A SERVICE OF ENERGY NEWSDATA

Con.WEB
Con.WEB website links Con.WEB Calendar of Events Con.WEB In Brief Back Issues & Subject Index Search Con.WEB

Funding Support from the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance

CWEB.048/December.21.1999


1) Council Staff Recommends BPA Acquire 150 aMW from 2002-2006
2) Idaho Energy Efficiency Reputation Deserves Upgrading
3) Oregon College Improves Infrastructure, Saves Energy
4) New Alliance Chairperson Sees Solid Building Blocks for Future
5) Duct-Sealing Technology Tested in Washington Homes
6) Benton PUD Offers Green Power to Retail Customers
7) Montana Considers Electricity Source Information Rules
8) BRIEFS: PacifiCorp Rate Increase/System Benefits Charge Proposal; Snohomish County PUD Compact Fluorescent Giveways to Low-Income Households; PGE's Earth Friendly Power Program; Distributed Energy Conference; Oregon Net Metering Tariffs


POLICY

150 aMW Over Five Years

Power Council Staff Recommends Bonneville Acquire
Minimum of 30 aMW Annually From 2002-2006

Bonneville Power Administration should acquire a minimum of 150 average megawatts of conservation in fiscal years 2002 through 2006, according to a draft staff recommendation from the Northwest Power Planning Council.

BPA could achieve that goal through its proposed conservation and renewable energy wholesale rate discount, market transformation via the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, low-income weatherization funding and the "augmentation" of its power supplies to meet anticipated higher loads for the 2002-2006 rate period.

In addition, Council staff recommends in a new draft issue paper on BPA conservation acquisition, Bonneville should think about making the conservation/renewables discount a platform for further efficiencies, and using competitive bidding to gain energy savings.

The 150 aMW benchmark represents Bonneville's share of available cost-effective energy savings, about one-third of the Northwest total, according to the Council paper. If achieved, ". . . the regional present-value cost of providing electric services would be approximately $235 million lower than if this conservation goes undeveloped." Each 30 aMW annual acquisition would cost an average of $64 million from all sources--Bonneville as well as its wholesale customers and their end-use customers.

In addition to draft staff recommendations, the Council paper analyzes three different prospective approaches for Bonneville conservation from 2002-2006: a conventional long-term strategy, mimicking of short-term open market power purchases, and a "middle ground" in which BPA pays for energy efficiencies to the extent customers stay on the Bonneville system.

Council staff suggests the Council endorse the middle ground, which would minimize rate impacts and risks to BPA while still leading to significant savings. Staff considers this option consistent with Bonneville's own draft principles for conservation augmentation (outlined in the issue paper).

The Council wants to hear from interested people on this draft issue paper. Public comments are due by Jan. 21, and also can be offered at the Council's Jan. 12 meeting in Tacoma.

Backdrop

The immediate backdrop to this paper is Bonneville's perceived need for an additional 800 aMW to 1,000 aMW during the next five-year rate period to meet anticipated bigger loads. Growing demand on BPA, with its expected low prices relative to the market, is driven by general load growth along with power commitments to investor-owned utilities and direct-service customers, according to the Council paper. Also, the federal hydropower system faces constraints for salmon recovery operations, further squeezing BPA power supplies.

Most of Bonneville's so-called "augmentation" is expected to come from open-market power supplies, but the agency has a responsibility to (and has publicly committed to) pursue conservation as well, the paper notes.

That responsibility stems from the 1980 Pacific Northwest Electric Power Planning and Conservation Act, which gives resource acquisition priority to cost-effective conservation, first, and renewable energy, second. The Council paper outlines successes of regional energy conservation--1,440 aMW of efficiencies gained by utility programs through 1997, at an average cost below avoided costs--as well as controversies over BPA's centralized "command and control" approach, investment inequities and lost utility revenues. It also touches on BPA and utility cutbacks in conservation spending since the mid-1990s, along with the electric marketplace and its evolution.

"The question that this issue paper addresses is this: 'How can Bonneville meet its legal obligations and acquire the conservation that is cost-effective in a way that is consistent with the risk and opportunities faced by Bonneville and its customers?'"

What's Available?

The issue paper refers to the 1998 Council power plan's identification of 1,535 aMW as the average amount of regionally cost-effective conservation available, at an average levelized cost of 1.8 cents per kilowatt-hour, "roughly two-thirds of the cost of new generating resources." These estimates presume a regional avoided cost for new power supplies of about 3 cents/KWh.

BPA expects to serve about one-third of the total regional load during 2002-2006, and should target a comparable amount of conservation acquisition, the paper said. "Bonneville and its [power] subscribing customers need to acquire roughly 30 aMW of conservation annually between 2002 and 2006, or 150 aMW over the subscription period . . . For purposes of comparison, Bonneville and its utility customers acquired an average of nearly 60 aMW annually between 1993 and 1997."

How Can BPA Get It?

Three potential approaches for BPA conservation acquisition are outlined in the issue paper.

One is described as "traditional long term acquisition," designed to minimize the cost of electricity services over time. "This particular approach leads to the most savings, the most conservation implemented, but also the most significant rate impacts and the greatest potential for stranded costs," Council power planning director Dick Watson told the Council Dec. 8.

Another conservation strategy would mimic short-term open market purchases as much as possible. Bonneville would use a rate impact test for conservation, to keep its rates the same as if the agency bought power on the market, and it would only pay for energy savings delivered during 2002-2006. Rate impacts and risks to Bonneville would be minimal, according to the issue paper, but so would the added efficiencies gained: " . . . there are very limited conservation opportunities available that can pay for themselves in a relatively short contract period."

The third option, preferred by Council staff, takes a "middle ground" position. "An alternative policy would be for Bonneville to tailor the amount it is willing to pay for conservation according to the value of the savings to Bonneville over the useful life of the project or measures while endeavoring to minimize the cost to Bonneville," the paper states. "It would pay for savings produced as long as and to the extent that a customer kept load on Bonneville."

