Regional News Briefs

2016 Archives

December

SWEEP Applauds Plan to Build EV Charging Network in Utah, Nevada and Colorado

The Governors of Colorado, Utah and Nevada announced in December that they will work together to build a regional electric vehicle charging network on interstate highways I-15, I-25, I-70, I-76, and I-80. Providing fast charging along long-distance corridors is an important step towards greater levels of adoption of electric vehicles.

For the last three years, SWEEP has been advocating for a regional network across the southwest, and is currently advising that southwestern states use a portion of their funds from the VW emissions cheating settlement to help pay for such a network. SWEEP applauds the leadership of Governors Herbert, Hickenlooper and Sandoval.

“SWEEP is very pleased to learn of this announcement. Building out a network of fast charging stations on major interstate highways is critical to expanding consumer acceptance of EVs. We applaud the coordinated efforts of Colorado, Utah and Nevada to move in this direction," said SWEEP Executive Director Howard Geller. 

 

NV Energy Receives Approval of its 2017 Energy Efficiency and DSM Programs

On December 22nd, the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada (PUCN) approved a new three-year demand-side management (DSM) plan for Sierra Pacific Power Company, the subsidiary of NV Energy operating in northern Nevada.

The PUCN also approved modifications to NV Energy’s 2017 DSM programs in southern Nevada. The PUCN approved a Stipulation that calls for NV Energy to spend $54.7 million on DSM programs in 2017, and in doing so rejected a recommendation from the state’s Bureau of Consumer Protection to greatly scale back the programs.

The Stipulation includes a number of program enhancements recommended by SWEEP including a Strategic Energy Management pilot program for large customers, addition of direct install measures to the utility’s Home Energy Assessments program, and investigation of a low-income home retrofit program through a neighborhood blitz approach.

NV Energy estimates that its 2017 DSM programs will help its customers save 158 GWh per year and achieve an incremental peak demand reduction of 61 MW.

 

Multifamily Energy Efficiency Retrofits: Barriers and Opportunities for Deep Energy Savings

New Report on Strategies for Multifamily Retrofit Policies and Programs

SWEEP and other Regional Energy Efficiency Organizations recently published a report showing strategies for accelerating energy efficiency retrofits in multifamily properties. The study tallies the unique barriers faced by this market sector and offers recommendations for both utility programs and local policies to untangle these issues. Finally, the document offers case studies of exemplary programs that successfully achieved savings in this market.

 

Denver City Council Unanimously Approves Energy Efficiency Policy for Large Commercial and Multifamily Properties

On Dec. 19, 2016, and by an 11-0 vote, the Denver City Council approved an ordinance boosting energy efficiency in large commercial and multifamily buildings through better data and market forces. Commercial and multifamily properties over 25,000 square feet will be required to tally how much energy their buildings use, and then the city will make those energy scores available to the public the following year in a clickable map and searchable database. Denver joins nearly 20 other large cities with benchmarking and transparency policies in place. The policy, designed to help the city meet its efficiency goals, was crafted by the Energize Denver Task Force, which included building owners, managers, and investors, along with low-income, efficiency, and economic development advocates. Unfortunately, the final ordinance dropped a third piece of policy—efficiency improvements for low-performing buildings—that the task force had recommended. Still, the new city policy will spur efficiency gains and cost savings.

SWEEP commends the city and task force for the passage of this notable ordinance, and encourages other cities in the southwest to adopt similar policies.

 

Colorado PUC Approves New Electricity Rates for Xcel Energy

In November 2016, the Public Utilities Commission of Colorado (PUC) issued its decision in a rate case for Xcel Energy. The Commission approved a Settlement Agreement that dropped Xcel Energy’s initial proposal to establish a new grid use charge for residential and small business customers. The Commission also approved major pilot programs to test time-of-use energy rates and peak demand charges for residential customers. The PUC’s decision preserves the financial incentives that consumers have to invest in energy efficiency measures. SWEEP took positions in the docket against both the grid use charge and any movement towards peak demand charges for residential customers. Xcel Energy is the largest investor-owned utility in Colorado, serving about 1.4 million electric customers.

