Monthly Newsletter - January 2, 2018
2018 Resolution: Respond to Market Volatility
Imagine Reading This Front-Page Headline:
"Crude oil prices opened at $50, dropped to a negative $11 at 2 AM, screamed to $995 at 5 PM, before settling back to $50 at closing."
That would surely catch your attention, right? Experts and economists would be asking how this happened, and assessing winners and losers. Naturally, you'd find yourself asking "Who would ever buy $900 crude oil?" or "Would someone really PAY ME to buy crude oil at 2am?"
The prices below show real-time electricity price activity in ERCOT, SPP and CAISO for December 5. There's nothing unusual here about these prices - it happens a dozen times a month.
In any other market, a commodity with a 20X swing in a 24-hour period would be front page news. Instead of saying the price of electricity jumped from $20 to negative $15 and then up to $350, averaging $35.... substitute the word "electricity" with any other commodity - coal, wheat, oil, etc. And yet, this phenomenon occurs across the US electricity market several times a month without any fanfare.
These critical times have a tremendous impact on both economics and sustainability, as price blowouts indicate electricity supply/demand issues that require dirtier, less efficient generation to come online quickly.
It's true that we are in a time of relatively cheap energy, but there's a tremendous and growing opportunity to manage intraday grid blowouts and negative pricing. Short-term blowouts are evermore common as the grid transitions from coal, nuclear and other base-load generation to variable output from renewables. With zero variable fuel costs, renewables present new economic realities to traditional power generation business models. While the clean energy revolution is a good thing, the transition is full of challenges.
The time-sensitive cost of electricity has traditionally remained hidden from most customers. The socialized cost of electricity, the impact of rate base and full requirements pricing for customers, and fixed-cost hedging strategies all deaden the impact and awareness of this volatility. However, real-time pricing is still the unavoidable core of all wholesale electricity costs.
Automated Demand Response is by far the most cost-effective solution to navigate around these invisible budget-busters. An added benefit is a greener and more resilient local grid. THG's proprietary ADR technology helps institutional clients turn threats into opportunities. Clients still manage their own energy usage and operations. Clients always stay in control, and set the strategy, but can automatically respond in real time to price and grid events.
At THG, we've adopted the simple catchphrase, "Measure, Manage, Respond." Taking advantage of these opportunities for energy savings has never been easier. If you'd like to know how to avoid volatile electricity prices and what that could mean to both your bottom line and sustainability contact THG!
Start Planning for Distributed Energy Now
Preparation Checklist for the Energy Transition
2018 will be the year many organizations leverage technology and efficiency projects to create immediate savings through distributed solar and storage solutions. It's undeniable that these green tech cost advantages will continue, along with enhanced grid reliability, and greater sustainability. Much like other innovative S-curve technology breakthroughs in chips, PCs, phones, and bandwidth, dramatic future cost reductions create challenges when comparing a current purchase to a deferred purchase, especially those with 10 to 20-year life cycles. The immediate benefits of installing distributed energy need to offset the next few year's anticipated cost reductions and technology improvements.
While contemplating these costly, strategic decisions, there are low-cost preliminary steps that need be taken as soon as possible. Namely, get more and better data. Right-sizing each facility for usage, demand capacity, and grid interface will be critical for minimizing the required investment of installed capacity for both solar panels and storage. Answering key questions, like those below, require accessible, reliable data. If you're like most companies, you're probably starting from scratch so it's important to develop an energy data management process and infrastructure to serve you on this project and other projects in the future.
1) For each facility, what is the annual energy usage by commodity and how do these metrics rank and compare?
a. Energy use per square foot, annual kWh per facility, compare to similar facilities, and prior years on a weather-normalized basis
2) Gather information on the cost structures for current tariffs, alternative tariffs, and utility programs for energy efficiency and demand response.
a. How does the utility determine peak load charges? Ie. Coincident Peaks, Ratchets, 30-minute rolling demand, Load Profile formula.
b. What is the impact of each change in kW demand on monthly, seasonal, and annual costs?
c. What programs are available at the utility/ISO for demand management incentives, time of use, or other Locational Marginal Pricing rates?
d. What net-metering, onsite generation programs, and fees might impact distributed energy assets?
