Eye on the World

ACEEE: Germany, Italy, EU, China, France top global energy efficiency rankings


Germany comes in first in a new energy efficiency ranking of the world’s major economies, followed by Italy, the EU as a whole, China and France, according to the 2014 International Energy Efficiency Scorecard published by the nonprofit American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE). New to the rankings this year are four nations: India, Mexico, South Korea and Spain.

Now in its second edition, the ACEEE report finds that although some countries are still significantly outperforming others, there are substantial opportunities for improved energy efficiency in all economies analyzed, including the U.S., which ranked 13th out of 16 nations behind countries such as China, Canada and India. The new carbon pollution standards for existing power plants proposed this June by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would be a major stride in the direction of greater energy efficiency in the U.S. There are dozens of other international best practices that the U.S. could implement to improve its score.

The rankings are modeled on ACEEE’s time-tested approach to energy efficiency ranking of the United States and include 16 of the world’s largest economies: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Korea, Spain, the United Kingdom, the United States and the EU. These 16 economies represent more than 81 percent of global gross domestic product and 71 percent of global energy consumption.

On a scale of 100 possible points in 31 categories, the nations were ranked by ACEEE as follows:


ACEEE split the 31 metrics across four groupings:

  1. Those that track cross-cutting aspects of energy use at the national level: EU, France and Italy (three-way tie);
  2. Buildings: China;
  3. Industry: Germany; and
  4. Transportation: Italy.

“Germany is a prime example of a nation that has made energy efficiency a top priority,” said Steven Nadel, executive director of ACEEE. “The United States, long considered an innovative and competitive world leader, has progressed slowly and has made limited progress since our last report, even as Germany, Italy, China and other nations surge ahead.”

The ACEEE report points out that although the U.S. has made some progress toward greater energy efficiency in recent years, the overall story is disappointing.

“The inefficiency in the U.S. economy means a tremendous waste of energy resources and money,” the report states. “Across most metrics analyzed in this International Scorecard, in the past decade the United States has made limited progress toward greater efficiency at the national level. The overall U.S. score of 42 is less than half of the possible points and is 23 points away from the top spot. Further, the United States falls behind Canada, Australia, India, and South Korea. These scores suggest that this list of countries may have an economic advantage over the United States because using less energy to produce and transport the same economic output costs them less. Their efforts to improve efficiency likely make their economies more nimble and resilient.”

The ACEEE report raises a critical question: How can the United States compete in a global economy if it continues to waste money and energy that other industrialized nations save and can reinvest? In its analysis, ACEEE outlines recommendations for the United States, highlighting four major opportunities for increased energy efficiency:

  1. Passing a national energy savings target;
  2. Strengthening national model building energy codes;
  3. Supporting education and training in the industrial sectors; and
  4. Prioritizing energy efficiency in transportation spending.

In addition to expanding the list of global economies included in the ranking, there have been other changes made since the 2012 International Energy Efficiency Scorecard. New metrics have been added, and several existing metrics have been improved with better data sources and increased input from country experts. The new metrics include water efficiency policy, agricultural efficiency, building retrofit policies, heavy-duty fuel efficiency standards and investment in energy efficiency by the private sector. The ACEEE ranking system looks at both policy and performance metrics to measure a country’s overall energy efficiency. Examples of policy metrics include the presence of a national energy savings target, fuel economy standards for vehicles and energy efficiency standards for appliances. The performance metrics measure energy use and provide quantifiable results. Examples of performance metrics include average miles per gallon of on-road passenger vehicles and energy consumed per square foot of floor space in residential buildings.

Report site: www.aceee.org/portal/national-policy/international-scorecard

EPRI training simulator ensures high reliability during World Cup in Brazil

World Cup

As the world’s largest sporting event, the World Cup put the Brazilian power system to the test.

Operador Nacional do Sistema Elàƒ©trico (ONS), the national operator of the Brazilian electric system, used EPRI’s Operator Training Simulator to ensure its operators were prepared to respond to situations that could have disrupted power to the World Cup venues and the broader Brazilian population. ONS deployed the Operator Training Simulator at its national control center and its four regional control centers. Several transmission control centers across the country also accessed the OTS remotely.