"We think that, certainly, depending how customers view the risk profile associated with this, this could approach what could be achieved in terms of conservation savings, while minimizing the rate impact and risk to Bonneville," Watson told the Council.

Council staff also advocates bolstering BPA's conservation/renewables discount, "to serve as a platform for acquiring conservation from Bonneville's customers." Staff acknowledges BPA's reluctance to tinker with the current rate case, but believes "the potential confusion and duplication resulting from two parallel efforts argue for consolidation. As currently proposed, the [discount] program does not contain sufficient incentives for utilities to aggressively seek consumer cost-sharing so as to leverage the discount." One idea is to expand the list of discount-eligible measures "by adding to it what Bonneville is willing to pay for each measure or program. Utilities would be free to choose those items from the list that fit their community's needs and the needs of their utility and that they can accomplish for the amount Bonneville is willing to pay (or which they can justify on the basis of other benefits to the utility)."

Another recommendation suggests BPA competitive bidding for conservation acquisition, by utilities, energy services companies, state and local governments, and other entities. This should "to the extent workable mirror the range of market power products it is also buying," such as high-load-hour energy or winter capacity for major load centers. And Bonneville's transmission business line also should get involved in supporting conservation, because it benefits, too, according to the issue paper.

Council member Tom Karier called the paper's recommendations "very insightful, very useful," although he wondered, "Maybe we should be a little less concerned precisely how Bonneville achieves" the 150 aMW target. "Let [BPA] worry about doing it as cheaply as possible," he suggested, as long as the conservation is incremental and verifiably reduces BPA load.--Mark Ohrenschall

More Information:

***Return to Contents


PERSPECTIVES

A View of Idaho

Idaho's Regional Efficiency Reputation
Deserves Some Upgrading

Idaho's regional reputation for energy efficiency is generally less than stellar.

Some of it undoubtedly stems from the state's minimalist energy standards for buildings. Idaho has no statewide commercial energy code (although a handful of communities have adopted one) and the Idaho Residential Energy Standards (IRES) that went into effect in 1996 are considered not quite equivalent to Model Energy Code standards.

The state's dominant utility, Idaho Power, has steadily dismantled its conservation programs in Illustration of the state of Idahorecent years, fearing stranded costs in a restructured electric industry. While neighboring Oregon and Montana have officially restructured with provisions for public-purposes funding of conservation and renewables, and Washington has at least toyed with the idea, Idaho looks askance at open retail competition, envisioning its low-cost hydropower flowing out of state. Idaho public-purposes funding appears as likely in the near future as Amory Lovins retrofitting Rocky Mountain Institute with incandescent light bulbs.

These circumstances contribute to Idaho's somewhat tarnished standing in energy efficiency, but they do not tell the whole story.

I know Idaho also as the home to enclaves of progressive thinking and action on energy efficiency and renewables.

I'm thinking of publicly owned utilities such as Kootenai Electric Cooperative and the city of Idaho Falls, among others, and Idaho Power's support of solar photovoltaics and market transformation via the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance. I'm thinking of people and programs at the Idaho Department of Water Resources Energy Division, Idaho Public Utilities Commission, Association of Idaho Cities and Northwest Building Operators Association, among others. I'm thinking of many Idaho building professionals I've come across over the years who truly understand the merits of energy efficiency, and put it into practice.

As usual, perception and reality are not quite the same.

I decided to learn more at the Idaho Energy Conference the first week of November in Sun Valley. This also afforded an opportunity to market Con.WEB at a conference booth, and to visit this renowned mountain town for the first time since my childhood.

There is, indeed, much enchanting about Sun Valley and environs, even or maybe especially in fall, when snow dusts the top of the ski hill and yellow leaves sparkle and dance in the trees and streams flow clear and calm out of the high mountains toward the Snake River. The communities of Sun Valley and neighboring Ketchum are quiet--slack season, the locals call it--and this seems to accentuate the wonderfully diverse surroundings, from sagebrush to alpine.

Idaho Efficiency

But most of my time--honest!--was spent inside at the energy conference, where it was apparent: 1) Many people in Idaho do care about energy efficiency; 2) Idaho's energy efficiency reputation deserves some upgrading; 3) Many opportunities exist to enhance efficiency in Idaho and beyond; and 4) Idaho still has a ways to go to become a sustainable energy center.

Did you know that Idaho ranks 41st in state-level energy consumption, according to 1996 data from the federal Energy Information Administration, but 13th in per-capita energy consumption. I suspect some of this owes to climate and rural transportation patterns, but it doesn't speak glowingly of Idaho's energy efficiency.

And did you know that 50 percent of Idaho houses surveyed in a regional baseline study of construction practices do not meet IRES? David Baylon of Ecotope reported this at the conference. [Editor's note: Look for more on this study in a coming issue.]

But here's a curiously countervailing item, courtesy of Steve Kokes of Cole & Weber, which is working on the Alliance's regional Efficient Building Practices Initiative. In focus groups with building professionals, business decision-makers and home-owners, "People on the east side, especially Idaho, were more progressive in their thinking about energy efficiency than people on the west side." Take that, we smug Ecotopians!

Energy Progressivism

Idaho also has numerous material examples of energy progressivism, two of which were spotlighted at the conference.

One is the NeXt House in Post Falls, funded by Bonneville Power Administration to showcase super-efficient residential energy-efficient technologies (see Con.WEB, Aug. 31, 1999, for a story on the NeXt House).

Another is Hidden Springs, a planned development north of Boise that bucks the stereotype for planned developments. A Hidden Springs sticker has the word "SUBURBS" crossed out in red. Instead, it blends small-town rural living with uncommon environmental and civic sensitivities.

Some three-fourths of the property will be left in native or revegetated states, according to developer Jim Grossman. A working farm, meanwhile, supplies fruits and vegetables to a local store, "[c]onnecting people to both the land and each other," according to a brochure.

