Field Notes Winter 2019
This post complements our Field Notes newsletter, which features quarterly updates on CEE's research projects. Sign up for Field Notes to get this information in your inbox.
Power Plant Transition in Host Communities
Background: The energy economy is evolving, and as our energy sources change, the retirements of existing power plants will affect the economies of cities in which they’re located. Communities that are home to large power plants receive a large portion of their tax base, economic vitality, and local jobs from the plants. In other parts of the country, instances of power plant retirement have resulted in significant negative social and economic consequences for the host communities.
As power plant retirement dates are approaching, Minnesota communities that host those plants face both anxious uncertainty and reserved optimism. To explore the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead, CEE is leading an assessment of the social and economic impacts of five power plants in six communities that host them.
Update: CEE has engaged the University of Colorado to conduct the quantitative analysis of economic impact of power plant closures on the communities that host them. That analysis is ongoing. The project team conducted stakeholder interviews and a survey in all six communities included in the study. CEE also conducted interviews with labor organizations involved with the power plants and the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. CEE’s researchers expect to publish the final report by the end of 2019.
Learn more on the project page
(This project is funded in part by the Rockefeller Family Fund, Inc., Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation, Initiative Foundation, Coalition of Utility Cities, and Xcel Energy.)
Air Source Heat Pump Installation in Single-Family and Multifamily Homes
Background: Air source heat pumps employ a refrigeration cycle involving a compressor, condenser, and evaporator to absorb heat from outside air and release it inside a home or building. As the technology has been refined in recent years, it has emerged as a legitimate residential option in cold climates like Minnesota’s. Additionally, the 2018 CARD-funded Minnesota Energy Efficiency Potential Study estimated that cold climate air source heat pumps would account for 25% of residential electrical savings in the coming decade. CEE researchers are conducting two CARD-funded studies of heat pumps over the next three years, one in a multifamily setting and one in a single-family setting. The studies will measure performance, energy savings, and customer acceptance, as well as establish installation protocols.
Update: Stakeholder interviews have helped researchers identify barriers to adoption of heat pump technology and gauge interest in it. So far, they have observed general knowledge of the opportunities presented by air source heat pumps, but limited knowledge of the specific details necessary for deployment of air source heat pumps as an alternative to traditional heating systems. Both studies include a characterization phase, wherein researchers go into the field and assess a group of potential test sites. They are about halfway through the multifamily site visits, and one-quarter of the way through those for single-family homes. (Researchers are still recruiting for this project — check to see if your home is eligible.) The project team will finish up installation by the end of this year and begin baseline monitoring in January or February 2020.
Learn more on multifamily ASHP
Learn more on single-family ASHP
(These projects are supported by a grant from the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Division of Energy Resources through the Conservation Applied Research and Development (CARD) program.)
Operation and Control of Power over Ethernet Technologies
Background: Power over Ethernet (PoE) technologies are ubiquitous in offices in the form of phones, access points, and IP cameras managed by on-site IT staff. PoE devices are now being integrated across additional building systems, including lighting, plug loads, and HVAC controls as a tool to improve buildings’ energy efficiency. With funding from the U.S. Department of Energy, CEE undertook a project in 2017 to assess the receptiveness of commercial and institutional markets to these new technologies, and demonstrate the feasibility of incorporating them into standard construction practices and building code. In the project team’s previous update, they shared that they had recruited two sites — an office and a classroom — to install and demonstrate PoE technologies, and that construction had begun at both sites.
Update: Researchers are currently monitoring the first two sites and assessing additional opportunities for energy savings in those systems — this concludes the first half of the project. Funding was recently approved for the second half of the project, which will include a minimum of two more demonstration sites. One site, a hotel called The Sinclair in Fort Worth, Texas, recently celebrated its grand opening on October 31, 2019, and the project team will be monitoring its PoE system. Researchers will recruit two more sites in Minnesota in the future.
Learn more on the project page
(Project supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy under the Award Number EE0008191, the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Division of Energy Resources through the Conservation Applied Research and Development (CARD) program. Additional co-funding is provided by Xcel Energy, Wold Architects and Engineers, and LHB.)
Pay for Performance: A tool to incentivize ongoing energy efficiency
Background: Whole-building pay for performance is an incentive mechanism for compensating building owners for energy performance over time, rather than one-time, up-front rebates for design or equipment installation. While pay-for-performance pilots and programs are increasingly common on the coasts, this model has yet to be applied in Minnesota. CEE undertook a CARD-funded study in 2018 to determine if a commercial pay-for-performance incentive model would be of interest to commercial customers and to better understand the factors that would affect cost effectiveness in our market. The white paper study conducted a variety of local and national interviews and assessed the benefits of the model as well as policy and technical challenges to implementing it.
Update: Project activities wrapped up in September 2019, and researchers are writing and refining the final report. Over the course of the project, the project team interviewed:
16 commercial customers, who were all interested in the idea of receiving incentives for actual performance given that it came with technical assistance and access to relevant tools;
12 representatives from 7 utilities;
17 pay-for-performance program providers and content experts across the country; and
7 architects, developers, or energy efficiency program providers in Minnesota.
The team also hosted a focus group attended by 10 building operators and engineers as well as commercial property managers.
Researchers anticipate that the report will be released to the public by the end of January 2020.
Learn more on the project page
(This project is supported by a grant from the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Division of Energy Resources through the Conservation Applied Research and Development (CARD) program.)
Image credit: Jerry Huddleston via creative commons