3) Secure access to smart meters, sub-meters, and other interval data recorders for an entire year of operations.
4) For each facility, what does the seasonal demand profile look like?
a. Build out a load duration curve, load factor, and IDR data peak profiles
b. Isolate usage and demand profiles for large energy assets (HVAC, Pumps, Machinery)
c. Work on a strategy with operators and building management to mitigate high impact demand events.
5) Conduct a survey of current facility energy management assets, vintage, envelope, and history. Identify prior energy efficiency projects and upgrades including HVAC upgrades, insulation, window, door, and lighting retrofits.
6) Establish an objective and quantitative benchmark for facility performance. ENERGY STAR's commercial building program offers a host of broad-based tools and easy-to-understand free resources to get started. This program puts facilities on a path to best practice energy management through continuous improvement.
7) Before installing solar and storage, harvest the low hanging fruit and quick returns for lighting retrofits, window film, and building insulation to ensure you have the best energy usage and capacity profile available.
8) Remember: automated demand response is easily the most cost-effective solution over solar or batteries. Be sure to initiate a market-integrated demand management program before adding unneeded storage capacity.
Having done this work, you'll be more prepared and have a better understanding of the "right-sized" cost, usage, and demand profiles for each facility. You'll also be able to quantify energy savings opportunities, rates of return for energy efficiency financing, and performance benchmarking tools for ongoing measurement and verification.
On your own, this information isn't easy to gather, organize, and maintain. Its meticulously laborious and time-consuming. Even the most diligent efforts take at least 3-6 months to pull all of this together. Many efforts never materialize, since the scope and magnitude commonly exceed what is originally hoped to be accomplished by assigning collateral duties to existing staff.
Good news: THG has tools and capabilities to gather, organize, and maintain these complex data solutions in a single platform. Let us do the heavy lifting, and be an effective data and technology partner in the brave new world of our energy transition.
The U.S. electricity industry is experiencing unprecedented innovation and change. The grid is getting smarter and customers can play a more active role in how their electricity is made, moved, and used. Data is playing an increasingly more important role in our grid's transformation. With the deployment of smart meters across the U.S. and powerful cloud computing, there are enormous quantities of energy-use data at our fingertips for the first time ever. This data can revolutionize the grid, but only if people have access to data, as well as to the tools needed to control their energy use and electricity bills. THG Energy Solutions is making that vision a reality for more than 65,000 accounts per month, behind more than 1,000 utilities.
THG's ENERGY STARs
Commercial Property and Banking Branch Achieve ENERGY STAR!
A special shout out goes to two THG customers who achieved ENERGY STAR certification in December 2017. One customers was a mid-sized commercial office space property and the other was a small banking branch. ENERGY STAR is the defacto gold standard for benchmarking commercial and government buildings in North America.
What are the benefits of ENERGY STAR certification?
- Lower operating costs: ENERGY STAR certified buildings and plants use, on average, 35 percent less energy than similar buildings nationwide. The cost savings can be substantial. For example, ENERGY STAR certified office buildings cost $0.50 less per square foot to operate than their peers. In 2015, ENERGY STAR certified buildings and plants saved $1.7 billion, or an average of more than $250,000 per building.
- Connect with your community: Americans are big believers in doing the right thing, and they expect the same of the professionals in their communities. More than 65 percent of adults like to do business with environmentally responsible companies3. More than 80 percent of workers are attracted by an employer with an environmental reputation. Roughly half of workers said they would forgo higher pay or a promotion to work for an organization with a good reputation.
- Higher occupancy rates: ENERGY STAR certified buildings have higher occupancy rates when compared to similar buildings. A 2008 study conducted by the University of San Diego's Burnham-Moores Center for Real Estate showed that ENERGY STAR certification gave a roughly 4 percent boost to occupancy rates.
- Increased asset value: Maintaining high energy performance over time increases the likelihood of higher building valuation due to higher net operating income from energy cost savings. Experienced managers of large portfolios of ENERGY STAR certified buildings interviewed for one study1 confirm that ENERGY STAR helps increase building value. ENERGY STAR certified buildings generate more income when compared to similar buildings.