 

November

SWEEP Hosts 13th Annual Southwest Energy Efficiency Workshop in Las Vegas, Nevada

On November 15 and 16, 2016, regional and national energy efficiency professionals gathered in Las Vegas, Nevada to discuss the state of utility energy efficiency programs at SWEEP's 13th Annual Southwest Utility Energy Efficiency Workshop.

The 2016 workshop featured engaging panel discussions among demand-side management specialists from nine electric and gas utilities that operate in the Southwest, as well as a keynote address by Marco Velotta of the City of Las Vegas Office of Sustainability. In addition, national experts discussed special topics such as innovations for commercial and industrial energy efficiency programs; data analysis and utilization to improve EE programs; cost-effective approaches to low-income home retrofit; and upstream incentives for greater energy savings.

The 2016 workshop also included the presentation of SWEEP's annual "Leadership in Energy Efficiency Awards," given to individuals and organizations who demonstrate a strong commitment to advancing energy efficiency in the Southwest. The City of Las Vegas Office of Sustainability received an award for implementing energy efficiency measures, which reduced the city's electric bill by 30 percent between 2008 and 2015, saving the city more than $5 million per year.  Rocky Mountain Power and Xcel Energy each received awards for demonstrating their strong commitment to energy efficiency by significantly increasing their energy efficiency program budgets and energy savings in recent years.

 

Nevada Governor's Energy Task Force Makes Recommendations to Advance Energy Efficiency

Several legislative proposals to advance energy efficiency in Nevada were key components of the recommendations made in the final report of Governor Sandoval's New Energy Industry Task Force (NEITF), which wrapped up its work on September 27, 2016. Energy efficiency-related recommendations made by the NEITF include:

  1. providing the Public Utility Commission of Nevada (PUCN) with the authority to decouple electric utility cost recovery from sales;
  2. directing the PUCN to give priority to energy resources (including energy efficiency resources) that provide the greatest economic and environmental benefits, and that reduce fuel price and carbon price risk, as part of Integrated Resource Planning (IRP);
  3. directing the PUCN to use the Utility Cost Test (UCT) in lieu of the Total Resource Cost test (TRC) for determining DSM program cost effectiveness, and to require that a utility's portfolio of DSM programs rather than individual programs pass this cost effectiveness test;
  4. providing that no less than 5% of a utility's DSM expenditures go to efficiency programs helping low-income households;
  5. supporting legislation to enable Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing; and
  6. developing a state plan and programs to accelerate the adoption Electric Vehicles.

The NEITF recommendations move forward as proposals that will be considered in Nevada's 2017 legislative session. SWEEP staff served on the Clean Energy Advisory Committee to the NEITF and made presentations on several of the recommendations that became part of the final report.

 

Salt River Project Continues Strong Energy Efficiency Program Performance

Salt River Project (SRP), Arizona's second largest electric utility, reports that it saved 526.5 GWh per year at the generator level from energy efficiency programs implemented during its 2016 fiscal year. This represents the amount of energy needed to power about 28,400 homes served by SRP. The energy savings at the customer level were equivalent to 1.78% of retail sales, placing SRP among the top electric utilities in the nation with respect to this metric. In 2016, SRP was recognized as an ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year by the federal government for the third consecutive year. SWEEP congratulates SRP for delivering significant energy and money savings for its customers once again.

 

October

Colorado's PACE Financing for Commercial Buildings is Up and Running

The first project under the new Colorado C-PACE program has recently been funded. The project includes both energy efficiency and renewable energy measures and is located at an industrial facility owned by Urban Green Development. The facility is located in Boulder County, the first county to opt into the program. A local bank, Citywide Banks, financed the project. At this time, six counties have opted into the statewide program, including Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Eagle, and Jefferson. More counties are expected to opt in soon. SWEEP has been engaged in the C-PACE effort in a variety of ways, including providing feedback on program scope, commenting on the program guidelines, and encouraging counties and property owners to participate in the program.

 

September

Rate Case Concludes for UNS Electric in Arizona

In a 4-to-1 vote, the Arizona Corporation Commission approved the rate case of UNS Electric, which serves 93,000 customers in southern and northwestern Arizona. SWEEP intervened in the case, submitted expert testimony, and participated in the rate case hearings to advance energy efficiency and to oppose rate designs that would undermine the ability of ratepayers to save money and energy on their utility bills. Specifically, SWEEP opposed the implementation of mandatory residential demand charges and increases to the residential basic service charge (BSC). SWEEP also supported the implementation of more effective time-of-use (TOU) rates.

In its decision, the Commission approved an increase in the residential BSC from $10 to $15 for customers not on TOU rates. This amount was significantly less than the $20 originally sought by the utility. The Commission also approved a reduced BSC of $12 for customers who opt-in to TOU and three-part rates. During the course of the hearing, UNS Electric withdrew its mandatory residential demand charge proposal due to strong customer opposition. Finally, the Commission approved several modifications to make TOU rates more effective.

 

Arizona Corporation Commission Approves APS 2016 Demand Side Management Plan

Arizona Public Service Company (APS) customers will see additional opportunities to save money on their utility bills, thanks to the Arizona Corporation Commission’s approval of APS’ 2016 Demand Side Management (DSM) plan. As part of the plan approval, APS will implement new cost-effective energy efficiency opportunities, including smart thermostats, behavioral demand response for residential customers, and new lighting and cooling measures. Chairman Little worked with Commission Staff to facilitate expedited approval of the Plan and the new energy efficiency measures in the Plan, so that customers would have access to new energy saving opportunities during the summer, when Arizona utility bills are highest. Commissioners Andy Tobin and Bob Stump collaborated on two amendments describing steps APS must take to further its demand and energy reduction efforts over the next several years. Commissioner Bob Burns also worked on an amendment directing APS to look at new and emerging technologies as it develops its next DSM plan. SWEEP worked with these offices on their amendments and supported their approval at Commission.

August

How and Why Leading Utilities are Embracing Electric Vehicles

Utilities have experienced slower growth in electricity sales in recent years, and the expansion of energy efficiency programs and distributed solar photovoltaic (PV) generation is expected to further diminish future sales growth. Electric vehicles (EVs) offer the potential to offset these decreases, but only if they make up a much larger share of the market than today. As the providers of fuel for electric vehicles, electric utilities clearly can play an important role in growing and shaping the market for EVs and some of them are. To increase sales of EVs, utilities offer incentives for charging stations and install their own networks of public charging stations. Utilities also offer time-of-use rates to encourage off-peak charging when there is underutilized capacity.

SWEEP¹s article on this topic in The Electricity Journal provides an overview of why utilities should support EVs, what leading utilities are doing to increase EV sales and information about specific utility incentives for EV ownership.

For a limited-time PDF copy of the article, please contact author Mike Salisbury at msalisbury@swenergy.org.  The article is based upon findings in a SWEEP report.

June

Rocky Mountain Power Ramps Up Energy Savings in Utah

Rocky Mountain Power (RMP) reports that its 2015 energy efficiency and load management (DSM) programs helped its Utah customers save 286 million kWh per year, equivalent to the electricity use of about 32,000 typical households in the state. The savings achieved by 2015 programs were nearly 16 percent greater than the savings from the utility’s 2014 programs. In addition, RMP estimates that its 2015 programs had an average benefit-cost ratio of 1.53 and will result in $62 million in net economic benefits for the households and businesses it serves. RMP, a subsidiary of PacifiCorp, provides electricity to about 835,000 customers in Utah.

