NYISO Climate Change Study: Phase 1

Serving nearly 20 million people and having a peak demand of roughly 32,000 megawatts, the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO) manages the wholesale power market and daily operations for New York State’s electrical transmission grid. For more than a decade, NYISO has successfully utilized Itron’s software and services for long-term energy and demand forecasting in the area of transmission planning, as well as short-term operational forecasting to support NYISO’s real-time and day-ahead market operations.

As part of an ongoing project with NYISO, Itron completed the New York ISO Climate Change Impact Study – Phase 1 report in December 2019. The report identifies historical weather trends across more than 20 weather stations in New York State. The ultimate goal of the project was to develop long-term energy, peak and hourly load forecasts that reflect the potential continuation of such weather trends during the next 30 years, as well as the effects of such trends for electricity consumption and the requirements for the transmission grid. Complicating factors include continued growth in behind-the-meter solar generation, increasing proliferation of electric vehicles and state policy to address climate change through electrification.

Contact Itron at forecasting@itron.com for inquiries about the report.


Staying Resourceful While Working from Home

As people around the world transition to working remotely amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the world is seeing positive environmental impacts. For the first time since 2009, global emissions are predicted to decline, but unfortunately, they are predicted to roar back when social distancing orders lift. If you are among the many individuals that are working from home during this time, there is a great opportunity to begin adding resourceful practices to your daily life – and continue them into the future when things return to normal.

Conservation is at the heart of Itron’s mission and purpose. The following are quick tips for conserving energy and water. With these small changes, we can all play a part in reducing emissions for the long-term, modeling resourcefulness for our families and preventing an unexpected bill at the end of the month.

  • Open the Blinds: Take advantage of natural light in your workspace, and you won’t have to use overhead lighting or lamps. In addition, don’t forget to turn off lights in spaces that are not being used. Another way to reduce energy costs from lighting is to replace incandescent light bulbs with LED bulbs. By replacing your home's five most frequently used light fixtures or bulbs with energy efficient models, you could save an average of $75 each year.
  • Use a Smart Power Strip: Electronic devices such as computers continue to consume energy even when they are in sleep mode. This accounts for about 8% of annual electricity costs in the average household. Smart power strips can detect when a device is in standby mode and cut off power to save energy.
  • Adjust Your Settings: Most computers have built-in settings for energy savings. For example, you can set your computer to automatically go into lower power consumption mode after a certain amount of time. Avoid using a screensaver when your computer is not active. Instead, turn your computer to sleep mode if you are stepping away for a lunch or exercise break and turn your devices off completely if you will not be using them for an extended period.
  • Invest in Energy Efficient Equipment: If you are in the market for any home office devices, be sure to look for energy efficient products. There are also companies that sell used and refurbished equipment or offer trade-ins and recycling.
  • Conserve Water: There are many simple ways to conserve water in your home. Even a few small changes can add up to hundreds of gallons in water savings. A great place to start is the shower. Take a shorter shower and use a water-saving shower head. It’s also more efficient to only run the dishwasher when it’s full and conserve water outdoors by only watering plants or the lawn in the early morning.
  • Avoid Peak Rate Times: Log into your utility account and look for peak or “time of use” rates. Your utility rates can increase during those peak times, so choosing the right time of day to do a load of laundry could impact how much that spin cycle costs you at the end of the month. You can also set a programmable thermostat to keep the house warmer or cooler during peak periods.

During this unprecedented time, Itron remains committed to our company mission and purpose, while enabling cities, utilities and communities to better manage energy and water. We encourage those working remotely to use this time to introduce resourceful habits around the home. Together, we are creating a more resourceful world.


New Challenges and Opportunities Converge at TechAdvantage 2020

A huge thank you to all who took the time to connect with us at TechAdvantage this year. Over the past several weeks, we have all experienced new and unprecedented challenges facing the industry – but that means there is also unprecedented opportunity to help support electric cooperatives and other critical infrastructure providers in their important work. Here are a few of my takeaways from the event.

More Challenges – and Opportunities – than Ever Before
As the industry shifts and utility business models continue to evolve, electric cooperatives are being asked to do more than ever before. They are being faced with challenges such as aging distribution infrastructure, rising member expectations and the advent of new technologies—all while maintaining high service reliability and keeping rates low. Additionally, broader challenges such as the impacts of more frequent natural disasters is changing the relationships between utilities, technologies and communities. Amid these challenges, the opportunity to expand services for members is something that we see as exciting for the cooperative market.

