RTF Quarterly Newsletter: Quarter No. 43 January-March 2021

  • April 29, 2021

2021 started with a bang as the RTF continued to work hard updating and developing measures, providing technical support to Council Staff as they close in on releasing the 2021 plan, and aiding the region’s EE programs with the best available data and analysis.  Meetings have remained all virtual and despite missing the energy and camaraderie of a full room, members have stayed productive and engaged.  The quarter has been all about heat pump water heaters, with major changes to some of the previously adopted residential HPWH measure applications and discussions spanning many subcommittee meetings and two RTF meetings. This quarter also saw some big changes to the Irrigation Hardware measure and members spent time considering the RTF’s building simulation models and future ASHP work at the RTF. 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. 

Heat Pump Water Heaters

At the start of the year the RTF kicked off a Heat Pump Water Heater update that spanned two meetings and fostered a lot of regional discussion. It was an update in three parts. First the RTF voted to update their Residential Heat Pump Water Heater measure the way they would any other, looking to new sources of data and new knowledge available since the last update. Then those updated assumptions were caried through to a Commercial HPWH measure that applies to residentially rated HPWHs in commercial applications and is built off the residential version of the measure. Finally, the group tackled the “Any Vintage/Any Location” applications that in practice applied to water heaters going anywhere. The RTF voted to replace these with more specific measure applications with the hope that programs could use those components to build up to their savings. More information about these individual decisions can be found below.       

Residential Update

The RTF first addressed heat pump water heaters at the January meeting. Staff proposed a number of updates primarily based on newly available data from various NEEA sources. These updates included adding a tier 4 efficiency option, which is a new NEEA specification, updating the baseline based on new market data from the 2019 MPER and 2020 NEEA distributer data, allowing for splitting of HPWH installations by existing versus new construction,  updating stock assumptions, specifically install locations and HVAC mix, using RBSA II data, and updating costs for all HPWH tiers using 2020 NEEA distributor cost data. These changes resulted in a general increase in savings and no significant changes in cost-effectiveness.   

Consumer HPWHs in Commercial Applications

Also at the January meeting the RTF updates the Consumer Heat Pump Water Heaters in Commercial Applications UES. The measure is for residentially rated HPWHs in commercial applications and is built off of the assumptions in residential HPWH workbook combined with a few additional assumptions around commercial hot water use. It is a Planning measure due to the high level of uncertainty around those assumptions. The only updates approved at these meeting were related to updates from the residential measure, and only resulted in minor savings and costs adjustments.

"Any Vintage/Any Locations"

At the February RTF meeting, members addressed the remaining Residential HPWH measure applications that they hadn’t had time to discuss in January, those being the “Any Vintage/Any Install Location” applications. As part of a previous measure update, the RTF added a suite of measure applications representing the purchase of an efficient HPWH where the install specifics, including both the building vintage and the water heater location within the building are unknown, in hopes of supporting some emerging midstream HPWH programs where little was known about a water heater’s ultimate destination. Many of the important assumptions behind this ‘Any/Any’ measure were based purely on staff and member judgement. New data sources, since the previous update in 2018, have revealed significant differences between this ‘Any/Any’ measure and what this new data is showing with more HPWHs going into new construction and to meet energy codes than was assumed as well as significant potential for double counting between midstream and new construction programs.

Working with the Heat Pump Water Heater Subcommittee Prior to the meeting, RTF Contract Analysts came up with two paths for rethinking the applications. After much discussion, the RTF eventually voted for an approach that added UESs for above code HPWHs that are not claimed by another efficiency program and replaced the current ‘Any/Any’ measure applications with a suite of more specific UESs that will allow programs to use the RTF’s UESs like building blocks to tailor savings to their specific programs.

Recognizing that this update might impose challenges to existing HPWH programs, the RTF convened a meeting to facilitate a discussion to share ideas about how the region can effectively and efficiently implement this measure.  The meeting provided an opportunity for implementers from across the region to validate each other’s challenges and share ideas for working through them, and we hope the discussion was valuable for those who participated. Those meeting materials and a summary of the discussion can be found here.   

Residential Building Simulation Model Scoping

RTF Staff, with the support of contractors, has been engaged in a scoping exercise to inform potential paths forward for RTF investment in building simulation models. At the February RTF meeting, staff presented the findings of this scoping and started a discussion on future RTF engagement with building simulation models. The project started with interviewing stakeholders to understand needs and implications around the RTF’s use of tools, then contractors explored tool options for Demand Response and compared the pros and cons of SEEM versus EnergyPlus. After completing those exercises, the goal was to identify a path forward for both EE and DR being mindful of RTF and stakeholder needs. 

As was made clear to the RTF in the February presentation, there isn’t a simple answer and any path forward will take judgment on behalf of RTF members and staff weighing their priorities and goals. Contractors from Cadeo Group, Larson Energy Research, and NREL produced a report (here) where you can find the results of their stakeholder interviews as well as the metrics they developed out of those interviews to assess and score each tool. The team used the aggregate model performance scores to come up with and evaluate two potential strategies one of which proposes hybrid use of SEEM and EnergyPlus, and another that would see a transition of all modeling work to EnergyPlus. The report has more details on each of those approaches and the trade-offs that accompany either one as well as more information about the in-depth interviews, the models assessed, the model performance scoring and final conclusions.  

