Selected category: Energy

Moms Know What’s Best: How Time-of-Use Electricity Pricing can Benefit California Families

mcaf listenedCalifornia’s “big three” utilities, at the behest of state regulators, are in the process of examining and improving how they price electricity, including something called time-of-use (TOU) electricity pricing. This option – which rewards people who shift some of their electricity use to times of day when clean energy is abundant and electricity is cheaper – can help California families create safer communities while saving money on their utility bills. Mom’s Clean Air Force California mom Linda Hutchins-Knowles agrees, and recently wrote this opinion piece in the San Jose Mercury News encouraging others to adopt TOU.

Linda, like many moms, wears multiple hats. As a mother, she wants to help leave her children a safer, more sustainable word. As an advocate, she supports increasing our use of clean energy over dirty fossil fuels to help clean our air and environment as a whole. Finally, as a consumer, she wants to do these things without breaking the bank. Read More »

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3 Ways to Improve California’s Time-Of-Use Electricity Pilots

Jay Godwin photo - 07/31/2015 Location: The Mueller community in Austin, Texas. Caption: Mueller resident Dennis Nick is a Pecan Street program participant. He has solar collectors on his roof and an electric car in his garage. Information about his energy use can be accessed through mobile apps and on the web.California’s big three utilities – San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), and Southern California Edison (SCE) – serve approximately 80 percent of the state's residential customers, which is why their recent move to update the state’s antiquated electricity pricing could be a game-changer for helping the state achieve its climate and clean energy goals.

In late December, while most people were on holiday, the utilities submitted plans to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to assess electricity prices that vary with the season and time of day. These plans detail the next two years of piloting time-of-use (TOU) pricing for most residential customers, and will help California reduce pollution and increase renewable energy production. Read More »

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In California, Electric Vehicles are the New DeLorean in “Back to the Future”

4756808765_d63b6077d4_zAs any child of the ’80s knows, October 21, 2015 is “Back to the Future Day” – the day that the film’s protagonist, Marty McFly, travels to the future in his DeLorean. Though it would no doubt be useful to have access to flying cars (think of the traffic one could avoid), Californians are seeing increased access to something more practical: electric vehicles (EVs).

In order to meet the state’s greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction goals, emissions from transportation – the sector most responsible for harmful pollution – need to be addressed. Enter Governor Brown’s zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) mandate, which aims to build enough infrastructure statewide to support one million clean vehicles by 2020, and put 1.5 million ZEVs on the road by 2025. With this executive order, we have a much better chance of ensuring a low-carbon future and effectively combatting climate change in California. Read More »

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Local Solar can be good for all Neighborhoods

Grid AlternativesSolar power in California has, in many ways, been an unparalleled success: the state has more solar power installed than the rest of the country combined. There are more solar workers in California (55,000) than working actors or utility workers. Solar workers earn a higher than average wage, and the industry is making strides in employing more women, veterans, and people of color. And, the median income of households installing solar in California in 2012 was between $40,000-$50,000, mostly middle- and working-class homeowners.

But there are two sides to this story because, unfortunately, solar power is still inaccessible to many low-income households.

Take my neighborhood of Boyle Heights, on the east side of Los Angeles, for example: over 70 percent of residents are renters and cannot install solar on roofs they don't own. For those who do own their homes, many can't afford to purchase their own solar system (the median income is just over $33,000) or don’t qualify for traditional financing. Residents here have captured a paltry $0.33 per capita in solar incentives over the past 15 years, as compared to Bel Air (yup, that Bel Air) which received almost $200 in solar incentives per capita – over 600 times more than Boyle Heights. Read More »

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Driving the Last Spike: Linking California’s Electric Grid to Extend Clean Energy’s Reach

East_and_West_Shaking_hands_at_the_laying_of_last_rail_Union_Pacific_Railroad_-_Restoration“When the connection was finally made the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific engineers ran their engines up until their pilots touched. Then the engineers shook hands and had their pictures taken and each broke a bottle of champagne on the pilot of the other's engine and had their picture taken again.” 

          –  Alexander Topence on the scene in Promontory,                   Utah in 1869 after Western governors drove the                    “last spike” of the Transcontinental Railroad.

These are good times for clean energy in California. A decade of visionary policymaking, a motivated private sector, and copious sunshine have joined together to reduce the cost of solar in the Golden State by 90 percent.

We already produce more solar energy than any other state. And thanks to a new law Governor Jerry Brown signed last month, SB 350 (De León), California has committed itself to yet another ambitious clean energy goal: 50 percent of electricity in the nation’s most populous state will come from renewables by 2030. Solar is a central part, among others, of California’s strategy to meet this new target.

Amid all this optimism, fast solar growth poses challenges as well. A lot of it has to do with timing. Read More »

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The Future of Energy Storage is BYOB

batteryBy: Michelle Zheng, Clean Energy Intern

Before the U.S. electric grid became centralized under utilities and independent system operators, it consisted of unorganized and unconnected generators. As distributed energy resources (DERs) – such as rooftop solar, energy storage, and other generation sources beyond large power plants – find their way into (and onto) more homes and businesses, it’s clear the grid’s future has a lot in common with its roots. This time, however, an array of new technologies will help us take advantage of a more decentralized approach.

But are utilities ready to handle this change? Although some are eager to try, the answer under most current utility business models is a resounding “no.” This is because current business models promise utilities profit for putting more steel into the ground and selling as much energy as possible – the exact things DERs help avoid.

Despite all this, can we find ways for utilities and DERs to be friends? We think so. Meet the “Bring Your Own Battery” (BYOB) model. Developed by San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) and collaborators at Rocky Mountain Institute’s eLab Accelerator, it capitalizes on the emerging movement of customers bringing their own batteries to the grid. What’s more, it creates a role for the utility to facilitate rather than fight the expansion of DERs.

Read More »

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