential public-purposes surcharge. The legislatures had been expected to resolve these issues by December 1999; that now seems uncertain, at best.
At the same time, Curtis said WWP wanted customers to have confidence about the viability of future DSM projects. "Program and funding deadlines affect vendor service, customer participation and employee retention," the utility's regulatory filing reads. "One of the barriers to implementing programs includes proper education to the appropriate vendors about how these programs could be of benefit to their business. Removing the sunset date allows the vendors to incorporate WWP's programs as part of their total sales package and promotion, without concern of discontinuity. Vendor groups question program longevity when they see published termination dates, despite the likelihood of an extension at a later date."
The DSM distribution charge covers Water Power's participation in the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance and nine residential, commercial and industrial DSM programs: a residential HVAC program, with duct sealing; a residential limited-income energy efficiency program; a site-specific commercial/industrial program; a trade ally program for all three sectors; commercial programs that cover prescriptive lighting and fuel switching, and several under WWP's "Energy 2000" program that cover new technologies and LED traffic lights and exit signs. It's "a very good way to operate in today's environment," Curtis said. "We recover [our] costs and work with customers."
According to the utility's filing, Water Power expected to save 19.5 million KWh in 1997, at a budgeted cost of $4.9 million. Actual program activity for the year reaped 19.9 million KWh for $4.1 million--so about 99 percent of the forecasted savings were achieved at 83 percent of the budget.
Water Power has requested several modifications to the existing programs. One is the removal of the Manufactured Housing Acquisition Program (MAP), since homes covered by the program had to be sited before Jan. 26, 1997. Another is adding duct testing and sealing to the limited-income residential program. And the residential assisted technologies program will focus on low-end technologies to increase customer acceptance. "WWP's experience with home automation in the past year has shown that the upper-end market does not need utility intervention to increase customer acceptance," the filing indicates.
Water Power also proposes a new mechanism for reviewing the distribution charge's effectiveness. The utility suggests that its stakeholders group, the External Energy Efficiency Board, meet annually to review program design, results and future programs.
The Washington Utilities & Transportation Commission is expected to review the filing on Oct. 6, and the Idaho Public Utilities Commission will request public input in October.--Jude Noland
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Bonneville Power Administration recently signed a memorandum of understanding with Florida-based TeCom Inc. that will allow the federal agency's energy efficiency division to offer its customers a new energy-accounting product.
TeCom's InterLane Power Manager is a computerized system that measures consumption of electricity, water and natural gas. Using a building's existing wiring, the system lets customers monitor peak energy demand, assess the efficiency of retrofits and new equipment, and analyze utility rates.
"This new alliance is part of our effort to partner with the private sector to fill niches in service our utility customers find of value," BPA's Sharon Doggett said. She noted that the new agreement does not commit the agency to spend a predetermined amount of money, do a specific amount of work or collaborate on a certain number of projects with TeCom. Instead, the agreement simply represents a commitment "to work together to bring the product to market."
Doggett described BPA as playing "a facilitation role" in offering the power management system to its customers. Ultimately, she said, the InterLane product would be of use to utility customers. "It's a three-way thing," she said. "We are working with our utilities to make energy efficiency a part of what they have to offer their end-use customers."
Doggett pointed out the TeCom agreement is one of many alliances BPA is forming with the private sector, and she cautioned against viewing the agreement as an exclusive arrangement or endorsement. She said BPA also is partnering with companies offering information and metering technology, consulting and energy audit services. "It takes care of a lot of the advanced legwork," Dogget said. "If one of our customers asks us to help meet a certain need for services, we don't have to start from scratch"--Angela Becker-Dippmann.
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Washington Water Power has launched a rebate program for installation of energy-efficient light-emitting diodes (LED) exit signs.
Water Power is offering $20 apiece for installation of LED exit signs in businesses in its service territory, according to a WWP news release. LEDs, which typically run on less than five watts of electricity, generally last around 25 years and are virtually maintenance-free. The rebate program runs through Dec. 1, 1999.
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An Energy Awareness Conference is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 8, in Portland.
The conference will feature sessions on wise and sustainable energy use, technical and financial assistance available to Northwest businesses and industries for energy and environmental projects, electric industry restructuring and future energy resources.
