RTF Quarterly Newsletter: Quarter No. 41 July-September 2020

  • October 21, 2020

This quarter the RTF has continued their progress through this year’s work plan, despite still only meeting remotely. As we discovered last quarter, with our new virtual format, it has proven most productive to split the RTF’s full day meetings into two half day webinars.  Despite these changes, RTF meetings remain engaging and fruitful, still managing to incite lively conversation with members often taking time to review materials ahead of the meeting and coming prepared for us to jump right into the weeds.  This summer the RTF updated our first Standard Protocols of the year, developed a few new measures, allocated funding to explore some potential future measures, and adopted next year’s work plan and budget. 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 Measures Developed by the RTF

Variable Speed Drive

In July the RTF approved a new UES for Variable Speed Drives specifically focused on pump and fan system applications and designed with mid-stream programs in mind. The measure refers to the installation of variable speed motor controls on a fan or pump where variable speed controls are not required by code. These controls can be either standalone drive or integrated with the measure.  There is significant uncertainty in savings inherent in a UES approach even with the proposed research. Savings for this measure are highly variable and dependent on application, usage patterns, hours of use, current practice etc. Following the research strategy approved by the RTF alongside the measure would improve savings estimates, but some uncertainty is expected to remain within practical limits of research. However, the RTF believes this is a promising measure that is sometimes missed by custom projects and is interested in getting savings right on average. The measure was approved as Planning, Under Review, with a one-year sunset date in hopes that the under-review status would indicate that the analysis needs more attention, expertise, and input from programs.      

ENERGY STAR Refrigerated Beverage Vending Machines

The RTF approved a new UES for ENERGY STAR Refrigerated Beverage Vending Machines. This is a new measure in the 2021 Power Plan supply curves and is based on the latest ENERGY STAR specification that went into effect in April 2020. The savings are determined based on the difference between this specification and the federal standard with the assumption that 45% of machines today meet the ENERGY STAR standard. This measure was approved as a small-saver with an estimated 1aMW of 20-year technical potential.

Standard Protocol

The RTF has spent much of this year developing and updating UES’s, which are measures whose average unitized savings are stable and can be reliably forecast. However, the RTF also develops another kind of measure which they delved into this quarter, Standard Protocols.  These are measures with widely varying savings that are more site specific but where data collection and analysis can be standardized.  Standard protocols can be slightly more involved and are more difficult from the program perspective but are necessary if a measure cannot be sufficiently defined through identifiers that produce reliable and stable average savings.   

Non-Residential Lighting Code Compliant Standard Protocol

In September, the RTF approved updates to the Non-Residential Lighting Code Compliant Standard Protocol. This Protocol is for projects where code is triggered, which can include a major renovation project. Savings are based on a reduction in lighting power density (LPD) and/or an increase in control savings fractions (CSF). For the baseline, the practitioner defines code and the protocol compares that to market average, using the more efficient of the two.
The main updates this quarter were around these baseline assumptions where data suggested that the market average is more efficient than code. The assumption is that lighting design and practice are driving changes in the market regionally more than any specific code. The RTF also updated the control savings fractions for luminaire level lighting controls and networked lighting controls based on some new data from NEEA, added exterior lighting CSF for beyond code controls savings, and removed any lighting power density improvement savings. 

Voltage Optimization Standard Protocol

At the July meeting, the RTF considered the Voltage Optimization Standard Protocol. This protocol supports estimating savings at the end user for lowering voltage, which can reduce consumption for some devices. The protocol applies to qualifying projects and provides a methodology for estimating savings with “canned” VO factors to simplify savings estimation and offers delivery verification guidance. An eligible project is one that is mostly residential, is able to reliable estimate average annual change in voltage experience by end users and meets Benchmark Performance Thresholds. For ineligible projects the protocol provides guidance to evaluators for estimating reliable savings by ensuring key validity threats are addressed.      
After review, the RTF opted to make very minor updates to the Voltage Optimization Standard Protocol, none of which changed the savings methodology. The RTF continues to stand by this protocol as providing a simplified approach for some systems and guidance for addressing reliability with others.

Sneak Peek at New Homes Standard Protocol 

Staff began the process of updating the New Homes Standard Protocol this quarter. It will come for a vote in the final quarter of the year, but contract analysts started the discussion at the September RTF meeting. This protocol supports programs in estimating savings above code for new homes. It includes savings from improved shell measures as well as site specific equipment like water heaters, clothes washers, and lighting. The intent of this protocol is to promote above-code energy efficient new homes with consistency and flexibility.
There are a lot of moving parts within the protocol that require RTF maintenance.  For this update, the RTF will focus on component UES values for lighting and appliances, and the baseline and efficient energy models for each participating site.

2021 Work Plan and Budget

The RTF develops an annual work plan that is approved by the Council. This development process includes a stakeholder review period and review and recommendation to the Council by both the RTF and the RTF Policy Advisory Committee. This process began at the July RTF meeting where the draft 2021 Work Plan was presented to RTF members and then released for a 30-day stakeholder comment period. As this is written, next year’s work plan has been approved by the Council at their October meeting.