The built environment includes a Village Green, or commons, and a surrounding town center. Most homes in The Village neighborhood have garages off alleys, creating "frontscapes"that minimize vehicles and maximize social interactions. Street widths are narrower than the norm.

On the energy side Hidden Springs homes are constructed to Building America criteria, which Grossman described as "a 40-percent saving over conventional [efficiency] standards for the area." This costs about $2,000 more per home, but that gap should be closed in subsequent construction through downsized HVAC equipment, more efficient framing and different insulation. "So far we've been very pleased with the energy savings," he said, although, "To the consumer, energy savings, energy efficiency, isn't at the top of the list in the buyer's mind."

Some consideration was given to alternative energy systems, but that fell by the wayside because of concerns they "were going to take that much more time, energy and effort," according to Grossman. He acknowleged this as an opportunity unrealized.

We can all do better, can't we?

The Idaho Energy Conference also afforded many opportunities to learn more about advancing energy efficiency. Among the session topics were lighting design for commercial buildings, building commissioning, Idaho's GEMSTAR home energy rating system, performance contracting and duct improvements. In another session, people in small groups took on specific roles in a local community and talked about energy efficiency upgrades to a city building. This offered different efficiency perspectives, and reaffirmed the imperative of promoting efficiency well beyond the straight energy benefits.

And Bill Browning of the Rocky Mountain Institute took us on a whirlwind tour of green development around the world, from a diving resort in Fiji with wind and photovoltaic energy and biological treatment of waste; to a super-resource-efficient Dutch office building that (this is very cool) has a small stream gurgling down a handrail, which adds needed humidity and background sound to an otherwise too-quiet space; to the Greening of the White House. And many more, too numerous to recount here, but reinforcing the notion that green development has many environmental, resource-efficiency, human and economic advantages.

Awards

For those skeptics who think energy efficiency awards in Idaho are an oxymoron, abundant evidence to the contrary emerged at the conference awards banquet.

Energy Codes Excellence Awards went to the cities of Bellevue, Blackfoot and Caldwell, along with Bonneville County, which was described by IDWR's Ken Eklund as "a pioneer of energy efficiency in Idaho" and an adoptee of the Model Energy Code.

For the GEMSTAR program, certificates of merit were awarded to the city of Idaho Falls, Goul Construction in McCall, Kootenai Electric and Premier Homes in Idaho Falls. Bill Jeppesen of Craftsman Homes in Eagle was named GEMSTAR Builder of the Year. "One company stood out above the rest and promoted five-star [the highest efficiency rating] for each customer," announced IDWR's Ingo Stroup.

Honored for their partnerships in the Rebuild Idaho program were the city of Caldwell, Idaho Power, IDACORP Energy Solutions, and Ada and Gem counties. And the Rebuild Idaho Champion Award went to Idaho State University and its physical plant director, Darrell Buffaloe, who "believes and understands the value of energy efficiency" and has "made his campus a model for other higher education institutions," according to the awards announcement.

The Local Government Leadership in Energy Efficiency Award was presented by Boise mayor Brent Coles to county commissioner Jerry Jeppesen of Madison County and Caldwell mayor Garret Nancolas, whose city has joined Rebuild Idaho and has a five-year action plan for energy and resource efficiency. Nancolas, in an earlier conference session, lauded IDWR's Ken Baker and Sue Seifert for their help in "creat[ing] a vision for the city of Caldwell." He called energy efficiency "just one issue of many transforming our communities into the best communities."

One issue, indeed.

In his keynote speech titled "Transforming Communities," Coles went into a heartfelt and moving talk centered on transforming communities by valuing children--many of whom don't feel truly valued by their communities, he acknowledged. He spoke about a special relationship between an older couple in his neighborhood and his 6-year-old daughter, as an example of a community valuing its children. The couple regularly took the time to chat with her. His words resonated deeply as I thought of our 6-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son and our community.

We can value our children and improve our communities in many different ways. Energy efficiency may not be the most profound, but it is, indeed, one of them.--Mark Ohrenschall

***Return to Contents


SCHOOLS

Problem Solving

Linfield College Improves Physical Infrastructure,
Saves Energy Through $6.4 Million Campus Project

A small Oregon college with a big deferred maintenance problem significantly upgraded its campus infrastructure and improved energy and water efficiency through a self-financed performance contracting arrangement.

Linfield College accomplished this in partnership with Siemens Building Technologies. The McMinnville school expects to save about $200,000 annually in energy bills from new efficient steam boilers and better steam piping, energy-efficient lighting, automated water management, energy management controls and a consolidated natural gas rate.

Those savings will be applied toward paying off the college's debt service for the $10 million bond issue that financed the $6.4 million project--although the college's overall debt level did not increase.

"We feel that we did the right thing for Linfield," said John Hall, the college's physical
Photo of Murdock Hall
Murdock Hall at Linfield College.
Photo courtesy of Linfield College.
plant director, at a utility energy service roundtable Nov. 17 in McMinnville. "It may not be something every institution can do. I came from a college in southern California [Occidental College] where it just didn't work. Unlike that experience, I firmly believe this one will work. Partnering with a company that had that expertise helped us get rid of a significant amount of deferred maintenance and also positioned the college for the 21st century," with a particular eye toward expected increases in utility rates.

Deferred Maintenance

Linfield College is located in McMinnville, between Portland and the Oregon coast. Its 165-acre campus has 66 buildings with more than 900,000 total square feet, according to Hall. Those buildings average 45 years in age, and more than one-third exceed 55 years. "The college is a collection of beautiful architecture . . . a forested environment and really very high regional academic excellence," Hall said.

But like any institution it has its problems, and one of those is deferred maintenance for its buildings, grounds and utility infrastructure. Hall's department identified almost $8.5 million worth of needed projects (more recently increased to nearly $9.5 million). This situation is not unique to Linfield; American higher education facilities altogether have $26 billion worth of deferred maintenance, including $6 billion classified as critical, according to Hall.

