I was recently asked by my good friend, Mark Vogt, CEO at Wright-Hennepin Electric Cooperative in Rockford, Minnesota, If you had to layout three of the next "big things" for distribution automation, what would they be?" I get asked some version of this question by lots of folks at public power systems and electric distribution cooperatives. Here's how I answered:
So, top three for distribution automation? There are a couple of ways to look at it: (1) top three in terms of what you should do first, or (2) top three in the long run for the 21st century.
So, let's start with what I think are the top three things to do first. You all are already planning or are making progress on several things that I think are minimum mandatory prerequisites for an adequately intelligent grid for the 21st century:
I have written before about the information available at the Energy Information Administration (EIA) website. Their data serves as the basis for many APPA reports, and is a valuable treasure trove of information about the electric utility industry.
EIA gathers this data through a series of annual surveys conducted of utilities and other electric power entities. These surveys are approved by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for three year cycles. When EIA submits these forms for re-approval, the agency will often modify the survey forms, and these modifications are also subject to approval.
A new cycle is upcoming for these surveys, and EIA has published a notice in the Federal Register dated March 6, 2013. The notice can be found here. The purpose of this notification is to solicit comments about proposed changes to existing forms. Interested parties may reply by May 6, 2013 to provide feedback on whether the proposed changes are necessary, whether the burden estimate provided by EIA is accurate, ways to improve the quality and utility of the collected data, and other ways to minimize respondent burden.
Each year APPA publishes a report on new generating capacity. The report summarizes new capacity by fuel type, region, and owner type. The latest report is now available at the Electric Power Statistics page of APPA’s website at this link (scroll to APPA Report on Projected New Generating Capacity). While there you can also download previous reports.
The latest report shows that trends in new capacity are the same as they have been for the previous few years. Wind and natural gas continue to be the dominant fuel sources for most new capacity that is either being built or has been permitted to build. Nuclear and solar capacity continue to make strides as the share of coal capacity diminishes. While the amount of capacity at the proposed stage of development suggests a larger variety of other sources of electricity in the future, this capacity – particularly the renewable capacity – is less certain to be built.
From Dec. 17, 2012 Public Power Daily
The Environmental Protection Agency on Dec. 14 tightened nationwide standards for fine particulate pollution (also known as PM 2.5), setting the annual health standard at 12 micrograms per cubic meter. That is down from the standard of 15 micrograms per cubic meter that was established in 1997.
In 2009, a federal court ordered the EPA to revise the standard, noting that the agency's own scientific advisory committee had said the 15-microgram standard was inadequate. The EPA issued a draft rule in June, and was under a court-ordered deadline to finalize it.
Fine particulate pollution "can penetrate deep into the lungs and has been linked to a wide range of serious health effects, including premature death, heart attacks, and strokes, as well as acute bronchitis and aggravated asthma among children," the EPA said.
A new document published by APPA catalogs what some of the largest public power utilities in the country are doing when it comes to demand response. The document breaks the programs out into four categories. The first section, “Customer Information via Smart Grid Tools,” provides examples of utilities that have developed programs that allow their customers to track their energy use each day or even in real-time. The second section of the report lists utilities that have offer time-of-use rates to customers. The third section covers load curtailment programs. These include programs where customers are provided financial incentives to shift their load from peak to non-peak hours. This also includes utilities that inform their customers of impending events that require customers to reduce their electricity usage. The final section lists utilities that have direct load control programs where the utility has installed devices that allow them to cycle appliances on and off during periods of high demand.
The appendices report on data collected by the Energy Information Administration (EIA). Appendix A looks at Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) data, including the number of customers and the amount of load served by utilities that have installed AMI devices. Appendix B summarizes other Demand-Side Management (DSM) data reported on Form EIA-861. The data show that of the nation’s 21.1 million public power utility customers, 12.4 percent are served by AMI. Overall, nearly a quarter of all full-service electric customers now have AMI installed in their homes or businesses. Furthermore, consumers participating in demand-side management programs at public power utilities achieved over 2,000 megawatts (MW) in peak energy reduction in 2011.
