Regional News Briefs

August

Denver Green Code and Affordable Housing Pilot Program

The City of Denver is piloting a new program that has long been championed by SWEEP’s buildings team – reduced permit fees and an accelerated permitting process for buildings that build significantly above the minimum code. In this case, five select buildings will get these incentives along with a far more streamlined and coordinated Site Development Process if they build to Denver’s new voluntary Green Code, featuring more energy efficiency, better indoor air quality, water conservation, and sustainable materials – or if they build LEED Platinum, net zero, or Passive House (with a few other additional green code provisions). An additional five affordable housing projects will also receive the incentives and assistance in the pilot. Furthermore, all single family and duplex homes that build to the Green Code will receive expedited permitting, even beyond the pilot project. The goal of the program is to encourage projects that support Denver’s vision of a more inclusive, connected, and healthy city. See more information here.

July

NV Energy Boosts Energy Savings in 2019

NV Energy reports it achieved 327 gigawatt-hours (GWh) per year of electricity savings and 225 megawatts (MW) of peak load reduction from demand-side management (DSM) programs implemented in Nevada in 2019. This was the highest levels of energy savings achieved by the company in the past decade, and represents a 51 percent increase over the energy savings resulting from DSM programs implemented in 2018. The energy savings achieved from 2019 programs were equivalent to 1.15 percent of retail electricity sales by the company.

NV Energy estimates that its 2019 DSM programs will provide $136 million in net economic benefits over the lifetime of energy efficiency measures installed last year. The benefit-cost rate for the portfolio of DSM programs is 2.36. In addition, NV Energy projects that its 2019 DSM programs will cut the company’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by about 116,000 tons per year.

NV Energy is the large investor-owned electric serving over 1.3 million customers in Nevada. SWEEP praises NV Energy for significantly expanding the scope and impacts of its DSM programs in 2019.  

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SWEEP Submits Transportation Climate Policy Recommendations to Colorado Officials

Colorado is developing a Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Pollution Reduction Roadmap of actions required to achieve the state’s ambitious HB-1261 climate targets of 26% GHG reductions by 2025, 50% by 2030, and 90% by 2050. Transportation recently surpassed electricity generation as the largest source of climate-changing pollution in Colorado and without bold policy action, it will continue to be the largest emitter. To hit the GHG targets, Colorado must reduce transportation emissions by 40% by 2030 through a combination of vehicle electrification, low-carbon fuels, more fuel-efficient vehicles, and reductions in vehicle-miles-traveled (VMT).

SWEEP proposed a suite of policy recommendations to reduce carbon pollution from transportation and fund the transition to a more efficient transportation system. One idea is to establish a revenue-generating limit on transportation GHG emissions and create a pollution permit system where the number of permits decreases each year in line with the state’s GHG reduction goals. The system would generate much-needed revenue to reinvest clean transportation alternatives, like electric vehicles and improved transit, and ensure that the benefits of climate action will be shared widely and equitably by all Coloradans.

SWEEP urged the state to adopt policies that shift new vehicle sales toward zero-emission vehicles, including more ambitious targets for light-duty vehicles (100% of new sales by 2035), and new requirements for zero-emission trucks, transit buses, school buses, and off-road vehicles. At the same time, Colorado should adopt policies that reduce car dependency and VMT by encouraging more efficient land use and investing transportation dollars in alternatives to driving like transit, biking, and walking.

The AQCC is working with consultants to model the GHG impact of policy scenarios and the final GHG Roadmap will be delivered on September 30, 2020. 

Click here to see SWEEP’s transportation policy recommendations to the AQCC: “Colorado Pathways to Reducing Carbon Pollution from the Transportation Sector”

June

Interveners, Xcel Energy Reach Agreement on Default Time-of-Use Rates

A unanimous settlement agreement has been reached in a docket pertaining to Time-of-Use (TOU) rates for Xcel Energy’s residential customers in Colorado. If the agreement is approved by the PUC, customers will move to TOU rates after receiving an advanced smart meter during the next four years. TOU rates will be in effect the entire year with peak pricing during 3-7pm, shoulder pricing during 1-3pm, and off-peak pricing all other hours. TOU rates help to shift electric demand from peak to off peak periods, thereby reducing utility costs as well as carbon dioxide emissions. Customers will be given an opportunity to opt out of TOU rates if they so choose. SWEEP participated in the docket and supported year-round TOU rates as well as a substantial price differential between peak and off-peak periods. The settlement agreement is expected to be approved by the Colorado PUC.

