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Eight Utilities Pledge Energy Efficiency Investments

Issue 10 and Volume 111.

Eight utilities—Con Edison, Duke Energy, Edison International, Great Plains Energy, Pepco Holdings, PNM Resources, Sierra Pacific Resources and Xcel Energy—say they will seek regulatory reforms and approvals to increase their investment in energy efficiency by $500 million annually, to about $1.5 billion annually. This investment, when fully implemented in 10 years, is expected to cut carbon dioxide emissions by about 30 million tons and avoid the need for 50 500 MW peaking power plants.

The eight utilities also said they would help create a national institute for electric efficiency to develop regulatory models and convene supporting conferences in the power sector. This institute would be formed within the Edison Electric Institute.


Eight utilities plan to throw the energy efficiency switch and ramp up spending to around $1.5 billion annually on programs to cut demand and energy intensity.
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Some states and utilities are currently more active than others in delivering energy efficiency and demand side management services to consumers. California has been a leader since the early 1980s in creating a regulatory framework that fosters these investments. Southern California Edison, an Edison International company, has offered programs, such as its refrigerator recycling program and portfolio of services for low-income customers, which are of a scale and level of effectiveness that can serve as a model for other utilities.

The eight companies that made the energy efficiency pledge serve nearly 20 million electric customers in 22 states and the District of Columbia. Together, they expect to invest approximately $1 billion a year in energy efficiency programs over the next three years.

The utilities said that to realize energy efficiency’s full potential to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, they will work collaboratively with policymakers and other stakeholders to overcome regulatory barriers that may discourage utility energy efficiency investment. Developing state regulatory frameworks that support substantial utility investment in energy efficiency products and services will be essential to reduce both carbon dioxide emissions and enhance electricity sector productivity.

With regulatory reforms and approvals, the utilities expect to increase their investment in energy efficiency and demand side management programs by $500 million a year to about $1.5 billion a year in years four through 10 of the decade-long initiative.

To help drive energy efficiency innovation, the eight utilities are also supporting, with the Edison Electric Institute, the formation of a new organization—the Institute for Electric Efficiency (IEE). The IEE will promote the sharing of information, ideas and experiences on effective means of delivering energy efficiency. The IEE will provide a forum to:

  • Share case studies and expert information on technologies, program designs, and financial arrangements for effectively delivering energy efficiency
  • Convene conferences and seminars to promote the sharing of information, ideas and experiences in energy efficiency in the power sector, and
  • Develop a resource base of effective regulatory models and options for supporting energy efficiency investments.

The eight utilities listed some of their current activities related to energy efficiency. In support of New York City and state policy, Con Edison has proposed achieving at least 500 MW of permanent demand reduction by 2016 through energy efficiency initiatives and targeted demand-side management programs in the company’s service area.

Duke Energy has proposed a “save-a-watt” plan that makes energy efficiency the company’s fifth fuel in meeting customer power demand, along with advanced nuclear, clean coal, natural gas and renewable energy. The save-a-watt model treats energy efficiency as a production cost by allowing utilities to earn money based on the actual watts saved, rather than only on the amount of power sold.

Southern California Edison has a variety of energy efficiency programs, from refrigerator recycling for residents to rebates for residents and businesses and a portfolio of services for low- income customers. These and other programs total more than $500 million annually.

Great Plains Energy is the holding company for Kansas City Power & Light, which is committed to offering energy efficiency programs that will enable the utility to avoid 181 MW of capacity and 62 GW hours of energy by 2010. At least one-half of KCP&L’s expected load growth will be offset by energy efficiency programs.

Pepco Holdings, Inc.’s “Blueprint for the Future” would evaluate and implement tools and technologies to help the utility manage rising energy costs and reduce its carbon footprint. Advanced metering and distribution automation equipment are among the tools the company will use.

PNM Resources’ regulated utility in New Mexico will launch electric energy efficiency initiatives with customer incentives for the purchase of compact-fluorescent light bulbs, refrigerator recycling, installation of indirect evaporative coolers, construction of “Energy Star” homes, upgrade of commercial lighting and low-income home weatherization activities.

Sierra Pacific Resources’ two utility subsidiaries—Nevada Power and Sierra Pacific Power Co.—plan to spend $45 million a year on energy efficiency and conservation programs.

Xcel Energy spends more than $85 million a year on energy efficiency and conservation programs for its residential and business customers.