 

May

Colorado Improves Electric Vehicle Incentives with $5,000 Tax Credit

On May 4, the Colorado legislature approved HB 1332, a bill that dramatically improves the state’s alternative fuel vehicle tax credits. It simplifies a complex formula, setting a flat $5,000 credit for the purchase of a light duty electric vehicle (EV). Most importantly, it makes the credits assignable to a car dealer or finance company, which will effectively turn them into a point of sale incentive. This makes the Colorado incentive the best in the nation, combining one of the highest tax credits with a point of sale option, and is expected  to significantly increase EV sales. SWEEP proposed the concept of assignable tax credits and helped build broad support for the legislation.

- Click here for a copy of HB 1332

 

PNM Reports Strong Energy Savings Results in 2015

Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM) helped its customers save 79 GWh per year from energy efficiency programs implemented in 2015, nearly equal to 1% of the electricity consumed by customers of the utility. PNM is on track for complying with the state's Energy Efficiency Resource Standard, which requires 8% energy savings by 2020 from energy efficiency programs implemented during 2008-2020. According to PNM’s estimates, programs implemented in 2015 will provide $17 million in net benefits for customers. In addition, PNM projects that energy efficiency measures installed in 2015 will cut power plant water consumption by 233 million gallons and reduce CO 2 emissions by over 443,000 tons. SWEEP supports PNM in the design of its energy efficiency programs and participates in the regulatory approval process.

 

April

Utah Adopts Legislation Supporting Energy Efficiency and Environment

In the legislative session that wrapped up in March 2016, the Utah legislature adopted SB 115 — the Sustainable Transportation and Energy Plan Act. This Act authorizes a new cost recovery mechanism for Rocky Mountain Power’s energy efficiency and load management programs, namely allowing the utility to capitalize these expenditures and amortize them over 10 years, as well as receive a return on investment. The bill also authorizes funding for a number of initiatives linked to reducing air pollutant emissions in the Wasatch Front, including utility investment in electric vehicle charging infrastructure. Additionally, the bill allows, with approval by the state’s Public Service Commission, accelerated depreciation of older thermal electric generating plants. Governor Herbert has signed the bill into law.

 

Xcel Energy Surpasses Energy Savings Goals in 2015

Xcel Energy reports it achieved 407 GWh per year of electricity savings and 95 MW of peak load reduction at the generator level from demand-side management (DSM) programs implemented in 2015. The electricity savings were equal to 1.3% of the utility’s retail electricity sales on a net savings basis, and surpassed the savings goal established by the Colorado Public Utilities Commission. Xcel Energy estimates that its 2015 electric DSM programs will provide its customers with $100 million in net economic benefits over the lifetime of measures installed last year. In addition, Xcel Energy reports that its natural gas efficiency programs helped customers save 598,000 dekatherms of gas per year, surpassing the company’s gas savings goal. Xcel Energy is the largest electric and gas utility in Colorado with approximately 1.4 million customers.

 

Congratulations to 2016 ENERGY STAR Award Winners in the Southwest!

In 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Energy (DOE) recognized 149 ENERGY STAR partner organizations for outstanding achievements in energy efficiency. SWEEP congratulates the ten award winners with operations based in the Southwest region.
Seven organizations in our region were honored in the category of "Partner of the Year – Sustained Excellence" in three award categories for their exceptional leadership year after year in the ENERGY STAR program while remaining dedicated to environmental protection through energy efficiency:

  • Arizona Public Service (Phoenix, AZ -- Energy Efficiency Program Delivery)
  • Energy Inspectors (Las Vegas, NV – Home Energy Rater)
  • EnergyLogic, Inc. (Berthoud, CO – Home Energy Rater)
  • Habitat for Humanity of Metro Denver (Denver, CO -- New Home Builder and Affordable Housing)
  • Meritage Homes Corporation (Scottsdale, AZ -- New Home Builder and Affordable Housing)
  • New Mexico Gas Company (Albuquerque, NM -- Energy Efficiency Program Delivery)
  • Salt River Project Agricultural Improvement and Power District (Tempe, AZ – Energy Efficiency Program Delivery)

Two organizations were honored as "Partner of the Year":

  • Fulton Homes (Tempe, AZ -- New Home Builder and Affordable Housing)
  • PulteGroup-Las Vegas (Las Vegas, NV -- New Home Builder and Affordable Housing)

In addition, AZ Energy Efficient Home (Phoenix, AZ) was awarded Contractor of the Year, an honor given to Home Performance with ENERGY STAR participating contractors who exhibit outstanding professionalism, build strong customer relationships, and apply building science solutions to improve homes.