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SWEEP Statement on Racial Injustice and Inequality

With the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and others, the scourge of police brutality towards people of color, systemic racial injustice and pervasive inequality have come to the forefront in our nation. Millions of protestors are demanding fundamental reforms in policing practices as well as economic and social policies in order to close safety, wealth and public health gaps between white Americans and people of color. It is a moment where no one can sit on the sidelines, including non-profit organizations such as SWEEP.

SWEEP’s mission is to advance more efficient energy use as a means of providing economic and environmental benefits in the states we work in. In fulfilling its mission, SWEEP has focused attention on improving energy efficiency in lower income households and in communities which are heavily populated by people of color. We frequently partner with organizations devoted to the energy needs of poorer communities in support energy efficiency, clean transportation and energy equity initiatives, and we have made significant progress in advancing equity within energy efficiency policies and programs in the region. But we can and should do more.

Doing more starts with better communication with people of color and their representatives. SWEEP works with organizations that represent lower income families and communities. We also have developed relationships with and assisted elected officials of color who have sponsored energy efficiency legislation in part to better serve their constituents. However, we can and will give greater priority to engaging in a dialogue with these organizations and individuals, identifying areas of mutual interest, and soliciting their input on how energy efficiency and clean transportation initiatives can better serve the needs of people of color including lower income families.

Second, SWEEP will redouble its efforts to ensure that energy and climate equity is a priority in the policies and programs we advocate for and support, not just a consideration or even worse an afterthought. We will do our best to ensure that lower income families and communities are well served by energy efficiency, clean transportation and beneficial electrification programs in our region, including receiving a disproportionate share of program resources (funding, outreach, technical assistance, etc.).  

There are relatively few individuals of color working in the energy efficiency profession, SWEEP included. SWEEP will step up its efforts to include people of color on our Board and staff, as well as in the energy efficiency profession in general. As we increase our interaction with organizations that represent people of color and lower income families, we will solicit candidates for our Board or staff, as well as ask these organizations to help circulate our job announcements. In addition, we will provide internships to individuals of color so that there is a pathway for these individuals to work in the energy efficiency profession. Going forward, we will provide the majority of our internships to individuals of color.

As we implement these commitments, SWEEP will track progress towards these goals as well as review and update the policies periodically.

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May

New Mexico Utilities Report Strong Energy Savings in 2019

Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM), the state’s largest electric utility, reports it achieved over 78 gigawatt-hours (GWh) per year of electricity savings and 58 megawatts (MW) of peak load reduction from demand-side management (DSM) programs implemented in 2019. PNM’s programs provided $20 million in net economic benefits, with an overall benefit-cost ratio of 1.93. In addition, PNM estimates that energy efficiency measures installed through its 2019 DSM programs will avoid 375,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions over their lifetime.

Southwestern Public Service Company (SPS), the state’s second largest electric utility, reports it achieved over 39 GWh per year of electricity savings and 9.4 MW of peak load reduction from DSM programs implemented in 2019. SPS’s programs provided nearly $17 million in net economic benefits, with an overall benefit-cost ratio of 2.69. SPS exceeded its annual energy savings target by 30 percent in 2019.

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Energy Impact Offset Fund Energy Assessment Summary Report

Between July 2019 and February 2020, Energy & Resources Solutions (ERS) conducted on-site energy assessments on 14 cannabis cultivation facilities operating in un-incorporated Boulder County (11 indoor and 3 greenhouses). By pairing these assessments with utility consumption data and modeling analysis, ERS was able to provide each participating cultivator with a highly individualized report and recommendations for managing energy in a manner that reduces operating costs, lowers their carbon footprint, and maximizes product yields. This summary report describes the scope of the energy assessments, including the data analysis, highlights of the energy efficiency opportunities, and other guidance for improved energy management.

Neil Kolwey of SWEEP serves on the steering committee overseeing the Boulder County cannabis Energy Impact Offset Fund, and he helped oversee the project.

Click here to read about Boulder County's Cannabis Energy Impact Offset Fund

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April

Summit County Colorado Moves Toward its Path to Zero

The town of Frisco, CO and Summit County, CO have adopted the local building industry and High Country Conservation Center (HCCC) developed Summit County Sustainable Building Code. This code becomes part of the earlier adoption of the 2018 building codes. SWEEP participated in the process with HCCC during 2018 and 2019. Breckenridge and other municipalities in the county are planning to follow with their adoptions in 2020. Additions to the codes include electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure for commercial buildings, multi-family, and single-family homes. Single family homes will include electric vehicle wiring to the parking area. Commercial buildings must be at least 10% more efficient and not more than 25% more efficient depending upon the selected compliance path.

Single family homes and multi-family buildings up to 5 stories must comply with the U.S. DOE Zero Energy Ready Home (ZERH) program. More water efficient plumbing fixtures are also included for toilets, faucets, sinks, and also clothes washers and dishwashers. The new EV charging requirements incorporate the technical specifications from the upcoming 2021 IECC for new residential and commercial buildings. All new one- and two- family homes must be equipped with one “EV-ready” parking space supporting Level 2 charging. Larger parking lots serving multi-family residential and commercial buildings will provide EV charging stations for at least 5 percent of parking spaces and “EV-Capable” infrastructure for 50 percent of the remaining spaces. The new EV-ready building codes will expand access to EV charging and help Summit County achieve its ambitious climate goals. (For more information on the EV infrastructure code definitions, refer to our blog.)

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Xcel Energy Achieves Record Energy Savings in 2019

Xcel Energy reports it achieved over 504 gigawatt-hours (GWh) per year of electricity savings and 132 megawatts (MW) of peak load reduction at the generator level from demand-side management (DSM) programs implemented in Colorado in 2019. These were the highest levels of energy savings and peak load reduction since Xcel Energy began implementing comprehensive DSM programs in 2009. The electricity savings surpassed the energy savings goal established by the Colorado Public Utilities Commission and were equal to 1.6 percent of the utility’s retail electricity sales.

Xcel Energy estimates that its 2019 electric DSM programs will provide $101 million in net economic benefits over the lifetime of energy efficiency measures installed last year. Natural gas DSM programs implemented by the utility in 2019 will provide an additional $26 million in net economic benefits. Xcel Energy also projects that all its DSM programs will cut the company’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 3.3 million tons over the lifetime of the energy savings measures installed in 2019.

Xcel Energy is the largest electric and gas utility in Colorado serving nearly 1.5 million customers.

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New Building Energy Code to Include Electrification Readiness, EV Infrastructure While Cutting Energy Use

The International Code Council (ICC) certified the results this week of the online governmental consensus voting for the upcoming 2021 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC). The consensus voting took place in December 2019. The code will be finalized within 30 days, and its anticipated no changes will occur to the certified results.  Although opponents have already attempted to invalidate the votes since January 2020. The new 2021 IECC will be a major step for states and municipalities to reduce energy usage and carbon emissions. The code is anticipated to save approximately 10 percent in energy use as compared to the 2018 IECC. Pre electrification requirements are included in the code as are electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure requirements for both residential and commercial buildings. Appendixes have been added to both the commercial and residential building sections which will provide a pathway for states and cities to implement zero energy codes.

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March

Salt River Project Board of Directors Approves $56.5 Million for Energy Efficiency and Transportation Electrification Programs in FY2021

The Board of Directors of Arizona’s Salt River Project (SRP) voted yesterday to approve the utility’s 2021 fiscal year operating budget. The budget includes $51.4 million for demand-side management (DSM) programs and $5.1 million for transportation electrification initiatives.

