BPA Conf on DG, Renewables

Conference–Distributed Resources, Renewables and the Environment

February 2, 2000, Portland, OR

Bonneville Power Administration
Energy NewsData, Energy Dynamics Online project

Sitting through this conference, I had the contradictory feelings of “same old same old”, while at the same time there seemed to be so much good stuff being said that it was hard to absorb it all. Perhaps it was the combination of a lively mood, good speakers who could clearly state the big picture, and some genuinely new ideas. The crowd was very pro-DG/Renewables, with some good cautions raised about environmental effects (you don’t want to turn on all your dirty diesels on a peak-load bad-air day!).

My own takeaways (with biases showing):
– Tech change (internet, DG) is irresistible.
– Dereg/restructuring is irresistible (though timing is uncertain).
– The “Home-Town” utility has a huge opportunity and role to play – if it wants to, and particularly if new kinds of regulation can be put in place.
– Think price, not cost. Think niches, not “the market”.

During the final panel session, Joel Gilbert gave a frightening summary of the capacity situation and vanishing reserve margins in the US, predicting a showdown in the east this coming summer. Capacity additions are not keeping pace with shutdowns, and there is zero investment in new transmission capacity.

Energy NewsData has provided a list of attendees plus a lengthy report about the conference online at:



Introduction — Steve Wright, Sr VP, BPA

The “Energy Web ” — It’s coming, even if we’re not sure what it looks like.
1. Reliability — need for new capacity
–Gen supply – Hydro resources diminishing (fish, relicensing); coal restricted (airquality)
–RTO timing very uncertain; investments on hold pending outcome
–Opportunity for new market entrants — DG and renewables.

2. Consumer Choice — retail access coming, sooner or later, gradually or suddenly
Consumers value reliability and environmental stewardship

3. Technological change – It’s all coming together for DG, though many hurdles put in the way. Exec survey – most expect FC’s becoming a reality; State or Fed net metering laws; Fed interconnection stds (IEEE). AMR, electronic billpaying seen as very significant.

Keynote Address — Carl Weinberg

“The philosophies of one century become the common sense of the next”
i.e. renewable energy, environment, sustainability [spaceship earth]

Forces at work:
1. Market based governance — “free markets” — gov’t does things to establish markets that “do” things (instead of gov’t “doing” things directly).
2. Environment – learning necessity to live symbiotically with nature, and to include it in our P/L measures. DG/Renewables only part of answer.
3. Tech change — from economies of scale to economies of mass production. DG can be tailored to individual needs. De-integration of vertical utilities. Link pieces of system with information rather than with organizations. Mix of central and decentralized. Developing world may be better with largely decentralized ( e.g. straight to cell phones, skipping wire system).

Karl Rabago, Rocky Mountain Institute

Benefits of DG – short lead time, small units (less lumpy); portable- quick to deploy and redeploy; built “like cars not cathedrals”, genuinely diversifies portfolio risks.

For the Utility/”Residual Disco” – resiliency; increase T&D life; better capacity utilization; source of reactive power; premium power quality; cut reserve requirements; load following options.

For environment – Combined heat and power; use local (waste derived) fuels.

Randy Berggren, manager, Eugene Water & Electric Board

Municipal utility (elec, water, district heat — 100,000 customers) Intend to remain vertically integrated. Own some generation, 24 hour trading floor. Lots of public involvement in new Integrated Resource Plan; strong connections to community. Strong commitment to conservation and renewables — goal to add 1% of system load each year. Local utility (“Home Town”) can be the delivery infrastructure for PV– don’t need to cede market to new (dot com) entrants.

Larry Papay, SAIC

“Three D’s”
– deconstruction (deregulation) of the utility industry
– digitalization ( includes huge power quality requirement)
– decarbonization – environmental concerns and valuing of emission credits

Ralph Cavanagh, NRDC

Need to mobilize and incentivize existing (utility) companies for DG, rather than regard them simply as the obstacle to a “disruptive technology”. DG can enhance the grid. Need performance standards so it’s not worse for environment, noting that generation close to load means the emissions are close to people.

The “home-town” utility can and should be involved, and do it, but not as a monopoly. Need new kind of regulation with incentives to provide reliable wires at lowest cost; not rewards based on system throughput. Need to deal with stranded system fears. Need incentives to invest.

Joel Gilbert, CEO, APOGEE Interactive Inc

“Bubba don’t care” when it comes to energy, restructuring, environment, etc.. At most 2% of the population is really motivated, but even they aren’t well informed.

People do want “business interruption insurance”, for both business and personal, but they don’t care about the difference between a fuel cell and a microturbine. There are some people who want a fuel cell for fun, as a luxury — so sell it to them, and never mind how many $/KW.

The Home Town wires company could do this — turnkey installation, dispatch it too (outsource it if you have to). Enron doesn’t want the wires-co talking to the customer, but they’re the ones who fix things after the storm.

What is the customer’s motivation? Appeal to their fear and greed. “Reduce it to a bumper sticker.” Life Insurance didn’t sell at first, until they stopped calling it “death insurance.

Recommended reading- a book “Revenue Management” by Robert Cross, on how the airlines use price signals to educate the customer and maximize their revenues. Electricity doesn’t have price signals (i.e. time of day), and even California hasn’t been able to get a demand response from customers.

Alison Silverstein, Texas PUC

The “Texas Model” for DG interconnection policy is freely available to other states to use as basis for their own program. It was largely a “win-win”, or at least “equal grumbling”. The process went fast, achieving “80%” consensus. For the rest, decisions were made, so as to move ahead.

The objective was to remove barriers to entry by DG, to set forth the rules, and then get out of the way and let the market do its work. A DG has the right to get on the T&D system. (T pricing was standardized in ’95, and D pricing is being developed). There are standard agreements, procedures, deadlines and fees. There are limits on how much DG can be hooked up to a given circuit. An interconnection cookbook manual is in the works, along with a equipment pre-certification process.

Eric Heitz, The Energy Foundation

While not opposed to DG, per se, concerned that hype is far surpassing reality, and the environmental issues are serious. Small diesels are plentiful, and very dirty. Microturbines emit far more NOx than CCGT, and fuel cells more CO2. Combined Heat&Power only brings microturbines up to the level of CCGT. [There are sure to be arguments over these assertions. It sounded like not much attention was given to emissions performance of new technology.]

