RTF Quarterly Newsletter: Quarter No. 42 October-December 2020

  • January 14, 2021

As the final quarter of a challenging year wraps up, we are left to reflect on all of the work the RTF has accomplished as a group in spite of the barriers and complications 2020 has thrown at us. In March we transitioned fairly seamlessly to an all virtual format and we haven’t looked back. We’re especially grateful to the RTF members who continued to work hard, learned with us and continued to work hard and get through the work despite all the complications of the new format. The fourth quarter of 2020 was as productive as the three that preceded it, the RTF approved its first gas only measure, spent some time revisiting the many moving parts of the new homes standard protocol, made regularly scheduled updates to the RTF guidelines, and spent the last meeting of the year focused on residential washers and dryers. We can’t know what 2021 will bring, but here at the RTF we’ll be staying the course, developing and updating measures, and providing the region with consistent reliable energy savings estimates. Keep up with all RTF decisions and news as it happens on the RTF website which is updated throughout the quarter.

New Homes Standard Protocol

At the October meeting the RTF approved updates to the New Homes Standard Protocol. This protocol supports programs in estimating savings above code for new homes. It includes savings from improved shell measures, as well as specific equipment like water heaters and clothes washers/dryers installed by the builder. Because of the many moving pieces of this protocol, this update focused on updating savings for the equipment components based on recent RTF measure updates. Contract analysts also conducted an analysis on energy bills from new homes in the ETO program to determine reliability of the modeling tool used by programs (REMrate). For the latter, the current data was not sufficient to determine whether the tool is reliable by itself, or whether an adjustment factor was needed. The RTF discussed whether more analysis was possible to answer this question. Ultimately, the RTF approved the equipment updates to the measure and asked the staff to revisit this by early 2022, with the hope that there would be a new data to inform on the reliability of REMrate.

Washers and Dryers

At December’s RTF meeting the focus was on clothes washers and dryers with the RTF approving updates to Residential Clothes Washers and Dryers. The RTF made updates to the Residential Clothes Washers measure and specification based on NEEA lab testing of 12 different residential clothes washers. The new measure specification is ENERGY STAR front-loaders and there are no longer distinctions for different CEE tiers nor is there a top load measure at this time. Essentially, this measure specification is intended to encourage purchasing of efficient front load machines over top load machines. There may still be efficient option for top loaders, but based on the data available today, there is not sufficient evidence to support a measure. There was a small decrease in savings, though not significant, and the main change is to the specifications. The measure remains cost effective on both the gas and electric sides.  The RTF then approved minor changes to the Residential Clothes Dryers measure mostly tied to the washer measure updates. Savings went down slightly and some applications are no longer cost effective.

Commercial Boiler Systems Standard Protocol

In November the RTF adopted its first gas only measure, the Commercial Boilers Systems Standard Protocol.  Staff opted to develop a Standard Protocol to more appropriately capture the complexities of a boiler system. However, analysts will be developing a UES measure for consumer sized boilers in commercial applications sometime in 2021. This new measure was built with essential support from the Natural Gas Subcommittee. 

This standard protocol is intended to support programs by reliably estimating savings for boiler systems more accurately. It includes loading order, seasonal efficiency, estimates of loads and load shapes by building type, area served, and end use and applies to both space heating and water heating applications. The RTF made several assumptions about how boiler efficiency will respond to overall system design based on known parameters. Future evaluations are expected to help improve these assumptions and additional research may be needed. RTF may consider other boiler systems efficiency opportunities like distribution system upgrades should there be sufficient interest. 

Updates to RTF Guidelines

The RTF maintains a set of Guidelines that provide guidance to the RTF members and analysts on ensuring consistency in approach for estimating savings. The RTF last updated its Guidelines in 2018. This year’s updates primarily focused on adding guidance necessary to support natural gas evaluation, refining the guidance to utility programs for estimating savings on custom projects where savings need to be estimated per site, and refining the guidance for impact evaluations, which utilities use to verify savings claims and improve program effectiveness going forward. Staff worked through a subcommittee to provide updates and made some refinements based on their feedback. Staff also asked for and received specific feedback from Bonneville on the impact evaluation guidance, as this guidance feeds directly into how Bonneville conducts evaluation.

Next Year

There’s no way to know what the new year holds, but the RTF has a lot of things on the docket for 2021. Starting in January the RTF will take up Residential Heat Pump Water Heaters, Residential HPWH in commercial applications, and Non-Residential Lighting Retrofits. In February and March the RTF will discuss Commercial Clothes Washers, Commercial Boilers, Irrigation Hardware and Commercial Connected Thermostats. Also in the queue for early 2021 are Gas Furnaces, ASHPs (ECHPs and VCHPs),Tankless Water Heaters, Small commercial DHPs, ductless heat pumps in new construction, and SEM guidance.

Subcommittee Roundup

Operations Subcommittee: The Operations subcommittee meets before each RTF meeting to review and discuss the RTF meeting agendas, decisions, and contracts.
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.
Air Source Heat Pumps Subcommittee: The ASHP subcommittee met to discuss initial staff framing around a potential path for extended capacity heat pumps as a part of ongoing work to better understand the technical considerations around ASHP savings. Feedback from this meeting is being used to help support next steps in framing an RTF output.
Non-Residential Lighting & Market Analysis Subcommittee: A joint Non-Res Lighting and Market Analysis Subcommittee meeting was held to review updates to the non-res lighting UES before it went to the RTF in November. The main focus of the meeting was updates to the baseline based on NEEA/BPA data.
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 to discuss the new Commercial Boiler Systems measure that was eventually approved at the November RTF meeting.

Approved Measure Updates

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