Wyoming Wind Energy Project Begins Commercial Operation
 Seattle-Area Wind Developer Eyes California Market
 Bonneville Environmental Foundation Notches Third Green Power Sale
 Snohomish PUD Doubles Landfill-Gas Energy Purchase
 Puget Sound Energy Launches Three-Year Conservation Plan
 Alliance Promotes Efficient Buildings as Better Buildings
 Oregon Senate Passes Restructuring Bill With Public-Purposes Funding
 Montana Governor Signs Public-Purposes-Related Bills
 Regional Technical Forum Approved as Council Advisory Committee
 BPA Reports 50-Percent Drop in Program Energy Savings
 Montana Resource Efficiency Organizations Merge
 BRIEFS: BEST Business Awards; Architecture + Energy Program Entries; U.S. DOE PV Research Funding; Home Energy Saver Web Site
The largest wind energy plant serving the Pacific Northwest is delivering electrons to the power grid, and one of the project's owners has launched a retail green-power sales campaign with its share of wind-generated energy.
The Wyoming Wind Energy Project, jointly owned by Portland-based PacifiCorp and Eugene Water and Electric Board, began commercial operation April 22, Earth Day--a coincidental timing, according to PacifiCorp's Gail Miller. Delays caused by weather and operational issues with the turbines had postponed the project's commercialization after the physical infrastructure was completed last September.
With its 41.4-megawatt capacity, the Wyoming wind farm can produce more energy than the region's other operating wind venture, the 25-MW-capacity Vansycle Ridge project in northeastern Oregon that debuted in late 1998 (see Con.WEB, Dec. 22, 1998).
Located between Laramie and Rawlins on a flattop mesa known as Foote Creek Rim, the Wyoming Wind Energy Project features strong and consistent winds, averaging nearly 25 mph year-round. A Bureau of Land Management official in Wyoming has described the site as resembling "the leading edge of a wing of an airplane," as prevailing winds flow through a gap in the Rocky Mountains and actually accelerate. PacifiCorp and EWEB officials have said the project could exceed 40 percent of capacity on an annual basis, considered quite high for a wind farm.
PacifiCorp, which owns about 80 percent of the project, estimates a 30-year levelized energy cost of 4.5 cents per kilowatt-hour, which includes a 1.5 cents/KWh federal tax credit for 10 years. The 69-turbine wind farm, developed by SeaWest Energy, beat the June 30 completion deadline for tax-credit eligibility with a couple of months to spare.
Where The Wind Energy Goes
Bonneville Power Administration has agreed to buy 15 MW of the 41.4-MW output, which BPA in turn will sell to Salem Electric in Oregon. BPA and SeaWest also are installing three additional turbines on Foote Creek Rim, with a combined capacity of 1.8 MW. Those wind machines are scheduled to begin commercial operation in June, according to BPA's George Darr, whose agency will market the output as wholesale green power.
PacifiCorp, meanwhile, is developing a retail green-power program for its Wyoming wind energy, Miller said.
And EWEB is already working the local green-power market. On April 22, Earth Day, Oregon's largest publicly owned utility officially launched its campaign to sell wind energy to its retail customers.
"We're allowing people to directly control where they have their utility dollars sent," said EWEB's Mat Northway. "The electrons go wherever they . . . please. The utility can't control that anyway, but it can control the dollars."
With that understanding, EWEB is offering residential customers four different choices for buying wind energy: 10 percent of their monthly power, 25 percent, 50 percent or 100 percent. Commercial customers can select a 10-percent option. Customers can also, of course, choose no wind energy, and will find no change in their bills.
For every 1,000 KWh of energy consumed--the average EWEB customer uses about 1,200 KWH monthly--a customer selecting the 10-percent-wind option will pay an additional $3.09 per month, according to Northway. The monthly premium rises to $7.73 for the 25-percent option, $15.45 for the 50-percent mix and $30.90 for 100-percent wind.
EWEB's cost for Wyoming wind energy is projected at around 5 cents/KWh, compared to the 2 cents/KWh average price the utility charges residential customers for the energy component of its 4 cents/KWh average residential rate.
"We're not going to sell more than we've got, and we're not going to charge people more than the cost," Northway said. EWEB estimates its share of Wyoming wind output at 25 million KWh annually, although the exact amount is unknown until the project compiles an operating record.
EWEB expects to sell out its Wyoming wind energy within three years, a goal that would be reached if no commercial customers sign up and one-third of the utility's 60,000 residential customers opt for the 10-percent wind, which is expected to be the most popular choice. Half the customers in a recent EWEB survey said they would pay $3 to $5 more each month for wind energy. And should some of the utility's largest commercial customers go for the green a potential shortage could result.
If the wind energy proves wildly successful in Eugene, Northway said EWEB could arrange for additional turbines in Wyoming. The utility also could ply the wholesale market for green power for its customers, or redistribute its existing wind energy. Conversely, if the wind marketing campaign fizzles, EWEB could sell its Wyoming wind power at wholesale. It could also fold it into the utility's power supply portfolio. Some customers recommended EWEB do so anyway, on the thinking renewables benefit everyone and everyone should pay for them. "Across a community basis there was much more interest in the freedom to make the choice themselves," Northway said. Other customers, he noted, told the utility they wanted cheaper power.
EWEB's marketing avenues for its wind energy include a customer newsletter item, brochures at community events and bill messages. A large banner outside the utility's headquarters reads: "EWEB Windpower: Spun From Thin Air," while a lobby display inside features wind farm photos and brochures. "We haven't started to run up the big balloon and do advertising," said Northway. "It seems on its face so attractive and appealing to the general population it may sell itself," and EWEB doesn't want to "obliterate the natural interest" with a "huge marketing campaign" right off the bat.--Mark Ohrenschall
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A Seattle-area company developing a wind turbine that could produce electricity for 3 cents per kilowatt-hour may have a commercially available product within two years--as a California firm.
The saga of The Wind Turbine Co. illustrates the lure of government funding and market potential for a fledgling renewable energy technology company.
In 1997 The Wind Turbine Co. won a $15 million U.S. Department of Energy contract to develop an advanced wind turbine anticipated to generate power in the range of 3 cents/KWh--competitive with fossil-fuel generating technologies, and some 40-percent lower than the best current wind machines. The Bellevue-based company must raise another $7 million for the cost-share contract.
In 1998 the company was selected for a $950,000 award from the California Energy Commission's Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) program. The California funds will help WTC put together a prototype wind machine, scheduled for installation in Colorado later this year. California also represents a promising source of capital for the small firm, and a promising market for selling wind machines upon commercial production--both more so than the Pacific Northwest.