Recommendations: DG should be required to be as clean or cleaner than new CCGT, and standards should ratchet down over time. Reward CHP and efficiency. Make manufacturer responsible for lifetime emissions performance.

Pamela Lesh, Portland General Electric

(See Feb 4 UFTO Note – A Proposition for a New “Regulatory Contract”)

At the BPA Conference in Portland (Feb 2), one of the distinct highlights was a presentation by Pamela Lesh, VP Rates & Regulatory Affairs at Portland General Electric. She outlined a remarkable new approach for regulating distribution utilities that goes well beyond “performance based rates”. It was the first public airing of ideas she’s been developing for some time.

The real conceptual breakthrough is to separate the basis on which the utility gets paid from the way the customer is billed, so the right incentives can be presented to each one. Here’s the next to last slide (the complete text appears below):

– Price to the utility to align success so that the more effectively the utility achieves the results, the better it does, i.e., unit-based, not usage-based, pricing.

– Price to the customer to encourage conservation and prevent abrupt shifts in cost, e.g., usage or demand-based, not flat, pricing.

– Yes we can price differently to the utility and to the customers! We will just need to balance collections with payments.

Science Mag. Energy Issue

Science Magazine’s recent (July 30) issue is a special edition with a major series of articles on Energy. Here are the table of contents, abstracts, and full text of the lead articles, which I downloaded from their website. If you want any of the articles, but don’t have access to either the magazine, or full text downloading (which may require a subscription), let me know.

Science Magazine, July 30, 1999

A Responsible Energy Future.
pg. 662. (Editorial) [Full Text]

Powering the Next Century.
pg. 677. (Introduction to special issue) [Full Text]

(Abstracts below for these 14 articles)

Bright Future–or Brief Flare–for Renewable Energy? pg. 678-680.

2. ENERGY: Solar Homes for the Masses. pg. 679.

3. NEXT GENERATION AUTOMOBILES: U.S. Supercars: Around the Corner,
or Running on Empty? pg. 680-682.

Toyota’s Hybrid Hits the Streets First, pg. 681.

Bringing Fuel Cells Down to Earth, pg. 682-685.

Company Aims to Give Fuel Cells a Little Backbone. pg. 683.

Turning Engineers Into Resource Accountants. pg. 685-686.

In This Danish Industrial Park, Nothing Goes to Waste. pg. 686.

9. A Realizable Renewable Energy Future. John A. Turner, pg.

10. Underinvestment: The Energy Technology and R&D Policy Challenge.
Robert M. Margolis and D. M. Kammen, pg. 690-692.

11. Photovoltaic Technology: The Case for Thin-Film Solar Cells.
A. Shah, et. al., pg. 692-698.

12. Ceramic Fibers for Matrix Composites in High-Temperature
Engine Applications.
P. Baldus, M. Jansen, and D. Sporn, pg. 699-703.

13. Thermoelectric Cooling and Power Generation.
F. J. DiSalvo, pg. 703-706.

14. Environmental Engineering: Energy Value of Replacing Waste Disposal
with Resource Recovery. R. Iranpour,, pg.706-711.

Powering the Next Century (Introduction to special issue)
Richard Stone and Phil Szuromi

Twenty-five years ago, Science devoted an entire issue to what then was perceived as a major threat to Western society: the energy crisis. Some authors presciently wrote of conservation and improved fossil fuel recovery, while others missed the mark by heralding new eras of nuclear and alternative energy. For a deeper understanding of that turning point between energy naïveté and energy realism, see articles from that and subsequent issues posted at our Web site.

Unexpectedly cheap oil prices in the United States, impossible to foresee in the immediate aftermath of the crisis, are rooted in both economics and politics. Greater oil resources are now available thanks to new reserves and enhanced recovery technologies. [The extent of existing oil resources is under debate (Science, 21 August 1998, p. 1128).] Oil-exporting nations have not maintained the political resolve to keep oil prices inflated by limiting production, and the Persian Gulf War demonstrated the resolve of Western nations to use force to protect oil resources in the Middle East.

Western policy-makers are now debating how to rein in the environmental costs of oil use, such as oil spills and rising concentrations of greenhouse gases. To meet the pollution reduction challenges, energy producers are blazing trails in energy efficiency and reviving alternative energy sources. This special issue explores the science and policy of emerging technologies. Most are works in progress. Fuel cells, for example, are limited largely by ion transfer rates across fragile membranes, whereas the efficiency of heat engines is limited in part by the operating temperatures of metals; ceramics are being explored as hardier alternatives. Improving thermoelectric devices for refrigeration requires finding materials with high electronic conductivity but low thermal conductivity, properties that normally tend to increase or decrease together.

Alternative fuels are also being developed, but they face their own hurdles. Using hydrogen in fuel cell vehicles, for example, would require billions of dollars to create the infrastructure to deliver the gas. Meanwhile, the present infrastructure could become vastly more energy efficient–a shortcoming the young field of industrial ecology is trying to address. Many resources that could be recycled, such as waste water or flare gas, often are not. Where political will translates into legislation, such as California’s demand for alternatively fueled vehicles and the deregulation of its electricity market, investments in new technologies have happened. Where political will has faltered, such as not establishing firm targets for carbon dioxide emissions, developments have been slow.

In his editorial in that 1974 issue of Science, Phil Abelson noted, “Had we been driving smaller, less gas-consuming cars, there would have been no energy crisis. Some other forms of transportation consume less gasoline, and their use should be encouraged.” The logic remains irrefutable a quarter of a century later. Advances in energy technology will likely need to be assisted, however, by changes in our own habits of energy use, willingly or not.


A Responsible Energy Future (Editorial)
Rush Holt*

Affordable energy is the lifeblood of modern society. Without it, the network of transportation, agriculture, health care, manufacturing, and commerce deemed essential by many of the world’s inhabitants would not be possible. Yet our use of energy releases sulfur dioxides, metals such as cadmium and mercury, and greenhouse gases and other noxious pollutants that damage our quality of life. Moreover, when we use fossil fuels, we make ourselves dependent on an energy source that cannot be relied upon forever.

