Category Archives: Energy

Clean Energy is Just Smart Business for Leaders like Apple, Google

apple-google-again-275x300Apple and Google have changed our lives forever, both because of their technological innovations and sheer size as global corporations. Now, they’re aiming to reshape the energy landscape.

This month, Apple announced plans to spend nearly $2 billion on European data centers set to run entirely on renewable energy, and invested $848 million to secure power from 130MW of First Solar’s California Flats Solar Project under a 25-year power purchase agreement. Google also agreed to replace 370 wind turbines installed in the 1980s with 24 new, more efficient and bird-friendly turbines at the Altamont Pass in the San Francisco Bay Area. Moreover, there has been recent speculation Apple may be working on an electric vehicle to challenge Tesla’s dominance in that market.

These developments are impressive on their own, but they are also part of a new trend among major corporations – whose primary focus is not energy generation – proactively pursuing clean energy projects. So, why are they doing this?

For corporations whose businesses do not rely on fossil fuels, aligning themselves with clean power is proving a prudent move both financially and for public relations. Read More »

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Let's Talk About Solar Power and Equity

solar-cells-491701_640-300x2001We need to have “the talk” about solar power and equity, because ignoring uncomfortable questions will invite misinformation and bad decisions. We need an informed dialogue about how local solar power can impact low-income communities and communities of color in the U.S. We need to talk about “all the good things, and the bad things, that may be.”

First things first: the price of solar panels has fallen by 80 percent since 2008. This significant decrease in cost, coupled with incentives such as net metering which allow customers to send the energy they produce from their solar systems back to the grid and receive a credit on their bill, and the emergence of new financing models like solar “leasing” programs, has led to an explosion of local solar in the U.S.

We now boast an estimated 20 gigawatts of solar energy nationwide (enough to power more than four million U.S. homes), and the United States added more solar capacity in the past two years than in the previous 30 years combined. In fact, as President Obama highlighted in his State of the Union address, “every three weeks, we bring online as much solar power as we did in all of 2008.” Read More »

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SfunCube: Lighting the Way for Solar Innovation in California

rp_ca_innov_series_icon_283x204.jpgEDF’s Innovators Series profiles companies and people across California with bold solutions to reduce carbon pollution and help the state meet the goals of AB 32. Each addition to the series will profile a different solution, focused on the development of new technology and ideas.

Emily Kirsch calls herself a “solar-lifer.” Kirsch came onto the solar scene by way of former Obama advisor Van Jones’ green jobs campaign in Oakland. Now, as the co-founder and CEO of Oakland-based SfunCube—the world’s only solar-exclusive start-up business accelerator—Kirsch is growing California’s clean economy in an entirely new way and she knows the future of solar is bright.

Nestled in the heart of downtown Oakland, SfunCube—Solar for Universal Need—is supporting a growing “solar ecosystem” of the most promising solar startups that are making the San Francisco Bay Area the nation’s epicenter for solar innovation and entrepreneurship. Recently, I had the opportunity to talk with Emily Kirsch and some of the solar pioneers who are working at SfunCube to make universal access to solar a reality in California, throughout the US, and around the world.

In California today, there are over 1,889 solar companies that are part of the solar supply chain, creating more than 50,000 jobs—roughly a third of all the solar jobs in the country—and that is no coincidence. Read More »

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Demand Response: A Valuable Tool that Can Help California Realize its Clean Energy Potential

rp_Cover-photo-image-300x200.jpgA tool only has value if it’s used. For example, you could be the sort of person who’s set a goal of wanting to exercise more. If someone gives you a nifty little Fitbit to help you do that, and you never open the box, how useful, then, is this little device? The same is true about smart energy management solutions: good tools exist, but whether it’s calories or energy use that you want to cut, at some point those helpful devices need to be unpacked. The same is true for demand response, an energy conservation tool that pays people to save energy when the electric grid is stressed.

California's electricity industry stands at a crossroads. The state got an early start on creating laws and policies to cut carbon pollution, and is now reaping the benefits of these policies through reduced emissions and healthy economic growth. That said, California can’t cut carbon emissions and reduce its reliance on fossil fuels without having alternatives to choose from — some focusing on promoting renewable energy, others on smarter energy management tools. Demand response is one of these tools, and a critical one. This highly-flexible, cost-effective resource should play a key role in California’s clean energy future, but several barriers stand in the way of unleashing its full potential.

It’s hard to think of California as anything but forward-thinking, but, right now, the state’s demand response programs are lagging behind those in other states and regions of the country like the Mid-Atlantic. There is good news, however, because demand response is an evolving resource. And, with advances in smart grid technologies, demand response has the potential to improve our energy mix in California. In EDF’s new report, Putting Demand Response to Work for California, we offer recommendations on how to unlock demand response as an important part of the overall strategy for California’s bright energy future.

Read More »

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Bringing Storage Beyond the Closet and into the Socket

rp_ca_innov_series_icon_283x204.jpgEDF’s Innovators Series profiles companies and people across California with bold solutions to reduce carbon pollution and help the state meet the goals of AB 32. Each addition to the series will profile a different solution, focused on the development of new technologies and ideas.

When someone says the word “storage,” the first thing that usually comes to mind are boxes stuffed into the back of the closet, or that deserted facility with orange doors near the freeway off-ramp.

These days, energy innovators across California are giving storage a whole new meaning – and helping to revolutionize the system that brings electricity to homeowners and businesses alike. One of the entities leading this revolution is Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E), a utility in the midst of piloting new battery energy storage technology to determine how effectively it can provide a variety of grid services, including the integration of intermittent renewable generation from solar and wind.

Increasing amounts of distributed energy generation in both urban and rural areas – coupled with increasing customer demand associated with things like population growth and consumer electronics – makes energy storage an important tool to keep generation and energy use in balance. This balancing function is an important asset for integrating renewables into the grid, as storage can soak up solar and wind energy when they are abundant and discharge that energy when it is otherwise unavailable. Through this charge / discharge cycle, energy storage could lower the need for traditional fossil fuel sources and reduce resultant air pollution. Read More »

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Investor Confidence Project San Francisco Event Fires Up Energy Efficiency Professionals

By: Matt Golden, Senior Energy Finance Consultant

icp-sf-connect-1-300x168Last week, EDF’s Investor Confidence Project (ICP) co-hosted an energy efficiency finance networking event in San Francisco, bringing together 70 local project developers, for the first-ever SF Inter-Connect. Held in collaboration with San Francisco Department of the Environment (SF Environment) and Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) on November 12 at the SF Environment offices, the event gave each investor, much like in ‘speed dating’, exactly five minutes to pitch the crowd on their products, describing how they worked and what kind of projects the investor was looking for.

The Investor Confidence Project is accelerating the development of a global energy efficiency market by standardizing how Investor Ready Energy Efficiency™ projects are developed and energy savings estimates are calculated. The ICP system offers a series of protocols that define industry best practices for energy efficiency project development and a credentialing system that provides third-party validation. This leads to increased confidence among building owners and investors in the reliability of projected savings. Read More »

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