Saturday, November 23, 2013

ACI-California



When I saw ACI was heading for San Diego I knew this is one event I would like to attend. I did not sign up for early registration to which I am glad as Monday  I was working and there were little or no options as this project needed to move forward. 

I decided on making it Tuesday and made it to the show. As I looked at the workshops I saw Mike Rodgers was performing a marketing seminar. I have always felt that less than two hours is hardly enough time for a workshop so I decided that Mikes was a good fit. His workshop was running the entire day. I sat through the first part. It was well organized moved at a good flow and Mike is an excellent speaker. I wrote down some key notes. I felt the unit was more geared toward businesses larger than mine however. I understood much of the concepts as in a former life I have performed the leadership role and had a crew to run, customers to satisfy, vendors to follow up on, questions to be answered  and egos to be soothed. His point is well taken one must know how to delegate or tasks can simply not get done. 

However so far this Performance Contracting business has been a tough nut for me to crack. It is probable I am not spending enough time to grow it properly.  However the bills must be paid and my income streams that are working deserve more bathing time. I am sure the market part which Mike presented was fantastic as well, but I felt my time could be better served elsewhere. I look forward to having the material when it becomes available and reviewing it. And Mr. Rodgers I have no plan and that was an excellent point as Yogi put so well I might not get where I want to go without one. I would venture to say it is time for one, and for that alone the time was well spent. I got a chance to introduce myself to Mike as well. It is always a good thing to put a face on a name.

At the break I spent some time at the Vennmar booth and made a contact. I liked their products online and it was good to see one on the table in front of me.  I  have a package coming of pricing and equipment models. Very nice stuff, it was running on the table very quiet and the rep was able to answer all my questions. The fact that it one unit  boasts a hepa filter in the line makes this product even more attractive for IAQ.  The efficiency of the units is impressive. I understand the need for the oval return/supply save space on the unit but I am a fan(funny) of hard piping ventilation. The answer I can strap a band with flex falls a bit short for me. It would be nice to have an adaptor on the unit for ease of hard pipe installation.

 I spoke directly with Mr. Tamarack next. I really like the simplicity and price of three of the products. Two of which I had viewed on line and one I never heard of. It is nice to get something in your hands rather than view it on line. The two I knew of where the door vent and the jump duct. While I am not sure how many folks will want the door vent because of ascetics, the design and  idea is really fantastic. It looks way better up close than on the web. If form follows function  this product should be in every home. Most  air flow and pressure problems are solved with this simple slick product.  Don't want to cut your door? The jump duct solves that problem. What is kind of  neat is the baffles let air in but should be effective of reducing or eliminating light coming in. Looks like a heat vent adjustable sealed and pretty damm slick.  Both well designed and well priced effective solutions to pressure problem closed doors cause within a home.

What I was really excited about was the passive dampener. The display was very cool. My concerns of blockage and operation was overcome by Mr. Tamarack with good answers and a short education on materials and how they act in an air flow. This product is the proverbial build a better mouse trap. Very cool stuff.

I next went to a workshop with Ian Walker. It showed California homes and how the deep retrofits were done and what the results were. I was surprised at how much energy some of these homes consumed both before and after retrofits. I think Ian brings allot to the table not just with his experience but with his perspective. He was not shy to critique certain systems or techniques. He seems to favor simple solutions. I also liked how he was realistic about cost to tighten a home and where the diminishing returns might begin. 

 He was also realistic about the uniqueness of homes and their occupants and that there is no one size fits all.
It was interesting but honestly I might have been better served in Mikes class for this session as he was diving into marketing. Given his background I think he brings some push to the table in that arena. While I was not bored with Ian's presentation I also was not excited and could have gotten this from a pdf.

After lunch I followed Ian to his next presentation in a groupie like fashion. I was not stalking him just um ... really I wasn't.  A overview of the new 62.2 v2013 version explained by the Vice Chair of the committee I felt was worth a peek. This presentation was excellent. Ian was very deliberate in his approach in getting the material across.

He went over 2010 and what was different in 2013.  I now have a better understanding of what goes into the thought process of the guidelines. Also much to my dismay the California Special is what I need to learn.  Crap why do we have to be special, why oh why? At the end of the day it was not all that special and easy to grasp.

I did not raise my hand and ask if he thought the new standards were too high. I think that fight has been well vetted. Many of us know that there is still controversy and it might even fly in the face of best practices. It reminds me of what John Tooley referred to as herding cats. Bunch of smart folks in disagreement with their hair up claws out and way past backing down. While many of us in this industry find this fascinating and well worth discussion as do I. However we had very limited time and I felt this was more about learning what is in the code and why rather than fighting over the code. I think Mike Rodgers has a great analysis working  Alison Bales, Martin Holladay, Paul Francisco, Max Sherman and Joe Lstiburek in his blog  http://bit.ly/14xPEWU. There is enough of a breadcrumb trail for those that don't know of the debate it in the link above to go further as well.

This session was very useful as I have a better understanding of the code and what goes into it
He explained how the 2010 code did a poor job of accounting for very tight homes and that the weather data was refined and modernized.  He was quite clear that the guidelines were set to be a minimum and not failing.  The session was well organized and Ian has the ability to boil things down and make complicated point simpler. I wish there was a handout of the presentation for at least the formulas and key points.