With the apparent conditions in the United States today, what could induce us to change our energy habits now? Almost daily, gasoline prices reach record lows, and U.S. citizens have not waited in line for gas for decades. Our fossil fuel engines and turbines burn more cleanly and more efficiently now than ever before.

Nevertheless, the truth is that our current system of energy use is unsustainable; our energy habits will have to change. For, although fossil fuel supplies are limited, total energy use will rise rapidly in coming years as global economic development continues. What is more, according to many scientists, current greenhouse gas emissions–let alone any greater emissions in the future–threaten to produce serious environmental changes.

Some scientists have predicted that projected greenhouse gas emissions for the coming decade could produce climate changes as significant as an increase of 5º to 6ºF (2.8º to 3.3ºC) in average global temperature, a one-half meter rise of sea level, and even an increase in the intensity of hurricanes and tropical storms. Worst-case scenarios? Perhaps. But other negative effects of fossil fuel pollution, such as smog, acid rain, water contamination from leaky fuel tanks, oil refinery emissions, and oil spills, are already very real in many regions of the globe, in both industrialized and developing nations. Even without global warming, these immediate problems are enough to warrant change.

For developing countries, cheap, polluting, and inefficient technologies are often the only affordable option. The United States is in a position to develop better alternatives. We should take the initiative. Our current investment in research and development in energy is nothing short of irresponsible. The U.S. national energy product exceeds $500 billion annually. Yet barely 1% of that amount is invested in R&D. The President’s Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) has recommended that the Department of Energy’s applied energy-technology R&D budget be nearly doubled to $2.4 billion by 2003. In my view, this recommendation should be considered a minimum figure.

This money would be well spent. Those who position themselves to manage the coming changes in energy use will stand to gain enormously. American companies would profit from the development of more efficient, cleaner–and therefore more desirable–technologies; the American economy would benefit from the expertise built up by further research; and American citizens would benefit from a cleaner, safer environment.

Just as the federal government has a responsibility to invest now in basic medical research to ensure the health of present and future generations, so it has a responsibility to invest now in basic energy research to ensure both our near-term and long-term economic and environmental health. The justification for this commitment seems clear to many of us trained in science and technology. Yet with energy prices low, the necessary political will may be lacking. Will apprehension about negative effects–greater pollution and global climate change–provoke people to examine our energy habits and take action? Or will the possible economic opportunities attract attention and provoke action? A huge potential market awaits, promising an opportunity to enhance the quality of life of all the world’s people. Meanwhile, researchers and policy-makers must continue to seek ways to make relevant to our communities the nature of our global energy challenges and opportunities.

The author is a U.S. Congressman from central New Jersey, a physicist, and the former Assistant Director of Princeton University’s Plasma Physics Laboratory.


Abstract 1 of 14

ENERGY: Bright Future–or Brief Flare–for Renewable Energy?

Kathryn S. Brown

PALM SPRINGS, CALIFORNIA–Solar, wind, and other forms of renewable energy are making surprising gains as some U.S. states open their power markets to competition. But with fossil fuel prices near all-time lows, experts are split on whether alternative energy can maintain its momentum. Concerns about climate change are the strongest force pulling in favor of renewables, but if the Kyoto climate change treaty falters and global warming forecasts become less dire, the fossil fuel era is likely to continue into the foreseeable future.

Abstract 2 of 14

ENERGY: Solar Homes for the Masses
Alexander Hellemans

Near Amersfoort, the Netherlands, the NV REMU power company is leading a $13 million project to build 500 houses with roofs covered with photovoltaic panels–the world’s largest attempt at so-called “building-integrated photovoltaics.” By the time the homes are finished next year, they should be drawing 1.3 megawatts of energy from the sun, enough to supply about 60% of the community’s energy needs.

Abstract 3 of 14

U.S. Supercars: Around the Corner, or Running on Empty?
David Malakoff

GOLDEN, COLORADO–A collaboration between automakers and the federal government to develop high-mileage, low-emission cars is set to unveil its first prototypes–probably diesel-electric hybrids–next year. However, critics charge that the program is betting on the wrong technologies by emphasizing polluting diesel engines instead of potentially cleaner technologies such as hydrogen fuel cells; others question why the government is subsidizing the effort when Toyota has already built a fuel cell car on its own dime (see sidebar). Moreover, with the United States’ current low gas prices, observers don’t expect to see consumers cruising in the new supercars anytime soon.

Abstract 4 of 14

Toyota’s Hybrid Hits the Streets First
Dennis Normile

TOKYO–As U.S. automakers struggle to draft blueprints for their future fuel-efficient cars (see main text), the Toyota Motor Co. has beaten them to the punch with a gas-electric hybrid that gets about double the gas mileage and spews half the carbon dioxide of similarly sized sedans. What’s more, the Prius has made it to market without the benefit of taxpayer-sponsored research and without any looming domestic requirements for zero-emissions vehicles.

Abstract 5 of 14

Bringing Fuel Cells Down to Earth
Robert F. Service

Automakers are banking on fuel cells, used to run equipment aboard spacecraft, to power the first zero-emission vehicles; the type of fuel that supplies the cells could determine how deeply
these cars penetrate the market. Engineers and clean-air experts say the simplest and cleanest option is hydrogen gas itself, while car and oil companies would prefer to equip vehicles with
miniature chemical factories to convert liquid fuels, such as gasoline or methanol, into hydrogen gas that can be fed into fuel cells. Critics, meanwhile, argue that the converters likely will
be expensive and prone to breaking down.

Abstract 6 of 14

Company Aims to Give Fuel Cells a Little Backbone
David Voss

ELKTON, MARYLAND–Before fuel cell-makers can challenge utility companies for our business, they must first lower the price and ratchet up the power of their devices. A crucial part of the strategy is to improve the membrane assembly, which serves as catalyst, electrode, and chemical separator. Researchers are achieving promising results using fluoropolymers, but cost remains an obstacle.

Abstract 7 of 14

Turning Engineers Into Resource Accountants
Jocelyn Kaiser

A new discipline is trying to persuade companies that tracking the flow of materials and energy over a product’s lifetime makes good business sense. The philosophy has begun to pay off–mainly in Europe–in everything from appliances designed with reusable parts to schemes for capturing precious metals that may otherwise end up in landfills or riverbeds. However, a cradle-to-grave approach to doing business hasn’t yet caught fire in the United States.

