[Federal Register Volume 81, Number 30 (Tuesday, February 16, 2016)]
[Pages 7778-7779]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2016-03118]



Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

Request for Information: Accounting Conventions for Non-
Combustible Renewable Energy Use

AGENCY: Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Department of 
Energy (DOE).

ACTION: Notice of Request for Information (RFI).


SUMMARY: The Department of Energy (DOE) gives notice of a Request for 
Information: ``Accounting Conventions for Non-Combustible Renewable 
Energy Use'' regarding using an alternative methodology for calculating 
source energy from non-combustible renewable resources in analysis that 
informs DOE, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) 
products, reports, and standards--such as the Home Energy Score. The 
current approach uses the equivalent average heat rate of fossil fuels 
to convert renewable electricity to source energy (approximately 9,500 
BTU/kWh), while the proposed approach would use the heat content of 
electricity (3,412 BTU/kWh). This proposed change would better 
represent the lack of fuels used in generating renewable electricity, 
and would result in a slightly lower site-to-source ratio than the 
current approach.

DATES: Written comments and information are requested on or before 
March 14, 2016, no later than 5:00 p.m. (ET).

ADDRESSES: Interested persons are encouraged to submit comments, which 
must be submitted electronically to [email protected]. Please 
visit https://eere-exchange.energy.gov/ for the full RFI and to ask and 
view responses to questions regarding this RFI.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Requests for additional information 
may be sent to Steve Capanna, U.S. Department of Energy, Office of 
Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, 1000 Independence Avenue SW., 
Washington, DC 20585-0121. Telephone: 202-586-7367. Email: 
[email protected].



    EERE publishes reports, tools, and standards that include analyses 
that examine the impact of energy efficiency measures on total energy 
savings, and that compare energy savings between different types of 
technologies. A commonly used methodology for this is to convert the 
``site energy'' into source energy (or ``primary energy'') using a 
site-to-source ratio. For electricity, this essentially converts the 
energy used in a building (in kilowatt-hours, kWh) into the equivalent 
amount of fuel required to generate that electricity (typically in 
British Thermal Units, BTU).
    The site-to-source ratio accounts for the useful energy lost in 
converting, transmitting, and distributing energy carriers. As a 
result, the source energy can be three times the size of the equivalent 
site energy, depending on location and electricity generation 
technology used. The benefit of using source energy as a metric for 
determining the impact of energy efficiency measures and technologies 
is that it is a more equitable ``apples-to-apples'' comparison of 
energy use than looking at site energy alone.
    Typically, analyses use electricity energy data provided by the 
Energy Information Administration (EIA) in their Monthly Energy Review 
to calculate a site-to-source ratio. Using this EIA document, the total 
energy content of fuels used to generate electricity is divided by the 
total amount of electricity consumed by end users to calculate the 
site-to-source ratio.
    Accounting for the total source energy of electricity produced from 
combustible fuels (e.g., coal, natural gas, oil) is relatively 
straightforward as the energy content of these fuels is known. However, 
for non-combustible renewable resources (i.e., wind, solar, hydro, and 
geothermal) because there is no ``fuel'' used, a choice must be made to 
determine how to account for the primary energy of electricity 
generated from these sources.
    The current ``fossil fuel equivalency'' accounting convention used 
by the EIA to calculate the reported source energy number, assumes that 
non-combustible renewable electricity (RE) generation has the same 
source energy per kWh as the average of fossil fuel electricity. This 
factor, equivalent to a heat rate, represents the average amount of 
fossil fuel energy required to produce a kWh of electricity. 
Alternatively, the factor can be thought of as the amount of fossil 
energy displaced by a kWh of RE. The most recent value reported by EIA 
in Table A6 of the Monthly Energy Review is 9,541 BTU/kWh, which is 
equivalent to a generation efficiency of roughly 36%.
    The ``captured energy'' alternative convention accounts only for 
the energy output from a non-combustible generator. This assumes that 
the conversion from energy resource (e.g. sunlight, wind, water, etc.) 
into electricity is 100% efficient. The energy content of electricity 
generated from a non-combustible source using this accounting 
convention is 3,412 BTU/kWh, which is a unit conversion.
    An example comparison of the two methods of calculating source 
energy and site-to-source ratios using 2014 data is presented in the 
table below. Using the captured energy approach decreases the site-to-
source ratio from 2.98 to 2.77 as compared to the fossil fuel 
equivalency approach.