Featured speakers are Ralph Cavanagh of the Natural Resources Defense Council, Nancy Moore of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Ken Canon of Industrial Customers of Northwest Utilities, and Thomas White of Enron Renewable Energy.
Presented by eight Portland-area professional associations, the conference will be held at Portland Community College's Sylvania Campus.
For more information, call Amy Joslin at (503) 248-5070, ext. 24544.
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"Powerful Tools for Commercial Building Design and Management" is the title of an Oct. 28 conference near Seattle, presented by the Electric League of the Pacific Northwest, Tacoma Power, Seattle City Light and Puget Sound Energy.
The conference is intended for representatives of the commercial property industry, including building designers, managers and operators. "It will focus on the value of relationships with local entities at a time when national and international businesses are aggressively entering local energy services markets," according to a conference flier.
The one-day event at Embassy Suites in Tukwila features a plenary session on electric utility restructuring and its potential benefits and challenges to the commercial sector. Separate tracks are planned on cost-effective technologies, building design and restructuring. A free tour of the Lighting Design Lab in Seattle is scheduled in conjunction with the conference, on Oct. 29.
Conference registration is $99; advance registration is required, by Oct. 16. For more information, call the Electric League at (425) 646-4727.
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Two workshops on renewable energy use are scheduled for October in the San Juan Islands of Washington, presented by Solar Energy International of Carbondale, CO.
"Renewable Energy for the Northwest," an overview of producing independent electric power, is planned for Oct. 16 through Oct. 18. Cost is $200. "Photovoltaic Design and Installation," which includes classroom and hands-on field sessions, will be held Oct. 19 through Oct. 24. Cost is $500.
For more information, contact Ian Woofenden (phone: (360) 293-7448; e-mail: email@example.com) or Solar Energy International (phone, (970) 963-8855; fax, (970) 963-8866; e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org; on the Web, at http://www.solarenergy.org.
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The National Tour of Solar Homes, which includes Northwest residences, is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 17.
"All around the United States, solar homeowners will open their doors to visitors for a first-hand look at practical uses of renewable energy," according to the American Solar Energy Society. "These are real places, for real people, featuring solar heating, photovoltaics, and energy conservation."
The tour includes homes in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana.
For more information on the tour, including locations of homes and other visitation details, check the ASES Web site at http://www.sni.net/solar/ht98/map2.htm, or call ASES at (303) 443-3130.
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The Seattle-based Lighting Design Lab is offering a number of lighting events this fall.
The coming schedule: Introduction to Daylighting, Oct. 6; National Council on Qualifications for the Lighting Professions (NCQLP) Lighting Certified Exam Review Workshop, Oct. 15 and 16; Controls, Oct. 20; Lighting Design Process, Oct. 27; Light and Architecture, Nov. 3; Lighting Resources on the World Wide Web, Nov. 10; and the Lab's annual open house and trade show, Dec. 9.
For more information, contact the Lab: phone, 1-800-354-3864 or (206) 325-9711; fax, (206) 329-9532; e-mail, email@example.com; or visit the Lab's Web site at http://www.northwestlighting.com/calendar/index.html.
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The U.S. Department of Energy presented awards for energy efficiency achievements to Western-based federal agencies and employees at the Energy '98 conference in Bellevue, WA in early August.
Honored were individuals and teams from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Seattle; the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in Renton, WA; the General Services Administration (GSA) in Auburn, WA and Seattle; the U.S. Coast Guard in Kodiak, Alaska; the U.S. Navy Submarine Base and Trident Refit Facility in Bangor, WA; the Naval Station in Everett, WA; and the state of Arizona National Guard.
These awards recognized a variety of federal energy-saving initiatives, according to a news release. "Those receiving [the awards] are among the leaders in the region in achieving energy efficiency," said Kathy Vega, director of the U.S. Department of Energy's Seattle Regional Support Office.
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A new catalog of publications, videos and software for green construction has been released by Iris Communications of Eugene.
The catalog features numerous books, plan books, software, directories and videos on topics including energy efficiency, solar energy, sustainable construction and more.
The catalog is available on the Web at http://www.oikos.com/catalog/. For more information, contact Iris: phone, 1-800-346-0104 or (541) 484-9353; fax, (541) 484-1645; or mail, P.O. Box 5920, Eugene OR 97405-0911.
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