Abstract 8 of 14

In This Danish Industrial Park, Nothing Goes to Waste
Jocelyn Kaiser

If there’s anything that sums up the hopes of industrial ecology (see main text), it’s a tiny pipeline-laced town in eastern Denmark called Kalundborg, where companies have been swapping byproducts like gypsum and waste water for up to 25 years. This “industrial symbiosis” is drawing keen interest from policy-makers in the United States, although opinions vary on its odds of success.

Abstract 9 of 14

A Realizable Renewable Energy Future
John A. Turner

The ability of renewable resources to provide all of society’s energy needs is shown by using the United States as an example. Various renewable systems are presented, and the issues of energy payback, carbon dioxide abatement, and energy storage are addressed. Pathways for renewable hydrogen generation are shown, and the implementation of hydrogen technologies into the energy infrastructure is presented. The question is asked, Should money and energy be spent on carbon dioxide sequestration, or should renewable resources be im plemented instead.

National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Golden, CO. E-mail:

Abstract 10 of 14

Underinvestment: The Energy Technology and R&D Policy Challenge
Robert M. Margolis, 1* Daniel M. Kammen 2*

This Viewpoint examines data on international trends in energy research and development (R&D) funding, patterns of U.S. energy technology patents and R&D funding, and U.S. R&D intensities across selected sectors. The data present a disturbing picture: (i) Energy technology funding levels have declined significantly during the past two decades throughout the industrial world; (ii) U.S. R&D spending and patents, both overall and in the energy sector, have been highly correlated during the past two decades; and (iii) the R&D intensity of the U.S. energy sector is extremely low. It is argued that recent cutbacks in energy R&D are likely to reduce the capacity of the energy sector to innovate. The trends are particularly troubling given the need for increased international capacity to respond to emerging risks such as global climate change.

1 Science, Technology and Environmental Policy (STEP) Program, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ .
2 Energy and Resources Group (ERG), University of California, Berkeley, CA .
* To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail:;

Abstract 11 of 14

Photovoltaic Technology: The Case for Thin-Film Solar Cells
A. Shah, 1 P. Torres, 1* R. Tscharner, 1 N. Wyrsch, 1 H. Keppner 2

The advantages and limitations of photovoltaic solar modules for energy generation are reviewed with their operation principles and physical efficiency limits. Although the main materials currently used or investigated and the associated fabrication technologies are individually described, emphasis is on silicon-based solar cells. Wafer-based crystalline silicon solar modules dominate in terms of production, but amorphous silicon solar cells have the potential to undercut costs owing, for example, to the roll-to-roll production possibilities for modules. Recent developments suggest that thin-film crystalline silicon (especially microcrystalline silicon) is becoming a prime candidate for future photovoltaics.

1 Institute of Microtechnology (IMT), University of Neuchâtel, Neuchâtel, Switzerland.
2 University of Applied Science, Le Locle, Switzerland.
* To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail:

Abstract 12 of 14

Ceramic Fibers for Matrix Composites in High-Temperature Engine Applications
Peter Baldus, 1 Martin Jansen, 2* Dieter Sporn 3

High-temperature engine applications have been limited by the performance of metal alloys and carbide fiber composites at elevated temperatures. Random inorganic networks composed of silicon, boron, nitrogen, and carbon represent a novel class of ceramics with outstanding durability at elevated temperatures. SiBN3C was synthesized by pyrolysis of a preceramic N-methylpolyborosilazane made from the single-source precursor Cl3Si-NH-BCl2. The polymer can be processed to a green fiber by melt-spinning, which then undergoes an intermediate curing step and successive pyrolysis. The ceramic fibers, which are presently produced on a semitechnical scale, combine several desired properties relevant for an application in fiber-reinforced ceramic composites: thermal stability, mechanical strength, high-temperature creep resistivity, low density, and stability against oxidation or mo lten silicon.

1 Bayer AG, ZF-MFA, Leverkusen, Germany.
2 Max-Planck-Institut für Festkörperforschung, Stuttgart, Germany.
3 Fraunhofer Institut für Silicatforschung, Germany.
* To whom correspondence should be addressed.

Abstract 13 of 14

Thermoelectric Cooling and Power Generation
Francis J. DiSalvo

In a typical thermoelectric device, a junction is formed from two different conducting materials, one containing positive charge carriers (holes) and the other negative charge carriers (electrons). When an electric current is passed in the appropriate direction through the junction, both types of charge carriers move away from the junction and convey heat away, thus cooling the junction. Similarly, a heat source at the junction causes carriers to flow away from the junction, making an electrical generator. Such devices have the advantage of containing no moving parts, but low efficiencies have limited their use to specialty applications, such as cooling laser diodes. The principles of thermoelectric devices are reviewed and strategies for increasing the efficiency of novel materials are explored. Improved materials would not only help to cool advanced electronics but could also provide energy benefits in refrigeration and when using waste heat to generate electrical power.

Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY. E-mail:

Abstract 14 of 14

Environmental Engineering: Energy Value of Replacing Waste Disposal with Resource Recovery
R. Iranpour, 1* M. Stenstrom, 2 G. Tchobanoglous, 3 D. Miller, 4 J. Wright, 5 M. Vossoughi 6

Although in the past, environmental engineering has been primarily concerned with waste disposal, the focus of the field is now shifting toward viewing wastes as potential resources. Because reclamation usually consumes less energy than producing new materials, increasing reclamation not only reduces pollution but saves energy. Technological innovations contributing to this shift are summarized here, and are variously classified as emerging technologies or research topics, as either new departures or incremental improvements, and as opportunistic innovations, or examples of a unifying strategy. Both liquid and solid waste examples are given, such as a recent discovery of effects in disinfecting microfiltered reclaimed wastewater with ultraviolet light. In addition to its value in reducing pollution and conserving energy, this reorientation of environmental engineering could contribute to a more general shift toward greater cooperation among organizations dealing with the environment.