Irrigation Hardware

At the March RTF meeting, members considered updates to the Irrigation Hardware UES, voting to split upgrades and maintenance into two different measures, one concerned with irrigation hardware system upgrades and the other with irrigation hardware maintenance. For the upgrades measure there were no updates to savings as there was no new data at this time. RTF has allocated resources to adding in a measure for pressure reductions occurring during upgrades (which have significantly more potential). The savings analysis, including the addition of pressure reductions, will be done by the sunset date a year out.

The Maintenance measure focuses on improvement to maintenance practices that reduce energy consumption. The RTF updated the savings based on a survey that regional utilities fielded asking about irrigation practices of non-participants and participant. Results indicated smaller differences in irrigation practices than previously assumed by the measure and only an improvement in maintenance practices for some components.

Air Source Heat Pumps

The past few years have seen widespread interest from the region in residential central heat pumps and the RTF itself has had a number of conversations around different permutations of different measures. To briefly recap, in the past two years the RTF has updated their ASHP Upgrades and Conversions Measures for both single and multi family homes, deactivated a previous Commissioning, Controls and Sizing measure, allocated resources to scoping an extended capacity heat pump measure and discussed a proposal to develop an installation practice specific single speed ASHP measure. More recently the ASHP subcommittee has been busy. They spent time considering extended capacity heat pumps and more broadly variable capacity heat pumps, arriving at the recommendation that the goal should be to eliminate installation of resistance heat in heating zone 1, with more caution in colder climates. Early this year staff released a white paper that summarized the energy impacts of installation practices on single-speed air-source heat pumps intending to inform program operators as well as provide insight for the possible development of an RTF measure.

At the March RTF meeting Contract Analysts summarized the work up until this point and outlined regional upcoming ASHP activity that will likely guide the RTF’s next moves in the space. Energy Trust is finalizing a billing evaluation of “any” ASHP conversion that will likely have implications for the current RTF “any” heat pump conversion UES. NEEA, BPA, and others are working on field and lab studies on variable capacity heat pumps but that data won’t be available in the next few years. In the near term the RTF will continue to monitor the space and keep member updated as new data arises.        

Upcoming at the RTF

2021 remains uncertain for many of us, but the RTF already has some exciting things planned for the next quarter. The RTF will be taking up the following measures at future meeting

  • New Natural Gas measures: Gas Water Heaters & Gas Furnaces
  • Commercial Grocery/Kitchen Measure Updates: Compressor Head Fan Motor Retrofit, Display Case Evaporator Fan Motor Retrofit, Walk-In Evaporator Fan Motor Retrofit, & Walk-In Evaporator Fan ECM Controller
  • Aerators
  • Level 2 EV Chargers: Updates to charging practices and other assumptions, adding in a commercial application
  • Commercial DHPs​​​​​​​Building on work from last year, still deliberating whether a UES or a Standard Protocol is the right approach
  • Efficient Pool Pumps

If you have any interest, questions, concerns etc. with any of the above measures please reach out to RTF admin (rtfadmin@nwcouncil.org) who can get you in touch with the contract analyst doing the work. 

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.
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 Commercial Boiler UES that staff was developing, building upon the Commercial Boilers System Standard Protocol. At the next meeting the group addressed the development of a Gas Water Heater UES.
HPWHs Discussion (Implementers and R&E Subcommittees): Recognizing that the latest update to the RTF’s HPWH measure imposes challenges to existing HPWH programs, a meeting of the Implementers Group, R&E Subcommittee and other interested parties was held to facilitate a discussion about how the region can effectively and efficiently implement the updated RTF measure, with the hope that programs can share ideas and learn from each other.
Agricultural Irrigation Subcommittee: The Agricultural Irrigation Subcommittee met to discuss analysis of results from surveys, fielded by a few local utilities, that informed on the different maintenance practices between program participants and non-participants. Staff shared out what they have learned from the results and the group discussed potential next steps for measure updates.

SEM Subcommittee: The SEM Subcommittee met to get member’s feedback on staff’s initial exploration of potential paths for providing additional guidance around non-UES type programs, starting with industrial SEM.
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.  At this quarter’s meeting staff updated the group on recent RTF activity and upcoming meeting topics and then focused on results of the end of year survey how the Small/Rural subcommittee can best serve its members going forwards.
Research & 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 a pending update to the RTF’s Commercial Clothes Washers measure and how to best balance the measure’s regional potential with research rigor and cost.
ASHP Subcommittee: The ASHP Subcommittee met to discuss collective subcommittee feedback on the single-speed ASHP white paper that staff recently published as well as staff recommendations for extended capacity heat pumps.
Heat Pump Water Heaters Subcommittee: The HPWH subcommittee met to discuss the upcoming update to the RTF’s HPWH UES, specifically the “Any Vintage/Any Install Location” measure.
Non-Residential Lighting Subcommittee: The Non-Residential Lighting Subcommittee met to review updates to the Nonresidential Lighting Retrofits Standard Protocol before it went to the RTF in January.

Approved Measure Updates

  • Approved the updates to the Nonresidential Lighting Retrofits Standard Protocol as presented and set the sunset date to January 31, 2023.
  • Extended the sunset date for the DHP in New Construction UES to June 2021. 
  • Approved the updates to the Commercial Clothes Washers UES measure as presented. Changed the Category to Small Saver, kept the Status at Active and set the sunset date to February 28, 2026.
  • Approved the commercial Boilers UES as presented. Set the Status to Active, the Category to Small Saver, and set the Sunset Date to November 30, 2025.
  • Extended the Sunset date for the Planning UES measure Commercial Connected Thermostats to March 2024.