Energy Exchange

U.N. Climate Summit Attendees Should Look to its Hosting City as a Model for Success

nyc clean heat

Next week, climate delegates from around the world will flood into the city for the United Nations Climate Summit, where they will negotiate the finer details of international policies to address climate change. But climate action need not always unfold on global stages. Cities, too, can be prime drivers in improving our environment, and the U.N. Climate Summit’s host, New York City, is a great example.

New York City’s Clean Heat program reached its goal of reducing soot pollution by half in just two years. NYC Clean Heat is a program to replace dirty heating oil in the city’s most polluting commercial and residential buildings.

Successful environmental campaigns require broad support and NYC Clean Heat is no different. EDF helped convene the diverse coalition of city officials, non-profits, and private sector banks to launch a $100 million financing program to help building owners transition from dirty heating oils to cleaner fuels such as natural gas or biodiesel.

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Posted in Air Quality, Clean Energy| Leave a comment

Five Reasons Now is the Time for Federal Standards to Reduce Oil and Gas Methane Emissions

natgas flare

Source: Tim Evanson Flickr

Today sixteen leaders of the nation’s largest environmental and conservation groups, including EDF’s president Fred Krupp, came together to call for urgent federal action to curb methane emissions from oil and gas development.

This past march, President Obama laid out his Strategy to Reduce Methane Emissions, where he announced that the Environmental Protection Agency will decide by this fall how best to reduce methane pollution from the oil and gas sector. The Strategy builds on the commitment from his 2012 State of the Union Address that the development of oil and gas resources must not put Americans' health and safety at risk.

Here are five reasons why reducing methane is a national priority that requires the Obama administration to follow through on its commitment:

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Posted in Clean Energy, Methane, Natural Gas| 3 Responses

Momma Said ‘Time-of-Use’ Electricity Pricing

Map of polluting power plants in Los Angeles County. Many are located in or near the region’s most vulnerable communities that are already over-burdened by air pollution.

Map of polluting power plants in Los Angeles County. Many are located in or near the region’s most vulnerable communities that are already over-burdened by air pollution.

My mom is a pro at shopping for good deals. She taught me the importance of timing my purchases during the off-peak season to get the most value for my dollar.

Time-of-Use (TOU) electricity pricing reminds me of the lessons my mom taught me, and it can help empower families to take control of their energy use, while saving money AND improving air quality.

Like the name implies, TOU pricing allows customers to choose when to power-up large appliances (think laundry, dishwasher, A/C) in order to avoid using high-demand, “peak” energy – which is more polluting and expensive. It is a voluntary program with a proven track record.

Peak energy demand typically occurs late in the afternoon when everyone is coming home from school and work, running the A/C, charging phones, cooking, doing laundry, or streaming Netflix on a T.V. During this high-demand time, energy prices spike and electric utilities flip on expensive and dirty fossil fuel “peaking” power plants to meet energy demand (because nobody wants to lose power and heaven-forbid the Internet!). Read More »

Posted in Electricity Pricing| 2 Responses

Lasers, Circuit Boards, and a $30 Gizmo: Innovative Solutions to the Methane Problem

Source: MIssy Schmidt/Flickr

Source: MIssy Schmidt/Flickr

The technologies we see today didn’t all start out in the forms we’re used to. The phones we carry in our pockets used to weigh pounds, not ounces. Engineers developed hundreds of designs for wind turbines before landing on the three-blade design commonly seen in the field.

Fast forward and now we're looking at a drunk-driver-and-alcohol sensor that was converted into a methane leak detector. And a sensor purchased off the web for less than $30 that was transformed into a monitor that fights off greenhouse gases.

I was excited to see the diversity of technologies such as these moving forward in the Methane Detectors Challenge. Read More »

Posted in Air Quality, Clean Energy, Climate, Methane| Leave a comment

Resiliency+: Smart Grid Technologies and the Benefits of Two-Way Communication

PowerGrid_large_outlinesIt’s September, fall is around the corner, and with it, the second anniversary of devastating Hurricane Sandy. A smarter, more efficient electric grid should be on the minds of all New Jerseyans. Unfortunately, it’s not.

Wired magazine calls America’s power grid the largest machine ever built. Over the past few decades, this grid has been expanded throughout the country to ensure that even remote areas have electricity. Although this is an incredible accomplishment, the grid should also strive to keep pace with the latest technological advances, becoming not just the largest machine ever built, but also a more efficient and resilient one.

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Posted in Clean Energy, Climate, New Jersey, Smart Grid, Utility Business Models| 1 Response

My Sleepover at Chicago's Merchandise Mart

By: Abdul Wadood, EDF Climate Corps Fellow and graduate student at Duke University’s Pratt School of Engineering

CPP Fellow Abdul_in front of The MartHow does one maintain a facility of 4.2 million square feet, with five acres of roofs, that is two city blocks long and has 375 tenants? And, how does a building built in 1930 (also the largest building in the world at that time) compete with current technological innovations and new energy conservation trends? The answer lies in having accurate data, which can be a challenge considering the sheer size and age of this particular building.