Stepping Beyond Meter-to-Cash
Walking the show floor, I was struck by how different things looked and felt compared to a decade ago. The heavy transmission equipment, meters, aerial devices and pickup trucks were still there, but there was a noticeable shift in the types of solutions being represented. Technology companies showcased more software-driven solutions that focused less on basic data collection and more on what’s possible using the powerful capabilities of intelligently connected networks and data-driven insights. It was also exciting to see the growing cooperative interest in network-enabled solutions like Distributed Energy Management, electric vehicle service equipment (EVSE) and smart community applications such as area lighting control.

Delivering More
The ability to deliver more for members remains a driving force for all electric cooperatives. With challenges such as rising member demand and service expectations, there is a renewed focus on improving grid reliability, minimizing outages and improving restoration efforts. This brings to light the importance of building strong technology partnerships to improve safety, save money and expand services for communities. Every conversation we had with our customers provided greater insight into what electric cooperatives are hearing from their members, and how they’re taking steps to bring new value and services to life.

Although TechAdvantage 2020 has come to an end, we are still thinking about all that we learned – and how we can help make a positive impact on our customers. To continue the conversation or learn more, visit www.itron.com/muni-coop/.


How to Account for COVID-19 in Your Load Forecast

There are unprecedented load forecasting effects due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On March 26, Itron’s forecasting team will discuss how to best model the sudden load shifts due to the various COVID-19 mandates.

Register for this special webinar today.


Addressing COVID-19

Dear Customers and Partners,

Over the past several weeks, Itron has continued to monitor and navigate through the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. This situation continues to be extremely dynamic, and information is changing daily, in some cases hourly. During this unprecedented time, we are working to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our employees as well as the continued success of our customers and partners. To this end, Itron’s Coronavirus Internal Crisis Management Team has been meeting daily since late January to determine the policies and measures the company is undertaking globally.

As the situation continues to escalate, we are committed to slowing the spread of the virus by instituting precautionary measures, such as social distancing, to do our part to “flatten the curve”. As a company, Itron has taken the following steps to ensure customer success, protect employees and support our communities:

Employee and Customer Safety

  • Itron has made a company-wide decision to promote working remotely to do our part to help slow the spread of the virus, while providing business continuity for our customers. Itron has instituted a work from home program for all employees that can productively do so until further notice. We have adapted our factory operations to best optimize safety and output.
  • Out of an abundance of caution, Itron is cancelling participation in events until further notice and has halted business travel to some geographies and limited travel to business-critical only.
  • We are asking all employees to take normal flu season precautions. This includes staying home if they feel ill and encouraging frequent hand washing for at least 20 seconds.

Customer Success

  • As always, our priority as a company is to ensure customer success and business continuity.
  • Our dedicated material management team continues to actively work to assess and mitigate global supply risks around the COVID-19 outbreak.
  • We are mapping the components within our supply chain and are verifying risk from suppliers in impacted regions, and we are now assessing how the component level constraints will impact finished goods and ultimately customer deliveries. If there are any product delivery disruptions, we will directly communicate with the affected parties as quickly as impacts are known.
  • Our factories have worked to pull forward material supply, when possible, to limit the impact to our operations in case of disruption.
  • We are in daily contact with our logistics partners to understand potential risk in the global logistics network.

Supporting Communities

  • At Itron, we recognize the power of community to come together in challenging times. We are working closely with our community partners to respond to immediate need and create a positive impact in the many regions we serve. Specifically, we:

With these measures in place, our intent is to keep our communities safe and healthy while meeting our daily business operations. We understand that during this unique situation there is no business as usual, but we will continue to deliver the highest level of support and service to our customers and partners.

We are committed to be a direct, transparent partner as we work through this difficult issue. Our risk management team is dedicated to coordinating our activities to ensure employee health and safety and limiting potential impacts on our operations.

Thank you for your understanding and support during this unprecedented time.

If you have questions regarding our response to COVID-19, please use the following resources.

For customer or partner inquiries, please contact your sales or partner representative. For media inquiries, email PR@Itron.com, and for investor relations inquiries, email investors@itron.com.

Sincerely,
Tom Deitrich


Itron’s New Forecasting YouTube Library

Itron’s Forecasting group has conducted webinars on a variety of forecasting and load research-based topics for many years and continues to host new webinars every quarter. Past webinars have been recorded and are available in a YouTube library found here.

To watch current recordings, you must register on the forecasting workshop page for one of the upcoming free webinars at http://www.itron.com/forecastingworkshops. After you register, a link will be sent to you.

