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AESP Energy Award Review Series: Nicor Gas’ Path Forward for Long-Term Savings

image credit: Nicor Gas

This past February at the 30th Annual AESP Conference in Anaheim, California, AESP announced the eight winners of the 2020 AESP Energy Awards. The honors were given to utilities who are leading the way in various ways in the energy industry with innovative new programs, notable achievements, and examples the rest of the industry should follow. Since then, AESP gave its platform to these industry leaders in the form of AESP Webinars where the winners could share more about their projects and listeners could listen in, ask questions, and learn how to replicate such success.

In recognition of this achievement, Energy Central eagerly listened into these webinars to learn just like the rest of the AESP community, and to further recognize these great utilities and their much-needed leadership we’re going to post a review series to the Energy Central / AESP ‘Energy Efficiency Community’ of those award winners. First up was Nicor Gas, whose Energy Efficiency Program Market Transformation was recognized by AESP as ‘Outstanding Achievement in Market Research & Evaluation.’

Nicor Gas was recognized as the leader in the Midwest Market Transformation Collaborative (MT Collaborative), which was the first crucial step in allowing MT savings to be counted in the state of Illinois through the Illinois Technical Resource Manual. They developed a model to redefine utility collaboration, while also accounting for energy savings in a new way.

On the AESP webinar, Jim Jerozal of Nicor Gas presented about their innovative energy efficiency program, which started back in 2011 and provides offerings for 2.2 million customers in the form of audits, rebates, business offerings, strategic energy management, CHP assistance, and more. Their achievement in particular, though, came from their innovative MT approach. After the Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA) of 2016 transferred the market transformation programs to the utilities, the Midwest Market Transformation Collaborative was formed with Nicor Gas and six other utilities across Illinois, Minnesota, and Michigan.

Jim shared what he called the MT ‘Secret Sauce,’ which amounted to a step-by-step process that took years. The goal of MT was to get the market to work for you, and he said they did that by leveraging markets to get more savings, creating lasting market changes, and creating more cost-effective savings. In short, they leveraged big markets to unlock opportunities for big savings.

Officials at Nicor also recognized that it was important to count the energy savings on the market, not just from units that were ‘rebated.’ This step was crucial because by assuring common rules were established to the game, that meant wider industry equity and savings could be achieved.

Compellingly, Jim shared lessons learned that they shared on the webinar. For one, he talked about the fact that once the FEJA law was on the books, they decided to just go for it and ask for MT, noting that if you don’t ask for something then you’ll never get it—so don’t be afraid to ask! Additionally, he said that Nicor Gas was careful to not reinvent the wheel—there are already smart people out there who have paved the way, such as the work NEEA had done on market transformation. By engaging with thought leaders, they were truly able to stand on the shoulders of those who came before them. Lastly, they noted that getting regulatory and stakeholder buy-in in advance was critical, as it’s all about building consensus and cultivating an environment where everyone seeks to achieve a common goal.

Not only was Nicor Gas able to achieve great success in this way, but they were able to do so in a way that allowed for other utilities and regions to replicate their MT strategy. Their accomplishments set the precedent for others to engage with stakeholders and justify the regulatory case for claiming savings from MT programs, creating industry-wise opportunities for collaboration and innovation. And for that alone, Nicor Gas truly deserved this award!

Discussions

William Dixon's picture
William Dixon on Apr 13, 2020

Matt,

I look forward to viewing the Webinars.

Question: While I am currently an AESP member, many reading this may not be members. Will non-members be able to view these AESP webinars?

Thanks!

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Apr 13, 2020

Thanks for the interest Will-- the webinars actually already happened, which is why I'm sharing the writeups! That said, members and non-members alike can go to the AESP site to register for these already passed events and they'll be able to view a recording of the webinars: https://www.aesp.org/events/EventDetails.aspx?id=1347035&group=

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