By: 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.
Electricity 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
By: Matt Golden, Senior Energy Finance Consultant
As California races towards a clean energy future, not only do we need new aggressive goals for all sectors, but we also need to rethink how we manage distributed energy resources, like rooftop solar and customer side energy storage. This is particularly true for one such resource, energy efficiency.
Two weeks ago, the California legislature passed a number of clean energy related bills including SB 350 (De León), a bill that sets the state on a path to achieve Governor Brown's ambitious clean energy goals. The governor’s “50/50/50” plan aims to increase electricity from renewable sources to 50 percent, reduce petroleum use by 50 percent, and double building efficiency by 2030.
Most media reports have focused on the bill’s ambition to increase the renewable portfolio standard and energy efficiency goals, and some observers have expressed justified concern about items left on the cutting room floor (the petroleum use reduction target). But there has been little discussion of the bill’s most important provisions – those that address how energy efficiency will be measured and delivered going forward. Read More
California’s “big three” utilities are taking important 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
By: Lauren Navarro and Tim O’Connor
Every day thousands of Americans suffer from dirty air – costing the young and old their health, livelihood, and in many cases, their lives. As California is home to the top five most polluted cities in the country, we need action.
Thankfully, after many long hours of debate and negotiations at the state capitol, the California Legislature passed SB 350 (De León) last Friday. The California State Assembly passed the bill, with a 52-26 vote with bipartisan support before passing it on to the senate where it was approved in a concurrence vote. This bill increases California’s renewable energy mix to 50 percent and doubles the energy efficiency of existing buildings. Both of these provisions will serve to combat dirty air and fight climate change, while ushering in a new era for the state’s electricity system – one defined by a cleaner, more resilient, and dynamic electric grid. Read More
Keep reading for an overview or dig right into a new Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) policy brief on transportation fuel prices and the proposed 50 percent fossil fuel reduction for more details.
If you are a movie buff, you might remember Groundhog Day in which Bill Murray’s character had to relive the same day over and over again. Well, if you live in California, you probably feel like the existing gasoline and diesel system is on the same style of hamster wheel (i.e. roller coaster prices, Californians paying more than the rest of the country, and the petroleum industry spending the money you pay at the pump to lobby against any change).
As the 2015 legislative season comes to a close, a new script can be written for the state’s transportation fuel system in the form of SB 350 (De León). This effort would reduce petroleum use by 50 percent and in the process could reduce overall gas prices in California, reduce seasonal and annual volatility, and inject healthy competition into fuel markets that retain and create jobs across the state.
Understanding how SB 350 can help fuel consumers across California is actually pretty simple. Since the vast amount of California’s fuel is sold by a limited number of providers and drivers primarily rely on a single type of specialized fuel (CARB reformulated gasoline) – there is basically no competition in the market or choices available to consumers. Therefore, decisions by fuel providers to fix refineries or upgrade pipelines have impacts that directly affect the price Californians see at the pump, as well as how much profit or loss those same fuel providers experience. With significant profit margins and a massive fuel consumption rate, it’s no wonder the petroleum industry is trying to retain the status quo where they can single handedly inflate gas prices and profits. Read More