Our first free brown bag of 2020 is just around the corner on Tuesday, March 31, and is entitled “A Method for Combining Load Forecasts.” This brown bag will present a high-level review of the econometric literature on combining multiple forecasts focusing on the alternative combining frameworks. The session will conclude with alternative recommendations for how the combining frameworks can be extended to meet the operational load forecasting problem.

Participation is free, but prior registration is required. Each seminar lasts approximately one hour, allowing 45 minutes for the presentation and 15 minutes for questions. Seminars start at noon Pacific-time.

If you can’t attend a seminar or missed one, don’t worry! Your registration ensures that a link to the recording will be sent to you automatically approximately one week after the seminar date.


Itai Dadon Discusses the Itron Smart Community Challenge with Meeting of the Minds

In 2020, we begin a new decade in which vehicle electrification is becoming a dominant force in reshaping the electric grid. In a recent article for Meeting of the Minds, Itai Dadon, director of smart cities and IoT, discusses the Itron Smart Community Challenge: Transforming the Grid with Electric Vehicles and how a growing electric vehicle fleet poses some challenges – and great opportunities – for utilities.

Read the full article here.


Lift Up for All

In the early days of my career, women were often not supportive of each other in the workplace. One of my wise female colleagues pointed out that it was because there were fewer positions in the industry for women, which made for a highly competitive environment.

Thankfully those days are behind us. Today, women lift each other up and instead of competing for a seat at the table, women make room at the table. This literally happened to me earlier this week when I arrived late for a large group meeting and tried to sit discretely in the back of the room. One of the female executives at Itron saw me and shifted in her chair, encouraging others to do the same. She literally made a place for me at the table.

Still, more progress must be made to encourage and support women, especially in industries where there are fewer women. Particularly in the technology, engineering and energy industries, women suffer from isolation. There is a consistent trend of women graduating with STEM degrees, but not retaining careers in STEM. For example, the National Science Foundation found that only 38% of women who majored in computer science are working in the field, compared to 53% of men.

A few years ago, before my time at Itron, when I worked in the automotive industry, I co-founded a networking group called Women in Automotive Technology (WAT) to support women in the auto industry. WAT has grown from two people to a member-led organization of almost 200 women. Our mission is to connect, educate and increase participation for women in a very male-dominated industry.

While organizations like WAT are important, supporting women can be integrated into daily work life. Lifting up women cannot only come from female executives and women’s professional groups. I see this every day working with women at Itron. One woman specifically is always keeping an eye open for opportunities for her female colleagues. She’s an inspiration to others in the way she tackles her own professional development, always challenging herself to do things that are new to her. She leads by example and serves as a reminder to me that growth happens when we do things that might be a bit scary or uncomfortable.

The evolution of women in the workplace doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Progress for women depends not only on support from other women, but on the men with whom we work. It’s not an “us versus them” situation, there is room for all of us. When we ALL work together to lift each other up, we create better teams and better outcomes for women, men and the organizations we serve.

For International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, let’s take time to lift each other up.


Annual Energy Forecasting Survey

Itron’s forecasting group just launched their Annual Energy Survey. As we have done in previous years, we collect information to assess industry growth expectations and forecast accuracy for electricity and natural gas. We continue to focus on forecasts of customer and sales growth, weather-normalized growth and forecast accuracy. All survey participants will receive a summary report. Preliminary results will be presented at the annual Energy Forecasting Meeting in April and final results will be shared during our brown bag seminar on Sept. 15. Utility specific data will not be disclosed.

To sign up for the meeting, brown bags or other workshops, go to www.itron.com/forecastingworkshops.

Surveys like this benefit the entire energy community by supplying valuable knowledge. If you would like to participate, contact Paige Schaefer at paige.schaefer@itron.com.


Timing is Everything

When evaluating peak loads, load forecasters commonly focus on the severity of peak producing weather, considering meteorological factors such as temperature, humidity and wind speed. The peak loads are then weather adjusted to represent what the peak load would have been had the peak producing weather been normal.

However, the recent proliferation of AMI data facilitates deeper analysis. In particular, this data supports the decomposition of system peak loads into class-level and new technology (e.g. solar PV, EV and battery storage). Decomposing the peak load unveils the fact that while the severity of the peak producing weather is impactful, the time at which the peak producing weather occurs is also important, particularly in areas where the base load shape has a profound seasonal pattern.

In this blog, we will discuss two examples of the impact of timing on the winter and summer peaks, respectively.