- Lease to federal tenants: If you want to lease your space to a federal tenant, your buildings must be ENERGY STAR certified. Executive Order 13514 mandates that Federal Agencies may only lease space in ENERGY STAR certified buildings.
- Hedge against future mandates: Numerous cities and states have passed legislation containing energy efficiency mandates for commercial new construction projects and existing buildings. The vast majority of them incorporate ENERGY STAR and Designed to Earn the ENERGY STAR. The trend is growing every year as more cities and states seek ways to reduce costs and emissions. By earning the ENERGY STAR now, you're in a better position to respond to any future laws or mandates. See the list of legislation and campaigns leveraging ENERGY STAR.
- Protect the environment: A building isn't environmentally friendly unless it's energy efficient. ENERGY STAR is the government-backed program for certifying energy-efficient buildings. That's why green building rating systems across the nation include ENERGY STAR. Whether you're pursuing Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), Green Globes, or Building Owners and Managers Association's BOMA 360 program, ENERGY STAR certification will ensure your building uses less energy and leaves a smaller carbon footprint.
New DR and the Future of the Power Sector
Utilities and System Operators Can Do More Than Lower Load with DR
Demand response can now do much more than lower electric power load, prompting utilities and system operators to take a new look at it.
Demand response (DR) was once an uncertain offer from a few big power users and residential customers to reduce load when notified by utilities or transmission system operators (TSOs). But there are now more than 13,600 MW of DR enrolled by utilities and about as much available to TSOs. Utilities reliably dispatched 78% of enrolled DR capacity - almost 10,700 MW - in 2016.
Two new reports take a look at where DR is now and where it's heading.
DR's role is expanding and its identity is changing. It is now "reductions, increases, or shifts" in load, according to the "2017 Utility Demand Response Market Snapshot," released in October by the Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA) and Navigant Research.
Those load changes allow utilities and TSOs to respond to "time-varying changes in the cost of producing energy, shortages of distribution, transmission, or generation capacity, or unusually high or low voltage or frequency," the paper reports.
Furthermore, the new DR, which incorporates a new toolbox of distributed energy resources (DER), is increasingly being used by TSOs as a market product alongside generation, according to "Demand Response; U.S. Wholesale DER Aggregation, Q3 2017" from GTM Research.
Some TSOs now offer capacity market, emergency response or ancillary services opportunities for DR, the quarterly update reports. But MISO, PJM and NYISO have joined CAISO and ERCOT in evaluating how system operators can take advantage of aggregated DER-as-DR.
Beyond load reduction
Many utilities are moving to two-way communications technologies to improve participation, with 40% using email, 27% text messages and 12% using social media. Smart thermostat programs have been initiated by 24% of respondents and 9% offer behavioral DR programs.
But the new DR goes far beyond reducing load. Nearly 30% of utility respondents are using DER like energy storage, electric vehicles (EVs) and distributed generation "to help integrate high penetrations of DER," according to the SEPA/Navigant report. Another 70% are planning or considering managed DER for control of grid "operability, reliability, and resiliency."
Credit: From the SEPA-Navigant survey of demand response
The DER-as-DR future
As TSOs open their markets to aggregated DER-as-DR, its use to meet generation shortfalls caused by network congestion or capacity limits is growing, GTM Research reports. It is being delivered by industrial, commercial and residential customers through both utilities and private sector providers.
On the distribution system, there are revenue opportunities from investment in DER technology and in optimizing the flexibility of aggregated DER. A "next-generation energy system" will optimize DER to unlock "the consumerization of energy delivery," GTM Research adds.
PJM, MISO and CAISO all called on emergency DR services in 2017, indicating the increasing potential of DR and distributed generation to meet system operators' needs, according Elta Kolo, lead author of the GTM Research report.
Price responsive demand (PRD) is "the next step forward," Kolo said. PRD allows demand sensitive to real-time pricing to respond to price signals. As those customers move away from peak period usage, which is the most expensive generation, it will reduce system and customer costs, she added.