Yet Linfield was in worse shape than the norm. Hall compiled a "facilities condition index" for 74 similar-sized four-year colleges, taking into account the replacement value of an institution compared to its deferred maintenance backlog. Recommended FCI is 3 percent; the average FCI for these 74 colleges came to 6 percent; Linfield's soared to 9.4 percent. The college's extensive woes included corrosive plumbing, aging and ineffective heating system valves, boilers at double their expected lifetimes, labor-intensive manual irrigation and steam pipes so decrepit that steam could be seen rising from the ground.

Colleges can find donors for new buildings, he noted wryly, but not for basic maintenance and repair. (He jokingly suggested a "naming opportunity" for the new campus boiler plant, singling out as a prospect David Christie, conservation manager for McMinnville Water & Light, who jokingly agreed only if it was an electric boiler. Which it isn't.)

Linfield Solutions

The college decided to issue a request for proposals and got bids from five energy services companies, from which Siemens was selected in early 1998.

Siemens "acted like a general contractor for us," Hall later told Con.WEB. The company began with a campuswide evaluation, according to performance contracting account manager Ash Awad. "What we found as we proceeded was the needs part of it was a greater requirement than just the opportunity" to save energy, he noted. The "essentially rotted" steam piping was one example.

Siemens
Photo of President's Home
President's House at Linfield College.
Photo courtesy of Linfield College.
developed a scope of work, helped assemble an engineering and design team, facilitated bidding processes, performed project management and oversight, and otherwise assisted the college in this major endeavor, according to Hall. It also guaranteed savings for two years and agreed to train Linfield facilities staff on the new equipment for three years.

"This became more of a deferred maintenance/performance contracting than a performance contracting/deferred maintenance project," Awad said. "We sat down and worked with the college to develop the best program for their needs."

Unlike conventional performance contracting, Linfield opted to self-finance the work through a $10 million bond issue. "We felt we could just get a better interest rate as a non-profit," Hall expalined.

The college wanted to "try to address deferred maintenance and also energy conservation, areas where we could take some of those savings and apply to the debt service we were going to acquire," Hall told the roundtable. "The estimated savings that we calculated we would get from a variety of work offset any increases in the current debt levels we're at now."

Altogether the project cost came to $6.4 million, of which the Siemens contract (including construction costs) accounts for about $5.5 million.

Projects

The work centered on three areas:

The "somewhat conservative" estimated annual savings for electricity, natural gas, water and sewer are $203,500, according to Hall. Siemens' Awad reported to the roundtable, "Every component we've installed is functioning the way it's supposed to," and an ongoing measurement and verification program will help ensure that continues.

"I used to be a commercial facilities manager," Hall said, where payback expectations were "very stringent." A college in existence since the mid-1800s can take a longer view. "The college had to do something with its infrastructure anyway," Hall said. "Here was a vehicle we could do it."

The college faced some risks in getting the anticipated cost savings, he later told Con.WEB, and also encountered "a great deal of controversy" in putting the boiler plant in a prominent spot in the center of campus. Construction this past summer posed an inconvenience. Yet, he said, "Most of the people, looking at the big picture, see the advantages of what we're doing. The campus has been fairly supportive of all this work."--Mark Ohrenschall

***Return to Contents


MARKET TRANSFORMATION

Views from The Chair

New Alliance Chairperson Sees Accomplishments, Strengths,
Lessons Learned as Building Blocks for Market Transformation Collaborative

The Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance can build on many accomplishments, strengths and lessons learned as it ends its first three years and moves into another phase, the Alliance's new chairperson believes.

Charlie Grist, who was elected in October to lead the Alliance board of directors, compared the market transformation collaborative to "a fit, straight-A medical student, just finishing residency."

He thinks the Alliance has
Photo Charlie Grist
Charlie Grist
chalked up many accomplishments since its formation in late 1996, including the launch of more than 30 projects and "proving that market transformation can produce large savings at half the cost of wholesale power." It has also reached out for new ideas and worked to cooperate with market players, and has increasingly recognized the value of non-energy benefits and leveraging efforts.

"The Alliance is clearly one of the most productive conservation efforts funded by ratepayers," he told Con.WEB in an e-mail interview.

Top among Grist's priorities are renewed funding commitments from the region's six major investor-owned utilities and Bonneville Power Administration, which have provided the Alliance's $65 million for its initial 1997-1999 period. "And by 2001, we'd like to have buy-in and more support from the major public utilities that generate their own power or buy from non-BPA providers." Grist also wants to address funding and governance issues related to these prospective new collaborators, as well as public-purposes funding in Montana and Oregon. He also wants to update the Alliance's strategic plan.

State of The Alliance

Asked about the state of the Alliance, Grist said executive director Margie Gardner "has collected and trained a highly motivated and well-educated staff. Their work of the last three [years] has earned high marks throughout the region, and the nation. That experience has provided a foundation to build on and paves the way for more innovative efforts in the future. The board has overcome initial doubts about working together. Relationships have ripened, and a workable trust now permeates board activities. Board and staff both have a better understanding of what market transformation ought to be and have seen some of its successes."

Those accomplishments include the portfolio of 30-plus projects spanning all customer sectors, as well as "finding some innovative technologies and approaches that would have never emerged in the utility least-cost planning model," such as the Silicon Crystal Growing Facilities initiative and the Bac-Gen BioWise Wastewater Treatment Initiative. Those are "the kind of entrepreurial ventures that, if successful, could foster large improvements in today's standards of practice in those markets and capture huge electric efficiency improvements along the way."

The Alliance also has learned a number of lessons since 1996 in the still-fledgling practice of market transformation, according to Grist. These include the importance of: non-energy benefits, as exemplified by the water and wastewater efficiencies from the Energy Star Resource-Efficient Clothes Washers program; leveraged efforts (total matching funds committed to date for all Alliance projects are about $7 million); soliciting ideas beyond the traditional energy efficiency/utility industry; and cooperation with local utility programs and local/state government initiatives.

