Many American households and businesses saw energy costs soar this summer with July being the hottest month in Earth’s hottest year on record.
Utilities rely on “peaker plants” during these record-setting heat waves to avoid blackouts. Such plants are more expensive and often more polluting to operate, and utilities pass the higher costs straight on to their customers.
Fortunately, this energy equation is changing. Innovative pricing and smart energy systems are gradually taking hold across the United States, already allowing homes and businesses to save energy and cut costs. It’s just the beginning of what I call our next energy revolution.
Here are three technologies on the market today that are fueling this trend: Read More
To avoid the worst effects of climate change, we must do more to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. Yet, we still do not have a price on carbon, one of the most prevalent greenhouse gases in the world and the biggest contributor to climate change. Despite knowing that a carbon price creates broad incentives to cut emissions, the current average price of carbon globally (which is below zero, once half a trillion dollars of fossil-fuel subsidies are factored in) is much too low relative to the hidden environmental, health, and societal costs of burning a ton of coal or a barrel of oil.
Policies that comprehensively reform the energy sector—a sector designed around fossil fuels—are necessary even as the price of renewable energy declines. The cost of solar photovoltaics, for example, has declined 80 percent since 2008. Prices will continue to fall, but not fast enough to make a dent in the climate problem.
Policymakers are more likely to price carbon appropriately if renewables are competitive with (or cheaper than) fossil fuels. But reducing the cost of renewable energy requires substantial investment, and thus a carbon price. The best hope of resolution is through controlled policy experiments designed to drive down the cost of renewable power sources even further and faster than in the past five years. Read More
Each month, the Energy Exchange rounds up a list of top clean energy conferences around the country. Our list includes conferences at which experts from the EDF Clean Energy Program will be speaking, plus additional events that we think our readers may benefit from marking on their calendars.
Top clean energy conferences featuring EDF experts in September:
September 20-22: ACEEE National Conference on Energy Efficiency as a Resource (Little Rock, AR)
Speaker: John Finnigan, Lead Attorney
- The ACEEE National Conference on Energy Efficiency as a Resource is a biennial event first held in 2001. The conference is widely recognized as the premiere event for examining energy efficiency as a strategic and critical utility system resource. The program content will be specifically designed to focus on the issues related to utility-sector energy efficiency policies and programs. Industry leaders will gather to discuss the latest developments in the use of energy efficiency as a key resource for meeting customer and utility system needs and for addressing other critical economic and environmental objectives.
This 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. Read More
Critics of North Carolina’s clean energy industry recently bought some radio ads asking state lawmakers who support North Carolina’s clean energy policies to change their minds and turn their backs on this growing industry. These opponents mistakenly argue our state’s clean energy policies burden North Carolinians with rising energy costs that hurt families and cost the state jobs. These claims are baseless.
Yes, energy costs in North Carolina have increased – $40 or $50 per month for many households since 2001. But the growth of renewable energy is not the reason why. Conventional energy sources like coal are getting more expensive, accounting for as much as 84 percent of this increase.
The truth is, renewable energy is helping to slow rising energy costs, saving North Carolina electricity customers $162 million since 2007. And while clean energy continues to grow, so will the savings for our state’s families and businesses – delivering nearly half a billion dollars in additional savings over the next 15 years. Read More
How does a utility company structure charges for the electricity it sells? That depends on where you live, and across the country, utilities are filing for rate increases with state agencies and commissions. The utility’s charges may be some combination of a fixed monthly fee, a fee based on the volume of electricity used, and a fee connected to the customer’s peak energy use.
Westar Energy in Kansas is one example of a utility company filing for rate increases. The company recently asked the Kansas Corporation Commission for permission to increase the fixed monthly charge for residential customers. That’s not unusual in itself, but the amount of the fixed charge increase was shocking.
Westar also proposed a special rate structure squarely aimed at residential customers with solar panels, essentially penalizing them for using clean energy and discouraging more people from installing solar panels.
Environmental Defense Fund disagreed with Westar’s approach, and we filed expert testimony with Kansas regulators explaining why. Westar finally reached a settlement with the other stakeholders – and our recommendations were instrumental in eliminating the utility’s proposal to impose discriminatory rates on solar customers. Last week the Commission issued the order to approve the settlement. Read More