1 Applied Research Group, Hyperion Treatment Plant, Los Angeles Sanitation, Santa Monica, CA.
2 Dept of Civil and Environmental Engineering, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA
3 Dept of Civil and Environmental Engineering, UC-Davis, Davis, CA
4 Tech Research, Los Angeles, CA
5 Dept of Civil Engineering, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN.
6 Biochemical and Bioengineering Research Center, Sharif University, Tehran, Iran.
* To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail:

Copyright © 1999 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Green Power News — Green Branding

Terry Peterson of EPRI sends out several notes a week to an email list, where he comments on current events in renewable energy. It’s primarily for EPRI members, but temporary ‘free preview’ subscriptions are available and he’s added my name to the list in anticipation of my supplying him reciprocal information. (Contact him directly if you want to be put on the list for a preview.)


Below is an item he sent out this morning. He gave me permission to forward it to you. It makes two very important points:

1. Retail customers haven’t rushed to switch suppliers in California — yet — but people who say this means restructuring is a flop are missing the point entirely. There isn’t much reason to switch now, but wait until the stranded asset recovery transition is completed, and then see what happens.

2. Most customers who have switched do it to go green, and are even willing to pay more, not less, for the opportunity. Everybody has been too fixated on “cost” of renewables — “price” (and “brand”) are what are really important. Precisely the point Karl Rabago made in his keynote speech to the CURC Conference (Nov 97 — see UFTO Note Nov 13, 1997).

The Harvard Business Review article looks interesting, too. Which cereal do you buy?

(Thanks, Terry.)


Subject: California’s green power market reported heating up
Date: Fri, 30 Jul 1999 11:15:28 -0700
From: Green Power News
To: Green Power News

California’s retail electricity competition has gotten off to a pretty slow start, owing to several factors that tended to discourage residential customers from taking action to switch providers, including an across-the-board 10% rate reduction and an effectively wholesale market price for competing electricity suppliers to beat. In the first year only about 1% of all residential customers bothered.

Enron, for one, found the heat in that kitchen unbearable and stopped marketing residential products. However, several other marketers have stayed the course and, from the press release below, it seems their patience is beginning to pay off.

As noted below, although the total number of switchers to date is comparatively small, the vast majority of them have opted for green power. Since the present California energy market provides very little economic incentive for switching, that testifies to two facts: The great majority of electricity customers are relatively satisfied with their present provider; And green power is clearly a product with “premium brand” potential.

That last point will become very important as the electricity industry learns to stop operating on “level 1” of building brand equity (What are the tangible, verifiable, objective, measurable characteristics of products, services, ingredients, or components that carry this brand name?) and moves toward “level 4” (What does “value” mean for the typical loyal customer?) and “level 5” (What is the essential nature and character of the brand?). If this notion intrigues you, and you don’t think that level 1 captures all the differences between Safeway’s and Kellogg’s corn flakes, please read S. Ward, et al., “What High-Tech Managers Need to Know about Brands”, Harvard Business Review, July-August 1999, pp. 85ff.

Company Press Release

Summer Heats up for California’s Green Power Market

SAN FRANCISCO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–July 23, 1999–California Green power providers report a new surge of customer enthusiasm.

Two companies, GreenMountain.Com and Commonwealth Energy, report signing up customers at a record pace. A third, The Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) announced plans to buy all the power available from a new green power facility that begins generating in September, in order to meet recent high customer demand.

All three organizations offer products certified by Green-e, a renewable electricity certification program. To date, over 90 percent of California customers who switch electricity providers are receiving green power — electricity produced using renewable resources such as wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, and small scale hydropower.

“Last month was our most successful month ever in terms of sales,” said Rick Counihan, Director of California Public Affairs for Green Mountain Energy. “We are greatly encouraged by the speed with which green power is catching on in California,” Counihan continued.

Jay Goth, Vice President of Commonwealth Energy, said that “Each week we set new records for the number of customers that switch to our 100 percent renewable power offering. In the San Diego area alone, 43 government entities are now buying our green power.”

California Public Utilities Commission Reports support the marketers’ statements showing that customer requests for green power are up almost 90 percent from earlier in the year.

Customers have directly benefited from a statewide credit for renewable energy purchases that allows green power providers to offer renewable-based electricity at a price below that offered by the state’s three major utilities.

In addition, a grassroots education program being conducted by leading environmental organizations such as the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies and Global Green, USA, in conjunction with the Renewable Energy Marketing Board, is helping educate customers on the environmental benefits of green power purchases.

“Still much work remains to be done,” said Karl Rabago, Chair of the Green Power Board which governs the Green-e Program, “but the strength of California’s green power market shows that when customers hear about it, they get it — buying green power is a choice they can make to create a healthier environment for us all.”

The Green-e, a renewable electricity certification program, is administered by the Center for Resource Solutions, a non-profit organization dedicated to building human capacity and institutions for energy, economic and environmental sustainability.

Based in San Francisco’s Presidio, the Center administers national and international programs that preserve and protect the environment through the design of innovative strategies and increased utilization of sustainable technologies.

Contact: Center for Resource Solutions, Meredith Wingate or Suzanne Tegen, 415/561-2100 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
This news item comes to you as a service of EPRI’s Renewables and Green Power Marketing Target. If you are not a Green Power News subscriber and wish to become one–or are one and wish not to be–please send me an email request. Thank you.

Terry M. Peterson
Manager, Solar Power & Green Power Marketing
EPRI Palo Alto CA 650-855-2594

Visit the Renewables website:

IEEE Standards Group Tackles DR Interconnection Issues

The IEEE Standards Coordinating Committee 21 (IEEE SCC21) oversees the development of standards in the area of fuel cells, photovoltaics, distributed generation, and energy storage.

— SCC21 coordinates efforts in these fields among the various IEEE societies and other appropriate organizations to insure that all standards are consistent and properly reflect the views of all applicable disciplines. SCC21 reviews all proposed IEEE standards in these fields before their submission to the IEEE Standards Board for approval and coordinates submission to other organizations. (To learn more about IEEE Standards activities, go to: )

“Standard for Distributed Resources Interconnected with Electric Power Systems” is the task of a new working group (one of 19 under SCC21). Their project authorization request (PAR) P1547 got the final go ahead in March ’99 to develop a “uniform standard for interconnection of distributed resources with electric power systems and requirements relevant to the performance, operation, testing, safety considerations, and maintenance of the interconnection.”