Case 1: The Extreme Winter Peak
Case 1 considers a utility located in the heart of the Canadian prairies. Here, the winter low temperatures are frigid, approaching -40 degrees F. As most reasonable people would guess, this is a winter peaking utility. However, because the majority of customers in this area have natural gas – while the electric space heating load (driven by furnace fans) contributes to the winter peak – it is actually not the primary driving factor. Rather, the combination of business class, residential lighting and residential furnace fan loads contribute to drive the winter peak, which typically occurs just after 5 p.m.

Located far north from the equator, this area experiences significant shifts in hours of light.

  • On Dec. 21, the sun set at 4:56 p.m. local time
  • On Jan. 21, the sun set at 5:32 p.m. local time
  • On Feb. 21, the sun will set at 6:25 p.m. local time

The sunset time oscillation creates a narrow window in mid-December during which the base load is particularly high at 5 p.m. In addition, holiday lights also provide additional lift during this period. Therefore, a -40-degree F day which hits in this window drives a much stronger peak than it would if it occurs in February or March.

Case 2: The Extreme Summer Peak
Case 2 considers a utility located in the Northwest of the United States. Here, the summer temperatures approach 105 degrees F, and as one might expect, this is a summer peaking utility. However, while the air conditioning load is high, the combination of strong air conditioning and irrigation loads drives the peak.

Irrigation loads have a profound seasonal pattern, reaching peak levels in late June and early July. This produces a narrow window during which a hot day can produce an extremely strong peak. While the extreme, hot weather tends to hit in late July and August, it can occur earlier, coincident with the irrigation season peak.

Therefore, a 105-degree F day which hits in this window drives a much stronger peak than it would if it occurs in late July or August.

Quantifying Sensitivity
Both of these cases lend themselves toward bottom-up hourly approaches to peak forecasting. AMI data supports the disaggregation of system load data into the relevant components.

Weather simulations support the quantification of peak load sensitivities to both peak producing weather severity and timing. As the above cases demonstrate, both of these factors prove influential in determining both the 50:50 and 90:10 peak forecasts.


Forecasting is Hard – Especially for the Future

Predicting behavior in the future is no easy task. Yet, we energy forecasters do this every day. The complexity of the problem should not be understated. Behind all of the software and the complicated models, we are attempting to predict how humans will act today, tomorrow and even 20 years from now.

In the context of short-term operational forecasting, the key unknowns are weather and solar conditions. Here, we depend upon third-party weather vendors to predict accurately various weather concepts, including dry bulb temperature, dewpoint temperature, cloud-cover and solar irradiance.

When we build statistical models (i.e., regressions, neural networks, etc.), we are estimating the relationship between load and a variety of other variables. In so doing, we are implicitly assuming that the relationship captured by the model (via the coefficients on the variables) in the past will persist into the future. The variables include many factors that we know with certainty: day-of-week, month and holidays. We know without question whether tomorrow is Thursday or Friday, or if tomorrow is Martin Luther King Jr. Day or New Year’s Day. We know with much less certainty whether tomorrow will be hot or cold, or if the sun will be obscured by clouds. Further, the accuracy with which the weather vendors can predict these concepts degrades as we go further into the forecast horizon. It is easier to predict tomorrow’s temperature than it is to predict the temperature a week into the future. None of this is especially surprising or revelatory, but these ideas are often assumed, rather than explicated.

In the context of medium- and long-term models, which extend 1 to 50 years into the future, we must depend even further upon others, including economic vendors (to provide household and GDP forecasts), the U.S. EIA (Energy Information Administration – to provide saturation and efficiency trends of major end uses) and utility staff (to provide estimates of demand-side management – DSM). That is most certainly a lot of moving parts, which are outside of our control, unless of course, we feel empowered and motivated to change those values ourselves.

Let’s think briefly about economic forecasts. The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) produces the historical estimates of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It is well-known that U.S. GDP values are frequently and substantially re-stated. Q3 GDP values could potentially be revised from 1.9% annual growth to 2.1%. In this example, that is a 10.5% change calculated as (2.1/1.9) – 1! Without putting too fine a point on it: a 10.5% adjustment is a lot. There are three important points here:

  1. This is merely the historical value. We are not even looking at the forecast yet.
  2. We are focusing on U.S. GDP. If this national value is updated so substantially, how confident can we be in the Gross State Product (GSP) or Gross Metro Product (GMP), which are at dramatically lower levels of aggregation?
  3. The official numbers are at a quarterly frequency. In many cases, we utilize monthly values, which have been interpolated (via some mathematical approach) from the quarterly values.