“Considering the global significance of the World Cup, we’ve taken a number of extra measures to reduce the chances of power disruptions across Brazil,” said Ronaldo Schuck, ONS operations director. “The simulation exercises provided our operators with the opportunity to test their awareness and actions in real-world scenarios.”

EPRI Vice President Mark McGranaghan said the Operator Training Simulator replicates a power system’s behavior as it responds to changes in operating conditions or system events such as a downed power line or power plant outage.

“The response time is similar to that of a real power system, enabling trainees to gain experience in dealing with incidents such as a morning load increase or emergency events such as a cascading outage leading to a blackout,” he said. “If a trainee sees a cascading outage, for example, the simulator can help to explore potential preventive measures such as local load shedding.”

In advance of the World Cup, ONS expanded the Operator Training Simulator model to include the lower-voltage transmission circuits that feed each of the soccer venues. Training sessions conducted with ONS and the regional transmission operators ensured that system operators could reroute power if the primary substations were to fail.

The Operator Training Simulator package is supported and maintained by EPRI, IncSys and PowerData Corp. In North America, the Operator Training Simulator has been used to train operators from most of the reliability coordinators, transmission operators and balancing authorities registered by the North American Electric Reliability Corp.

New York Gov. Cuomo announces $3.3M to improve electric grid resiliency, efficiency

New York

New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced that $3.3 million has been awarded to seven research teams to develop technologies that add resiliency and efficiency to the state’s electric grid. These smart grid technologies will use innovative methods to enhance grid performance, reduce the risk of power outages and lessen environmental impacts and energy consumption, all while reducing the cost of power delivery.

“As we continue to witness the impacts of extreme weather, it is more important than ever to invest in making our energy infrastructure stronger and smarter,” Cuomo said. “These projects will improve grid resiliency, strengthen utility performance and make the delivery of energy more efficient. By investing in these seven smart grids, we are further readying the state for the new reality of severe weather and ensuring that the work we do today will mean fewer power outages and more deliberate energy consumption in the future.”

The projects were awarded support from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s (NYSERDA’s) Electric Power Transmission and Distribution Smart Grid Program. To qualify for funding, award recipients proposed projects that improve the reliability, efficiency, quality and overall performance of the electric power delivery system in New York. Proposals were required to demonstrate significant statewide public benefit and quantify all energy, environmental and economic impacts. Developing smart grids is part of the New York State Public Service Commission’s Renewable Energy Vision (REV), which calls for identifying smart grid technologies to facilitate increased distributed power generation to promote electricity load management and greater system efficiency.

NYSERDA President and CEO John B. Rhodes called the approaches to smart grid “important steps” to a more efficient, reliable, resilient and clean electric grid.

“They are also powerful examples of New York state’s drive under Governor Cuomo’s leadership to transform the way electricity is valued, generated, distributed and consumed in New York state, and a key building block for the state’s Reforming Energy Vision for the state’s electric system,” Rhodes said.

Winning projects include:

Brookhaven National Laboratory, Long Island ($250,000)

Using radar in real-time response for restoration of electric utility systems. Using a computer model, Brookhaven will join with Electrical Distribution Design, Orange and Rockland Utility and Central Hudson Gas & Electric to create a program that can enhance storm model predictions and the expected responses through the use of radar storm data. The result: greater preparation and quicker attention to damage at lower cost. Storm damage estimates on a localized basis would become possible, allowing better understanding of storm impacts on certain areas. This, in turn, could add to improved resiliency in areas more subject to localized storm damage.

Clarkson University, Potsdam ($381,000)

Design of a resilient underground microgrid. NYSERDA is partnering with Clarkson University, National Grid, General Electric, SUNY Potsdam and other local businesses to plan and design a large microgrid system to generate electricity for entities in the Village of Potsdam. The power system would supply electricity to Clarkson and SUNY Potsdam, along with Canton-Potsdam Hospital and National Grid’s Potsdam Service Center. The region has been particularly susceptible to power outages because of winter storms and flooding, and the underground system would provide a localized source of power that would be more energy-efficient and resilient.