PRD will be valuable when tools allow a quick, reliable and locationally-specific response, Pacific Gas and Electric DR Programs Manager Franklin Fuchs added.
Scor3Card Work Day
Come Out, Roll Up Your Sleeves, and Put a Plan in Place for 2018
If you're a business in Northeast Oklahoma and want to attend this event, contact THG's Chad Burden. If you'd like to bring the Scor3card to an organization anywhere in the United States, let Chad know!
Chad: 918.858.4943 or email@example.com
A Roadmap for a Clean, Modern Grid
6 Areas to Guide Our Efforts
Everyone has a role to play in fighting climate change. Farmers can use new methods to rotate their crops that keep more carbon safely in the ground. Consumers can act with their wallets - buying goods and services that produce less carbon than competitors. Our elected officials, of course, have a lot of influence in setting the narrative and enabling support for climate progress.
But around the country, in municipal buildings, state offices, and corporate headquarters, separate groups of people are busy designing and implementing changes that could have the biggest impact of all: a better, smarter, more modern grid.
Improving our electricity system could be the single largest climate fighting opportunity we have. But it's not as simple as just putting solar panels on rooftops. Our grid was built over a century ago by different companies, cities, and co-ops. Pieces of it are owned and run by a dizzying web of stakeholders. Even if we could snap our fingers and spur all of these pieces to action, each player would manifest different versions of a "modern grid."
Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) thus released a guide titled, "
Grid Modernization: The foundation for climate change progress
", which outlines the six key categories that make up a sustainable grid modernization strategy. All of them are connected, either physically or digitally, or by legislation, regulation, or management. Most importantly, they're connected by efficiency: If each of them is executed well, the whole grid modernization process will yield the best, most reliable, most affordable, and cleanest electricity system.
- Sensing and monitoring for enhanced system awareness: Technology has already significantly increased the grid's efficiency, and future advances hold remarkable promise to make it even cleaner, cheaper, and more reliable. Advanced sensors throughout our energy system make outages easier to identify and help utilities respond faster to disasters, from wildfires to hurricanes.
- Intelligent integration of diverse distributed resources: Residential rooftop solar is booming and large, utility-scale solar projects are increasing, too. How this new, clean, and distributed resource is integrated into the grid will not only determine how efficiently it works, but also how satisfied customers will be with their investments. And solar isn't the only new resource grid operators are managing. Some software solutions, like demand response services, can provide virtual energy by quickly adjusting demand in response to supply.
- Maximizing the role of renewable energy: Yesterday's grid was dirtier, but it sure was simpler. Technologies like wind, solar and storage (batteries) are becoming more and more affordable, but they need to be managed differently than coal or gas power plants. This will require new infrastructure, policies, and even market structures that value the benefits they bring to the system.
- Electrification of transportation systems: Transportation is the largest contributor to our carbon budget. The electrification of America's automobile fleet could result in significant carbon reductions if the transition is managed correctly. This includes using more renewable energy to charge cars. But it also includes new charging infrastructure and pricing structures for customers that incentivize charging when it is powered by clean resources.
- Access to actionable energy data: When it comes to the energy revolution, customers need to be included. And in today's digital world that means they need secure and simple access to their energy data and the ability to share it with companies that can help them maximize their energy dollars. Luckily, there are models out there that show how to open access to this critical information while keeping customer privacy protected.
- Efficient transmission and distribution management: The less energy lost on its way to customers, the less energy has to be generated in the first place. And the more we ask of our grid, the better the transmission and distribution system needs to be. Our energy system is aging, and billions of dollars have already been earmarked for scheduled improvements and maintenance. These efforts should be planned in conjunction with these other critical areas to leverage private and public investments.
All Together Now
The most important message of this guide is that there's no "most important" section. Each of these six categories is critical - we need grid managers, utility executives, regulators, and other stakeholders to take this broad view of the modern grid to make progress on climate.
Courtesy: Ronny Sandoval, EDF
THG's Energy Intelligence Suite
No Matter Your Energy Management Goals, You Have Options