And, he noted as a lesson learned, "There are many good efficiency ideas that just are not market transformation," which seeks fundamental changes in markets for efficient products and services.

Looking Ahead

In addition to funding and governance issues, Grist's priorities for his tenure include updating the Alliance's strategic plan; making decisions on current projects whose funding ends in 2000, consistent with that plan; and seeking new projects targeting priority areas.

He sees some changes afoot in how the Alliance approaches market transformation, specifically an increase in market research, more strategically focused ventures and "more cooperation between market-transforming efforts and 'local conservation' efforts driven by public- purposes funding of conservation in Oregon and Montana and continued least-cost-planning conservation in Washington."

Collaboration

Grist--who works for the Oregon Office of Energy and Northwest Power Planning Council and represents Oregon Gov. John Kitzhhaber on the Alliance board--described the Alliance's collaborative functioning among stakeholders as "good, and getting better. There have been, and there will continue to be, bumps along the way. But the Alliance has been mindful of the bumps and tried to address them. And it will continue to do so.

"Directors and staff continue to refine their roles," he continued. "As we gain experience and focus, our relationships with contractors improve. Utilities are beginning to see the different ways they can piggyback on Alliance projects," as with torchiere turn-in events. "We have joined in some interesting and effective state and local government relationships. And we continue to look for opportunities to improve collaboration with trade allies and the energy services industries."

Such regional cooperation takes considerable effort, Grist noted, and requires some benefits accruing to stakeholders to merit funding. "So far, the Alliance has passed that test," he said.

As for the board itself, Grist wants to continue to build trust among the now 23 members, conduct more board work in committees, and keep working on enhancing the board-staff relationship.--Mark Ohrenschall

***Return to Contents


RESIDENTIAL

Testing, Testing, Testing

Federally Funded Program to Test Duct-Sealing
Technology in Northwest Washington Homes

A duct-sealing technology that sprays adhesive particles inside duct systems to patch air leaks will be tested this winter in eight northwest Washington homes.

This federally funded initiative will evaluate Aeroseal, "basically a proven technology that has not become mainstream," said Mark Ternes of Oak Ridge National Laboratory. ORNL is overseeing field testing in the Bellingham, WA, area and in Wyoming, Iowa, Virginia and West Virginia.

Leaky duct work is an increasingly recognized source of wasted energy for residential heating and cooling systems. Up to 30 percent of a home's HVAC energy can be lost through duct leaks, and the national bill for this problem amounts to about $5 billion a year, according to U.S. secretary of energy Bill Richardson in a news release announcing the testing program. The cost to individual households, meanwhile, can run into hundreds of dollars annually, according to Aeroseal.

Aeroseal promises to be most effective in sealing smaller leaks in out-of-the-way ducts, such as in attics and crawl spaces and in between floors. "One of the problems with ducts is too often you run into spaces you can't get at," said Dave Finet, housing services director for Bellingham-based The Opportunity Council. "This is a great application for those places you can't reach manually."

Finet's organization and the other four participating local weatherization agencies all have prior duct-sealing experience, Ternes noted. The testing program will compare conventional duct-sealing techniques and the Aeroseal technology, evaluating leakage reductions, costs and energy savings.

Testing Program

The Opportunity Council, a human services agency serving three northwest Washington counties with weatherization, energy assistance and various non-energy programs, has selected 16 homes in and around Bellingham to participate in the duct-sealing test. All the households are defined as low-income and had been awaiting weatherization services, according to Finet. "We tried to pick out homes where the bulk of the duct work was outside the heated envelope," he said.

Data loggers to monitor heating system energy use are installed in the 16 single-family homes, gathering baseline information. These measurements will continue through March. In January, eight of the homes will go through what Finet described as "conventional duct sealing," including blower door and/or Duct Blaster technology using pressures pans, and manual sealing of ducts with mastic and fiber mesh tape. The other eight homes will get Aeroseal treatment. Results should be available by fall of 2000, according to Ternes.

The $200,000 project funding comes from U.S. DOE, in cooperation with the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. "What we're trying to do is evaluate advanced duct-sealing techniques for the [U.S. DOE] Weatherization Assistance Program [a co-funder], and maybe from that extrapolate to other housing," said Ternes. Manufactured housing could be a subsequent testing target. And although this initiative focuses on gas- and oil-heated homes, the results will be applicable to electrically heated residences as well.

Aeroseal

Aeroseal has been a long time in development, but only in 1999 has it gone commercial in the form of franchises for residential HVAC contractors.

The technology was invented by Mark Modera, a longtime scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory who now works half-time as Aeroseal's president and engineering director. Modera got the idea in 1987, he told Con.WEB, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency funded most of the subsequent testing and development.

The company lists 15 franchised residental HVAC contractors, 10 of them in California. These contractors have access to Aeroseal technological hardware and computer equipment, as well as training and marketing and technical assistance.

Modera estimated 600 to 700 homes and small businesses (5,000 square feet and under) have received Aeroseal treatment, and, "We haven't run into any major problems." Aeroseal doesn't make the actual sealant material, a vinyl plastic monomer. "We discovered how to make it go to leaks" in duct systems, Modera said.

Here's a description from an Aeroseal handout: "Aerosol technology uses a fan to blow small dry adhesive particles into a temporarily sealed duct system, depositing these particles directly on the edges of holes to create seals. With registers and the coil/fan/furnace blocked, the suspended sticky particles travel in the airflow toward the only place left to exit: CRACKS AND LEAKS. As the airstream turns sharply through leaks, the particles are flung against leak walls, allowing the built-up seal to span leaks as large as 5/8 inch across--without leaving excess deposits on duct surfaces. Air flow, duct pressure and particle size are optimally controlled to maximize leak sealing."