ClearGrid Innovations Inc., New York City ($100,000)

Using computer vision to analyze pictures of electric distribution problems. Working with Con Edison, ClearGrid Innovations seeks to create a system of computer algorithms to recognize potential problems on the state electrical grid to improve response time. These include problems related to trees near lines, damage to poles and other infrastructure problems. The program will use 3-D imagery to create an algorithm to allow a quick comparison of normal and damaged lines. By using smart phone photos sent in by witnesses of damage, the utility will be able to determine quickly where immediate attention is needed, reducing delays and unnecessary visits for false alarms.

Con Edison, New York City ($2 million)

Demonstrating gridlink: a nonsynchronous microgrid solution. Con Edison will partner with Pareto Energy and GE to investigate the use of Pareto’s GridLink technology to connect the Kings Plaza Shopping Mall in Brooklyn to Con Edison’s electrical networks for the purpose of selling excess power into the distribution grid and providing various support services. The exportation of power during grid outages would provide electricity to specific places in the community, such as gas stations, supermarkets, hotels or other vital services. The mall, which is already set up to function as a place of refuge during emergencies, also could provide power to other places of refuge in the area for medical services, warming during a dangerous cold spell or cooling during a heat wave, and other community support.

Cornell University, Ithaca ($227,000)

Advanced microgrid integration with distributed energy resources. Cornell University will study the potential of several innovative improvements to an existing campus microgrid. Sophisticated modeling will be used to explore ways to improve campus heating, cooling and electric generation by integrating smart building controls and adding on-site renewable energy sources and energy storage. The resulting configurations are expected to improve energy efficiency and reliability, demonstrating how distributed energy resources can be combined on a large campus. The system would be an integral part of Cornell’s Climate Action Plan, which calls for university operations to be climate-neutral by 2050.

Lockheed Martin Mission Systems Training, Owego ($300,000)

Integrated aerial weather damage assessment system. Lockheed Martin of Owego seeks to develop and demonstrate a computer technology that combines aerial data with an analytics system to locate power outages or line damage immediately after a major storm. The technology would allow utilities to accurately assess damage, distribute resources to the right place and resume normal operations quickly and efficiently. If demonstrated successfully in New York, this program could be expanded to include other utility-based applications to promote efficiency and resiliency further. It also could help grow jobs in the company’s Owego facility. This project will be tested in New York State Electric and Gas Co.’s territory in Brewster.

Rochester Institute of Technology ($78,000)

Microgrid cooperation for improving economic and environmental cost and grid resilience.

As microgrids grow increasingly popular among businesses, universities, hospitals and other large entities, the technology is a concern for local utilities. The added on-site power could cause power quality issues that could affect end users on the same line. Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) seeks to improve energy grid flexibility by increasing the allowable microgrid density. RIT would develop controls for microgrids to allow the cooperation between utilities and microgrids. For instance, it would take into account all power generated from distributed generation, energy storage, utilities and other sources without any power quality issues to customers.

NYSERDA smart grid site: www.nyserda.ny.gov/smartgrid

52 Electric, Natural Gas Utilities Named Most Trusted Brands

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Brand trust is critical for strengthening the overall relationships that utilities have with their customers. What’s more, a significant monetary value can be linked directly to trust, according to a report that measures customer engagement with electric and natural gas utilities from Cogent Reports, a division of Market Strategies International.

The 2014 Utility Trusted Brand & Customer Engagement study is based on a survey of 19,000 residential utility customers served by the 125 largest natural gas, electric and combination utilities in the United States. It is the first study for the utility industry to provide a holistic view of the complex relationship consumers have with their utility providers by including measurements for brand trust along with operational satisfaction and product experience.