It’s been a good three days in St. Paul, Minnesota, at the 2012 Energy Star Products Partner Meeting, even though I haven’t seen the sun since I left beautiful Colorado. It was nice to see some familiar E Source member faces and to meet some bright new people. As I pass the time in the airport, I want to share my final thoughts while they’re still fresh.
Today started fast with a fabulous breakout session by Chris Badger of the Vermont Energy Investment Corp. and Christopher Wold of the Collaborative Labeling & Appliance Standards Program (CLASP), on behalf of the Super Efficient Dryer Initiative (SEDI) (PDF). (Can you tell I just came from a conference sponsored by a U.S. federal government program?) The topic: heat pump clothes dryers. If this is a new technology to you, fret not; we’re currently working on a report covering this technology and it’ll be published soon. However, I can share that this technology saves a great deal more energy than traditional resistance dryers, but there are some significant barriers to seeing them in the U.S. market (an optimistic outlook is fall 2013).
Day 2 at the 2012 Energy Star Products Partner Meeting was even better than the first—although our resident lighting expert, Ira Krepchin, may disagree—because we left lighting topics and went into appliances and electronics. I must admit, appliance and consumer electronic efficiency strums a sweet tune to my nerdy brain, and I enjoyed diving into the details during today’s sessions.
The beauty of this conference is getting to flex both the engineering and business sides of my brain. Engineers can get lost in the details sometimes (okay, maybe all of the time, but somewhere in between is good, right?), but it’s important for every engineer to remember that on the backside of every design improvement, someone must sell that improvement to someone who wants that improvement. It appears so easy and straightforward to technically minded people; simply put, it makes sense. But unfortunately, humans are not rational creatures and don’t always choose correctly.
So today we talked about the many paths for getting efficient products into customers’ homes. Energy Star has a solid program that’s 20 years strong, but that’s not without 20 years of hard work, creative thinking, and a few lessons learned along the way. I learned a lot today and left with even more to think about. Here are three of the more important impressions I took away.
I’m attending the 2012 Energy Star Products Partner Meeting this week in St. Paul, Minnesota, and I’ll be providing updates along the way. Monday’s sessions were all about lighting, and while I found each one enlightening (pun intended), one stood out as the brightest (okay, this is getting punbelievable).
The Dimming Performance: Pathway Towards Solutions session was all about the lack of standards for dimmable bulbs, particularly compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and light-emitting diodes (LEDs). Anyone in our industry knows about the potential of LEDs—not just from an efficiency standpoint, but also from a controls and capabilities standpoint. Lighting designers lick their creative chops when they start thinking about LEDs and tinkering with lumens, color temperatures, and directions. But as I heard throughout the day, for every technical capability that LEDs offer, they seem to introduce even more challenges. And dimming is apparently no different.
The main theme for the dimming session revolved around the fact that Energy Star has no specification for dimmable products. That is, there’s no definition of what “dimmable” means, no standard for the performance of dimmable products, and no standard test methods for dimmable products. As one can imagine, consumers can’t just go out and buy a dimmable LED, screw it into their socket designed for incandescents, and have everything work as planned. Yet, we also shouldn’t be surprised to hear that that very act happens all too often.
I’m working on my master’s in building science at the University of Colorado at Boulder. One theme that keeps popping up is that of holism and integration. The best buildings are created by integrated design teams that take a holistic approach. They consider the interactions between the different systems and work together to find optimal solutions. The same theme is present in the world of retrofits. You get a better result when you look at the big picture and design an optimal package of efficiency measures. The Rocky Mountain Institute’s “tunneling through the cost barrier” concept also speaks to big-picture thinking and holistic design.
This got me thinking—many utilities offer “whole building” incentive programs, but very few look at the other big picture: considering both how and when buildings use energy. Shouldn’t the theme of integration also apply to energy efficiency and demand response?
Integrating utility energy-efficiency and demand-response programs sure seems to make sense—utilities save on program administration costs, customers have a more seamless experience with their utilities, and utilities can begin to look at facilities as a whole package in terms of how much energy they use and when they use it.
From Public Power Daily, October 16, 2012
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Commissioner John Norris called on public power officials to press Congress to enact cyber security legislation. A variety of federal agencies are working on cyber security but no one is in charge and that is "one of the biggest holes in our national security," Norris told the opening general session at APPA’s Legal Seminar in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 14. Only Congress can decide which agency should be the decision-maker on cyber security issues, he said.