           Comparison of Different Methodologies of Non-Combustible Renewable Energy Accounting on Site-to-Source Ratios, Using 2014 Data \a\
                                                            Conversion                     Non-RE source
                 Method                    RE gen. (TWh)   factor  (BTU/     RE source     energy (quad)   Total source       End use     Site-to-source
                                                \b\            kWh)       energy  (quad)        \c\        energy (quad)    (quad) \d\       ratio \e\
Fossil Fuel Equivalency.................             475       \f\ 9,541            4.53           35.21           39.74           13.32            2.98

[[Page 7779]]

Captured Energy.........................             475       \g\ 3,412            1.62           35.21           36.83           13.32            2.77
\a\ 2014 data from December 2015 edition of EIA's Monthly Energy Review (http://www.eia.gov/totalenergy/data/monthly) Tables 7.1, 7.2a, 7.3a, and A6. 1
  Quad = 10\15\ BTU.
\b\ Includes wind, solar photovoltaic, solar thermal, geothermal, and hydro generation
\c\ Coal, petroleum, natural gas, and nuclear generation from Table 7.2a is converted to Quads using the heat contents from Table A6. Wood, waste, other
  gases, and other generation source energy used as reported in Table 7.3a.
\d\ End use energy is calculated as net generation of electricity (13.97 Quads) plus imports (0.16 Quads) minus transmission & distribution losses (0.82
  Quads), as reported in Table 7.1 and converted to Quads using 3,412 BTU/kWh.
\e\ Note that ratios reported here were calculated without independent rounding.
\f\ As reported in Table A6.
\g\ A constant unit conversion, Table A6.

    The fossil fuel equivalency approach to calculating RE source 
energy may be sufficient when the level of RE generation is small. 
However, with generation from RE resources increasing due to the 
continued trend of de-carbonizing the grid, the importance of the RE 
source energy accounting methodology also increases. EERE believes that 
using the ``captured energy'' approach most accurately reflects how RE 
generation differs from other types of conventional generation, and is 
therefore the best way to include it when accounting for the benefits 
of energy efficiency measures and standards.


    The purpose of this RFI is to solicit feedback from industry, 
academia, research laboratories, government agencies, and other 
stakeholders on issues related to the proposed modification to the 
accounting of RE source energy. EERE proposes to replace the fossil-
fuel equivalency approach with the alternative captured energy approach 
presented above. This would impact the site-to-source ratios used in 
analyses that inform EERE reports, standards, and evaluations. This 
methodological choice is important as renewable generation continues to 
grow and accounts for more significant portions of the nation's 
electricity production. This is not announcing a proposed rule or 
policy change at this time, and is solely an effort to gather 
information from stakeholders to help inform EERE on whether a change 
to the source energy calculation should be proposed.

Request for Information Categories and Questions

    1. Describe your organization and its relationship to any EERE 
products, analyses, or standards.
    2. Please provide comment on the proposed change in methodology 
from the current ``fossil fuel equivalency'' (e.g. 9,541 BTU/kWh) to 
the ``captured energy'' approach (e.g. 3,412 BTW/kWh) discussed in the 
background section. What are the advantages and disadvantages of each? 
How might it affect you/your organization?
    3. Please describe any alternative methodology not discussed in the 
background section that you think merits consideration, along with the 
advantages and disadvantages.
    4. Please describe any other important aspects of primary energy 
and site-to-source ratio methodologies for EERE to consider. What are 
these aspects and why are they important?

Request for Information Response Guidelines

    Responses to this RFI must be submitted electronically to 
[email protected] no later than 5:00 p.m. (ET) on March 14, 
2016. Responses must be provided as attachments to an email. It is 
recommended that attachments with file sizes exceeding 25MB be 
compressed (i.e., zipped) to ensure message delivery. Responses must be 
provided as a Microsoft Word (.docx) attachment to the email, and no 
more than 20 pages in length, 12 point font, 1 inch margins. Only 
electronic responses will be accepted.
    Please identify your answers by responding to a specific question 
or topic if applicable. Respondents may answer as many or as few 
questions as they wish. EERE will not respond to individual submissions 
or publish publicly a compendium of responses. A response to this RFI 
will not be viewed as a binding commitment to develop or pursue the 
project or ideas discussed.
    Respondents are requested to provide the following information at 
the start of their response to this RFI:
     Company/institution name;
     Company/institution contact;
     Contact's address, phone number, and email address.

Confidential Business Information

    Pursuant to 10 CFR 1004.11, any person submitting information that 
he or she believes to be confidential and exempt by law from public 
disclosure should submit via email two well marked copies: One copy of 
the document marked ``confidential'' including all the information 
believed to be confidential, and one copy of the document marked ``non-
confidential'' with the information believed to be confidential 
deleted. DOE will make its own determination about the confidential 
status of the information and treat it according to its determination.
    Factors of interest to DOE when evaluating requests to treat 
submitted information as confidential include: (1) A description of the 
items; (2) whether and why such items are customarily treated as 
confidential within the industry; (3) whether the information is 
generally known by or available from other sources; (4) whether the 
information has previously been made available to others without 
obligation concerning its confidentiality; (5) an explanation of the 
competitive injury to the submitting person that would result from 
public disclosure; (6) when such information might lose its 
confidential character due to the passage of time; and (7) why 
disclosure of the information would be contrary to the public interest.

     Issued in Washington, DC, on February 9, 2016.
Kathleen Hogan,
Deputy Assistant Secretary.
[FR Doc. 2016-03118 Filed 2-12-16; 8:45 am]