In addition to the study, Cogent Reports released a list of the 52 utilities categorized as most trusted brands in each of 12 regional and industry segments.

Florida Power & Light is the nation’s most trusted electric utility and receives the highest overall brand trust score (724 points out of a possible 1,000 points) of any utility. Oklahoma Natural Gas ranks first in trust among gas utilities nationally while MidAmerican is the most trusted combination utility provider.

Overall performance and tier structure vary by region and type of utility, with all companies named achieving a minimum threshold score of 650.

“By earning the trust of their customers, these companies are creating financial value in their brands,” said Chris Oberle, a senior vice president for Market Strategies and the lead author of the report. “While about 4 in 10 utilities in our survey are designated as Most Trusted Utility Brands, an even more select group of just 15 manage to achieve brand trust scores of at least 700 out of a possible score of 1,000.”

In a hypothetical utility switching exercise, the report showed that greater incentives would be required to induce a change among customers of utilities with high trust.

“Based on these findings, we estimate the current goodwill value for scoring high on trust to be over $8 billion,” Oberle said. “This shows a significant financial benefit for the industry to focus on raising trust levels.”

The report also shows that customers of utilities with strong brand trust tend to enroll in more programs and are far more prone to making positive comments on social media and elsewhere about their providers.

“The bottom line is trust pays,” Oberle said. “By focusing on brand trust and getting it right, a utility can and will increase its franchise value.”

About the Survey

Cogent Reports conducted a Web-based quantitative survey among 19,000 residential electric and natural gas utility customers of the 125 largest U.S. utility companies (based on residential customer counts). The sample design uses U.S. Census data and strict quotas to ensure a demographically balanced sample of each evaluated utility’s customers based on age, gender, income, race and ethnicity. Utilities within the same region and of the same type (e.g., electric-only providers) are given equal weight to balance the influence of each utility’s customers on survey results. Because of the opt-in nature of Web panel-based research, this study does not yield a true random probability sample of the target population. As such, it is not possible to compute a margin of error or to statistically quantify the accuracy of projections. Market Strategies will supply the exact wording of all survey questions upon request.

Cogent Reports’ Brand Trust scores are developed by combining company ratings on 28 separate measures in six areas: concern for customers, company reputation, credibility, dedication, environmental performance and community involvement. Trust factors then are combined with operational satisfaction and product experience measures to generate a single overall engaged customer relationship measure for each utility.

ABB wins $400M order for Maritime Link power project in Canada


ABB has won an order worth some $400 million from NSP Maritime Link Inc., a subsidiary of Emera Inc., to supply a high-voltage direct current (HVDC) power transmission solution creating the first electricity link between the island of Newfoundland and the North American power grid. The order was booked in the second quarter of 2014.

The Maritime Link Project is a 500-MW HVDC connection that will enable clean, renewable electricity generated in Newfoundland and Labrador to be transmitted to the North American grid in Nova Scotia. The stabilizing features of ABB’s latest HVDC Light solution also will allow Nova Scotia to integrate additional renewables and contribute to Canada’s emission-reduction efforts.

The Maritime Link will deploy ABB’s HVDC Light Voltage Source Conversion (VSC) technology incorporating a full VSC bipolar configuration to further enhance system availability.

In addition to the two converter stations for the ±200-kV HVDC link, the project scope also includes two 230-kV AC substations in Newfoundland, one 345-kV AC substation in Nova Scotia and two cable transition stations. The project is scheduled for commissioning in 2017.

ABB has delivered 13 of the 14 commissioned VSC links in the world. The technology is being deployed increasingly across a range of applications. These include integration of renewable energies from land-based and offshore wind farms, mainland power supply to islands and offshore oil and gas platforms, city center in-feeds where space is a major constraint and cross-border interconnections that often connect across the seas. Its ability to meet grid code compliance ensures robust network connections regardless of application.

ABB pioneered HVDC technology 60 years ago and has been awarded some 90 HVDC projects representing a total installed capacity of more than 95,000 MW, accounting for about half of the global installed base.

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