This funding will enable SRP to make significant progress toward the achievement of its newly-established 2035 sustainability goals, which include new commitments for energy efficiency, demand response, and electric vehicles through 2035. Under its 2035 sustainability plan SRP will:

  • Deliver over 3 million megawatt-hours of annual aggregate energy savings by 2035 
  • Deliver at least 300 megawatts of dispatchable demand response and load management programs
  • Support the enablement of 500,000 electric vehicles (EVs) in its service territory and manage 90% of those vehicles through price plans, dispatchable load management, and other offerings

Under the budget approved yesterday, SRP will invest:

  • $25.3 million in residential energy efficiency programs, including its Cool Cash Rebate, Duct Test and Repair, ENERGY STAR Homes, and the Smart Thermostat programs.
  • $20.9 million in commercial energy efficiency programs, including its Standard Business Solutions, New Construction, and Building Code Initiative programs.
  • $5.2 million in demand response programs including its Net Rush Hour Rewards program.

The SRP decision comes at a time when the Arizona Corporation Commission is actively discussing the future of energy efficiency policy, including plans to extend and expand its Energy Efficiency Resource Standard, which sunsets at the end of this year. 

SWEEP congratulates the SRP Board and Management for this important decision which will accelerate clean energy deployment in Arizona. Click here to view details of SRP’s fiscal year 2021 budget

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2020 Utah Legislative Session Recap

The Utah Legislature took some important steps on energy efficiency and clean transportation this session. Creation of a home energy information pilot program, increased funding for electric vehicle charging infrastructure, and support for heat pumps and beneficial electrification shows positive momentum on clean energy, climate and air quality in Utah. The bills are awaiting signature by Governor Herbert, who is expected to sign all into law. SWEEP thanks its partner Utah Clean Energy for leading efforts to secure the adoption of these important new policies. 

Home Energy Efficiency Score Pilot
One of the biggest wins this session was passage of HB 235 - Voluntary Home Energy Information Pilot Program.  The bill was sponsored by Representative Patrice Arent (Millcreek) and Senator Curt Bramble (Provo).

HB 235 will increase consumer awareness of energy costs, energy use, and emissions from homes. The bill will allow the Utah Governor's Office of Energy Development to create the rules for a voluntary home energy efficiency report (think of it as a "miles-per-gallon" energy rating for homes). Today, consumers have no way to easily compare energy costs, energy use, or emissions from homes that they are considering for purchase. This information is vital to unlocking demand for home energy upgrades and efficient new homes.

Expanding Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure
HB 396 - Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure Amendments, sponsored by Representative Lowry Snow (Santa Clara), focuses on utility-owned electric vehicle charging infrastructure and EV charging station services. The legislation authorizes Rocky Mountain Power (RMP) to spend up to $50 million on electric vehicle infrastructure and for EV charging services through a program to be approved by the Public Service Commission. It will also allow RMP to develop a rate to charge customers for using electric charging stations. The bill was amended to allow private, third-party charging services to compete with RMP to offer EV charging services to customers.

HB 259 - Electric Vehicle Charging Network, sponsored by Representative Robert Spendlove (Sandy), requires the Utah Department of Transportation to develop a statewide plan for an electric vehicle charging network. The plan will be developed with feedback from private entities and several state agencies: the state Department of Environmental Quality, the Office of Energy Development, The Department of Natural Resources, and the Division of Facilities Construction and Management.

The Legislature also appropriated $2 million for installing EV charging stations and charging equipment in areas of Utah served by rural electric cooperatives. This will help to make EVs viable in all parts of the state.

Promoting Building Electrification
HB 431- Energy Rebate Program Amendments, sponsored by Representative Steve Handy (Layton), allows Rocky Mountain Power to use energy efficiency program funding to provide incentives for heat pumps, even if it means switching from natural gas or propane-based heating to high efficiency electric heating. Adoption of heat pumps can reduce the carbon intensity of buildings especially as the electric grid shifts to cleaner renewable sources of power generation.

HB-431 also allows participants in utility-sponsored energy efficiency rebate programs, such as homebuilders, to make use of energy efficiency rebates for up to 12 months after a change in state building codes. This provision should accelerate the adoption of energy efficient construction practices and improve energy code compliance.

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February

Southwest Utilities Show Mixed Performance in New Utility Energy Efficiency Scorecard

Xcel Energy – CO is the top utility in the Southwest in a new Utility Energy Efficiency Scorecard released on February 20th by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE). Xcel Energy – CO ranked 15th out of 52 utilities included in the Scorecard. The utility earned the same number of points as in the previous Scorecard.  