 I introduced myself to Ian after the session. I thanked him for his work on Delta Q duct testing as I have used it many times. He said that RESNET was considering it as an acceptable test method which I think is great. I find it  useful especially on existing systems with unconditioned returns.


Overall I enjoyed my time at the conference and met with a few folks including Andy Wahl. I still am optimistic about my future in this field and hope to have it become my mainstream income. Now to drawing a map.

Monday, November 11, 2013

AB 327

So I met a man from SDG&E yesterday. It was a chance meeting as he was explaining to a customer how he was being charged for electricity. He was very informed and I picked his brain with a few question trying not to be to intrusive.  He explained some of the new changes in charges that will be forth coming. Not always keeping up on any trend I was unaware of it. 

The great Enron Crisis of 2000 caused sweeping changes in rates and how we as consumers we are charged for electricity. Deregulation of the industry caused greed on a scale that seems unreal when we look back at. The idea of deregulation was that with competition that lacked in this regulated industry would naturally bring prices down. It did not work. The epic failure was manipulation of natural gas prices at the border of California forcing the utilities to charge at an exorbitant rate for their product. This was made me interested in energy and saving energy way back when

The result was Gray Davis who was not in charge when deregulation took place was forced from office as a shamed Governor. Enron collapsed and took down a wide range of companies with it in a heap of financial wreckage. The CEC stepped in with sweeping changes for the electricity costs in California. The utilities no longer charged for electricity but for distribution. They still billed and collected but their profit was to maintain the lines provide administration and were effectively out of the selling of electricity  as a business.
What took place was the basic cost for electricity was fundamentally changed.  Part of the idea was that consumers had a right to a reasonable cost for base electricity.  So the tier system was put in place. While I cannot speak for every utility I am familiar with SDG&E. The residential billing works like this.

Tier 1 Baseline 0-278 KwH usage current cost 15 cents
Tier 2  270-361 KwH  usage current cost 18 cents
Tier 3 362-556 KwH usage current cost 37 cents
Tier 4 557-? KwH usage current cost 39 cents

This system which has been in place since 2000 has seen very little in increases in tier 1 and 2 and significant changes in tier 3 and 4. The general idea was those with fixed incomes that were conserving would have a predictable price for electricity moving forward. Higher users contributed at higher rates. This tier system helped fuel the California Solar initiative as those with heavy tier 4 cost could eliminate those through PV production reducing the pay off for a system

I found a document that puts the average* for California Electricity usage at 564 kwh that seems a bit low from what I have seen but I will use it. That makes the monthly electric bill at $ 133.00. I think it is reasonable to add another 30 dollars as a minimum for gas year round bringing us to about a $ 163 per month average. Now it is important to note in this average the customers sees some tier 4 pricing. So for every 2.5 kwh over this 564 average we see about a $ 1.00 more on our bill. So a heavy user with a pool, a couple of refrigerators, incandescent bulbs etc let's say up to 1000 kwh is paying over $ 300 per bill. So there was a real tangible incentive to save. Of note when I took the cost of our 564 KwH user of all the tiers based on todays prices it averaged to 24 cents, coincidence?

What is now being worked out is averaging the tiers and having one cost for electric. So as he explained that he thought the price would be close to 24 cents the average user like above would see no change with a 135 dollar bill. However I would see a significant increase as would any who have made efforts to conserve. I would see a 50% increase in my 310 kwh 25 month average from $ 47.00 to $ 74.00. Our 1000kwh user however sees a decrease of about 20 percent and the electric bill drops to $ 240. Not only that but every kwh used above that amount they are seeing a 45% savings from the current rate structure. Of note when I took the cost of our SDG&E 564 KwH user of all the tiers based on todays prices it averaged to 24 cents, coincidence?

So why is this happening? California Assemblyman Perra from the Central Valley introduced AB 327 many clamored for a more fair system. There is no doubt that what Perra was looking for is more than noble it was the right thing to do for his constituents. The Central Valley has a couple of things that caused them to feel unnecessary pain. It gets wicked hot and damm cold. Housing stock especially for the hard working farm community is in poor condition. Heating it and cooling it is expensive for the constituents and often pay is low. This is the bread basket of California and some of the most diverse productive farms in the world. This is not about being uncomfortable this about it not being unbearable.

I do not disagree, there are other communities here in California that could use this help as well. But I question is this the wisest way to fix this problem?  Can they not come up with reasonable tiers in areas of harsher climate so that the average family that is not living over the top can be in a livable condition without being gouged? Can we not still provide a system by where those that choose to use more electricity will pay a premium for that luxury.

 I think they got this wrong for a few reasons.

1) The original price is a lost leader because if there is no profit in electricity rates and you just gave most Californians a break which appears to be priced to low on it initial offering. With lowering water in the pool which it appears on the surface to be the case. The only way to fill the pool back up would be higher costs.

2) Jevons Paradox The efficiency of a resource tends to increase rather than decrease  the consumption of  that resource. In this case money is the resource that became more efficient so if this follows to be true as it often does then we can expect that many will buy more electricity as it is more affordable. Which would be fine if the goal was to use more electricity.

3)  The grid weak as it was with San Onofre  being pulled off  line crippling it further. Increasing use will push the grid against the wall. If demand goes up the probability of the rolling brownouts is real.

While on the surface it seems we have the best intentions with AB 327 but I am not sure it was thought all the way through. I think at the end of the day costs will go up for some and down for others but at the end of the day in my opinion use will go up and a raised rate cost will naturally follow.