This article was originally published in the July/August 1993 issue of Home Energy Magazine. Some formatting inconsistencies may be evident in older archive content.



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Home Energy Magazine Online July/August 1993



Trends in Energy is a bulletin of residential energy conservation issues. It covers items ranging from the latest policy issues to the newest energy technologies. If you have items that would be of interest, please send them to: Trends Department, Home Energy, 2124 Kittredge St., No. 95, Berkeley, CA 94704.



Weatherizing (Almost) An Entire Town

Final results aren't in yet, but officials at Ontario Hydro think they've made Espanola the most energy-efficient town in Canada. Considered the most extensive demand-side management program since the Hood River, Oregon, program in the early 1980s, Ontario Hydro's Espanola Power Savers project may even have surpassed Hood River's success. Residential and commercial audits and retrofits, performed over 20 months, were wrapped up in March.

The project was launched in June 1991, with extensive community-wide planning and involvement in the town of 5,400 citizens and 2,300 buildings. Ontario Hydro's costs were nearly $9 million--with roughly $5.6 million for implementation and installation and about $3.2 million for research and evaluation. Customers contributed $1.6 million toward efficiency measures.* Espanola is located about 200 kilometers north of Toronto near the northern shore of Lake Huron.

The community target participation rate of 80% was exceeded, with 86% of eligible customers (residential and commercial) participating in energy audits. (Of 2,035 eligible buildings, 1,821 were residential and 214 were commercial.) Vicky Sharpe, Espanola project manager and Ontario Hydro's manager of program testing and analysis, says 77% of these customers had recommended measures installed in their homes.

A whole building approach to energy improvements included: shell insulation, water heater tune-ups and insulation, air sealing the building envelope, car engine heater timers, energy-efficient windows and insulated steel doors, heating system upgrades with heat pumps, and lighting upgrades with compact fluorescents and other efficient lamps.

Engineering estimates (based on a combination of some actual metering performed by Ontario Hydro and laboratory-based measurements) indicate the project has shaved 2,000 kW from the utility's load. Sharpe says she derated the 2,000 kW number by 26% to account for the fact that engineering estimates can sometimes over-predict actual savings. She says Ontario Hydro plans to collect metered savings data over then next two years--and possibly for a longer period.

Figures supplied by Sharpe for residential and commercial customer uptake (the number of measures accepted by participants as a percentage of all the measures recommended by the auditors) are: insulation, 72%; windows and doors, 84%; lighting, 81%; engine heater timers, 92%; heating and ventilation, 67%; and water heater measures, 87%.

Based on Sharpe's current figures, an average retrofitted all-electric home will reduce 1.89 kW from peak load and save 6,873 kWh per year--$400 annually. About $3,600 was spent on improvements for the average all-electric home, of which Ontario Hydro paid about $2,400. The average non-all-electric home is expected to reduce peak load by 0.11 kW, and save 1,044 kWh. The average cost for improvements in non-all-electric homes was $144. This works out to a simple payback of about nine years for all-electric homes and roughly three years for non-all-electric homes. Of eligible homes, 728 were all-electric and 1,093 were not.

Sharpe notes that lessons were learned and problems avoided through the utility's involvement with its installation contractors. Training was a key part of this for the subtrades, and they found we were a positive support, overseeing work at various stages, she says. The utility planned just one final inspection for each building, but did as many as seven interim inspections during the retrofit process to prevent later problems. We got involved in contractor scheduling, with projects scheduled on a whole house basis, instead of a neighborhood basis, to complete a house as quickly as possible and minimize disruption for residents, explains Sharpe.

Utility consultant Gil Peach, who worked on both the Hood River and Espanola projects, says Espanola surpassed Hood River with better participation and more customers who did something major in terms of home improvements. He notes that Espanola was more broad, involving commercial and residential retrofits, as well as some customer financing. Hood River involved 3,000 homes and was completely utility financed.

Espanola benefitted from Hood River's experience and had much improved technologies to work with. During the planning and design stages for Espanola, Peach says, We pulled out all the Hood River documents, we eliminated the mistakes, and reinforced the strengths. Peach recalls the general marketing plans were similar for both projects, but that Espanola fared better in meeting targeted program costs. He notes that Hood River was an early test of super-insulation practices, before shell retrofits were fully accepted.

Sharpe reports Espanola's project costs increased somewhat during implementation because of higher-than-expected customer participation, justified because it created more energy savings.

Ongoing monitoring and metering is by several means. Remote interrogation metering (in all-electric homes only) measures total load, water heater load, space heat load, and other appliance loads, with the data downloaded by modem through microcomputers to Ontario Hydro each night without affecting the customer. The project is also being measured through billing data. The project is also being examined with respect to total utility load and by monitoring how much less energy Ontario Hydro is actually selling to Espanola Hydro.

-- Ted Rieger

Ted Rieger is a freelance writer for trade publications and specializes in energy topics. He lives in Sacramento, California.


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