 

March

Utah Adopts 2015 IECC for Commercial Buildings, Improves Energy Conservation in New Homes

House Bill 316, Building Code Review and Adoption Amendments, passed the Utah Legislature before it concluded its 2016 General Session on March 10.  HB 316 made improvements to the energy codes adopted across the state. It adopted the commercial building requirements in the 2015 IECC without any weakening amendments, and an updated hybrid version of the IECC for new homes. This bill is expected to be signed by Gov. Gary Herbert. Although the bill includes amendments that weaken the residential requirements in the 2015 IECC, HB 316 results in meaningful energy savings in new homes relative to the previous statewide energy code. Utah Clean Energy estimates that the combination of improvements in the new residential code will capture 68% of the energy cost savings that would have been achieved if the 2015 IECC had been adopted without amendment. For new homes, HB 316 includes:

  • 2015 IECC prescriptive insulation and fenestration requirements;
  • A modified version of the new Energy Rating Index compliance method that incorporates a consumer-friendly HERS rating option into the energy code;
  • The full Simulated Performance Alternative compliance method;
  • A requirement for 75% of the lighting installed to be high efficiency;
  • A phase-in of increased air duct and whole-home air tightness provisions in 2017, 2019, and 2021;
  • A new requirement for cost/benefit analysis for future residential codes; and
  • A six-year code adoption cycle for residential codes in the future, with the opportunity to make annual amendments.

 

Denver Leads Major Southwest Cities with Adoption of Energy Saving Building Codes with EV-Ready Amendment

Denver’s City Council on Monday, March 7, adopted a new building energy code, the 2015 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), that brings the city in line with the latest energy efficiency standards for new buildings.  With the code adoption, new residential and commercial buildings in Denver are expected to be 25% more energy efficient than was the case under Denver’s previous energy code. The new codes also apply to old buildings being renovated.  In 2015, Denver issued a near-record 75,717 building permits for construction of new houses, apartments, home additions and new or renovated commercial buildings. SWEEP worked closely with city planners during the adoption process and suggested a successful amendment to the code that would add a conduit for electric vehicle charging stations to new homes and thereby make them EV-ready.

 

APS and TEP Maintained Strong Energy Efficiency Program Performance in 2015

Arizona Public Service Company (APS) helped its customers save 460 GWh per year from energy efficiency programs implemented in 2014 (savings at point of use), while Tucson Electric Power Company (TEP) helped its customers save 144 GWh per year. Both utilities are on track in complying with the state’s Energy Efficiency Resource Standard, which required 9.5% savings in 2015 from energy efficiency programs implemented during 2011-15.

The programs are also yielding substantial economic and environmental benefits. APS indicates its 2015 programs will provide $72 million in net benefits for customers, while TEP’s programs will provide $48 million in net benefits. The two utilities also project that over their lifetime, the energy efficiency measures installed in 2015 will cut power plant water consumption by 2.4 billion gallons and CO2 emissions by 3.8 million tons.

SWEEP supported the utilities by providing recommendations on energy efficiency program design as well as with obtaining regulatory approvals.

 

New Energy Efficiency Opportunities Approved for Tucson Electric Customers

The Arizona Corporation Commission unanimously approved Tucson Electric Power’s (TEP) latest energy efficiency plan. As part of the plan approval, several new cost-effective measures will be offered to residential and commercial customers including smart thermostats, several HVAC and lighting measures, and ENERGY STAR® equipment and appliances. SWEEP advocated for approval of the plan in comments before the Commission. SWEEP also supported amendments by Commissioners Bob Stump, Bob Burns, and Tom Forese that were unanimously approved.