This combination of advantages could lead The Wind Turbine Co.--which now has 10 employees with plans to expand to 25 next year--to move to the Golden State.
"In California there is more state money available" than in Washington, company president Larry Miles told Con.WEB in March. His firm also hopes to set up a demonstration project with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. "Assuming we're successful on that score we could become a California company fairly quickly, possibly within a year . . . I hate to be crass, but you go where the money goes," he said. WTC also hopes to secure more PIER dollars, and, "If we decided to stay here, the chances of [that] funding are pretty slim . . . They will fund things outside of their state, but they don't want to spend too much of taxpayer dollars somewhere else."
A Washington state energy official called the Wind Turbine Co.'s potential southward migration "unfortunate" but not surprising. "I've met with Larry Miles on a couple of occasions to see if there were some ways the state of Washington could help out in terms of keeping them around here," said Tony Usibelli, acting assistant director of the Energy Policy Group of the state Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development. "Unfortunately . . . we don't have the kind of renewable energy support that the state of California does."
Usibelli cited another Washington renewable-energy firm--Trace Engineering of Arlington, north of Seattle, makers of power inverters--which had to locate a plant in Sacramento to participate in a local solar project. "A lot of companies are beginning to see, either with the incentives or large emerging market down there, they have to have some type of physical presence." Still, he noted, "I don't think it necessarily is a zero-sum game." Wind and solar photovoltaic markets are growing substantially worldwide. Plus, Washington already has a "pretty good-sized" private-sector renewables industry, accounting for yearly sales of nearly $150 million and employing about 900 people, according to a 1998 CTED report.
Wind Turbine Development
Location questions aside, The Wind Turbine Co. has made notable headway toward creating a wind turbine competitive in cost with the dominant forms of central-station energy production. Miles and an official at DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory believe the company's turbine will one day generate power at or below 3 cents/KWh (30-year life-cycle cost at a good wind site).
DOE, in fact, anticipates a 2.5 cents/KWh turbine emerging from this development work. "A lot of things have to happen between now and then, things in business and marketing and financing, but from a technical standpoint, at the moment, we don't see any reason why that is not achievable," said NREL senior project leader Paul Migliore.
The 350-kilowatt prototype turbine planned for installation at NREL's National Wind Technology Center near Denver this summer will be a major milestone, providing--if it works as anticipated--"some tires for people to kick," Miles said. "To this point we've mostly been waving our arms. Everything's on a computer."
The computer shows a two-bladed downwind-facing machine, compared to the three-bladed upwind models leading current wind turbine technology. Downwind turbines can be much more structurally compliant and flexible, Miles explained, and when well-designed they can use much less material. "Our machine weighs 60 percent as much as a comparatively rated upwind machine," he said. That makes a big economic difference; the machine's initial cost accounts for 70 percent of the cost of producing wind energy. In addition, The Wind Turbine Co. design rises taller to capture the wind, increasing electricity generation. "Our basic competitive advantage boils down to the lighter-weight machine, which reduces the cost of electricity by about 20 percent vs. a three-bladed upwind machine, and being higher off the ground, which gives us the ability to produce more electricity . . . Fundamentally you get a combination of those two things and prospectively the cost is 30 to 40 percent lower."
Two-blade downwind turbines have been demonstrated elsewhere, Miles said, although WTC uses some proprietary technology in its design. The firm also benefits from today's advanced computer modeling, as well as "this great big" DOE contract. "Wind energy has turned out to be a lot more complicated from an engineering standpoint than people probably appreciated 15 years ago," Miles said.
The Colorado prototype, in addition to its marketing benefits for The Wind Turbine Co., will also generate important information. "The test data, in combination with continued engineering analysis and cost analysis, will help us zero in and give us the information we need to make a choice as to the right size" for the full-scale models, said Migliore.
WTC would like the 350-KW version ready for the market by the end of 2000, and the full-scale turbine--projected at 1 megawatt--available by 2002 or 2003. "We'll probably sell our first machines commercially in California, simply because we are developing some good contacts in California," said Miles. Other promising state markets include Minnesota, Iowa and Texas--but not Washington. "The project development side of things has really struggled with renewables in general and wind in particular in this state," he said, citing three failed efforts in recent years. "The difficult part of course is competing against very low-cost hydroelectricity. The cost of electricity is twice as high in California as it is here, and there is interest in looking at things that can cut their electric costs."
The Wind Turbine Co. also is looking for investor dollars as well as strategic partners, such as manufacturing companies, but those pursuits are difficult without an actual working product to pitch. DOE funding provides credibility, "but not as much as we'd like," said Miles. "As soon as we end up in some kind of an agreement with a commercial company, I think our credibility will go up considerably."
If his company can get its turbines installed in the United States--"the most competitive marketplace, competitive in terms of competing with all sorts of [energy producing] technologies, not just other wind manufacturers"--it will look for opportunities in the expanding international wind market. He envisions WTC eventually moving into wind project development, in partnership with larger companies.--Mark Ohrenschall
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Progressing on the demand and supply sides of its mission, the Bonneville Environmental Foundation has recorded its third green power sale and adopted goals and criteria for funding Northwest renewable energy and watershed projects beginning later this year.
Orcas Power & Light, which serves Washington's San Juan Islands, has agreed to buy 0.5 average megawatts of certified green power from Bonneville Power Administration beginning in April. Orcas pays 3.57 cents/KWh for the BPA green power, with 60 percent of the approximately 1 cent/KWh price premium accruing to the independent non-profit BEF. This will bring about $30,000 annually to the foundation over the two-year deal. "It's not a huge sale but it's an important one to us," said BEF executive director Angus Duncan.
Orcas joins Emerald PUD and Snohomish County PUD in buying BPA green power and sending most of the price premium to the Bonneville Environmental Foundation (see Con.WEB, Jan. 29, 1999, for a story on Emerald and Snohomish purchases and the foundation). The BEF board lauded Orcas in an April 8 letter to the utility's commissioners: " . . . your action validates the emergence of a market for real, carefully defined and certified green power in the Pacific Northwest."
The cooperative utility offers a retail green power program, and 330 residential members have already agreed to pay a 3.5 cents/KWh premium above the standard residential rate of 5.1 cents/KWh to support renewable energy. Members can choose green power in monthly blocks of 100, 200, 400, 800 and 1,000 KWh; the average is 200 KWh, equaling an additional $7 on member bills, according to Orcas general manager Doug Bechtel.
Orcas members ideally want their green power generated in the San Juan Islands, and about 6 percent of the price premium goes into a fund to foster local renewables/green power. A few residents with wind or solar photovoltaic applications have shown interest in connecting to the utility system, for which they would receive 5.6 cents for each kilowatt-hour delivered, but none have interconnected yet. "We went out to sell green power to our members and we didn't feel we could collect money from them and not deliver green power," said Bechtel. "We're buying the energy from Bonneville realizing we're still trying to encourage [renewables] development in San Juan County, but that's going to be a long time coming."
Bechtel considers the green power initiative a way to position the cooperative for retail competition, before customer choice of electric suppliers arrives in Washington. "I think we have a window of three plus or minus years to meet the needs of our members," he said. "When Enron calls up at 6 p.m. for one of our members, I want the member to say, 'I already get that from my co-op.'"
In addition to the Orcas deal, BEF recently learned it will receive $400,000 in operational funding from the Packard Foundation, on top of an earlier $400,000 grant from the Hewlett Foundation. "This means our operational costs should be fully covered for two years by grant money, and 100 percent of our revenues from green power sales and contributions will go to watershed and renewables projects," Duncan said. The foundation also is line to receive $100,000 from ScottishPower, if its proposed merger with PacifiCorp becomes official.
BEF continues to seek green-power sales opportunities and look for potential additions to its portfolio of certified green-power resources, which now consists of two small hydro projects, in Idaho and Washington, and the Wyoming Wind Energy Project (see related story above).
Selecting Renewables, Watershed Projects
In its mission statement BEF declares it is "dedicated to encouraging and funding projects that develop and/or apply clean, environmentally preferred renewable power and acquire, maintain, preserve, restore and/or sustain fish and wildlife habitat within the Pacific Northwest."
The BEF board in early April adopted policy goals and selection criteria for such renewable energy and watershed initiatives.
On the renewables side BEF has two policy goals: 1) "Over time to displace thermal generation resources in the Pacific Northwest with new, low environmental impact renewable energy resources," and, 2) "To build the technical and financing capability within the region necessary to support such a transformation."
BEF will emphasize new solar, wind and geothermal projects, although it won't preclude other "low environmental impact" renewables such as landfill gas or closed-loop biomass. Funded projects must be located in the Northwest and/or serve Northwest loads. Other preferences include projects that foster renewable resource diversity in the region, offer significant environmental benefits, accelerate commercialization of renewables, expand wholesale and/or end-use customer "understanding, acceptance and demand" for renewables, and leverage other resources. In addition to renewables projects, BEF-funded initiatives could be resource assessments, technology demonstrations, renewable/green power marketing and education, training and certification for technical people, and "development of institutional tools facilitating deployment." Political activities are specifically forbidden.
BEF renewables funding is available for private citizens and organizations along with local and tribal governments, in the potential forms of grants, loans, guarantees and direct investments. For generating projects funding is limited to 33 percent of total capital costs, and, "In no event will BEF funding go to costs which can be met at prevailing market prices."
For watershed works BEF operates under two major policy objectives: 1) "Support projects that are grounded in the best available watershed science," and, 2) "Build capacity--in watershed communities, and in the scientific community--to advance BEF's substantive goals."
Prospective initiatives include watershed biological assessments, monitoring and evaluation, property acquisition, stream/riparian restoration, pollution prevention, historical documentation, research and community/watershed organizations. BEF will prefer projects that address broad ecosystem needs, leverage other resources, enjoy broad stakeholder participation and rely on "non-structural intervention in the watershed," such as changing land-use activities and replanting with native plants.
BEF expects to make its first funding awards this summer or early fall, according to Duncan. Funding between renewables and watershed projects will be split evenly over time, "although in any given year it may vary depending on the projects we choose to participate in."--Mark Ohrenschall
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Snohomish County PUD is doubling the amount of power it will purchase from Klickitat County PUD's landfill-gas energy project in south-central Washington.
In February 1998 Snohomish reached agreement with Klickitat to buy about 2.5 megawatts from the 8.4-MW plant (see Con.WEB, March 31, 1998). Snohomish commissioners recently approved increasing the purchase to about 5 MW.
Under the original 1998 contract Snohomish's price of power is a sliding scale ranging from about 2.5 cents/kilowatt-hour to 3.5 cents/KWh, depending on project output. Snohomish expects the power to cost between 2.8 cents/KWh and 3.4 cents/KWh, or about $1.4 million annually. The utility will not market the landfill-gas energy as green power, but will add it to its general power supply. Snohomish expects to start taking delivery in May.
Klickitat's landfill-gas plant is running, but has not yet gone on-line. It's located at the Roosevelt Regional Landfill, where Snohomish County has been sending its garbage for about 10 years. Snohomish County accounts for almost one-fifth of the solid waste that goes into the landfill.--Jude Noland
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Puget Sound Energy is embarking on a three-year energy conservation plan with some additional planned spending and new programs.
This conservation blueprint, approved by the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission March 30 and generally endorsed by stakeholders, includes a planned annual spending increase from $5.5 million to $7.6 million in electric conservation programs through early 2002. A handful of new programs will join Puget's current portfolio of information-based, utility-funded and market transformation initiatives. Natural gas conservation programs will also slightly increase in funding, from a little less than $1 million to $1.3 million.
Puget's plan represents a modest turnaround for the large investor-owned electric and natural gas utility serving much of populous western Washington.
As Puget Sound Power & Light, the utility was a regional energy conservation leader, recording 182.3 average megawatts of energy savings from 1978 through 1994, according to the Northwest Power Planning Council. No other Northwest local utility reached even half of Puget's total savings, which accounted for 20 percent of the entire regional utility-funded conservation during that period. In its peak year, 1993, Puget reported total energy savings of 29.7 aMW on spending of $59 million. "Puget has successfully demonstrated that there's a significant and cost-effective conservation resource that can be acquired by utilities," Puget's Mary Smith told Conservation Monitor in early 1994.
But times changed in the electric industry--and for Puget. Wholesale competition and a market full of cheap power, the prospect of retail customer choice, rate-impact concerns, increasingly energy-efficient technologies and a landmark merger with Washington Energy Co. (parent of Washington Natural Gas) all contributed in recent years to changing the utility's approach to energy conservation and substantially lowering its spending and savings (see Con.WEB, Oct. 31, 1997).
Now, after working under an interim conservation plan, the Bellevue-based IOU has committed to a three-year energy-saving design.
