In response to customer demands for clean energy options, local distribution companies throughout North America are beginning to fully integrate energy efficiency, demand response and distributed renewable energy programs into their long range resource planning initiatives. As a consequence, Clean Energy programs are quickly becoming an essential component of the local distribution company's energy portfolio. Despite these growing demands, relatively few companies have the capacity to meet and exceed customer expectations for low-cost, reliable and safe energy. Optimal Energy collaborates with clients to determine the economic potential of clean energy strategies and to assess whether such strategies will effectively diversify a distribution company's energy portfolio and reduce their reliance on risky, traditional supply side energy resources. Optimal Energy specializes in providing turn-key consulting services that program administrators need to increase the capacity of their organizations to quickly and cost-effectively ramp up workable programs. Our program design, implementation and management strategies have a track-record of maximizing the economic value of investments in clean energy programs by helping customers spend less on saving energy than they would pay for fossil-fuel based energy.
Appreciating that consumers have a deep-rooted interest in expanding their energy options and controlling costs, we work tirelessly to develop creative and practical solutions tailored to our client's unique circumstances. As a part of our effort to maximize the economic return on public benefit and consumer funds, our core mission is to help modernize the energy industry, increase societal benefits and mitigate risks. Pursuit of our core mission means that the Optimal team assists clients with the following suite of services:
Before launching a clean energy initiative, local distribution companies are required to provide a technical and economic assessment of the potential for energy savings and distributed renewable energy generation. Optimal has a successful track record identifying and targeting highly cost-effective investments in energy efficiency and distributed renewable energy resources. Our economic modeling tools have been developed and refined over more than 10 years. Our industry-accepted analytical tools include a comprehensive database of measure characterizations and are based on industry and economic standard practices.
At the outset of many of our projects, Optimal works with clients to:
- Estimate technical, economic and achievable potential efficiency opportunities.
- Characterize costs and performance of efficiency and renewable technologies.
- Forecast market penetration and savings levels.
- Integrate efficiency and renewable generation resources into long term resource plans.
- Provide independent assessments of existing potential studies to determine their utility and applicability to the current situation and context.
By evaluating the benefits and costs of clean energy initiatives at the market segment and technology levels, clients are better able to estimate the economically achievable potential for energy savings in their local areas and determine how best to craft a strategy to serve their customers.
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After determining the economic potential of demand side resources, Optimal collaborates with clients and other stakeholders to design specific programs to acquire cost-effective energy resources on time and within predefined budgets. At this stage, Optimal's purpose is to provide clients with the resources and expertise necessary to design and develop programs that have the highest probability of succeeding. Oftentimes, the characteristics of the local marketplace require innovative delivery approaches to overcome preexisting market barriers. Our experienced staff develop:
- Program objectives that foster market transformation, improve customer service and ensure geographic and socio-economic equity
- Program scopes aimed at regions of a state, specific markets or a geographically congested area.
- Budgets, performance goals, operational requirements and incentives.
- Valuing and integrating projected program savings and costs into supply planning and acquisition.
- Clear marketing and communication strategies that identify appropriate marketing channels and develop community outreach initiatives.
- Processes to identify and adopt emergent technologies to ensure programs are well positioned for future success.
- Marketing and program delivery strategies to acquire resources in hard-to-reach markets, such as direct install initiatives and targeted management of large customer accounts.
Detailed screening and analysis of program budgets to determine cost-effectiveness both prior to program start and retrospectively, to ensure consumers' funds are invested wisely.
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We consider program implementation to be a mission-critical stage in the development of a robust clean energy initiative. Success often rests on whether program administrators develop clear market-oriented strategies and attract effective third party implementation contractors. Our goal in this practice area is to assist clients with:
- Developing management performance goals and monitoring program progress.
- Building a competent and diligent delivery infrastructure that provides value throughout the service delivery chain.
- Developing Request-for-Proposals to identify third party vendors and assisting with contractor selection.