Working Group Chair — Richard DeBlasio (NREL)
Vice Chair — Frank Goodman (EPRI)
Vice Chair — Joseph Koepfinger (Duquesne), and
Working Group Secretary — Thomas S. Basso (NREL).

For a good and timely overview, see this recent testimony before the US Senate:

“Testimony on Interconnection of Distributed Resources before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, US Senate” June 22, 1999,
by Tom Schneider,Vice Chair, Energy Policy Committee, IEEE/USA,

The P1547 Working Group, whose membership is approaching 200, has met already several times since the initial organizational meeting in December, and will continue to meet as often as every 2-3 months. The last meeting was held Jun 28-30, in Chicago. Future meetings are set for Sept 27 (tentative – precise date to be determined), in Washington DC, then Dec 1-2, in Tampa.

At the September meeting, there are tentative plans to hold an open informational session, which might be good to attend. Also, the Summer Power Meeting in Edmonton (July 18-22) will have DR as a major theme (“Track 3”), with a panel session on interconnection.

There’s an aggressive schedule to put together a DR standards document for submission to the IEEE Standards Board — to have a final draft ready by March 2000. Individuals and small groups are working on writing assignments to prepare the various sections. The group has already produced and assembled a great deal of valuable information, and have worked out detailed classification schemes for types of DR interconnection equipment and configurations. Probably the most important attribute is size of the DR, and the size of the system it’s connected to–the larger the DR, as a fraction of the system, the more involved the requirements.

Overall, this is a huge undertaking. According to one estimate, there are at least 18,000 “combinations,” considering the number of different kinds of distribution circuits, inverter types, size ranges, and “issues” to address. An analysis by EEI (Interconnection Operations and Planning Group) has identified 30 issues, times 3 converter types (inverter, and synchronous, and asynch generator), times 5 distribution circuit types. (Some of the 30 issues include nuisance fuse blowing, reclosing, islanding, overvoltages, harmonics, switchgear ratings, lineworker safety, etc.) A major goal of this project is to minimize the time and expense required for protection studies and eliminate customization of solutions, by providing a common analysis framework and prequalification of equipment.

Individual states are under ratepayer pressure to come up quickly with their own jurisdictional DG interconnection rulings, and there are major programs in Europe, so it’s all the more important to avoid the complications of multiple (possibly conflicting) sets of requirements. Fortunately, many other IEEE committees already have standards related to interconnection topics or components, e.g. for power quality, relaying, etc. The ongoing cooperative consensus approach to the P1547 DR standard should help accelerate the development of a technically sound, uniform interconnection standard.

It’s seems surprising that relatively few utilities are represented on the Working Group, despite the often stated belief that DR is going to be hugely significant. (Industry organizations are actively participating, however, along with equipment makers and others.) The companies that are involved seem to embrace the DR concept and appear to be positioning themselves to prosper by it. (Some other companies are getting reputations as obstructionists, throwing obstacles and delays at every proposed installation.)

Participation is the best (only) way to tap into this rich array of information on the subject (all in hardcopy with minutes of the meetings!), and to track and influence developments. Industry experts who contribute their time and energy get a chance to make a difference.

Contact: Dick DeBlasio, 303-384-6452,
Tom Basso, 303-384-6765,

Sandia Help Implementing Solar

Sandia to Help Utilities Implement Solar Energy

Sandia has received funding to work with utilities interested in teaming with the solar industry to install solar systems in their territory. The team will provide technical expertise to the utility in selecting technologies and, if warranted, work with industry partners to improve their systems. This may result in partnerships (such as CRADAs) with some utilities and industry members.

Sandia staff are currently lining up utilities to visit for exploratory meetings. For more information (and to be among the first companies to take advantage of this),

David Menicucci, 505-844-3077,

For background on Sandia’s renewable programs, their web site is at:

The goal is to help energy users consider and properly implement renewable energy technologies, as part of an educational outreach and technology transfer service on behalf of the Department of Energy’s investment in development, commercialization, and deployment of renewable energy technologies. This effort is designed to complement, not compete with, the technical services available through the US industry.

Sandia’s Renewable Energy Team is a cross-technology group of engineers with a primary focus on solar thermal, photovoltaic, wind, geothermal, and biomass systems. They can provide: 1) An on-site assessment of energy needs applicable to renewable energy systems, 2) Help in renewable energy program planning and implementation, 3) Help in deciding whether renewable energy can work in certain applications, 4) Expert advice in choosing renewable energy systems, 5) Calculations about the projected energy and economic performance of a renewable energy system, 6) Advice during design and procurement, construction, operation of the system, and operations monitoring, 7) Analysis, testing, and evaluation of systems, and 8) Training in renewable energy systems.

Energy Storage Assoc. Meeting

Energy Storage Association (ESA) Fall Meeting
“The Value of Energy Storage in a Restructured Utility Market”
Sacramento, CA
November 18 -19, 1997

((An UFTO Note on Nov 10 gave the original agenda for this meeting.))

*** –> SPECIAL OFFER <– ***

This one time, the ESA is offering to send a free copy of the full proceedings to prospective members, together with their membership solicitation package. Membership in ESA is a good way to stay in touch with developments in utility storage, and a year’s company membership is only $1500.

To request the package and proceedings of the November meeting, contact (please tell them UFTO sent you):

TEL: (301) 951-3223
FAX: (301) 951-3235

E-MAIL: John Hurwitch, Executive Director,


(more details on request–and in the Proceedings)

–> Overview of the Market:
The goal of ESA and the DOE Utility Storage program is to build market volume for storage systems. Utilities are proving to be a very tough market for battery storage, despite a strong benefit/cost story. One hypothesis is that the benefits are scattered among different stakeholders (even within a utility), with no single part being big enough by itself. Nobody is in a position to put it together, and restructuring is making the situation even worse, as the walls go up inside utilities. Also, utilities say they have no money, and want the first cost to be very low, regardless of life-cycle considerations. Meanwhile, big needs are looming, especially on transmission systems, but nobody seems to own the problem or is in a position to make the investment.

Vendors are offering turnkey systems for various applications and markets, but there are very few orders, and those are mostly for very special situations, e.g. in Alaska (remarkable success stories). Vendors are getting very discouraged, and may be close to throwing in the towel.