The building I am referring to is the Merchandise Mart. Also called ‘The Mart,’ this building centralizes Chicago’s wholesale goods businesses by consolidating home, office, casual furnishings and a large variety of luxury home kitchen & bath showrooms under one roof. At the same time, the building now forms part of Chicago’s growing tech triangle community near the famous city loop as 1871, Motorola Mobility, Braintree, All Scripts, CCC and Yelp are in the building.

Every EDF Climate Corps fellow can fathom the potential of implementing energy efficiency measures – especially since it is a current industry trend. However, this does not come without challenges. As a student at Duke, I thought putting in long study hours, deskbound in a library only to be chauffeured home by campus safety was difficult.

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Posted in Clean Energy, Energy Efficiency, General, Illinois, Smart Grid| Leave a comment

Illinois Considers Greenhouse Gas Metric for Evaluating Utility Performance

Source: pgegreenenergy

Source: pgegreenenergy

A new utility business model – “Utility 2.0” or “reform” – is the hot topic in statehouses and regulatory commissions across the country. This is due to many factors: technological innovations in the energy sector, changing consumer expectations, increasing electricity prices, tighter regulations, and the need to decarbonize our energy sector as we grapple with climate change.

Some argue utility earnings should be based on performance rather than volumetric electricity sales. They suggest utilities’ monopoly interests should be aligned with enabling clean energy services – such as on-site renewable energy and home energy management – instead of simply delivering more electricity.

Key to this new approach is the ability to define – and then measure – performance. This will require a set of metrics by which utility investments can be judged and rewarded. Illinois was the early adaptor of performance-based metrics for its historic smart meters roll-out and is finalizing a set of metrics this week that are critical to designing a utility business model for the future. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Demand Response, Electricity Pricing, Energy Efficiency, Smart Grid, Utility Business Models| 1 Response

Good News: EPA Standards Could Lower Electricity Bills

Source: Brendan Wood

Source: Brendan Wood

Millions of Americans are watching their bills more closely as middle-class incomes continue to stagnate in the nation's uneven economic recovery.

So it's frustrating to hear opponents of climate action once again use the threat of higher electricity rates as a scare tactic to try to stop the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan. We know it has many people concerned.

The good news is we have more evidence than ever before to prove our opponents wrong.

 

We pay the same rates for power now as in 1994

Electric rates in the United States have remained steady over the last 20 years, even as consumption of renewable energy increased 40 percent, statistics from the U.S. Energy Information Administration show. Over the same time, we reduced coal plant emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides by more than 75 percent.

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Posted in California, Clean Energy, Clean Power Plan, Climate, Energy Efficiency, General, Renewable Energy| 2 Responses

What a Difference a Day Makes! The Value of Real-Time Electricity Data

Source:

Source: gato-gato-gato

Imagine you’re trying to lose weight. If you step on the scale once a month, how can you possibly know how each of your daily decisions affects the number? Weighing yourself every day would be a step up, giving you a much clearer picture of the effects of each day’s choices. Now imagine the potential results if you could access real-time data – if you were able to see just how many calories were in each food you picked up, as well how much energy you were exerting at any given moment.

Thanks to a meta-analysis on behalf of the American Council for an Energy Efficiency Economy (ACEEE), we can now see that access to this kind of granular, real-time data on electricity use leads to significant household electricity savings.

Survey highlights importance of timeliness and granularity

The ACEEE survey aggregates multiple studies designed to evaluate the effectiveness of different types of electricity customer feedback from the past 20 years, including 61 trials from around the world: 33 from the U.S., 13 from Europe, 9 from Canada, and 3 others. Such a diverse pool allows us to draw important conclusions about consumer energy use habits while controlling for variations in culture, climate, and energy use patterns. The results are displayed in the graph below. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Clean Power Plan, Climate, Electricity Pricing, Energy Efficiency, General, Smart Grid, Utility Business Models| Leave a comment

Elon Musk's Love-Hate Relationship with Texas

 (Source: Governor Rick Perry)

Texas Governor Rick Perry meets with entrepeneur Elon Musk
Source: Governor Rick Perry

For months now there has been much secrecy and mystery surrounding the location of electric car revolutionary Tesla's new $5 billion Gigafactory. The factory will supply cheaper batteries for the company’s Model 3 electric car and will be large enough to manufacture more lithium-ion batteries than the entire industry produces now. Due to its sheer scale, the factory is expected to reduce the cost of batteries by almost one-third and create close to 7,000 jobs directly and thousands more indirectly.

Amidst all the rumors abounding, closed door meetings, and tax break wars, I wrote about Tesla’s search for the perfect factory location – of which Texas was in the running. Despite Tesla breaking ground near Reno, Nevada a few weeks ago, there was still speculation about where the Gigafactory might be located, and Texas' chances remained somewhat alive.

But no more. Tesla indeed confirmed that Reno will be the home of the Gigafactory. This is great for Nevada’s economy, but as a Texan, it still feels like a bit of a blow – though I’m not surprised.

While Texas Governor Rick Perry personally lobbied for the Gigafactory to make its home in Texas, it doesn’t help that he’s at the helm of a state hostile to clean energy, despite leading the nation in wind power. Although I’m hopeful that future clean tech endeavors will come to Texas, the existing status quo needs to change to combat this hostility.   Read More »

Posted in Energy Storage, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid, Texas| Tagged , , , | Leave a comment