Archive for January, 2011

Kill A Watt Meters Available at Local Libraries

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

OPALCO has teamed up with San Juan County libraries to offer Kill A Watt meters for loan. This device allows users to calculate their electrical expenses by the day, week, month, even an entire year. Simply plug your household item into the device and it will calculate for you the efficiency of that item by displaying the kilowatt per hour. With that information you can determine which items are costing you the most to use and assist in determining which appliance to keep plugged in. Learn more on the Kill A Watt page.

OPALCO’s Nissan Leaf Delivery Expected in April

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

OPALCO ordered an electric Nissan Leaf last fall and has just learned that the delivery date is set for April 2011. OPALCO will use the car for local trips, especially for Energy Services program visits and meetings. Check it out at Nissan Leaf.

Tiered Rates May Not Affect OPALCO until 2014 – Energy Efficiency and Conservation Key to Lower Rates

Monday, January 10th, 2011

OPALCO signed a 20-year contract with BPA that began in October 2010, and entered into a tiered rate billing methodology that guarantees OPALCO a set amount of power purchases at the Tier I rate (current relatively inexpensive rate structure supplying current fuel mix of mostly hydro) and includes a new Tier II rate structure for load growth beyond our measured “high water mark*” for load growth. Tier II power will be subject to market rates and available sources; no guarantee of our usual clean, green fuel mix.

Based on BPA load forecasts and OPALCO load management strategies, OPALCO does not expect to begin in incur Tier II charges until around 2014 – or later.  2014 is a moving target that could be pushed back with greater energy efficiency throughout the co-op (member by member) and additional renewable generation. This gives OPALCO members a couple of years to develop energy efficiency practices and improvements in their homes.  We just don’t have big industry (read really big loads) in San Juan County and so we have a lot of “power” at the co-op member level to limit our load growth through energy efficiency and conservation.

The new tiered rate methodology is a complex concept but the more understanding members have, the greater potential for members to be motivated to change energy behaviors (beginning with awareness) and take action toward energy efficiency. The best first action that anyone can take toward developing an awareness of their household’s usage and improving their household’s energy efficiency is to have a Home Snapshot Energy Assessment – it the best $25 investment a homeowner can make toward energy efficiency and lower energy bills.

Stay tuned to this blog and to local papers for more information on rates over the next couple of months.

*Contract High Water Mark: To determine the amount of power that OPALCO will get at the Tier 1 rate, BPA has created the concept of “Contract High Water Mark” (CHWM), which is basically a set number of megawatts (MW’s) that OPALCO will get based on its measured usage in 2010, historical data, and adjustments for anomalies and conservation savings. See for more information.

DOE Announces Historic Strides in Energy Efficiency for Residential and Commercial Building Codes

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

Late last month, members of the International Code Council (ICC) met in Charlotte, North Carolina and voted to increase the energy efficiency levels for the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), the energy section of the building safety and fire prevention codes that set minimum safeguards for U.S. buildings. The 30 percent improvement in energy savings over the 2006 IECC means that homes and businesses across the country will be built to use less energy, saving Americans potentially billions of dollars on energy bills.

The ICC is comprised of state and local energy and safety code officials, building industry representatives and relevant stakeholders, and is responsible for setting safety, efficiency and fire prevention requirements for U.S. residential and commercial construction. At the ICC final action hearing in October, members overwhelmingly passed a series of energy saving code changes, including residential and commercial proposals sponsored by the Department of Energy. The final package is anticipated to achieve DOE’s 30 percent goal of energy savings in both residential and commercial buildings compared to the 2006 baseline. The ICC is expected to publish the new building code in early 2011. At the time of publication most states and municipalities adopt or revise their building code regulations for new buildings and major renovations to achieve the maximum energy saving potential within their local communities. However, once the 2012 IECC publication is released, DOE will undertake a formal rulemaking determination for energy efficiency over the 2009 codes. The results will be published in the Federal Register. If the analysis shows that the revised code is more energy efficient than its predecessor, then each state is required to certify that it has reviewed its residential building energy code regarding energy efficiency and made a decision as to whether it is appropriate for that state to revise its residential building code to meet or exceed the revised code.

Key highlights of the IECC 2012 code include:

  • Increased standards in envelope efficiency
  • Increased duct performance requirements
  • Increased air exchange requirements (decreased infiltration)
  • Added efficiency requirements for cooling towers and HVAC systems in commercial buildings.

Members also voted to replace the Energy Chapter of the International Residential Code with a reference to the IECC. By removing confusion and contradiction within the codes, the ICC has provided a more efficient path to residential code compliance.

These monumental strides in efficiency represent a significant milestone towards the Department of Energy’s goal of achieving 50 percent increase in energy savings compared to the 2006 energy code baseline by 2015.