The injection process usually takes about an hour, perhaps two hours for especially leaky duct systems, Modera told a Dec. 7 training class at The Opportunity Council. He touted his method: "It lasts a long time, it doesn't flake off and there's not a lot of VOC [volatile organic compounds]." Duct sealing as practiced by Aeroseal reduces energy consumption, improves indoor air quality and comfort, and enhances safety by pressure-testing for backdrafts, according to the company's Web site.

At the afternoon training session, Modera went over such details as house preparation, injection system setup, pre- and post-sealing leakage tests, combustion safety testing, equipment maintenance, supply needs and visual inspections of the duct system (some leaks need to be manually fixed). He also conducted a simulated sealing process for participating agency staff from Bellingham and Wyoming. The four-day training also included Aeroseal duct sealing in two local homes.--Mark Ohrenschall

More Information:

***Return to Contents


GREEN POWER

Shopping The Green Market

Benton PUD Offers Green Power
to Retail Customers

Benton County PUD has joined the small but growing ranks of Pacific Northwest utilities offering green power to retail customers.

Bentonites can voluntarily pay a higher monthly electric rate in support of the PUD's 1-megawatt purchase of landfill-gas energy from neighboring Klickitat County PUD's plant in south-central Washington. The program opened to residential customers this fall and will be expanded to commercial customers in early 2000.

As of early December, 150 Benton PUD residential customers had signed up for green power, paying an average of $2.50 more per month, according to marketing specialist Christie McAloon. One customer pledged twice the monthly bill amount and a number of others promised they would pay in the range of $10 to $25 extra each month for the green power. "In most cases it's less than that," she said.

The public power utility in the Tri-Cities area needs $100,000 in annual green power revenues to equal the higher costs of its landfill-gas purchase. "Anything else that is left over, that is not made up by these pledge amounts, will be rate-based," according to McAloon.

Meeting Customer Interest

Benton PUD officials have some reason for optimism over customer response, given results of local surveys.

"We're going along with what the public wants," PUD commission president Robert Graves told Con.WEB. "If they want it . . . we're going to offer it."

A few years ago Benton queried 400 customers on whether they wanted their utility to investigate green power. A whopping 85 percent said yes, according to McAloon. In a question on willingness to pay extra for green power, 24 percent answered yes and 44 percent responded maybe. "That at least let us know there was some interest there," she said.

Within the past year, the PUD sent surveys to 18,000 of its 37,000-plus customers, and got back 2,300 responses. Of those, 52 percent reported they wanted to buy green power and would pay an average of $3 more each month. "We've had some positive results," affirmed Graves. "People are willing to contribute extra on their bills."

On Oct. 1, Benton officially began taking 1 MW of energy from the Klickitat PUD landfill-gas facility at the Roosevelt Regional Landfill (see Con.WEB, Aug. 31, 1999, for a story on the plant). The energy cost for that power is about 3.5 cents per kilowatt-hour, approximately 1 cent/KWh more than the PUD pays for its other energy sources, primarily Bonneville Power Administration.

Benton decided to allow residential customers to support the green power purchase by paying a flat monthly rate, a method easier for the PUD to implement, McAloon noted.

The utility is still mulling the structure of its green power program for commercial and industrial customers. "We are going to get that up and going very quickly," she said. "We are receiving the power and we do want to recover that extra cost." If the latest survey proves an accurate indicator, "We may be at the $100,000 very easily. We'll just have to wait and see."

As for marketing, Benton has sent out two green power notices with customer bills, and has placed an article in its quarterly customer newsletter. The PUD has also advertised green power on radio, and plans to advertise in local print media.

In addition, the PUD is considering perks for participating customers, possibly including window stickers. Being identified as green power supporters could be especially valuable for commercial customers, McAloon noted.

The program also has gained support from the Tri-City Herald newspaper. "It's this kind of customer input utilities need to remain competitive as deregulation offers customers a choice of energy providers," the newspaper editorialized Nov. 19. "Options such as green power could become bargaining chips for residential customers, who are unlikely to be in a position to negotiate much cheaper rates because of their small power needs." The Herald acknowledged difficulties in defining green power, as well as environmental drawbacks associated with such renewables as hydropower, wind and solar. "Still," said the editorial, "exploration of energy alternatives is needed if they ever are to become affordable and readily available options for large numbers of energy customers. Benton PUD's effort is a step in the right direction."

Customer interest will determine the course of Benton PUD's retail green power program, although Graves envisions the utility eventually adding to its renewables portfolio. "If there's other green power systems that come on-line, we'll probably take advantage of it in the future," he said. "We're not going to shut the door on one megawatt."

Other Northwest utilities that have offered some form of green power to retail customers include investor-owned PacifiCorp, Portland General Electric and Washington Water Power (now Avista Utilities), and publicly owned Central Electric Cooperative, Orcas Power & Light, Douglas Electric Cooperative, Flathead Electric Cooperative, Umatilla Electric Cooperative, Eugene Water & Electric Board and Clark Public Utilities. The city of Ashland plans to offer green power to its citizens through the Solar Ashland project.--Mark Ohrenschall

***Return to Contents


Expanding Consumer Knowledge

Information Rules for Electricity Supply Sources
Considered by Montana Public Service Commission

The Montana Public Service Commission is preparing to adopt labeling and disclosure regulations that will make information on sources of electricity supply more readily available to the state's consumers.

Under the proposed rules, retail electricity suppliers would be required to provide customers with uniform information labels detailing their product's price, fuel mix and environmental impacts.

And assuming the commission moves forward with them--anticipated within the next couple of months--Montana will become the first Northwest state to put labeling and disclosure regulations in place.

"We're very excited about [the Montana rules]," said Nancy Hirsh, policy director for the Northwest Energy Coalition. "They've moved forward with both labeling the fuel mix and environmental impacts . . . It's really important for customers to have both pieces of information," she said. "I think the system is going to be a good one, and will contribute a lot to customers' ability to select greener resources."