The 2021 Work Plan started with the 5-year strategic plan and budget that was approved for the 2020-2024 cycle and was built up with consideration for where the RTF will be ending 2020, what priorities members and the region have, how the 2021 Power Plan will affect the RTF’s work etc. Over half of the budget is allocated to measure development a majority of which will be accomplished by the Contract Analyst Team.  Which measures will be taken up in 2021 is driven by sunset dates and priorities defined by stakeholders.  For the first time the strategic plan allows for rollover of funds year to within the 5-year funding cycle. Rollover reserves from 2020 will be applied to support additional measure analysis with proposed projects for variable speed drives and residential behavior. The remainder of the budget will go towards tool development, primarily updating ProCost, Regional Coordination, and RTF management and admin. You can find a more thorough understanding of the RTF’s plans for 2021 on the website here.   

Looking Ahead

Twice a year the RTF considers new measure proposals from outside stakeholders and decides whether there is a viable measure with sufficient regional interest to allocate RTF resources to future development. In August, staff presented their initial scoping effort of potential measures and the RTF opted to allocate resources to the development of three new measures.

Commercial Electric Vehicle Chargers

Cowlitz PUD submitted a proposal for adding efficient commercial EV chargers to the RTF suite. These save energy during stand-by periods (when the vehicles are not plugged in). While this is not expected to be a large measure, the RTF allocated resources to developing the savings to support regional programs and potential demand response activity in the future.

Cellular Shades

Bonneville submitted a proposal for a cellular shades measure, which can increase the insulative value of a window and reduce solar heat gains in the summer. This is a new measure included in the 2021 Power Plan supply curves. While promising, consumers use of the shades has a significant impact on potential savings making them uncertain. However, due to strong regional interest, the RTF allocated resources to further exploring this technology.

Extended Capacity Heat Pumps

Extended capacity heat pumps have also been referred to as “cold climate heat pumps”. They are central heat pump systems that are expected to perform better at very low temperatures. With many traditional air source heat pumps, the unit is required to use backup heat at really cold temperatures, this measure would decrease that need. There is a lot of regional interest in understanding the potential savings and cost for this measure as HVAC is a large end use and providing better performance in cold temperatures is expected to have increased capacity benefits. The RTF opted to allocate resources to developing this measure and will likely work on it in 2021.

Subcommittee Roundup

Implementers Group: The Implementers Group meets once a quarter to discuss the outcome of the RTF meetings, upcoming RTF meeting topics, and other topics that affect program implementers in the region.

Operations Subcommittee: The Operations subcommittee meets before each RTF meeting to review and discuss the RTF meeting agendas, decisions, and contracts.

Small and Rural Utilities Subcommittee: The Small/Rural Subcommittee meets once a quarter to discuss how to support the specific needs of small and rural utilities.  This quarter’s meeting was primarily focused on a presentation by Energy Trust’s Manufactured Home Replacement Pilot.

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 reviewing the draft research strategy for a new measure the RTF is developing around adding VFDs to pump, fan, and other systems.

Guidelines Subcommittee: The RTF revisits their Guidelines at regular intervals to ensure they are still serving the RTF’s goals and supporting the region. The Guidelines Subcommittee reviewed proposed updates to the RTF Guidelines document prior to their presentation at the October RTF meeting.

Air Source Heat Pump Subcommittee: The ASHP Subcommittee met to discuss a Commissioning, Controls & Sizing UES that staff is developing.

Non-Residential Lighting Subcommittee: The Non-Residential Lighting Subcommittee met to review the Non-Res Lighting Code Compliant Standard Protocol which was sun setting in September. The group discussed proposed updates to the protocol, specifically focusing on the baseline from which to estimate savings.

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 twice, first to discuss the proposed expansion of the existing fryers UES to include gas fryers and then to discuss a potential path forward for the RTF with respect to commercial boiler systems.

New Homes Standard Protocol Subcommittee: The New Homes Standard Protocol Subcommittee met twice this quarter to discuss the protocol before it came to the RTF for an update in October

Market Analysis Subcommittee: The Market Analysis Subcommittee met to review the updated non-residential lighting sales data analysis as the subcommittee does annually.

Approved Measure Changes

In addition to the items highlighted above, in the third quarter of 2020 the RTF voted to approve the following changes to UES measures and Standard Protocols:

  • Extended the sunset date for the Residential Clothes Dryers UES to September 2020.
  • Kept the Engine Block Heater Controls Planning UES measure as-is and extended the sunset date to July 31, 2023, and adjusted HZ1 plug in schedule to December through February.
  • Approved updates to the School Weatherization UES as presented including high schools, updating the distribution efficiencies to 80% for gas furnaces, 90% for gas boilers, 70% for ASHPs, 80% for electric furnaces, and 70% for WSHPs. Kept the category at Small Saver, the status at Active and set the sunset date to July 2025.
  • Approved updates to the Low-Rise Multifamily Weatherization Research Strategy, as presented.
  • Adopted updates to the ENERGY STAR Commercial Fryers UES measure as presented. Set the category to Small Saver for electric applications and Planning for natural gas applications. Set the status to active, the sunset date to May 31, 2021 and adopted updates to the existing Research Strategy for Food Service measures. 
  • Extended the sunset date for Residential Clothes Washers, Residential Clothes Dryers, and Commercial Clothes Washers to December 2020.
  • Adopted the proposed research strategy and changed the ASHP Conversion and Upgrade measure status from Under Review to Active.
  • Approved updates to the Residential Lighting measure as proposed and set the Sunset Date to September 30, 2022. For screw-base lamps removed the Unsolicited Mail delivery mechanism, kept the category at Proven and the status at Active. For Pin-based lamps removed the Unsolicited Mail delivery mechanism, kept the category at Small Saver and the status at Active. And for Fixtures kept both the retail and direct install delivery mechanism, remove the linear flush mounts, set the category to Proven and the status to Active.