"I think Puget is certainly beginning to really get itself together," said Sara Patton of the Northwest Energy Coalition. "It's been a tough time for them. They've been through a lot and they're at this point really showing that they're ready to be back in the saddle."
Like many other stakeholders, however, NWEC still finds specific faults. In particular the coalition laments Puget's withdrawal of a proposed fuel-conversion program from electricity to natural gas for space- and water-heating. Others active in Puget's Technical Advisory Group have also expressed some dissatisfactions. Nevertheless, reported a WUTC staff memo, "In general, the TAG group and Staff were relatively pleased" with the Puget filing approved in March.
"The basic message we got from the commission was, 'Don't rely on traditional techniques, be customer- and market-focused . . . focus on creating the right mechanisms so conservation resources are acquired rather than focus on the right dollar spending levels," Puget's George Pohndorf told the WUTC March 30. The interim program, he continued, "didn't allow us the certainty to go forward and have programs geared up and have them effective."
Some customers question the basic premise of utility conservation programs, Pohndorf noted, while others want substantially increased funding. Puget has tried to "walk a line" in its new three-year plan, creating modest rate impacts while offering customer-focused programs targeting a variety of sectors, technologies and approaches. "In the end we're here with a balance," he told commissioners.
The WUTC staff memo summarized: "These initiatives were developed as a means of meeting the challenge to provide energy efficiency benefits to a broad range of customers at a time when the electric and gas industries are in periods of potentially fundamental transition."
Puget's conservation filing offered this rationale: "To promote the efficient use of electrical energy by providing customers with access to information, products and financing which will assist them in making energy efficiency decisions and investments."
Toward that end the utility will increase the rate surcharge to recover conservation costs by an average of 40 percent, generating about $7.6 million annually. This, however, is only $250,000 more than the annual Puget conservation budgets approved in 1997, noted Washington's Public Counsel in formal comments; the utility has spent considerably less than budgeted, about $5.6 million. "It's pretty much a wash" comparing budgets, agreed WUTC's Doug Kilpatrick.
The utility's filing lists 19 separate electric conservation programs, for low-income, residential, commercial, industrial, school, government and other customers and entities, along with market transformation. Services include information, education and training; analyses of efficiency opportunities; facilitation of financing and other services; some financial incentives; money to the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance ($2.7 million in 1999, an estimated $2 million apiece in 2000 and 2001); and local infrastructure and market transformation support.
Among the new programs are a residential duplex/triplex retrofit pilot and bulk refrigerator purchase for low-income multifamily housing.
Despite the general stakeholder endorsement of Puget's overall plan, all is not policy harmony between the utility and its TAG.
One point of contention is the utility's funding levels and savings targets. Public Counsel cited Puget's commitment to the Regional Review's suggestion that 3 percent of electric revenues be earmarked for public purposes, but said Puget's conservation spending of $7.6 million is less than one-fourth of that recommended level. " . . . we strongly believe that PSE must continue increasing its conservation budget in the coming years," added NWEC.
Meanwhile the Washington Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development's Energy Policy Group noted that Puget estimated annual electric savings of 7.4 aMW in 1999 and 6.7 aMW in 2000 and 2001--slightly more than half the available cost-effective energy savings in Puget's territory the market won't capture, based on Northwest Power Planning Council analysis.
Another contentious issue is avoided cost, which defines cost-effective conservation for the utility. In the end the Power Council's avoided cost became Puget's proxy, according to WUTC's Kilpatrick. He explained that the proposed fuel-switching program incorporated environmental externalities that raised the avoided cost and essentially made more conservation measures qualify as cost-effective. It was suggested Puget apply this same calculation to all its programs, but Puget balked. Kilpatrick called this one reason Puget withdrew the fuel-switching program, which would have been geographically targeted to forestall distribution system upgrades. Lost margins represent another challenging fuel-switching issue, according to Patton. "Everybody supported the idea of fuel-switching programs," said Kilpatrick. "It's something that would be efficient and economic, and make good sense for customers . . . It's very likely it would reappear" before the commission.
Also scheduled for reappearance, for the first time since the early 1990s, is an integrated resource (least-cost) plan that Puget has committed to filing this year. Pohndorf said Puget has been focusing on generation divestiture, wholesale power trading and reducing the cost of its power-supply portfolio--not resource acquisition. He said this coming IRP will take a "total energy system approach," examining such concepts as distributed generation, gas-line extensions to offset energy supply and electric transmission/distribution investments, and automated meter reading to reduce peaks. For avoided cost, he told the commission, "Now that we have much more of a liquid power supply market, we want to try and develop a more market-based approach . . . Avoided cost was created back in the days when we didn't have a competitive energy supply market. Now we do."
Even with lower avoided costs, Puget has suggested applying a broader screen for allowable efficiency measures for low-income housing, taking into account non-energy benefits. That means the utility "can justifiably contribute part of the cost of measures that were previously disallowed, but are central to our ability to reach the housing stock our clients inhabit," said The Energy Project, a consortium that works with low-income customers. It called this "an extremely positive improvement," while CTED labeled it a "very useful step."
Another "big improvement," in CTED's view, is Puget's three-year commitment. "This gives them continuity for the program people . . . in Puget and the planners and implementers and the people in the real world wondering if the program's going to be around," noted Patton.
Industrial Customers of Northwest Utilities did not oppose Puget's conservation plan, executive director Ken Canon told the WUTC March 30. In written comments, however, ICNU said it was "dismayed" by the "large percentage increase in the conservation tariff rider for most customers. This increase will not help PSE's poor competitive position."--Mark Ohrenschall
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Energy-efficient buildings are better buildings, all the way around.
This message will be delivered regionwide by the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance under an ambitious and multifaceted venture to transform the market for energy-efficient residential and commercial buildings.
The Efficient Building Practices Initiative--approved by the Alliance board in February 1998 (see Con.WEB, March 31, 1998)--is beginning in earnest. Its centerpiece is an upcoming public information campaign, informed by market research now in progress. A baseline study of current building practices, energy code support activities and private-sector services also are involved in the $6 million venture.
The $3 million public information campaign will target those who are in a position to influence building efficiency, including home-buyers, owners and occupants of commercial and public buildings, architects, engineers, contractors, designers, real-estate agents and lenders.