Is the problem with the Technology? Marketing? Or do utilities “just not get it?” Or, are the proponents wrong in their view that storage is an idea whose time is overdue, and that it’s largely a matter of “education”? In 1996, DOE and Sandia visited with over two dozen utilities to try to understand the industry’s views on storage. Results were recently published: “Report on the Energy Storage Systems Program Executive Meetings Project” SAND 97-2700, November 97. However, more dialogue with the utility industry is still needed, to get to the bottom of these questions.

The ESA has proposed a flagship project called “Storage 2000,” as a joint program with DOE to stimulate and accelerate development, with a goal of 200 MW of project commitments by the year 2000. Applications are to include renewable, distributed, generation/transmission (ancillary services), and customer systems.

–> Energy Storage in the UK
The closer storage is to the customer, the better. Anthony Price, of National Power, UK, compared batteries to warehouses for “just in time” distribution, where it’s well known that you put storage only in one place in the system, close to the customer. He showed an analysis of the bulk market hourly price over time. Even with big differences between on and off peak wholesale prices, you can’t win by buying off-peak and selling on-peak. Not only are there roundtrip (storage) losses, but you’re also fighting the spread (sell at the bid price, buy at ask). What you’d be selling is capacity, and there’s currently an excess.

The farther down the distribution chain you are, more distribution costs are built into the price of goods, so storage has more value. However, whoever owns the storage controls that value. “If the customer owns the storage, then the rates are wrong”.

–> Uninterruptible Power and Power Quality
While utility storage isn’t moving, UPS and P/Q applications are a very strong market (a lesson there somewhere?). There are still issues, however. Though vendors have products, there’s often insufficient understanding of what a “disturbance” really is. For example, they may design for a 3 phase symmetrical fault, which rarely occurs. Phase shifts and waveforms need particular attention. Too often, products need to be redesigned in the field.

There are several interesting systems using steel flywheels: – International Computer Power — steel flywheel in a 100 kVA motor genset to provide ridethrough, successfully demonstrated for two years at a Hewlett Packard site, dramatically reducing diesel backup starts. – Holic Power Protection — 100’s installed worldwide. Diesel generator and flywheel combination where the flywheel dynamically adjusts itself to maintain constant generator speed. 1250 kVA unit runs about $1.1 million. Without the diesel, it can provide short term ride through. – Active Power, Austin TX, has been issuing press releases lately. Modular pancake unit provides 400kW for 5 sec, for short discharge P/Q applications.

In “new” technology (composite) flywheels, Beacon Power presented their plug-replacement for batteries in UPS systems. The 1 kW, 2kWh unit goes directly on the DC bus. Beacon is a joint venture between SatCon and Duquesne. They expect to be in production by the end of ’98, with beta tests in mid year.
–> Renewables and Storage
Solar and Wind energy systems need storage, particularly in remote/village power applications. The opportunities are huge, particularly to supply the 2 billion people in the world with no electricity, and to displace diesel fuel consumption. A number of programs are trying to come up with reliable modular integrated systems (hybrids with diesel, solar or wind, and batteries). Batteries are often blamed as the weak link in renewable energy systems (right along with inverters), but the blame may be misplaced–often the wrong type of battery is installed by local people.

The President’s “Million Solar Roof” initiative is beginning to be felt, though this may not necessarily imply much use of storage. SMUD has a huge commitment to renewables, and are just now beginning to consider the potential benefits of storage in that context.

The first major project under Storage 2000 is to be the “Renewable Generation and Storage ” (RGS) project. Partners will be selected by formal solicitation process in 1998 for design, development and testing of a prototype integrated system with a PV array, inverter and storage, ready for customer use. International opportunities exist for “Remote Area Power Systems” or mini-grid systems. Funding is available, and local governments are motivated, e.g. in Latin America. The Solar Energy Industry Association has information. ( ).

–> Texas Energy Storage Technology Institute (ESTI)
This is a coordinated research program involving all the universities in Texas, funded in part by the Texas Energy Coordinating Council, a state agency. ESTI is doing work in capacitors, batteries, and particularly high performance flywheel systems for railroad applications. DOT and DARPA funding support the Advanced Locomotive Propulsion System, which includes a 3 MW Allied Signal gas turbo-alternator, and the University-developed 167 kwh flywheel for braking and acceleration. The idea is to provide an alternative to electrification of railroad right of way. ESTI wants to encourage synergies between stationary and mobile storage systems. Contact John Price, 512-471-4496, 512-232-1888 (direct),, http:/

–> Key Note Speaker

Separately, Pramod Kulkarni of the CEC outlined the priorities for storage in California, seen as a “strategic” area under the public benefit R&D program.

Renewable Energy Annual 1997, Volume I

Renewable Energy Annual 1997
Volume I DOE/EIA-0603(97/1)

October 1997
Energy Information Administration
Office of Coal, Nuclear, Electric and Alternate Fuels
U.S. Department of Energy
Washington, DC 20585


Questions regarding specific information in the report should be directed as follows:

Renewable Data Overview:
Fred Mayes (202/426-1166,

Biomass Energy:
Robert Lowe (202/426-1171,

Municipal Solid Waste:
John Carlin (202/426-1146,
Geothermal Energy:
Jim Disbrow (202/426-1185,

Wind Energy:
Louise Guey-Lee (202/426-1143,

Solar Thermal and Photovoltaic:
Peter Holihan (202/426-1147

This report, the Renewable Energy Annual 1997, Volume 1, is the third in a series of annual reports published by the Energy Information Administration (EIA) to provide current information on renewable energy. In doing so, this report provides detailed explanations of summary renewable energy information originally published in EIA’s Annual Energy Review 1996, released in July 1997. It also constitutes an annual update of renewable energy data presented in the Renewable Energy Annual 1996.

The publication of this report marks a change in the publication format of the Renewable Energy Annual. The prior two issues contained both renewable data and analytical material. This year, EIA has split the Renewable Energy Annual into two volumes in order to make data available more quickly. Volume 1 includes renewable energy consumption, capacity, and generation data, along with brief descriptive text. It also includes a chapter on solar (thermal and photovoltaic) manufacturing activity, and an appendix on the direct uses of geothermal energy. It is expected that a later version of this report will include a feature article titled, “A View of the Forest Products Industry From a Wood Energy Perspective.” The Renewable Energy Annual 1997, Volume 2, a topical issues analysis report, is scheduled to be published in Spring 1998.

