Making Energy Visible as a Non-Pipe Alternative

A recap of a conversation about how energy efficiency can be an effective non-pipe alternative solution.

A conversation with ACEEE, National Grid and MyHEAT

Most of us don’t think about how energy reaches our homes. However for some people, this is all they think about. The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) brought some of these people together to talk about the challenges and solutions in delivering gas to homes in parts of New York. This post offers a quick recap of MyHEAT’s conversation with National Grid New York (National Grid), including a glimpse at how they are using MyHEAT’s visual and comparable heat loss details as a non-pipe alternative solution!

How does energy reach our homes?

The way we power, heat and cool our homes is as simple as the flick of a switch, but what happens behind that switch is incredibly complicated. Utilities maintain a complex infrastructure designed to deliver molecules of energy from their point of origin to all pipes and wires coursing throughout homes and neighbourhoods.

The infrastructure we use today is largely the same infrastructure that was designed and built several decades ago. Over the years, cities have grown and more people now need more energy so utilities, energy providers and grid operators added new components to the energy system to deliver more molecules to where they were needed.

As populations continue to grow and as more severe and unexpected weather patterns emerge, energy to heat and cool our homes is in more demand now than ever before. However, meeting this demand isn’t always as simple as adding new infrastructure. On particularly cold or hot days, this presents even more of a challenge for utilities.

What is a non-pipe alternative?

A non-pipe alternative (NPA) refers to the use of alternative or distributed technologies to defer or avoid traditional natural gas capital projects needed to address natural gas system reliability needs. In other words, NPAs help ensure that homes receive the gas, and utilities can manage their peak-day load requirements without the need for additional gas infrastructure requiring large capital investments. 

In the U.S, various state-level laws now prohibit the addition of new energy infrastructure as a means to meet increased energy demand. Instead, utilities are being asked (read: told) to first reduce energy demand through non-pipe alternative solutions (for gas supply) and non-wire alternative solutions (for electricity supply).

Energy efficiency as a non-pipe alternative

There are several ways to meet demand without adding more infrastructure such as switching fuel types, and reducing demand through energy efficiency measures. When treated like a resource and delivered in a targeted manner, energy efficiency is a powerful and economical tool.

MyHEAT is helping National Grid manage system reliability and capture more energy savings by Making Energy Visible™. Through educational and behavioural nudging channels, the technology serves as an innovative and viable non-pipe alternative solution to address needs in New York.

Drivers for non-pipe alternatives in New York

In New York, the ACEEE sees several driving forces behind the decision for utilities like National Grid to look for solutions like MyHEAT’s heat loss platform.

  1. Natural gas infrastructure constraints

As the population of New York grows and more people switch their heating source from heating oil, demand for natural gas increases. This leads to difficulties serving all customers needing gas distributed through the pipes in this network, especially on colder days.

2. State and local climate policy

Climate ambition at the state level has informed an emissions reductions target of 85% by 2025. This means that natural gas sales would have to fall by 20% to achieve these goals. Existing and new climate policy in various states is forcing utilities to rethink the role of natural gas.

Rachel Gold from the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) speaks about New York climate policy as a driver for non-pipe alternatives

3. Success with non-wires alternatives

Following the success that various electric and duel-fuel utilities have seen with Non-Wire alternatives (NWA) across the country, there is a level of appetite to pursue Non-Pipe alternatives and draw learnings from NWA case studies.

A non-pipe alternative for National Grid, New York

National Grid is building a portfolio of NPA solutions to support the needs of their business and customers. There are numerous solutions under evaluation, using 5 key criteria to assess the level of attractiveness of each NPA:

  1. Safety 
  2. Reliability
  3. Cost
  4. Environment
  5. Community

Among the various solutions available, energy efficiency as a non-pipe alternative is considered in the ‘Non-Infrastructure Options’ category. This means that no capital-intensive infrastructure investments are required to achieve a reduction in gas demand. Non-infrastructure Options are also referred to as Demand Side Management solutions. 

Using energy efficiency as a NPA allows National Grid to drive their weatherization program to improve air sealing, insulation, window and door upgrades and more. Enrica Galasso from National Grid describes multiple benefits to a weatherization program:

Enrica Galasso from National Grid New York discussing how energy efficiency is used to inform weatherization programs

National Grid & MyHEAT – An innovative approach to weatherization programs

National Grid chose MyHEAT to support its weatherization program. MyHEAT captures aerial thermal imagery and applies unique machine learning techniques to reveal visual and comparable energy loss details at a city scale.

MyHEAT is seen as an innovative approach that doesn’t put the responsibility on the customer to reach out and schedule a typical home energy audit. Instead, customers can be engaged with personalized and comparable heat loss details alongside easy next steps on their energy-saving journey.

National Grid surveyed customers in New York about the proposed program with MyHEAT and saw the following results, which gave them even more confidence in launching the innovative program to its customers in New York state:

  1. 79% of customers are extremely/very likely to access MyHEAT data if available
  2. 53% of customers are extremely/very likely to enroll in weatherization program after receiving their heat loss details

Further reading and resources

To learn more about non-pipe alternatives and the innovative approach chosen by National Grid in New York, you can watch the webinar recording or click through to some of the various resources shared by ACEEE and National Grid during the discussion:

Written by: Ian Maddock, Co-Founder & Chief Revenue Officer, MyHEAT

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