Under Montana's proposed model, suppliers' information labels would provide a breakdown of the amount of renewable, coal, hydro, natural gas, nuclear and specified other resources that comprise their energy product. Suppliers may choose to further delineate the renewable portion of their product into biomass, geothermal, solar and wind components. Each resource category would be listed as a percentage of the total, calculated as the weighted contribution in kilowatt-hours supplied from that category over the duration of the customer's contract.

As for environmental impacts, the PSC's proposal also requires retail electricity suppliers to provide customers with a comparison of their generation sources with regional averages, determined for the United States portion of the Northwest Power Pool (under a memorandum of understanding on electricity reporting procedures in the Western Interconnection, executed by state regulatory agencies within the Western Systems Coordinating Council). Suppliers must use a bar chart to show how their generation sources compare to others in the Northwest in terms of carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions, amount of spent nuclear fuel, and hydro impacts. The chart would also be accompanied by an "explanation of environmental impacts," as prescribed by the commission.

Not Too Controversial

The PSC held a Dec. 20 hearing on the amendment and adoption of the proposed rules. Commission staffer Will Rosquist said the meeting was fairly short and no opponents of the labeling measures attended. He noted that the disclosure rule-making "isn't too controversial compared to the default supplier issue" and other matters the PSC has addressed in the wake of Montana's 1997 electric industry restructuring act.

Rosquist said the commission's proposal will likely undergo "minor tweaking" in coming weeks, incorporating comments received. For example, he said a "low-impact hydro" category for renewables would likely be stricken from the final rules because parties have pointed out that "a definition of what that means doesn't exist yet."

"It's still an issue that's being discussed and debated," said NWEC's Hirsh, alluding to recent work by the National Low-Impact Hydro Institute to develop qualifying criteria. "It's important for this region to get [the definition] in place, but it's also important to do it right," she said. Rosquist estimated the commission would issue a formal "notice of adoption" of the disclosure rules in January--in time to be incorporated into the Montana Administrative Register by mid-February, when they would go into effect.

In crafting the proposed labeling regulations, the Montana PSC said it relied on a source document called "Version 2.5, Model Rule on Consumer Disclosure in Connection with Electricity Sales." The Model Rule was developed jointly by the Committee on Regional Electric Power Cooperation and the Western Conference of Public Service Commissioners, with assistance from the National Council on Competition and the Electric Industry. The PSC said the Model Rule provides "a common starting point for the western states to implement a common format" for environmental disclosures, but can be modified to comply with particular state restructuring laws.

While Montana is poised to become the first Northwest state with environmental labeling rules on the books, similar efforts may soon be under way in Oregon, where the state's restructuring legislation--Senate Bill 1149, passed earlier this year-- requires the Oregon Public Utility Commission to promulgate rules on disclosure of "power source and environmental impact" information.--Angela Becker-Dippmann

***Return to Contents


BRIEFS

Pacific Power Files for 9.6 Percent Rate Increase
in Washington, Including 1.5 Percent SBC

With the PacifiCorp/ScottishPower merger officially completed, PacifiCorp now has rate increase requests pending in four of the five major states it serves.

On Nov. 24 the utility filed a rate increase request with the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission. That leaves Idaho as the only state without a rate increase request on file. In Idaho merger discussions, ScottishPower and PacifiCorp agreed not to request a general rate increase in Idaho that would be effective before Jan. 1, 2002. (The utility is in the process of selling its service area in a sixth state, California, to Nor-Cal Electric Authority.

PacifiCorp's WUTC filing asks for an additional $25.8 million in annual revenues. And, unlike its rate filings in Wyoming and Utah, PacifiCorp's Washington filing includes a proposal for a system benefits charge.

PacifiCorp manager of pricing Bill Griffith said the SBC proposal sets aside 1.5 percent of total revenue from each customer class, generating a total of $2.8 million annually for funding energy efficiency and low-income weatherization programs and the above-market costs of new renewable energy development. Griffith said the SBC adder would be calculated on a cents-per-kilowatt-hour basis, making the residential per-KWh charge of 0.87 cents higher than the commercial/industrial charge of .061 cents/KWh. Doug Kilpatrick of the WUTC said the SBC proposal comes from a stipulation agreement with stakeholders that was included in the PacifiCorp-ScottishPower merger approval.

Pacific is proposing phasing in the overall revenue increase over two years--$17.4 million the first year; $11.2 million the second. That would lead to a total average rate increase of 9.6 percent the first year and about 5.7 percent the second year.

Residential customers would see the largest rate increases--12 percent the first year and 7.3 percent the second year, for a total of more than 20 percent. The company said one goal of the filing is to remove subsidies across customer classes while minimizing customer impacts. PacifiCorp's filing states most customer classes are "well below cost-of-service parity," and the residential sector, at 84 percent, is the biggest offender. Closest to parity are general service customers, at 93 percent. The company said its two-year proposal "allows for the virtual elimination of subsidies, while minimizing price volatility and rate shock."

The reasons for the rate increase request are the same as those PacifiCorp identified in its Oregon rate filing: to earn a rate of return equal to the cost of equity capital and thus provide a fair rate of return to shareholders; and to maintain its ability to provide safe and adequate service to its Washington customers. PacifiCorp's 1998 test year normalized rate of return in Washington is 6.5 percent, while its allowed ROR is 10.42 percent. Under the filing, the utility is asking for an overall rate of return of 9.10 percent.--Jude Noland

Snohomish County PUD Plans Compact Fluorescent
Giveaways to Low-Income Households

Snohomish County PUD will distribute some 5,000 compact fluorescent light bulbs to low-income households throughout Snohomish County, beginning this holiday season.

The lights will be given out free through local food banks and senior centers, the Red Cross, Volunteers of America, Snohomish County Weatherization Agency and Everett Housing Authority, according to a PUD news release.

"By distributing the energy-saving lights to local non-profit agencies, the PUD not only helps introduce the new technology to our community but also reduces the bills of low-income customers," said PUD project manager Gary Lintz. "The local agencies then ensure that the lights are passed along to PUD customers in need."

