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 Posted: March 12, 2013 

Energy Services develops effective partnerships

by Randy Wilkerson

Outside the electric utility industry, “Energy Services” is a term that is not well understood. Within the  industry, although there is some variability, it is generally understood to be the part of the organization that helps its customers make the best use of the resources available to them.

 Western's Energy Services respresentatives across the regions get together for a team photo.
 Western's Energy Services representatives meet at the Corporate Services office in Lakewood, Colo.  

Through its varied programs, Energy Services assists Western’s customers with Integrated Resource Plans, equipment loans and technical help to list just a few significant areas. Western’s Energy Services program and its representatives are the face of Western to many, interacting with customers on a daily basis and developing the relationships that provide the foundation of partnerships with customers.

Energy Services is built on partnerships. Western’s Energy Services Manager Ron Horstman said, “Western provides resources, including access to specialized equipment, training and technical expertise that many of our customers can’t afford on their own. Our customers have direct access to thousands of retail consumers that Western can only reach through them. All parties benefit.”

The program initially grew out of the Conservation and Renewable Energy Program when integrated resource planning was authorized in the Energy Policy Act of 1992. Western developed its Energy Planning and Management Program in 1995. Horstman pointed out that much has changed in the industry since the Energy Services program began. “The renewable energy industry has grown from its infancy, many states have developed Renewable Portfolio Standards; the integrated resource planning process now includes some externalities, and public attitudes have shifted. The demands on local utilities to address all of these issues often exceed the resources of the utility.

That’s where Energy Services can help,” Horstman said.

Western streamlined its requirements for integrated resource planning in 2000 and added additional reporting options. Horstman stressed the importance of the integrated resource planning process.“One of the most important things we do is help our customers understand the planning process and provide customers with the best energy resource information, technology transfer and technical assistance services to enable them to perform effective integrated resource planning. When they do a good job with their planning, the solutions to many other issues just fall into place.”

In addition to providing personal assistance through regional Energy Services representatives, the Energy Services website offers a wealth of information and tools customers need to stay competitive in a rapidly evolving industry, including the Energy Services Bulletin, which highlights customers’ successful programs and services and covers training opportunities, marketing techniques and new technologies, a variety of fact sheets and guides, and links to countless other resources.

Looking to the future, Horstman said, “Strategically, Energy Services must continue to evolve with the energy industry, leverage its resources effectively and ensure that customer needs are addressed and costs are controlled.”

What are IRPs?

Customers are required to submit Integrated Resource Plans every five years to Western under the Energy Policy Act of 1992 and then submit annual progress reports to track the status of the action plan and meeting objectives. The IRP must include customer efforts toward energy efficiency, adding renewable energy generation sources, decreasing negative environmental impacts of generation resources, public participation and outreach on creating the IRP and reaching its goals and load forecasting.