Selected category: Clean Energy

Four Things California Should Consider before Rolling Out Time-of-Use Pricing

twilight-532720_1280This summer the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) ordered big changes in how Californians will pay for electricity. Starting in 2019, residential customers of the big three investor-owned utilities (Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas & Electric) will be switching residential customers to the same pricing plan used by commercial and industrial customers:  time-of-use (TOU) electricity pricing. This approach rewards people who shift some of their electricity use to times of the day when renewable energy is plentiful and electricity is cheaper. Before rolling this out to all 33 million Californians, however, the CPUC has instructed the utilities to perform experiments on how best to design and then market TOU pricing to customers.

These TOU pilots – which will begin summer 2016 – are the first steps in the journey toward full deployment, and as with other journeys, the first steps are often some of the most influential. Read More »

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‘Eastside Sol’ gets L.A. Community Dancing to Solar Power

Eastside Sol_final-1000pxwWalking around my neighborhood in Boyle Heights, on the eastside of Los Angeles, I see murals and street art conveying pride in the community and the cultural roots of its residents. I see street vendors and informal entrepreneurs trying to capture the America dream, smell delicious food, and hear infectious Latin music that will make you want to move with the rhythm. What I don’t see are solar panels, plentiful shade under trees and green space, electric vehicles, and other icons of the growing clean energy economy. Instead, I smell vehicle exhaust and feel the heat trapped in my neighborhood and many like it on the eastside, where communities are bisected by freeways, surrounded by toxic facilities, and bound by a jungle of concrete.

But it doesn’t have to be like this. Recently a coalition of labor, environmental justice, and community organizations teamed up with Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) to put together Eastside Sol, the first 100 percent solar powered art and music festival on the eastside of Los Angeles. The goal of the event was to create a vision of what the community might look like with abundant solar power, more trees and greenspace, and a fair share of the growing clean energy economy. Read More »

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Four Powerhouse Bills to Help California get to 50 Percent Renewable Energy

2000px-Seal_of_California.svgCalifornia is deep into the dog days of summer, and pressure is mounting on the state’s electric grid to keep up with demand. Luckily, California’s legislature is working to bring more clean energy resources to the grid, diversifying how we power our homes and businesses while also improving the resiliency, efficiency, and carbon footprint of our energy system.

State lawmakers are directly addressing our dependence on polluting fossil fuels used to produce electricity. They are doing this by increasing California’s reliance on renewable energy, establishing energy efficiency resource standards, and providing certainty that California will meet its renewable energy and climate goals. The state’s current Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) has already achieved tremendous success in growing the market for renewables while bringing down associated costs. Building on this success, California’s legislature is currently undertaking four bills that will keep the state on a path to a reliable, affordable, and clean energy future – for the health of its citizens and economy. Read More »

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Timing is Everything: How California is Getting Electricity Pricing Right and Bringing Clean Power to the People

oilseed-rape-450155_1280Anybody managing a household budget knows it pays to plan ahead. With advanced thinking we can buy favorite items with coupons, when they’re on sale, in bulk, or at the cheapest store in the area. Similarly, we know that buying under duress, or in the touristy spot, will likely mean higher prices. Using the same smart shopper skills, new changes to the way utilities charge for electricity are going to give Californians another way to save money on energy bills.

In the current system, most California households’ electricity prices don’t change throughout the day. There is no option for lower prices when system demands are lower and electricity is cheap in wholesale markets. But that’s about to change, thanks to a recent 5-0 decision by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).

Starting January 1, 2019, after a period of study, public outreach, and education, California’s large investor-owned utilities (Pacific Gas and Electric, San Diego Gas and Electric, Southern California Edison) will switch households to time-of-use (TOU) electricity pricing. Read More »

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Orange is the New Black, 40 is the New 30…and Energy Storage Could be the New California Power Plant

Moss_Landing_Power_Plant_p1270026If you follow pop culture, you’ve likely heard that Orange is the New Black, and 40 is the new 30. A perhaps lesser known – but equally important – new comparison that is turning heads in California is that energy storage might just be the new power plant.

This probably warrants a bit of explanation. On a power grid without storage, solar energy is generated during the day when the sun is shining its brightest, providing clean, renewable energy to homes and businesses – thus lessening the hold on the grid of dirty power plants. But what happens when this energy source goes offline? As people come home after work and turn on TVs, run dishwashers, and fire up other hungry appliances (also referred to as “peak” energy hours), the grid must rely on fossil fuel-powered electricity to ramp up production quickly.

However, when energy storage is added into this mix, a shift occurs. If there is enough renewable energy stockpiled during the sun’s most productive hours, between 11 AM and 3 PM, then the use of fossil fuels at peak times can be reduced.  In this way, new fossil fuel power plants that might be necessary to meet increased population and demand can be avoided.  And voila: energy storage is the new power plant. Read More »

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Residential Electricity Pricing in California: We Need an Overhaul, not a Tune-Up

power-poles-503935_1280Here at Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), we love win-win solutions. This is why we’re big fans of time-of-use (TOU) electricity pricing (a type of time variant electricity pricing). As I’ve written before, TOU pricing better reflects the true cost of electricity, which fluctuates throughout the day. What’s more, it brings with it significant benefits for the environment, electric reliability, and people’s wallets. By empowering customers to better control their energy bills and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, everyone wins with TOU pricing.

Thankfully, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) included TOU pricing as one of the key elements in their plan to reform residential electricity rates. But how and what Californians pay for electricity – the best way to structure rates – is currently up for debate at the CPUC.

The CPUC issued its proposed decision on restructuring California’s residential rates and moving customers to TOU rates in the new structure, which EDF strongly supports as an evolutionary leap forward. Subsequently, Commissioner Mike Florio issued an alternate proposed decision that nudges the current tiered rate system forward with a time-variation “adder.” Unfortunately, Florio’s alternate proposal amounts to more of a tune-up than the substantial overhaul required to prepare for a future grid that runs on carbon-free renewables, like wind and solar, and also powers our cars, trucks, trains, and boats. Read More »

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    How California can leverage market-based environmental policies to revitalize its economy, protect its quality of life and retain a leading edge in global innovation.

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