Focus Forward Advisory Council4 min read
As technologies evolve and consumer expectations change, the electric utility industry is experiencing a seismic shift in the way we traditionally do business.
Residential, commercial and industrial customer expectations are shifting. Whether it be requests for renewable power, projected increases in electric vehicle (EV) adoption, integration of distributed energy resources (DER), interest in micro-grids or sustainability pledges, keeping up with all of these changes can be a challenge.
To better help members adapt to the changing customer, the AMP Board of Trustees created the Focus Forward Advisory Council (FFAC) in 2015. The FFAC is comprised of members, rate and engineering consultants, and AMP staff who collaborate to examine emerging trends, share lessons learned from fellow public power communities, hear from industry experts and develop tools to prepare for industry changes.
Recent topics have included DER rate designs and interconnections, planning for electric vehicles and charging stations, customer-led energy storage, grants, incentives and funding opportunities, demand response and more.
The member-driven, voluntary group conducts strategy and planning exercises on an annual basis to identify priorities important to members. As a result, the discussion topics and tools provide timely guidance and information pertaining to real-time challenges faced in their communities.
“The Focus Forward Advisory Council and initiative is unique – in preparing webinars and information to assist members, we seek feedback and design our sessions to be as interactive as possible,” stated Chris Monacelli, FFAC chair and City of Westerville Electric Utility manager. “We want more communities to share lessons learned — things they are seeing back home. Everyone in the membership is different, so the more perspectives, the better.”
With feedback and direction from the FFAC, new materials and webinars are produced and made available to all AMP members via the Focus Forward and Electric Vehicle pages on the Member Extranet.
“The FFAC has compiled a plethora of educational resources for members to access,” stated Erin Miller, AMP director of energy policy and sustainability. “The extranet pages serve as a central repository and contains pertinent documents, infographics and case studies focused on industry trends and topics that might impact any member community. One of the great recent examples I would point to is the Community Energy Savings Day (CESD) toolkit, which has been a great tool for many of our members.”
The CESD toolkit is intended to help members encourage their customers to conserve electricity during peak events. It includes graphics, templates and a video explaining the program.
One community that has used the CESD toolkit to great success is the City of Columbiana. Within one day of learning about the program, the city made the decision to implement the program and utilize the toolkit, resulting in major savings for their residents and businesses.
The efficiency of the program was put to the test when a peak event was called for on July 19. During peak hours on July 18, the city’s load was 16.507 MW, which was 0.1387 percent of the total load. Through use of the CESD toolkit, the city managed to lower its load to 15.689 MW on July 19, only 0.1248 percent of the total load.
The reduction of 0.0139 percent led to major savings for the city. Per city officials, transmission costs for the region are projected to be nearly $800 million in 2020, and the reduction in electric use on that day will likely lower power costs for Columbiana businesses and residents by more than $100,000.
“It took some educating of our residents and local press, but now the CESD process is seamless,” said Lance Willard, city manager for Columbiana. “AMP does a great job of keeping us informed when peak days are coming up, which allows us to get the word out. We use the newspaper, our website and non-emergency alert system to notify everyone. It is a great program that not only saves money, but also helps the entire grid out during times of peak usage. I highly recommend participation, as well as the tools that AMP has made available.”
In response to members’ increasing interest in EVs, an EV sub-group was recently formed. Recognizing the potential load growth opportunities and challenges associated with increasing EV adoption, the sub-group facilitated an EV Lessons Learned for Public Power guidance document, an EV resource page on the Member Extranet and quarterly educational webinars.
Additionally, the sub-group developed an American Public Power Association (APPA) Demonstration of Energy and Efficiency Development (DEED) funded Public Power EV Planning Toolkit that is intended to help mitigate the challenges faced by AMP and APPA members in relation to the significant and transformational impact that EVs are expected to have on the market and the business of electric utilities. The toolkit is intended to provide public utilities with a user-friendly and intuitive guide on the impacts of electrification efforts associated with internal fleet vehicles and increased loading on residential distribution system service transformers under various EV charging scenarios.
“Electric vehicles have been a big focus and since the sector is still emerging we all have a vested interest in staying informed,” stated Monacelli. “With the recent EV and EV infrastructure developments, solar generation net metering and evolving battery storage technologies, we have much work to do!”
Whether you are looking for specific information or just looking to learn, the FFAC has something that can benefit your community.
“I would encourage anyone who is even remotely interested to join the next webinar or any webinar in the future,” state Monacelli. “Hop on and see what we are all about — it could end up being really beneficial for your community and utility.”
The FFAC holds regular webinars and provides valuable content to member communities. If you have questions or would like to learn more, visit the Focus Forward page on the Member Extranet (login required) or contact Erin Miller, AMP director of energy policy and sustainability, at [email protected].