Selected category: Smart Grid

A Stealth Tool to Modernize the Electric Grid

Cyber-securityElectricity regulators, clean energy innovators, and rappers have all lamented poor communication. And some have pushed for cleaner, cheaper, more reliable solutions for meeting our energy needs. This is particularly so with the much anticipated emergence of a new kind of non-event based, price-responsive demand response (DR), or flexible DR.

Whereas traditional DR signals customers to voluntarily and temporarily reduce their energy use at times when the electric grid is stressed, this type of DR does that and more. The big difference? It signals customers, their appliances, and their electric vehicles to increase their energy use when electricity is clean, plentiful, and cheap.

For example, electric vehicles can be programmed to charge at mid-day when the sun is bright and solar energy is at its peak, and use that stored energy when the sun sets. Better yet, many of our cars, homes, and appliances can be programmed to monitor grid conditions in real time, via the Internet, and respond accordingly by charging or defecting. Also known as a “set-it-and-forget-it” feature, this function enables the seamless integration of flexible DR while also supporting the full potential of energy efficiency measures and distributed energy resources (DERs), like rooftop solar and energy storage. Read More »

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California Utilities Plan for a Cleaner Electric Grid

California’s “big three” utilities are taking importasolar instalnt steps toward achieving a clean energy future – one in which we will better utilize renewable sources of energy, give customers more choice and control, and keep the state on course to cut pollution.

One way they are doing this is through Distribution Resource Plans (DRPs). Signed into state law in 2014, DRPs are roadmaps for California’s investor-owned utilities – including Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas & Electric – to incorporate more distributed energy resources, like rooftop solar and electric vehicles, onto the grid. Each investor-owned utility in California is required to develop a DRP, and the big three submitted their initial plans on July 1, 2015 – a milestone in and of itself.

Upon analysis, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) sees the DRPs as a considerable step in the right direction. However, there are aspects of the plans we think could be improved to ensure California’s electric grid is able to take full advantage of already existing and future distributed energy resources.   Read More »

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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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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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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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