These donated bulbs are forecast over their lifetimes to reduce the PUD's overall costs by almost $70,000. Each bulb should reduce electric bills for participating low-income households by $10 per year.

The PUD plans to distribute 2,500 20-watt, 2,000 23-watt and 500 26-watt compact fluorescents, for use indoors or outdoors, according to the news release.

PGE's Earth Friendly Power Program
Receives OPUC Approval

Portland General Electric has received Oregon Public Utility Commission approval for a new Earth Friendly Power Program that gives PGE customers the option of purchasing some of their power from renewable or green energy.

Under the tariff approved Dec. 15, PGE residential, commercial and industrial customers can buy a portion of their monthly energy from either "Clean Wind Power" or "Salmon Friendly Power." The Earth Friendly Power is available in 100 kilowatt-hour blocks for an additional monthly charge of $5 per block. Residential customers can buy up to two blocks of Earth Friendly Power, while commercial and industrial customers have the option of purchasing up to 100 blocks.

Half the premiums collected for Earth Friendly Power will be used to construct new wind-energy facilities and restore salmon habitat. The other half of the funds will be allocated to the higher costs of obtaining qualifying renewable resources, such as wind energy and low-impact hydropower.

Now that OPUC has approved the tariff--which PGE filed in October (see Con.WEB, Oct. 28, 1999)--customers can sign up for Earth Friendly Power, said PGE spokesman Kregg Arntson. The utility plans to start marketing the program in January. Customers will receive enrollment forms in their January billing statements, or they can sign up on PGE's Web site: http://www.pge-online.com/renewable/index.html.--Jude Noland

'Distributed Resources, Renewables and the Environment'
Conference Scheduled for Feb. 2, 2000, in Portland

On Feb. 2 of 2000, Bonneville Power Administration and a host of sponsors, including Energy NewsData's Energy Dynamics Online project, will present a one-day conference titled "Distributed Resources, Renewables and the Environment."

The conference will be held at the DoubleTree Hotel Jantzen Beach in Portland. Its purpose is to discuss and study the ongoing rush of transformational distributed energy resource (DER) products and technologies in a plus-and-minus context of environmental concerns.

Co-sponsors with BPA include Renewable Northwest Project, Bonneville Environmental Foundation, Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, Natural Resources Defense Council, Northwest Energy Coalition, Pacific Northwest Utilities Conference Committee, Northwest Public Power Association, Northwest Power Planning Council and the Public Power Council. NewsData's Energy Dynamics Online project is an organizing co-sponsor.

Timely involvement in DER issues of three special and related energy interests--renewables, energy efficiency and environment--is very important. The diversity of DER and related energy options represents an opportunity to couple meeting energy demand with net environmental benefit directly and indirectly. Direct benefit comes from deployment of cleaner generating hardware; indirect benefits range from coupling new generating hardware with energy efficiency and demand-side management measures to forestalling (or even eliminating) new power line construction. Moreover, DER enthusiasts need to hear environmental concerns early in the game.

Early commitments from speakers and panelists include BPA administrator Judi Johansen; California consultant Carl Weinberg, widely hailed as the godfather of distributed generation; Eric Heitz of the Energy Foundation in San Francisco; Karl Rabago of the Rocky Mountain Institute; DER consultant Joe Chaisson; general manager Randy Berggren of Eugene Water & Electric Board; Rachel Shimshak of Renewable Northwest Project; Ken Keating of BPA and the Alliance; Alison Silverstein of the Texas Public Utility Commission; and Ralph Cavanagh of NRDC.--Cyrus Noë

More Information:

Oregon PUC Approves Net Metering
Tariffs for Pacific Power, PGE

The Oregon Public Utility Commission has approved net metering tariffs filed by PacifiCorp and Portland General Electric.

The investor-owned utilities filed the new tariffs, which took effect Dec. 1, as required by House Bill 3219, the net metering legislation approved by the Oregon Legislature in the 1999 session and signed into law by Gov. John Kitzhaber.

It requires a utility to interconnect with and measure the flow of power to and from a customer-generator who installs a solar, wind, hydropower or fuel cell system of 25 kilowatts or smaller. Such systems must be on the customer's premises and intended for the customer's load requirements.

Under the approved tariffs, customer-generators still have to pay applicable monthly charges--such as customer, demand, facilities and reactive demand charges--as determined by the standard service tariff. The energy portion of the bill will vary depending on net electricity flow measured during the billing period.

If the utility supplies more energy than the customer-generator feeds back to its system, the customer will pay the standard service tariff charge for the net energy supplied by the IOU. If the customer-generator provides more energy to the utility than the utility provides to the customer, then the utility will credit the customer's bill for the net energy, according to the utility's avoided costs.

As of early December, three PGE residential customers had signed up for the net metering rate. Some PacifiCorp customers had expressed interest, but none had signed up yet.--Jude Noland

To print Con.WEB, hit the printer icon at the top of your browser. To print Con.WEB in two-sided mode, press file, print, at the top of your browser, then be sure to select print odd-numbered pages in your printer properties, remove pages and reinsert into printer. Repeat steps to print, this time choosing even-numbered pages.

OFFICES: Mail-P.O. Box 900928, Seattle, WA 98109-9228. EXPRESS: 117 West Mercer, Seattle, WA 98119.
TELEPHONE-(206) 285-4848. FAX-(206) 281-8035. E-MAIL-newsdata.com.

Con.WEB was created by the Energy NewsData Web team, including: Publisher-Cyrus NoŽ; Editor-Mark Ohrenschall;
Contributing Editors-Jude Noland; Cassandra Sweet
Contributing Writers-Jim DiPeso; Lynn Francisco; Kari Hanson; Garrett Hering; Amber Schwanke; Ben Tansey
Web Production-Michelle Noe
General Manager-Brooke Dickinson.

Home

Please contact Mark Ohrenschall, marko@newsdata.com,
with questions or comments on this site
.
Copyright ©2004 Energy NewsData Corporation