"We want to let people know how improved energy efficiency in residential and commercial buildings can lead to better comfort and livability," said Alliance chairperson Carol Brown in a news release. "We're going to remind people about the benefits that energy-efficient buildings offer, such as improved quality, better health, increased worker productivity, reduced pollution and enhanced economic value. We believe that once consumers understand the benefits they should expect in their home or workplace, they will demand that designers and contractors build better buildings in the Northwest. At the same time," she continued, "we'll show the building industry ways to profit from attractive, cost-efficient energy features and upgrades."
Spreading The Message
Messages about the benefits of energy efficiency will begin appearing later this year. First the Alliance and its contractor, Cole & Weber, are talking with a regionwide cross-section of people to get a more refined sense of barriers as well as opportunities for energy efficiency in buildings. Cole & Weber has already interviewed the developer of an Idaho subdivision to learn why those homes were built with above-code energy efficiency standards. On the other side program officials keep hearing about building professionals who know energy-efficiency information is available somewhere, but lack research time and consequently stick with conventional less-efficient practices.
Cole & Weber plans to finish its research, which includes interviews, focus groups and a look at other studies, programs and campaigns from elsewhwere, by June, according to C&W's Sue VanBrocklin.
"After they've done all this market research we'll sit down and see what we think would be appropriate messages and appropriate communications channels for each of the audiences," explained Alliance project coordinator Michael O'Brien. Prospective mediums include advertising, public relations, public affairs, local and regional partnerships (for example with sustainable-building interests) and interactive communications on the World Wide Web.
The appropriate message(s), however delivered, will likely incorporate the advantages of efficiency beyond energy. "We'll look at the whole issue around non-energy benefits," O'Brien said. "What things would get people interested that would also get you to energy efficiency?" One potential example: energy-efficient windows, along with good insulation, air-sealing and ventilation, can help prevent mold growth, and its health consequences, in a home. "This is a completely better approach for most people," said O'Brien. "It gets you to where you want to go, but it gives them something they value a lot more than energy efficiency. This is very much the thought process we're trying to go through."
Baseline Efficiency Study, Energy Code Activities
In addition to circulating the efficiency message, the Alliance venture includes a look at building practices these days around the Northwest. Seattle-based Ecotope, the Alliance contractor for this baseline project, will scrutinize about 250 residential buildings and about 160 non-residential buildings. Ecotope also will re-examine buildings used in previous residential and non-residential energy-code compliance studies in Oregon and Washington.
Alliance and Ecotope officials emphasize the baseline work is not focused on determining code conformity. "That's not the point," said Ecotope's Shelly Borelli. "The point is to find out what is out there, what efficiency techniques are used, what components are spec'd, on both the residential and non-residential sides. "The findings will also help gauge future efficiency progress, in specific measures as well as attitudes.
For the residential sector Ecotope will interview builders and building officials, and inspect homes for efficiency levels, as often as possible measuring air leakages in duct systems and building envelopes. For non-residential buildings Ecotope will talk with architects and other professionals, such as lighting designers and HVAC engineers. "The interviews will probably be the biggest piece of new information," Borelli noted.
She is particularly curious to learn "how the market itself is now viewing energy efficiency in this age of dwindling utility resources put into efficiency programs; what builders and consumers think . . . what the potential barriers are and potential pulls" for efficiency.
"We want to know all about energy measures in buildings," said O'Brien, adding there are many potential efficiencies not covered by energy codes, such as an integrated design approach among commercial building owners, architects, engineers and lighting designers.
Another program piece is seed funding for private-sector services fostering efficient buildings. The Alliance also plans to fund energy code support work by state energy offices and code organizations, through a request for proposals process, as well as special one-time projects relating to energy codes. The Efficient Building Practices Initiative evolved from the Alliance's efforts to develop a long-term strategy for energy codes throughout the Northwest, which led to the more diverse program intended to transform the residential and commercial building markets.--Mark Ohrenschall
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The Oregon Senate has passed a proposal to restructure Oregon's electric utility industry, including provisions for public-purposes funding.
Senate Bill 1149 passed April 20 on a bipartisan vote of 18 to 12. It moves next to the House Commerce Committee's subcommittee on regulations, where it's not expected to surface until early May while the House finishes taking care of its own proposals before working on Senate-generated bills.
SB 1149 provides commercial and industrial customers of investor-owned utilities with direct access on Oct. 1, 2001--the same date by which residential IOU customers are to receive a portfolio of rate options. Meanwhile, the Oregon Public Utility Commission would report to the 2003 Legislature on whether residential customers would benefit from open access. And the local governing bodies of consumer-owned utilities would determine under what terms and conditions direct access would be offered--if at all--and to which customer classes.
While not all parties have voiced support for SB 1149, almost all say the bill addresses their concerns about restructuring in Oregon. "We're fine with it," said Diane Cowan of the Oregon PUD Association. "It allows the flexibility each of our boards need" and has "very good local control language."
The public utility coalition has essentially taken a neutral position on the proposal, said Sandra Flicker of the Oregon Rural Electric Cooperatives Association. "We needed to have the local control amendments [included] if restructuring were to occur in Oregon," she said, "but our mission was not to create local control amendments to promote restructuring."
"We're pleased," said Brad Van Cleve, attorney for Industrial Customers of Northwest Utilities. SB 1149 provides commercial and industrial customers of IOUs--including many ICNU members--with direct access by 2001.
Also pleased is the Fair and Clean Energy Coalition, which pushed for the 3-percent public-purposes charge included in the measure. For both IOUs and consumer-owned utilities, the charges sunset in 10 years.
For IOUs the measure specifies that 68 percent of the 3 percent of total revenues from retail electricity services is to be spent on new cost-effective energy conservation and market transformation initiatives; 19 percent is designated for the above-market costs of new renewables; and the remaining 13 percent is earmarked for new low-income weatherization. At least 80 percent of the funds allocated for conservation are to be spent in the service area of the IOU collecting the funds. Customers with loads of more than 1 average megawatt can self-direct public-purposes funding for on-site conservation projects, but cannot receive credit for more than 68 percent of the annual public-purposes charge collected.
For consumer-owned utilities fees would be allocated and collected locally--there are no percentage requirements for different types of public purposes. In addition the fees would be tied to direct access--utility by utility and customer class by customer class. The charge would be sufficient to produce revenue of not less than 3 percent of the total revenue from the sale of electricity to the consumer class in the consumer-owned utility's service territory. A consumer-owned utility with fewer than 17 customers per mile of distribution line could base its public- purposes charge on either total revenue or volume of sales, to accommodate high distribution costs.