This report covers the following energy sources: biomass, geothermal, wind, and solar. While hydropower is a renewable energy resource, it is also regarded as a conventional energy source because it has furnished a significant amount of electricity for more than a century. Therefore, this report discusses hydropower as it contributes to total renewable energy consumption but does not address hydropower as an individual energy source. Also, EIA collects data only on terrestrial systems. Satellite and military applications are not included in this report. See Appendix A, “EIA Renewable Energy Data Sources,” and Appendix B, “Renewable Data Limitations,” for more detail.

PCAST Report – Energy R&D in 21st Century

Federal Energy R&D in the 21st Century

The famous “PCAST” report is now available in hard copy and on-line.

This presidential panel, operating under the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) in the White House, reviewed all federal government energy R&D, in the context of restructuring and declining industry R&D budgets.

It concludes that R&D can accomplish a lot to reduce the cost of supply, increase productivity and support diversification of export. The recommendations emphasize efficiency, renewables, and public education.

Hardcopies can be obtained directly from OSTP
–contact N. Kelly by email at, or fax 202-651-7502

The entire report is online at

The first part of the executive summary, and the cover letter to the President are included here:




EXECUTIVE SUMMARY (introduction)
The United States faces major energy-related challenges as it enters the twenty-first century. Our economic well-being depends on reliable, affordable supplies of energy. Our environmental well-being—from improving urban air quality to abating the risk of global warming —requires a mix of energy sources that emits less carbon dioxide and other pollutants than today’ mix does. Our national security requires secure supplies of oil or alternatives to it, as well as prevention of nuclear proliferation. And for reasons of economy, environment, security, and stature as a world power alike, the United States must maintain its leadership in the science and technology of energy supply and use.

All of these energy-related challenges to the well-being of this country are made more acute by what is happening elsewhere in the world. The combination of population growth and economic development in Asia, Africa, and Latin America is driving a rapid expansion of world energy use, which is beginning to augment significantly the worldwide emissions of carbon dioxide from fossil fuel combustion, increasing pressures on world oil supplies, and exacerbating nuclear proliferation concerns. Means must be found to meet the economic aspirations and associated energy needs of all the world’s people while protecting the environment and preserving peace, stability, and opportunity.

Improvements in energy technologies, attainable through energy research and development, are the key to the capacity of the United States to address—and to help the rest of the world address —these challenges.

Many of the energy R&D programs of the Federal government, which are primarily conducted by the Department of Energy (DOE), have been well focused and effective within the limits of available funding. But these programs, taken as a whole, are not commensurate in scope and scale with the energy challenges and opportunities the twenty-first century will present. (This judgment takes into account the contributions to energy R&D that can reasonably be expected to be made by the private sector under market conditions similar to today’s.) The inadequacy of curren energy R&D is especially acute in relation to the challenge of responding prudently and cost-effectively to the risk of global climatic change from society’s greenhuse-gas emissions, of which the most important is carbon dioxide from combustion of fossil fuels. Much of the new R&D needed to respond to this challenge would also be responsive to the other challenges.

To close the gap between the current energy R&D program and the one that the challenges require, the Panel recommends strengthening the DOE applied energy-technology R&D portfolio by increasing funding for four of its major elements (energy end-use efficiency, nuclear fission, nuclear fusion, and renewable energy technologies) and restructuring part of the fifth (fossil fuel technologies). We also recommend better coordination between the Department’s applied energy-technology programs and the fundamental research carried out in the program on Basic Energy Sciences; increased Department efforts in integrated analysis of its entire energy R&D portfolio and the leverage the portfolio offers against the energy challenges of the next century; targeted efforts to improve the prospects of commercialization of the fruits of publicly funded energy R&D in specific areas; increased attention to certain international aspects of energy R&D; and changes in the prominence given to energy R&D in relation to the Department’s other missions, coupled with changes in how this R&D is managed.


November 4, 1997

The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue N.W.
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

PCAST endorses the report’s findings that this country’s economic prosperity, environmental quality, national security, and world leadership in science and technology all require improving our energy technologies, and that an enhanced national R&D effort is needed to provide these improvements. The inadequacy of current energy R&D is especially acute in relation to the challenge of responding responsibly and cost-effectively to the risk of global climatic change from society’s greenhouse gas emissions, in particular, carbon dioxide from combustion of fossil fuels.

PCAST recommends focusing the government’s energy R&D on projects where high potential payoffs for society as a whole justify bigger R&D investments than industry would be likely to make on the basis of expected private returns and where modest government investments can effectively complement, leverage, or catalyze work in the private sector.

The report recommends an increase, over a five-year period, of $1 billion in the Department of Energy’s annual budget for applied energy-technology R&D. The largest shares of such an increase would go to R&D in energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies, but nuclear fusion and fission would also receive increases. The composition of the R&D supported on advanced fossil-fuel technologies would change in favor of longer-term opportunities, including fuel cells and carbon-sequestration technologies, but the overall spending level for fossil-fuel technologies would stay roughly constant in real terms.

The proposed total for FY 2003 would return the DOE’s real level of effort in applied energy-technology R&D in that year to about where it was in FY 1991 and FY 1992. In constant dollars, the average real growth rate would be 8.3 percent per year.

PCAST respectfully urges that you increase your efforts to communicate clearly to the public the importance of energy and energy R&D to the nation’s future, and PCAST recommends that you clearly designate the Secretary of Energy as the national leader and coordinator for developing and carrying out the national energy strategy.

The report also makes recommendations for improving the Department of Energy’s management of its energy R&D portfolio, including the naming of a single individual with responsibility for the whole portfolio and reporting directly to the Secretary.

The energy R&D portfolio PCAST proposes will be of crucial importance in meeting that challenge. Many of the energy-technologies that will help with the problem of climate change, moreover, will also help address other energy-related challenges, including reducing dependence on imported oil, diversifying the U.S. domestic fuel- and electricity-supply systems, expanding U.S. exports of energy technologies, reducing air and water pollution, and reducing the cost, safety and security risks of nuclear energy systems around the world.


John H. Gibbons
President’s Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology

cc: Vice President Al Gore