 

February

Reno Adopts 2012 Building Energy Code to Advance Energy Efficiency

By unanimous vote, the City of Reno formally adopted the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) on Feb. 10, 2016, taking another big step toward becoming known as The Biggest Little Green City in the World. The 2012 building energy code sets high standards for insulation and sealing in new homes, as well as stronger energy efficiency requirements for new and renovated commercial buildings. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the 2012 IECC will save consumers an additional 20% off their utility bills compared to the earlier 2009 IECC.  A DOE-funded study submitted to the Reno City Council by SWEEP found other benefits that include an increase in year-round comfort for residents and a boost to the local economy as savings on utility bills are spent at shops, restaurants and other venues. SWEEP provided technical support and assisted Reno as it considered updating its energy code.

 

New SWEEP Report Reviews Rural Electric Cooperative Energy Efficiency Programs

This SWEEP report reviews the energy efficiency and electric load management programs of rural electric cooperatives in six southwestern states. The report examines differences between electric cooperatives in how they achieve energy savings within the constraints of state policies and energy efficiency program infrastructure.  It also examines statewide electric cooperative energy savings levels between 2010 and 2014.  The report identifies the most robust programs and best practices that will help other electric cooperatives support increased energy savings in the Southwest.

 

January

SWEEP Comments on EPA's Clean Power Plan

On Jan. 21, 2016, SWEEP submitted comments to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on multiple aspects of the Clean Power Plan that pertain to energy efficiency.  Comments were made for EPA’s proposed Federal Plan and Model Trading Rules as well as the draft Evaluation, Measurement, and Verification (EM&V) Guidance. The Federal Plan and Model Trading Rules comments focus on supporting energy efficiency in a variety of ways, including allowing energy efficiency as a compliance option under the Federal Plan, ensuring that the Model Trading Rules work well as applied to energy efficiency measures, and relying on EM&V protocols to ensure that savings are properly accounted for. The draft EM&V Guidance comments focus on supporting a wide range of energy efficiency efforts that include utility and non-utility programs as well as combined heat and power (CHP).  SWEEP also commented on structuring the Clean Power Plan EM&V requirements so that they are consistent with current industry best practices.  

The EPA also encouraged stakeholders and subject matter experts like SWEEP to include feedback on the Clean Energy Incentive Program (CEIP) as part of our comments on the Federal Plan and Model Trading Rules because the previous opportunity to comment on the CEIP was not part of the formal rulemaking process. Specific to the CEIP, SWEEP commented on the following questions: 1) How should EPA define key terms and eligibility requirements under the CEIP? 2) What should EPA consider when designing the mechanics of the CEIP? and 3) What should EPA consider regarding the timing and distribution of allowances under the CEIP?

 

New SWEEP Paper on Utility Programs that Co-Fund Energy Manager Positions

SWEEP has released a new paper on utility programs that provide co-funding for large customers to hire an energy manager. For many industrial and other large customers, one of the largest barriers to improved energy efficiency is the shortage of staff time to focus on energy management. Providing incentives and training helps large customers hire an energy manager to focus on reducing their energy costs through implementing energy efficiency projects and operational improvements. The report highlights five utility energy manager co-funding programs. All are helping the utility achieve significant additional energy savings at a modest incremental program cost.

 

New DSM Plan Approved for Black Hills Energy in Colorado

The Public Utilities Commission (PUC) of Colorado has approved a 2016-18 electric DSM plan for the subsidiary of Black Hills Energy (BHE) that provides power in southern Colorado. The new DSM plan calls for BHE to spend $18.6 million on DSM programs over three years and save about 55 million kWh per year from energy efficiency measures implemented during the three-year plan period. In its decision, the Colorado PUC approved a Settlement Agreement that SWEEP supported. The Settlement included a number of program enhancements recommended by SWEEP including increased customer participation goals for the residential lighting program, commercial and industrial (C&I) prescriptive, and C&I lighting programs; reinstatement of a large customer self-direct program; and development of a demand response pilot program. BHE serves about 95,000 electric customers in Pueblo and nearby areas.