The measure gives the OPUC authority to oversee implementation of the act among IOUs, to ensure there is no cost-shifting and that stranded costs and/or benefits are collected; to regulate energy service providers; and to establish rules for unbundled rates and services, aggregation and consumer protection
Several people involved in SB 1149 say the measure represents a relatively fragile compromise. If the House subcommittee--chaired by Rep. Bill Witt--or the House Commerce Committee, chaired by Rep. Jim Hill, who unsuccessfully spearheaded 1997 efforts at passing a restructuring proposal--makes any changes in SB 1149, support for restructuring could fall apart.--Jude Noland
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Montana Gov. Marc Racicot in late April signed three public-purposes-related bills sent to him by the Montana Legislature.
One is a new net metering bill--described as "one of the nation's most aggressive"--designed to encourage private investment in renewable energy resources. Another allows formation of statewide small customer buying co-ops, and a third clarifies the administration of universal systems benefits programs outlined in the state's original electric restructuring act.
Senate Bill 409--which, beginning July 1, allows owners of small renewable energy systems to practice net metering--was passed unanimously by the Senate, by the House on a vote of 96 to 3, and was signed by Racicot April 16.
Sponsored by Sen. Jon Ellingson (D-Missoula) and supported by the Renewable Northwest Project, Natural Resources Defense Council and Montana Environmental Information Center, the new law will, in effect, let electric customers who own solar, wind and hydro equipment with a capacity of no more than 50 kilowatts run their electric meters "backward" while generating their own renewable electricity. These customers will pay their incumbent utility only for the "net" energy they purchase during any billing period.
SB 409 also gives the Montana Public Service Commission authority to oversee net metering and to adopt additional guidelines, such as safety and power-quality standards. NRDC's Ralph Cavanagh said the fact the new law contains "no cap on potentially eligible renewable energy capacity" is among its impressive features.
"This legislation provides significant new incentives for utility customers to generate their own power using renewable energy," said Rachel Shimshak, executive director of the Renewable Northwest Project.
Racicot also signed two more pieces of public-purposes-related legislation at an Earth Day ceremony in Helena.
Senate Bill 406, sponsored by Sen. Steve Doherty (D-Great Falls), provides for the creation of one or more non-profit, statewide customer buying co-ops to serve residential and small commercial customers--those with less than 100 KW in average monthly demand--who fall within the service territory of an investor-owned distribution utility.
These customers might not otherwise have a choice of electricity supplier in the state's newly restructured market. The bill also gives the Montana PSC authority to designate one or more default suppliers within an IOU's territory to serve customers who aren't presented with a choice.
SB 406 passed unanimously in the Senate and on a vote of 96 to 2 in the house. "I'm really pleased with this," Bill Drummond, general manager of Western Montana Electric Generation and Transmission Co-op, told Con.WEB when the House passed the measure out of committee. Drummond has been involved with the development of the small customer buying co-op idea since its inception in an NRDC-commissioned study. "I think some amendments that have been added really strengthen it. This is a better bill than when it went into committee," he said. Drummond noted that while co-ops formed under SB 406 will be limited to providing power supply, they will be able to offer a more diverse portfolio of energy options than the bill originally envisioned. This could include renewable energy. In addition, co-ops will collect USBP funds.
Racicot also approved House Bill 337, which passed the Senate unanimously and the House by a vote of 93 to 7. Sponsored by Rep. Ernest Bergsagel (R-Malta), chair of the legislature's universal systems benefits program subcommittee, HB 377 expands and implements public-purposes elements of Montana's 1997 comprehensive electric restructuring act. Under the 1997 law, Montana utilities must fund conservation, renewables, low-income and energy efficiency programs in 1999 at a level of 2.4 percent of their 1995 retail sales revenues. While the state's original restructuring act pinpointed this level of public-purposes funding--which amounts to approximately $13 million this year--it failed to stipulate exactly how and by whom the money should be administered.
HB 337 sets up a credit system for utilities' and large customers' internal public-purposes expenditures. It also modifies the rate structure. The 2.4-percent benchmark will remain in place for most parties until the end of the state's restructuring transition period on July 1, 2003. But large customers, defined by the bill as those with "an individual load greater than a monthly average of 1,000 KW demand in the previous calendar year," must pay the lesser of either $500,000, or the product of .09 cents/KWh and the customer's total annual kilowatt-hour purchases. Under both these scenarios, large customers will still receive credits against their annual public-purposes obligation for internal conservation expenditures.
HB 337 gives the state Department of Revenue authority to audit these programs and charges. The law would also set up state funds to administer any money earmarked for public purposes but left unspent by utilities failing to meet the 2.4-percent obligation.--Angela Becker-Dippmann.
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A new regional institution to help evaluate, track, improve and promote Northwest energy conservation and renewable energy initiatives has gained official endorsement from the Northwest Power Planning Council.
The Regional Technical Forum will function as an advisory committee to the Council, which approved the RTF's creation April 7 in Boise. An RTF charter is anticipated for Council approval in May. The forum, considered an "apolitical" body, should begin meeting in June or July after prospective members with technical expertise are sought and appointed by the Council, according to NWPPC conservation manager Tom Eckman.
A top priority for the RTF will be developing advisory recommendations on qualifying conservation/renewables measures for Bonneville Power Administration's proposed conservation/renewables wholesale rate discount. The final list of recommended measures is planned to be sent to BPA by September 2000, so Bonneville can make decisions and inform customers before the rate discount goes into effect in October 2001. BPA officials also want the RTF's tracking and evaluation work to "encompass and support" the discount.
The RTF will fulfill directives from Congress and suggestions by the Regional Review in carrying out its multiple mission: 1) Develop standardized protocols for verification and evaluation of energy savings; 2) Track regional progress toward conservation and renewables goals; 3) Offer suggestions to improve the effectiveness of conservation/renewables initiatives; and 4) Publicize findings and promote exemplary efforts.
The Council itself has done much of this work since the 1980s, as noted in a 1998 draft RTF proposal. Congress, however, in 1996 envisioned a need for an RTF, given the more decentralized and diversified approach to conservation emerging among Northwest utilities. The Review, meanwhile, wanted a means to assess progress toward public-purposes goals and to provide uniform evaluation/verification standards for a competitive energy services marketplace.
"It's really destined to provide a very valuable service to the Northwest, from what I've heard from people around the region," Council member Tom Karier said at the April 7 RTF approval.
