Selected category: Smart Grid

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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So You Want an EV? We’re Helping to Figure Out How to Make it Happen

larissa-koehlerYou may have noticed:  we’re big fans of electric vehicles (EVs) here at Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). Standard transportation fuels are one of the biggest sources of harmful greenhouse gas emissions, so vehicle electrification is a crucial part of our clean energy future. But getting more EVs on the road is about more than just giving customers incentives to buy these types of vehicles. We also need to deal with where and how we charge EVs.

From April 27th to May 4th, EDF was engaged in evidentiary hearings at the California Public Utilities Commission that dealt with San Diego Gas & Electric’s (SDG&E) new electric vehicle pilot. Representatives from EDF, the Utility Consumers’ Advocacy Network, the Office of Ratepayer Advocates, SDG&E, Pacific Gas & Electric, ChargePoint, KnGrid, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Green Power Institute, were all putting their best foot forward at the hearings. While there were sadly no Perry Mason moments (aside from an unsilenced cell phone playing the theme song in the middle of the hearings), I did try my hand at challenging witnesses on some key points through cross-examination for the first time. More importantly, the six-day-long process allowed Jamie Fine to shine as an expert witness and raise a number of matters of high priority to EDF.  Read More »

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Electricity Pricing: The Times, they Might be A-Changing

Electricity pylonsLast week, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) issued a proposed decision on residential rate reform. Residential rate reform – how and what Californians pay for electricity – is a thorny subject, and the Commission’s proposed decision is being met with a range of reactions.

We at Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) want to highlight a bright spot in the 300-page document that we’re thrilled about: the attention paid to time-of-use electricity pricing (a type of time-variant pricing). Buried in this long legal document, we see EDF’s fingerprints in the Commission’s call for California investor-owned utilities to ramp up their use of this innovative yet well-proven pricing tool starting with pilots in 2016 and going to scale in 2019.

How TOU Works

If you’ve been following EDF’s work in this area, then you know we’ve been involved in this process for many years and have probably gathered that we’re big fans of time-of-use pricing (TOU) because it better reflects the true cost of electricity, which fluctuates throughout the day. This type of pricing also empowers customers to better control their own energy bills and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.

TOU pricing works by breaking up the day into two or three large intervals and charges a different price for each. Rates can be divided into off-peak prices (generally during the middle of the night to early morning), semi-peak prices (daytime and evening), and peak prices (occurring during periods of highest demand, usually afternoon to early evening). These rates remain fixed day-to-day over the season.

Read More »

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Renewable Electricity is in Bloom in California

solar flower sterling college flickrWhile California never quite got a winter, we can still acknowledge that spring – with the sun shining and flowers blooming – is here. From where I sit in Sacramento, spring means allergy season, getting out and enjoying the blue skies, a last bit of cool air before a brutal summer, and oh yes, the legislature heating up on important questions of California’s energy future.

This year, all eyes are on the question of how to meet the bold challenges laid out by Governor Brown  in his January inauguration speech, which set goals for: 50 percent of electricity to come from renewable energy, a 50 percent improvement in the energy efficiency of existing buildings, and a 50 percent reduction in petroleum use, all by the year 2030.

To answer that challenge, the Senate has introduced Senate Bill 350 (De Leon) and the Assembly has introduced Assembly Bill 645 (Williams, Rendon), both aimed at increasing the existing Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) from 33 percent to 50 percent by 2030. And, both bills are feeling the love from a diverse array of supporters. The April 7th Senate committee hearing on SB 350 enjoyed a line of supporters (including Environmental Defense Fund) which spilled into the halls! AB 645 saw a comparable showing when it was in committee on April 20th. Both bills will be discussed for the second time in committees this week.

This strong support for clean energy should come as no surprise – robust renewable energy policies can support job growth, reduce pollution, and attract clean energy businesses to the state, which is why groups representing working people, the environment, and the transition to a clean energy economy showed up “en masse” to demonstrate support. At the same time, these groups are having conversations amongst each other and with the legislature about exactly what the transition to an electricity grid that runs on 50 percent clean resources will look like. Why? Because the details matter. Read More »

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Hitting Those Clean Energy Notes

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San Onofre Nuclear Generating Stations (SONGS) Photo source: Flickr/Jason Hickey

Editor's note: This post was updated April 9, 2015.

When the door to one power plant closes, a window to more clean energy solutions opens.

It may seem logical that once a power plant closes, another one needs to be built to replace it – after all, we need to make up for its potential energy generation with more natural gas or nuclear-powered energy, right? San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) is certainly trying to convince Californians this is true. Trouble is, EDF and other environmental groups, along with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), aren’t buying it. And you shouldn’t either.

This story begins in 2013, when the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Stations (SONGS) permanently closed, shutting down a nuclear power plant with a capacity of 2,200 megawatts (MW) and sparking a debate about how to replace this lost power source. When first determining how to proceed in the wake of the SONGS closure, the CPUC decided SDG&E could buy between 500 to 800 megawatts (MW) of new energy resources by 2022. Further, at least 200 MW of this power had to – and all of it could – be met with preferred resources like energy efficiency, renewable energy, energy storage, and demand response (an energy conservation tool that pays people to save energy when the electric grid is stressed). Read More »

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Here Comes the Sun: How California is Bringing More Renewables to the Grid

rp_Larissa-Koehler-200x300.jpgAsk most people what the Beatles and California have in common and they might very well be at a loss. However, the answer is pretty simple: they are both unabashed trendsetters in the face of resistance – the former in their musical style and the latter in its clean energy policies.

Not content with setting a Renewable Portfolio Standard that ends at 2020, Governor Jerry Brown and state legislators are pushing for the Golden State to get 50 percent of its energy from renewable resources by 2030.

To meet this ambitious target, California must build a system that is largely based on renewable electricity, like wind and solar. This is not an easy task. The primary reason? Sunshine and wind are only available at certain times of the day and can be variable during those times.

Traditionally, managers of the electricity grid have relied upon dirty “peaker” power plants – usually fossil fuel-fired and only needed a couple of days a year – to balance the grid during periods of variability or when electricity demand exceeds supply. But, in a world where 50 percent of our energy comes from renewable sources as a means to achieving a clean energy economy, we can’t rely on these dirty peaker plants to balance the variability of wind and solar.

Luckily, technology is available today that can help fill the gap of these peaker plants – and the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is starting to embrace it. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Demand Response, Electricity Pricing, Energy, Energy Efficiency, General| Read 2 Responses
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