- Designing incentive mechanisms that align the financial interests of vendors with program goals.
- Fine-tuning management procedures and tactics based on market intelligence and program results.
- Defining IT system protocols to track measure- and program-specific activities
- Business development activities for commercial and industrial customers and trade allies (e.g. vendors, architects/engineers).
- Training and facilitation
- Contract administration
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Continuous assessment and evaluation of programs allow program administrators to bridge the gap that often exists between clean energy program plans and verifiable resource acquisition. Our deep understanding of evaluation methods helps clients make informed decisions about each program's cost effectiveness and whether programs can deliver energy savings in accordance with local, state, federal and provincial expectations. In this practice area, the Optimal team assists with:
- Developing, overseeing, conducting and reviewing impact, process and market evaluations of program results.
- Developing strategic long-term evaluation and market assessment plans.
- Developing annual evaluation plans, budgets and timelines.
- Validating program assumptions regarding specific market characteristics.
- Assessing market transformation program effects.
- Developing, applying and supporting the use of our cost-effectiveness screening tools to demonstrate the economic value of programs and particular projects.
- Developing and conducting assessments and reviews of program theory models.
- Determining whether evaluation, measurement and verification (E,M&V) protocols and procedures comport with regulatory requirements and expectations.
- Quality assurance planning and execution
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Optimal's consultants are often called upon to serve as subject matter experts before regulatory commissions and governmental agencies. In this capacity, we provide:
- Expert testimony and advice on regulatory policies affecting energy efficiency and renewable energy investments.
- Litigation support including discovery responses and management, drafting legal briefs and due diligence reporting.
- Technical support during regulatory reviews of energy efficiency and renewable energy program plans.
- Recommended strategies to comply with energy efficiency and renewable energy portfolio standards
- Advice with respect to implementing timely cost recovery mechanisms and incentives aimed at stabilizing revenues and rewarding program administrators for superior performance
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The Renewable energy sector is one of the most vibrant sectors in the United States economy. It has attracted new investment capital and created more jobs than other sectors. With our strategic partners, Optimal provides technical assistance and program support to a wide array of renewable energy stakeholders. As technical experts, we enable communities, distribution companies and interested parties to tap into a groundswell of emerging opportunities in the distributed renewable energy sector. As more states adopt renewable energy standards, our clients are seeking assurances that the energy resource portfolios they are developing comply with more stringent standards while also delivering services cost effectively.
Renewable energy programs and strategies require the same types of analytical and consulting support as other Clean Energy programs. Optimal provides this support for renewable energy programs across the five service areas described above, whether for stand-alone programs or for those integrated with larger Clean Energy portfolios. By applying our expertise in a consistent manner across all Clean Energy resource types, we help clients answer important questions such as:
- What is the right entry strategy?
- What smart grid technologies offer the most promising risk-adjusted opportunities?
- What are the most effective program designs, and how should the program design change as markets mature?
- How should we forecast demand and what are the associated costs and resources needed to achieve our goals?
- How do government policies and investment tax credits affect renewable energy and other clean energy programs?
- How do we develop an effective outreach strategy and identify appropriate market channels?
- What are the important rules and regulations affecting the integration of renewable energy programs into an effective energy resource plan?
- How can T&D constraints be addressed with renewable and efficiency resources?
- What cost recovery policies and mechanisms are most effective?
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Periodically, our clients seek advice addressing challenges that their organization has never faced before. As a result of the breadth and depth of our project management experience, the Optimal team is uniquely qualified to address unusual challenges and take a leading role in resolving problems affecting program effectiveness and customer service. In this practice area, we focus on identifying barriers to success, prioritizing needs, and developing a tactical road-map that empowers personnel to meet program implementation challenges. In recent years, our custom research projects have included best practice reviews of major electric utilities, updating Technical Resource Manuals, and conducting technical and market research on emerging efficiency technologies.
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