Two utilities in the Southwest, the Salt River Project and Nevada Power Company, improved their scores in the 2020 Scorecard relative to those in the previous ACEEE Scorecard. On the other hand, Arizona Public Service Company and PacifiCorp-Utah saw their scores decline (see Table below). The top utilities in the nation received 46 points in the 2020 Scorecard, out of a maximum of 50 points.


The ACEEE Utility Energy Efficiency Scorecard covers 20 metrics across three categories: 

• Quantitative energy efficiency savings and spending performance
• Energy efficiency program offerings
• Enabling mechanisms for energy efficiency

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January

Tri-State Announces Transformative New Energy Plan

On January 15th, the Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association announced its Responsible Energy Plan, which includes shutting down the utility’s coal-fired power plants in Colorado and New Mexico, greatly expanding renewable energy generation, increasing support for electric vehicles, and significantly cutting the utility’s greenhouse gas emissions. Tri-State also said it will expand its energy efficiency, demand-side management and beneficial electrification programs. Howard Geller, SWEEP’s Executive Director, served on the advisory group that helped Tri-State develop it’s Responsible Energy Plan. The Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association is a non-profit cooperative that provides power to 43 electric distribution cooperatives and public power districts in Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico and Wyoming.

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City of Boulder Continues Its Path to Zero Energy Buildings

On January 21, 2020, the Boulder City Council unanimously passed updates to the city's building energy codes. Boulder has been on a glide path to zero net energy buildings and these updates continue the city's advancement in building efficiency. Additions include adding electric vehicle (EV) charging requirements for commercial and residential buildings, new construction falls primarily under performance requirements including outcome based compliance for commercial buildings, improved insulation and window efficiency, new testing requirements for commercial buildings, improved lighting efficiency including lighting efficiency for interior plant growth, solar readiness, and building performance requirements. An outcome-based commercial code compliance path where performance is verified after occupancy and another path where at least 5% of commerical building energy use must be supplied by on-site renewables are also included.

Residential buildings will no longer be able to have natural gas equipment with continuously burning pilot lights and hot tubs and spas must have their energy use offset by renewable energy. Currently, 5,000 sf and larger new homes reach zero-energy, with the new code all new single family homes larger than 3,000 sf must reach zero energy on the energy rating index scale. Also, solar readiness is required for homes and townhomes, and an option to allow contributing to an energy impact offset fund if new homes cannot feasibly add solar on site or its technically infeasible if off-site solar subscriptions are not available.

Other items incorporated into the building codes update include recognizing permanent installation of tiny homes are all now required in the City of Boulder.

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New Utah Roadmap Points the Way for Mitigating Climate Impacts and Improving Air Quality

At the request of the Utah Legislature, the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute of the University of Utah, with the assistance of a Technical Advisory Committee, prepared and issued The Utah Roadmap: Positive Solutions on Climate and Air Quality. The stated objective of the Roadmap is to assist with policymaking to improve air quality and address causes and impacts of a changing climate. The Utah Roadmap identifies areas of opportunity to reduce air emissions and ensure a healthy, productive, and prosperous future for all Utahns. Recommendations in the Utah Roadmap include:

  • Establish goals to reduce CO2 emissions statewide 25% below 2005 levels by 2025, 50% by 2030, and 80% by 2050.
  • Adopt robust energy-efficiency goals for all state buildings.
  • Strengthen residential and commercial building standards, and incentivize their adoption, to reduce emissions, improve air quality, increase energy efficiency and lower costs for building owners, tenants, and residents.
  • Increase investment in transit and active transportation infrastructure and – as importantly – frequent and convenient bus and rail service that builds ridership and connects residents with opportunities.
  • Complete expansion of Utah’s network of EV-charging stations to cover all communities, state highways, and scenic byways as quickly as possible.
  • Target EV incentives towards middle and low-income Utah households, replacement of vehicles 12 years or older, and home charging stations.

SWEEP’s partner organization, Utah Clean Energy, participated in the Technical Advisory Committee that helped the Policy Institute prepare the Roadmap.

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