Whichever agency Congress taps, lawmakers have to empower them to share cyber threat information with industry, Norris said.
This week, I was very interested to see the New York Times article on data center energy use, along with several responses, like a piece from Katie Fehrenbacher on GigaOm. The energy consumed by the data center industry is truly astonishing. For example, did you know that Google’s data centers annually use more energy than 200,000 houses?
However, data centers are not the only businesses that waste a surprising amount of energy. Many other industries—including restaurants, healthcare, and retail—also have important opportunities to improve energy efficiency. For business owners paying the monthly electric bill, information about how their company is specifically wasting energy may be compelling.
Utilities can use startling industry statistics on energy waste to encourage their business customers to take an interest in energy-efficiency programs that they might have otherwise ignored.
Last week, I attended the first ever EnergySavvy Customer Summit in Seattle, where we enjoyed amazing weather, delicious food, and, of course, interesting discussions about energy efficiency. The event was hosted by the folks at EnergySavvy, who make software to support energy-efficiency programs, including an online audit tool and a program management software platform. With guest speakers from a number of great organizations, the conference was designed to provide thought leadership for utilities and other organizations that are looking to market and deliver more-effective energy-efficiency programs.
One of my favorite speakers was Dr. Amanda Carrico of the Vanderbilt Institute for Energy and Environment, who presented insight into energy-efficiency program design and human psychology. A variety of factors, such as the availability of information, can influence people’s perceptions and participation rates in many activities, including energy-efficiency programs. For example, Dr. Carrico cited studies showing that belief in climate change is increased if people are asked about the topic while surrounded by dead plants, and concern for drought is heightened among people who are questioned about the topic while they’re eating dry foods such as pretzels. As energy is in many ways an invisible resource, it can be difficult for people to perceive the importance of the issue.
FERC approves negotiated rates for merchant transmission line to connect Midwest wind farms to TVA
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission conditionally approved a merchant developer’s request to charge negotiated rates for 75% of the capacity of a planned 750-mile high-voltage, direct-current transmission line to connect Great Plains wind farms to the Southeast, specifically the Tennessee Valley Authority’s system. In a Sept. 7 order, the commission authorized two subsidiaries of Clean Line Energy Partners to negotiate agreements with anchor customers for up to 75% of the capacity of the $2 billion, 600-kV project, which will be capable of transmitting up to 3,500 MW of power from western Oklahoma, southwestern Kansas and the Texas Panhandle to TVA’s system.
SEPA names CPS Energy's Doyle Beneby 'utility CEO of the year'
A large solar and economic development project led by CPS Energy in San
Antonio has prompted the Solar Electric Power Association to name the
utility's president and CEO, Doyle Beneby, its 2012 Utility CEO of the
Year. At its annual membership meeting on Sept. 11, held in conjunction
with Solar Power International, SEPA recognized Beneby for his
leadership in integrating solar power into the municipal utility's
Beneby recently signed a contract under
which OCI Solar Power will supply CPS Energy with 400 megawatts of solar
energy. The official agreement is believed to be the first of its kind,
resulting in a soon-to-be-built local solar manufacturing facility,
headquarters for both OCI Solar Power and its anchor consortium partner
Nexolon, and 800 long-term jobs, CPS Energy said. (See Public Power Daily, Jan. 13, 2012
"I'm honored by SEPA's recognition of what we're doing in San Antonio,"
said Beneby. "We closed on this deal because it makes sense for our
customers, providing them with affordable, emissions-free energy that
diversifies our portfolio and shields them from environmental-associated
risks. Additionally, we want to generate economic development and
educational investment with every power agreement we sign."
DOE should scrap PMA proposals, get a fresh start, APPA tells House hearing
The Department of Energy should step back from its March 2012 plan to
make dramatic changes in the way the federal power marketing
administrations are operated, APPA President and CEO Mark Crisson told
congressional lawmakers yesterday. The Energy Department should set
aside Energy Secretary Steven Chu's March 16 memorandum, and "start this
process anew," Crisson said.
He urged DOE to establish a
dialog with the power marketing agencies and said the process "should be
led by the PMAs and their customers," not by the Energy Department.