Study Quantifies Critical Cooling Times for Data Centers

A new study says a typical data center running at 5,000 watts per server cabinet will experience an automatic and thermal shutdown within three minutes and nine seconds during a power outage. Higher density data center applications experience even more rapid heat-up and shutdown times, with 10,000 watts or more of server equipment shutting down in less than one minute.

The study, commissioned by Active Power, a manufacturer of uninterruptible power supply (UPS) systems, examines the effect of a power outage in a data center environment and the subsequent loss of cooling. According to a recent report from International Data Corp., half of the businesses that experience a power outage never recover, and 90 percent go out of business within two years. In the event of a power disruption, ambient temperature can rapidly increase because a power outage will usually force the data center’s cooling system to shutdown. It typically takes two to three minutes before full cooling capacity is restored and all cooling systems cycle back on.

The report studied thermal runaways, whereby batteries called upon for service heat up, increasing their charging current and hence produce more oxygen and more heat. When this process gets out of control, thermal runaway becomes a death spiral, overheating data servers and causing them to shut down. Thermal runaways can wreak havoc on a data center causing instant loss of data.

Opengate Data Systems, which conducted the study, does research on new technology for telecom and computer data center applications. The study concluded that a server cabinet with 10,000 watts of equipment will run for 60 seconds before the critical temperature threshold in the server equipment is reached followed by an automatic shutdown.

Active Power offers CoolAir, which uses a technology called thermal and compressed air storage (TACAS). When power to the data center is available, a flywheel constantly spins by drawing power off the UPS. As it spins, it stores rotational energy. Compressed air is stored in standard air tanks placed within modular cabinets. When utility power is lost, the flywheel starts acting as a generator and its rotational energy is converted into electrical energy to provide power to the load instantaneously. Once the flywheel speed drops below preset levels, compressed air starts flowing through the thermal storage unit picking up heat or stored thermal energy. The energized hot air then drives a high-speed expansion turbine connected on the same shaft to a permanent magnet alternator.

The output of the alternator is a high frequency alternating current (AC), which is converted to a direct current (DC) for supply to the DC Bus of the UPS. One feature of this technology is that during discharge, the expansion of compressed air provides cool air discharge that can be adjusted and used in the data center, thus providing additional minutes of cooling to critical areas. The cool air is discharged over the inlet of a computer room air conditioner (CRAC) in a compact mixing chamber. The fans in the CRAC mix the hot air return from the room with the cool air discharge from the CoolAir system, providing ambient temperature to the data center. The study showed that the system extends critical server cooling time by more than 240 percent.

“A UPS is typically deployed in a data center to ensure continuous, reliable power in the instance of power failure,” said Mark Germagian, president of Opengate Data Systems. “However, a data center’s cooling system is usually dependent on generator power or utility power coming back online. As much as two to three minutes can pass before power is restored to the cooling system and full cooling capacity is available.”

Flywheels Can Keep TV Signals in the Air

Flywheel systems continue to provide a viable alternative to battery-based uninterruptible power supply (UPS) systems in some applications. Foremost among traditional applications have been data storage centers. But other growing segments include remotely located communication centers (such as cellular towers) and most recently, a TV station.

A flywheel based UPS system is now part of the power protection system for a digital television transmission facility near Denver. A Teledyne composite flywheel was paired with a 225-kVA Toshiba G8000 UPS system backup power unit to comprise the sole source of energy storage for KDEN-DT’s digital television’s signal transmission site. UPS systems commonly use dozens of lead-acid batteries to store the energy needed to feed protected loads in the event of utility power fluctuations or complete outages. In addition to posing some environmental issues, lead-acid batteries are commonly acknowledged as the weakest link in any continuous power quality system.

“Battery banks are notoriously problematic in terms of reliability, temperature control and maintenance needs,” said Frank DeLattre of Pentadyne. “This is particularly an issue at remote broadcast sites. Regulating battery temperature is a problem and traveling to remote locations every month to check, maintain or replace batteries is an expensive waste of time and resources.”

Those were the primary reasons that Dirk Freeman, president of Blair Media, which develops and manages digital broadcast properties, chose the system. “Over the years, we’ve been made painfully aware of the short-comings of UPS batteries,” he said. “That’s why we chose to eliminate those problems and their costs with this battery-free solution.”

The Houston-based UPS division of Toshiba International sells the Pentadyne flywheel with its G8000 UPS line to broadcasters, industries, medical facilities and other customers that require high quality uninterrupted power. Pentadyne flywheel systems are currently used by several other television stations in the U.S., but this is the first digital transmission site. Others are expected as the nation goes to all-digital television broadcasting in early 2007