Eckman described the RTF as an "apolitical" body whose principal value will be providing an "objective technical sounding board." Ralph Cavanagh of the Natural Resources Defense Council, speaking at a Portland conference in October, said the RTF would provide "the regionwide standards and quality-control peer review that energy efficiency has to have to deliver value." With "assurances" on energy savings and costs, "We will see the public demand for these investments increase. The 3 percent [public-purposes spending recommendation from the Review] will simply become irrelevant because there's so much more to do than that relatively small fraction of the bill will permit."
Despite its association with the Council and BPA, the RTF will still be somewhat independent. Its Bonneville discount recommendations are strictly advisory, and those suggestions will not need Council approval before going to BPA.
"In thinking about the RTF, the overriding goals have been credibility and buy-in," according to a February Council issue paper. "The RTF and its products must have credibility with the various interests including the customers, regulators, public-interest groups . . . interests must be satisfied that the RTF is producing high quality, objective technical information, not unduly influenced by one set of interests or another." In addition, "These groups must be convinced that the RTF provides a fair and open forum in which their views have an opportunity to be heard and given due consideration."
The Council emphasizes the technical nature of the RTF, and, according to Eckman, it will seek people with expertise in the likes of program design, management and evaluation, engineering economics, building science research and renewable energy. Abandoning an earlier idea to create proportional RTF representation among utilities, state energy agencies and public-interest groups, the Council now will seek people with specific technical skills and available time. "Given the lean and meanness of the utilities these days, getting people who have enough time to devote to this that are still there, and whose company is willing to let them spend time on this," could be challenging, Eckman noted. Membership on the non-paying RTF is anticipated to range from 12 to 15 people.
Karier asked Eckman April 7 whether RTF membership is a "Supreme Court kind of appointment." Eckman replied: "My guess is no one will want to serve for life. It's pro-bono work and a fair amount of work." He anticipates the RTF will meet one day a month, at least initially. People interested in joining the RTF should call the Council at the number listed below.
Annual RTF budget is projected at $300,000, according to Eckman. The Council will fund the RTF in its first year, and will share expenses with BPA in later years.--Mark Ohrenschall
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Reflecting a continuing decline in conservation, Bonneville Power Administration reports a nearly 50-percent drop in program energy savings in fiscal year 1998.
BPA conservation programs saved 20.5 average megawatts in FY 1998, down from 39.9 aMW in FY 1997, according to BPA's latest Conservation Resource Energy Data publication, also known as The Red Book. This marks the third consecutive year BPA energy savings have fallen from their 1990s high of 54 aMW in FY 1995.
"It's not a surprise," said BPA energy efficiency vice president Terry Esvelt. "It reflects the ramping down of our expenditures." The Red Book shows BPA annual conservation costs peaked this decade at $172 million in FY 1994, dropping to $122 million in 1995, $95 million in 1996, $42 million in 1997 and $37 million in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30.
This downward trend is virtually certain to continue. BPA conservation programs are projected to save a total of 12 aMW from FY 1999 through FY 2003. Bonneville's third-party financing arrangements and flexible spending agreements with utilities provided most of the reported 1998 savings, but these are coming to a close this year, according to Esvelt. BPA's "true out-of-pocket" conservation spending will total about $20 million apiece in fiscal years 2000 and 2001.
BPA's conservation savings and spending totals in The Red Book are derived from local utilities and double-checked by Bonneville, according to BPA's Lee Jones. The reported figures exclude the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance--for which Bonneville is the major funder, at $15 million annually--as well as BPA's energy efficiency market development activities, for which BPA's 1998 costs were $3.8 million.
The Red Book does include savings from more energy-efficient building codes in areas served by publicly owned BPA Northwest utility customers. These amounted to 13.1 aMW in 1998, raising BPA's savings total for the year to 33.6 aMW. "The good news to me is we made an investment in building codes a long time ago," Esvelt said, through programs such as Super Good Cents that helped establish energy-efficient practices that led to more stringent codes. "That continues to be a steady, reliable deliverer of energy savings at virtually no cost . . . That kind of example of market transformation is something that I think is an example for us to aspire to."
The Big Picture
While the trend line for BPA conservation is clearly down--a result of many factors, including competitive wholesale power markets, Bonneville cost-cutting and a diminished energy resource acquistion role--the federal power marketing agency can still claim a substantial historical energy-saving record.
Bonneville programs in the residential, commercial, industrial, agricultural and multi-sector categories have saved 499.5 aMW since 1982, according to The Red Book. Most of these savings came in residential (178.6 aMW) and commercial (118.7 aMW), followed by multi-sector (90.8 aMW), industrial (90.3 aMW) and agricultural (21.2 aMW). Energy-code efficiencies in public-power territory amount to 127.7 aMW in this period, while the conservation/modernization program for aluminum smelters gained another 95.9 aMW. (All reported savings include transmission line-loss credits of 7.5 percent for acquisition programs and 2.5 percent for Con/Mod.)
BPA's cumulative conservation total of 725 aMW--phrased in The Red Book as "total energy savings attributable to BPA's investments"--equals about two-thirds of Seattle City Light's firm load.
On the dollar side of the ledger, BPA reports it has spent $1.75 billion on conservation from 1982 through 1998. The breakdown: residential, $1 billion; commercial, $330 million; multi-sector, $135 million; industrial, $107 million; miscellaneous, $86 million; Con/Mod, $48 million; and agricultural, $29 million. These invoiced figures include direct and indirect costs and a share of corporate overhead, but exclude interest expense on conservation borrowing.
|Source: BPA Conservation Resource Energy Data|
The Red Book cautions against using the spending and savings figures to calculate a cost per energy-unit saved, because of the varying lifetimes and characteristics of energy-saving measures and the lack of a direct relationship between the cost and savings numbers as presented.
1998 In Review
About 60 percent of BPA's 1998 programmatic energy savings--12.9 aMW out of 20.5 aMW total--came in the multi-sector category. The single biggest contributor was third-party financing arrangements; these garnered 9.5 aMW. Flex agreements with local utilities--allowing them to spend BPA conservation funds over longer periods and with more flexibility--brought in another 3.3 aMW. Altogether BPA spent $12.8 million on multi-sector programs in 1998.
The commercial sector was Bonneville's other significant 1998 energy-saving contributor, at 6.8 aMW; 4.6 aMW from the Targeted Acquisition Program and 2.2 aMW from Energy Smart Design. BPA spent $10.4 million in this sector. Residential initiatives accounted for 0.7 aMW in savings and $5.9 million in costs, while industrial programs generated 0.2 aMW of conservation and cost BPA $3.6 million. No agricultural energy savings were reported in 1998.--Mark Ohrenschall
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In a merger of Montana organizations active in the growing field of resource efficiency, the Center for Resourceful Building Technology has affiliated with the National Center for Appropriate Technology in Butte.