Crisson spoke at a hearing convened by the House Natural Resources
Committee on the topic, "The Chu Memorandum: Directives Could Increase
Electricity Costs for over 40 Million Families and Small Businesses."
If DOE does not reverse course on the proposals, then APPA would ask
Congress to consider provisions such as those in H.R. 6247, Crisson
said. That bill, authored by Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc
Hastings, R-Wash., would promote hydro power and would prevent the
Energy Department from carrying out the March proposals.
JEA names McElroy as CEO, effective Oct. 1
The board of directors of JEA, the municipal utility serving
Jacksonville, Fla., on Sept. 7 named Paul McElroy to fill the role of
chief executive officer and managing director, effective Oct. 1. McElroy
has served as chief financial officer at JEA since 2002. He will
succeed Jim Dickenson, who is scheduled to retire Feb. 1.
to coming to JEA, McElroy was the vice president and general manager of
Bombardier Capital Corp. He brings more than 30 years of experience
working in the financial and operational arenas. McElroy currently
co-chairs the Large Public Power Council’s Tax and Finance Committee. He
is a member of the Finance and Audit Committee for The Energy
Authority, having also served as its chair. McElroy holds a bachelor of
science degree in accounting.
"Paul’s financial leadership has
led to positive results for JEA," Board Chairman Ashton Hudson said.
"The board looks forward to working with Paul. We are confident JEA will
continue to excel under his leadership." The board selected McElroy
after an earlier pick, Joseph Belechak, who had been a vice president of
nuclear fuel with Westinghouse Electric, said a move to Jacksonville
would be too disruptive for his family.
PJM minimum offer price rule changes hurt competition, APPA, others tell court
Changes to PJM’s minimum offer price rule (MOPR) threaten the ability of
load-serving entities to build new generation to self-supply power and
"limit consumer choices contrary to fundamental principles of
competition," consumer-owned utilities told a federal appeals court.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s order approving the changes
to PJM's capacity market (known as the "Reliability Pricing Model")
"threatens to make uneconomic potentially hundreds of millions of
dollars in investments in new generating capacity that local utilities
built or purchased to serve their own customers," according to a joint
brief filed Sept. 6 by APPA, Old Dominion Electric Cooperative, National
Rural Electric Cooperative Association, North Carolina Electric
Membership Corp., Delaware Municipal Electric Corp., American Municipal
Power, Inc., and Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative, Inc.
FERC’s claimed intent is to prevent net buyers of power from exercising
their alleged "buyer-side" or monopsony power to depress prices
artificially. But "there is no record evidence of any sellers of new
capacity in PJM doing this," APPA and the others said. Under the
original minimum offer price rule, self-suppliers’ offers, although
guaranteed to clear, could trigger adjustments to the clearing price
preventing any self-supply-induced price suppression. FERC never
explained why continuing that practice would not address its monopsony
power concerns. The revised rule "applies even if a seller has no
incentive or ability to engage in monopsony pricing without an
explanation why that result is reasonable," they said.
FERC proposes to fine Deutsche Bank Energy Trading $1.5 million for alleged manipulation of California ISO markets
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued a show cause order Sept.
5 proposing to require Deutsche Bank Energy Trading to pay a $1.5
million civil penalty and disgorge $123,198 in unjust profits for
allegedly manipulating the California Independent System Operator’s
markets. The energy trader engaged in manipulation and submitted false
information in connection with its trading related to the 17-MW Silver
Peak intertie in CAISO from Jan. 29, 2010 through March 24, 2010, the
FERC’s Office of Enforcement alleged that
employees of Deutsche Bank Energy Trading, including senior-level
employees, conceived and executed a fraudulent scheme of scheduling
physical transactions to benefit the company’s financial congestion
revenue rights position. "The scheme was fraudulent because Deutsche
Bank’s exports (purchases) at Silver Peak were entered into without
regard to their economics or supply and demand fundamentals," according
to a FERC staff report.
Deutsche Bank Energy Trading also
falsely designated certain imports and exports as wheeling-through
transactions, even though the company was not wheeling power and those
schedules did not meet the tariff requirements for wheeling-through
transactions, FERC staff alleged.