To be fair, these numbers are based on surveys, statistical methods and various data collected by the government. The GDP numbers do not fall out of the sky and magically appear on the desks of government employees. Indeed, humans (with the help of computers) report and calculate these statistics. There is much space here for error. It is not as if there is some kind of metering device that collects all the data on every transaction in our economy and transmits it to the federal government for quick and easy reporting – that is not how any of this works.

Now, let’s think about forecasting this constantly moving target. If we have little confidence in the historical GDP value from last quarter or even the prior quarter, how confident can we be in the forecast for the coming year? By way of analogy, let’s imagine we are generating load forecasts every five minutes, based on updated weather conditions and the most recently reported historical five-minute load data. If the deltas of the most recent observations were bouncing around by a factor of 10%, it would come as exactly no surprise to anybody if our near-term load forecast would be (how shall I put this?) bad.

We can make similar arguments about the saturation and efficiency drivers. The long-term weather forecast has its own set of issues: it is typically based on some measure of ‘normal’ weather, which can be calculated variously. Maybe we use a 10-year normal or a 20-year normal or a trended-normal. Again, there is much space for interpretation and for error.

The point of this is not to denigrate the economic vendors or the EIA, but rather to bring a few issues into the daylight for evaluation. The fact that there are GDP numbers and saturation/efficiency drivers at all is a big accomplishment. We also do not let a lack of data or a lack of confidence in the data stop us from generating forecasts. We must do the best we can with the tools we have available to us!


Exploring the Energy-Water Nexus at DISTRIBUTECH 2020

Water and energy are the world’s two most critical resources to humanity and are fundamental components of a healthy society. What most people don’t realize, though, is how interconnected energy and water are and the serious vulnerabilities we face without access to one or the other. With growing populations in cities, urbanization and unpredictable weather due to climate change, many people wonder if we are nearing a breaking point with unrecoverable consequence.

The vital interconnections between water and energy—and our dependence on them—are explored in the fascinating documentary Thirst for Power from Dr. Michael E. Webber. Attendees at DISTRIBUTECH 2020 had the opportunity to screen the film, which captivated a standing-room only audience, and observe a panel discussion with Dr. Webber and other stakeholders in the film. Shot on location in France, Texas and California, Thirst for Power explores the history of civilization’s quest to procure abundant water and energy from ancient Roman aqueducts to modern America’s vast hydroelectric infrastructure. Combining anecdotes and personal stories with insights into the science of energy and water from industry and academia experts, Dr. Webber’s film identifies a hopeful path toward wise, long-range water-energy decisions.

In the film, Mark Twain is credited for saying “whiskey is for drinking, water is for fighting over,” and the documentary underscores the precarious pursuit of water for life and energy for wealth. In a modern society, it’s easy to take these precious resources for granted because we have access to both with a flip of a switch or a lift of a handle. Understanding the connection between energy and water and seeing that water is at every critical step in the production, distribution and delivery of energy, helps viewers truly value the importance of education and conservation for a sustainable future.

At Itron, we believe the way we manage energy and water will define the century. As global citizens, we are actively engaging with communities to help shape a more resourceful world. Resourcefulness is a heartfelt mission that we take seriously – our company can make a difference by creating awareness through education, working collaboratively with utilities and cities, and ultimately inspiring the next generation of innovators to help solve problems in new and exciting ways. Following the screening of the Thirst for Power film, Itron’s senior vice president of Networked Solutions, Sharelynn Moore, joined a panel discussion with Dr. Webber and CPS Energy’s CEO, Paula Gold-Williams, demonstrating our collaborative partnership to improve energy-water literacy and inspire the talent pipeline and highlighting how organizations can have an even greater impact when working together for a common cause and purpose.

With purpose in mind, Itron and CPS Energy have teamed up to provide educational energy-water resources for students and communities with the launch of a new website, Smart Energy Education. Bridging collaboration among community partners and thought leaders, trusted educational programs and digital platforms, Smart Energy Education is a unique and interactive resource that includes student multimedia experiences and activities. The ultimate goal of Smart Energy Education is to demonstrate how improving energy and water literacy can not only foster community engagement and talent pipeline through mentorship, but also inspire students and communities to weave conservation and energy-water saving practices into their everyday lives. Dr. Webber’s film has become a powerful catalyst for conversation and community collaboration for a more resourceful world.

To learn more, please visit www.smartenergyeducation.com. To request an education or industry screening of Thirst for Power, please visit www.thirstforpower.com/movie/.


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