CRBT--well-known for its demonstration building projects and its guides to resource-efficient building materials--became an NCAT project Feb. 1 and will continue its mission to promote environmentally responsible construction through research, education and demonstration activities.
"It's an incredible opportunity for us to expand our horizons and our scope," CRBT's Tracy Mumma told Con.WEB. Joining with the larger NCAT provides the Missoula-based center with "more stability and visibility," she said, and will allow it to take "a more comprehensive approach to the field of environmentally responsible building." CRBT, for example, wants to expand its work on the combination of affordable housing and resource efficiency.
"We are delighted to adopt CRBT and its staff into the family of NCAT programs and look forward to working together on projects that foster resource efficiency, particularly in the energy and building fields," NCAT executive director Kathy Hadley said in a news release. "Our organizations have similar missions as well as projects with national focus and by working together we can help more people."
NCAT's Web site describes the organization's mission: "To champion sustainable technologies and community based approaches that protect natural resources and assist people, especially the economically disadvantaged, in becoming self reliant." Founded in 1976, "NCAT's work has grown from addressing the immediate energy needs of low-income people to promoting a wide array of sustainable technologies and technology transfer, including nationally-recognized work in energy and resource efficiency and sustainable agriculture."
CRBT was founded in 1990 in Missoula by builder Steve Loken, and has evolved into a national information center. In addition to its guidebooks and demonstration projects, CRBT "offers design review and materials selection consulting services and provides technical assistance on all aspects of environmentally responsible construction," according to NCAT. CRBT also has created a "Traveling Trunk" to teach students the connection between natural resources and buildings.
"We're very committed to keep up with what we've always done," Mumma said. She sees growing interest in resource-efficient building, as evidenced by the first green-building conference held recently by the National Association of Home Builders, at which Loken gave the keynote address. "That was a big step for the mainstream building industry," she said. "There's a long way to go, but I think there is more interest and definitely more public interest and more and more information on resource-efficient building coming up in more mainstream periodicals. It's a promising time."--Mark Ohrenschall
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Portland General Electric and Ash Grove Cement Co. were honored for energy efficiency accomplishments in the seventh annual BEST Business Awards presented April 16 in Portland.
PGE was recognized for three new energy-efficient line crew centers, which replaced a larger facility in Beaverton. " . . . compared to the old facility, the building energy use has been cut by $50,000 per year," according to a project summary. "These were built to standards that resulted in energy savings of 43 percent above similar buildings built just to code." An additional $25,000 in construction costs resulted in such energy-efficient features as daylighting with electronic dimming ballasts, dual-fuel heat pumps (with natural gas auxiliary heat), higher levels of insulation, more efficient windows and outside air economizers.
Ash Grove Cement won an award for its innovative use of landfill gas for its Rivergate Lime Plant, located near a former landfill. "Through a unique public-private partnership, Metro [regional government] has joined forces with Ash Grove and Palmer Capital to install a 9,400-foot pipeline connecting the two sites," according to a project summary. "A compressor station has been installed to deliver landfill gas to the lime plant. The gas generated by the landfill is now being used to fuel three lime kilns that operate around the clock, significantly reducing Ash Grove's reliance on natural gas or other fossil fuels. Prior to this project, the gas generated by the landfill was flared on-site, providing no useful benefit. Using landfill gas for commercial purposes will save fuel and reduce air emissions."
Other BEST award-winners: Buckman Heights Apartments, transportation alternatives; Crown Cork and Seal Co., water conservation; Fred Meyer, transportation alternatives; Mt. Scott Family Dental, waste reduction/recycling; The ReBuilding Center, waste reduction/recycling.
BEST (Businesses for an Environmentally Sustainable Tomorrow) is a city of Portland service to help businesses save money and benefit the environment. The awards program is issued jointly by the city, the Association for Portland Progress, the Business Journal of Portland and the Environmental Federation of Oregon.
Entries are open for the 1999 Architecture + Energy Awards: Building Excellence in the Northwest.
The competition--administered by the American Institute of Architects/Portland Chapter and sponsored by the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance--honors the successful integration of architectural design and energy-efficient technology, according to AIA/Portland. This is the seventh year for the awards.
Completed commercial buildings in Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington--both new construction and major renovation projects--are eligible for the competition, which will be judged by a panel of jurors from architectural, engineering and lighting-design firms across the country. Entries will be judged on energy performance, treatment of energy-related elements, climate-responsive design, resource efficiency and creativity.
June 4 is the entry deadline. An awards presentation and workshop will take place June 25 at McMenamin's Kennedy School in Portland.
Two Northwest universities have been awarded U.S. Department of Energy grants for photovoltaic research.
The University of Oregon, in collaboration with Reed College of Portland, will research photovoltaic material consisting of the elements copper, indium, gallium and selenium. "CIGS is a new solar cell material that may replace conventional silicon solar cells," according to a DOE news release. The UO/Reed research, funded at $200,000 over three years, "may help improve the efficiency and perhaps even lower the cost for producing electricity from CIGS devices."
Washington State University, with a $320,000 award for three years, "will be studying the electrical behavior of thin-film microcrystalline silicon that could be used in solar cells, using about 100 times less silicon than in today's cells, while still converting sunlight to significant amounts of electricity," according to DOE.
Altogether DOE awarded nearly $5 million to 18 U.S. universities. "Photovoltaic is one of the technologies we will depend on to help power the 21st century," said energy secretary Bill Richardson. "The ultimate goal of this research is to expand the applications for solar energy by advancing the technology," which DOE said will contribute to reducing pollution, saving energy and shrinking energy costs for consumers and businesses.
The Home Energy Saver Web site recently launched by the federal government is designed to help people identify the best ways to save energy and money in their homes.
Sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Energy for the ENERGY STAR program, Home Energy Saver takes detailed home descriptions provided by users to compute current energy use and estimate how much energy and money can be saved, and pollution prevented, through various efficiency improvements. Heating, cooling, major appliances, lighting and miscellaneous energy uses are included, according to Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, which developed the software program.
The site also provides links to information on energy-efficient homes, products, service providers, utility programs and reading materials.
A testimonials section on the Web site includes praise from Tacoma City Light energy auditor Mark Percy, who described Home Energy Saver: "Excellent resource for residents of single-family homes. I will be recommending this Web Site to our customers that want to dive deeper into understanding their energy use."
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