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President's Message 4th Quarter 2018

By Robert Thornton posted 11-05-2018 13:17


Many people know IDEA from attending our conferences. Of course, when you do something for 109 years running, you would hope to build a solid reputation. I am proud of the effort our team puts into planning and executing our conferences and workshops. They may look like a duck gliding across the pond, but there is a lot of paddling happening beneath the water line to deliver seamless, engaging and educational programs.

What people don’t always see is what happens at IDEA between conference events. Conferences are our major source of income and vital to our mission, but throughout the year we are actively educating, advocating and engaging in a range of activities supporting the industry in North America and beyond.

Since the 2016 election, IDEA has been advocating for stronger federal support for district energy. We lobbied for and secured a $10 million Senate appropriation in the 2018 federal budget for the U.S. DOE to study the potential for district energy across the U.S. and produce a report which, at this writing, is still under review within DOE. We eagerly await its release and look forward to sharing it broadly. Early in the new administration, in anticipation of a potential federal infrastructure bill, IDEA reached out to our members to develop an inventory of 87 potential district energy/CHP projects – with an aggregate value of $4.3 billion – to demonstrate to Congress and the administration the actual potential for investment in district energy systems as resilient infrastructure. Over the past 18 months we have met with congressional members and staff to advance discussion on different approaches for investing in critical energy infrastructure.

We have also been collaborating with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and were recently awarded a subcontract on a multinational project to model, analyze and support deployment of more resilient military bases and communities. Last year, IDEA helped curate a workshop at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine for military base energy planners on deploying more resilient district energy, CHP and microgrid systems. Our nation’s military bases could certainly benefit from the best practices exhibited by our flagship campus energy systems.

Leveraging the expertise of our members, we recently presented a range of program ideas to one of the national labs for funding to advance education and capacity building for development of district energy systems. The scope would involve IDEA and our members providing consulting support to cities, communities and industry seeking to develop district energy systems for enhanced resiliency, efficiency and leveraging of local resources. Currently, we are conducting the 2018 Operational System Survey to update member system data to better represent our collective impact on employment, capital investment, efficiency and environmental performance. Having accurate industry information is critical in our advocacy efforts with policy makers.

For many years, IDEA has been actively engaged with the USGBC to help improve treatment of district energy in LEED. This longterm effort began when IDEA sought better recognition of district energy systems in the early versions of LEED. Today, led by Tim Griffin and Chris Richardson of RMF Engineering, IDEA is supporting the treatment of district energy in LEED v4. In addition, we have worked closely with USGBC affiliates and other PEER stakeholders to provide advisory services on microgrids.

We regularly receive requests from government agencies seeking industry data and information, a process that often requires significant education and awareness building to achieve a level playing field for district energy. IDEA has provided analysis to the U.S. EPA in support of policies and programs like the EPA CHP Partnership, ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager® and the Clean Power Plan. For instance, in 2013 and again in 2018, IDEA provided district energy industry system data and analysis on plant production efficiency, part-load performance, and average line losses to correct for inequities in source/site efficiency ratios in EPA Portfolio Manager. During the extensive comment period on the EPA Clean Power Plan, IDEA was highly engaged with EPA analysts in securing fair if not favorable treatment for district energy/CHP in the policy framework, which was later set aside by the new administration. Currently, IDEA has organized a small team to submit comments on ASHRAE Standard 189. During our evaluation, IDEA found that the carbon emissions intensities of district energy were exaggerated relative to coal and other primary energy sources, and we intend to seek revisions there as well, outside the current comment process. Anyone who is familiar with ASHRAE standards knows the process is deliberative and can involve months, or even years, of discussion.

There are times when IDEA is made aware of larger efforts or trends within the industry where we opt in as partners. Long before the formal launch at the U.N. Climate Summit in September 2014, IDEA was actively supporting the U.N. Environment Programme’s District Energy in Cities Initiative, a forceful catalyst for knowledge transfer on deployment of sustainable district energy systems in developing economies like India, Colombia, Chile, China and Asia-Pacific and often cited in community projects in North America. If you have not yet read through the 45 case studies in the primary report, I urge you to do so, and share it with your colleagues.

Another partner is the International Energy Agency, where IDEA has served on the executive committee for district heating and cooling with combined heat and power. After DOE funding was curtailed at the end of fiscal year 2016, IDEA has now agreed to fund U.S. participation and renew our international participation. In the previous three-year annex, IDEA led a funded project on community guidelines in partnership with Denmark, U.K. and Korea. The IEA DHC platform offers over three decades of relevant research that may be of value to industry in North America, particularly as it relates to modernizing and decarbonizing district energy systems.

From time to time, IDEA is invited by our members to provide testimony or present industry information to local, state or federal agencies. On behalf of members, IDEA has recently participated in programs in St. Paul, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Boston, Long Beach, San Diego, Orlando, Washington, D.C., and Rochester, N.Y. and met with government agencies in Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi, Helsinki, Frankfurt, Copenhagen and Vancouver. Additionally, IDEA continues to answer requests for industry guidance from members around the globe, including Qatar, Colombia, South Korea, Denmark, Japan, China, India, France, Belgium, Finland and U.K. Recently, a number of North American companies sought IDEA market intelligence on specific international and European industry activities. IDEA actively manages multiple relationships with other organizations such as Euroheat & Power, KDHCA and AGFW. This collaboration is an important source of two-way intelligence in support of our global industry.

Since its inception, IDEA has supported the DOE CHP Technical Assistance Partnerships to provide regional advocacy on CHP and district energy. This has taken many forms, including hosting webinars, attending or curating workshops, and providing industry intelligence.

IDEA serves as a clearinghouse for member business opportunities. We post new requests for qualifications and requests for information, especially those related to community energy, resiliency and sustainability. We help connect our members to relevant projects, as we believe the industry is best served when experienced professionals are involved in the design, construction and operation of district energy systems. An example would be IDEA posting the RFQ for the National Western Center, which was recently awarded to a partnership led by EnwaveUSA for development of a near zero-emissions campus energy network.

Our ongoing work with the Microgrid Resources Coalition has involved coordinating and submitting comments to FERC, state public utility commissions and multiple agencies to advance awareness and regulatory policy reforms. Utility regulatory reform is moving rapidly in many states and MRC is frequently called on for counsel and informed policy guidance. The MRC will host FERC Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur at Microgrid 2.0 in Baltimore as we continue to advance regulatory reform at multiple government levels.

On the front burner right now, IDEA is collaborating with Canadian stakeholders advocating for district energy/CHP to be considered a covered resource in the output-based emissions standards in a new Canadian federal carbon policy. Led by Enwave and Sussex Strategy, a group of industry leaders is seeking consideration for district energy/CHP during formation of the federal carbon emissions backstop platform rather than having to argue for inclusion after the fact. This effort is similar to our advocacy during evolution of the EPA Clean Power Plan.

Facilitating technical peer exchange among our members has always been central to IDEA’s mission, and today it’s easier than ever thanks to IDEAConnect, our online forum. Our new products and services guide will serve as an industry “yellow pages” to facilitate access to services and technologies. The IDEA blog and weekly member newsletters compile timely industry information, while our website provides access to conference content and workshop proceedings for members, whether they are attendees or not. 

The board and staff of IDEA remain committed to advancing our industry. As we enter our 110th year, the changing paradigms for energy and utilities keep us focused on serving our member communities. If we can be of service to you, please reach out to I hope to see you at one of our upcoming conferences – Microgrid 2.0, DistrictCooling2018, CampusEnergy2019 and IDEA2019.