RTF Quarterly Newsletter: Quarter No. 39 January-March 2020

  • April 03, 2020

It’s a new year and the RTF has been keeping busy. 2020 marks the start of a new funding cycle, which sees the RTF opening its doors to new funders and natural gas measure work. This year has already proved eventful. As the Council barrels towards the deadline for the draft 2021 Power Plan, the RTF has stepped up to offer technical support to the development of the energy efficiency supply curves and has spent time considering the ways in which this new Plan will affect future RTF work. Beyond Plan work, the RTF has found the time to develop a few new measures and make some critical updates to their measure development tools so they can transition to building gas measures. In light of the state of the world, the RTF has had to adapt like everyone else. Members and stakeholders have taken these changes in stride and we’re grateful to everyone who is sticking with us as we keep working as best we can. You can stay up to date on all RTF decision and news as it happens through the RTF website which is updated throughout the quarter. 

New Measure Development

As the new year begins, the RTF has been looking to grow it’s measure portfolio. At the end of last year, staff complete a scoping effort for new measures and presented their findings to the RTF.  The group then voted to allocate resources to a number of these measures two of which were taken up this quarter.

Residential High Efficiency Central Air Conditioners

This measure, installing a new high efficiency single speed or dual speed central air conditioner, was adopted by the RTF at January's meeting. There has been regional interest in cooling measures given global climate change and its anticipated consequences in the region. At this time, per the Council’s Northwest Regional Cost-Effectiveness test, this measure is not cost-effective, primarily because the energy savings occur in the summer and therefore do not align with the regional winter peak to get the benefit of deferred generation. However, for summer peaking utilities, this measure might have greater value. Also, as climate change progresses, more regional utilities may shift to having more summer load. At adoption, the RTF set the measure to Planning as there remains uncertainty around regional cooling loads and the relationship between SEER and EER and energy usage in the Pacific Northwest. RTF Staff is developing a Research Strategy to target this uncertainty, which it will bring to the RTF for review in coming months. 

    Commercial and Industrial Fans

    This measure, adopted at the January RTF meeting, is the purchase of an efficient commercial or industrial efficient standalone fan. It does not cover embedded fans. Applicable fan types include: axial cylindrical housed, inline and mixed flow, panel, radial, centrifugal housed, centrifugal unhoused and power roof ventilator fans. Savings are dependent on fan type, drive type, speed control, and the fan system’s FEI and FEP rating. Incremental costs of fans are minimal making this measure very cost-effective. It is considered Planning as there are a number of key areas of uncertainty. There remain questions around: how fans are sized for actual loads, the operating hours of fans, the variability of loads etc. The RTF discussed a Research Strategy at the January meeting, but concluded that it needed further development. Staff will work on a revised research strategy with the Research and Evaluation Subcommittee before bringing the topic back to the RTF at a future meeting.    

    Natural Gas Tool Updates

    With natural gas having been added to the RTF charter this funding cycle, staff is working with the RTF, specifically the Natural Gas Subcommittee, to update necessary measure development tools to accommodate gas measures.

    SEEM Calibration

    The RTF spent much of last year calibrating the SEEM residential building model and applying it to relevant measure updates. This year, the model needed to be calibrated for gas homes so that the RTF can get started on building out weather-dependent efficiency measures like weatherization and HVAC for gas homes. The gas calibration followed much of the same logic as the electric calibration. Using RBSA data, analysts compared modeled energy consumption to the actual energy consumption for a given home and came up with a set of factors to adjust the modeled to the actual. This process went more smoothly than the initial electric calibration thanks to all the learning from last year and a good sample of gas homes from the RBSA. The RTF adopted this SEEM update at the March meeting setting staff up to start developing natural gas measures.     

    ProCost Updates

    ProCost is the Council’s tool for estimating levelized cost and cost-effectiveness of energy efficiency measures. It provides a regional perspective of lifecycle costs and benefits. ProCost ties to the Council Plan to electric efficiency measures at the RTF to inform regional cost-effectiveness based on Plan findings. These values, updated about every five years after completion of the Plan, are used more directly by BPA but are still informative for other utilities though not used so directly. Since there is no Plan for natural gas efficiency, the RTF needed to find another approach to represent regional cost-effectiveness. Like with electric measures, the RTF will not decide on cost-effectiveness, but findings will be informative for NEEA and utilities. At its March meeting, the RTF reviewed and adopted proposed plans for updating ProCost, that presentation is posted here, and has more details about the exact changes necessary for ProCost to support natural gas efficiency analysis.

    Plan Support

    Much of February’s meeting was focused on the Council’s 2021 Power Plan. RTF and Council staff gave presentations soliciting support from the RTF as a technical advisory body to the Council and providing insight on the ways this Plan might affect RTF work. A main topic of interest was how climate change will be modeled in the plan and how that may translate to the RTF.

    The meeting began with a presentation laying out the Council’s process for selecting representative climate data to be used in the Plan to account for future climate change and its anticipated effect on temperatures (heating degree days and cooling degree days) and hydro generation. Council staff has presented on this selection a number of times and the presentation can be found here.

    This was followed up with a presentation regarding how incorporating climate change and this adjusted weather will be rolled into the Council's energy efficiency estimates. For future energy efficiency measures that are weather sensitive, the future climate will result in differing savings than what has been seen historically. In order to incorporate this in the Plan savings assumptions, some adjustments will have to be made to how typical meteorological year weather files are used in energy simulation models. Staff will be modifying key TMY variables, such as temperature, solar radiance humidity etc., using this global climate model data. In addition to this climate change work, the Council’s EE team has spent much of this quarter working though supply curves for the Plan. They stopped by at the end of February’s meeting to get the RTF’s technical expertise on a few outstanding questions. As a technical advisory body to the Council the RTF is poised to step and support this Plan work.    

    Subcommittee Roundup

    Natural Gas Subcommittee: The Natural Gas Subcommittee’s purpose is to solicit input from relevant stakeholders as the RTF starts to incorporate natural gas into its workload. This quarter the subcommittee met three times, twice to discuss SEEM Calibration for natural gas homes and once to review updates to ProCost.
    Research and Evaluation Subcommittee: The Research and Evaluation Subcommittee convenes on a need basis to discuss the development of RTF Research Strategies and the framing and utility of ongoing research in the region.  This meeting was specifically focused on Residential High Efficiency Central Air Conditioners.

    Commercial Heat Pump Water Heater Subcommittee: The Commercial HPWH subcommittee met this quarter to help inform the direction of a new commercial Heat Pump Water Heater UES measure, which staff presented at the March RTF meeting.
    Small Rural Subcommittee: The Small/Rural Subcommittee maintains a dedicated function within the RTF to support the specific needs of small and rural utilities.
    Operations Subcommittee: The Operations subcommittee meets before each RTF meeting to review and discuss the RTF meeting agendas, decisions, and contracts.

    Approved Measure Changes

    In addition to the items highlighted above, in the third quarter of 2019 the RTF voted to approve the following changes to UES measures and Standard Protocols: