Monthly Archives: December 2014

Germany’s Energiewende Requires Sophisticated Governance, Political Stamina

"Berlin reichstag CP" by Cezary Piwowarski - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Berlin_reichstag_CP.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Berlin_reichstag_CP.jpgConceptualizing a policy as broad and ambitious as Energiewende – Germany’s goal to transition nearly 100 percent of its electricity supply to renewable energy by 2050 – is one thing. Implementing it is another thing entirely.

For this, ‘good governance’ is required – or as the Hertie School defines it: “an effective, efficient, and reliable set of legitimate institutions and actors engaged in a process of dealing with a matter of public concern.”

Energiewende’s implementation presents significant governance challenges. It is a public matter that requires cooperation and coordination from various public and private actors, as well as top-down decision-making. It also comprises diverse political levels and jurisdictions – global, European, federal, state, and municipal – as well as interest groups, cooperatives, alliances, banks, and individuals.

While Energiewende is very much a German policy designed for a German political context, there are still lessons the U.S. (and any country considering an energy transition for that matter) can learn from the challenges Germany has faced in developing a governance strategy to go where no one has gone before: overhauling the modern electricity system as we know it to make the German power grid more clean, efficient, resilient, and dynamic. Read More »

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Exploring U.S. Seniors’ Perspective Toward the Smart Grid

By: Patty Durand, Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative Executive Director

Durand headshotUnderstanding customers’ attitudes, viewpoints, and overall favorability around a modernized electric grid is integral to fully realizing all the benefits the smart grid has to offer.

Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative (SGCC) recently completed a new consumer analysis, Consumer Pulse: Focus on Seniors, which takes a deeper dive into the data collected from SGCC’s national flagship research series, Consumer Pulse Wave 1-4, which was collected during 2011–2013.

In the energy industry, there is no single study that explores seniors’ attitudes toward the smart grid and energy programs. Therefore, this new analysis provides insight for utilities and the smart grid stakeholder community on a demographic that is not well understood. Further, the Consumer Pulse: Focus on Seniors report answers the key question: What benefits do older Americans value most from a smarter grid? Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Demand Response, Grid Modernization, Utility Business Models / Read 3 Responses

Amid Global Efforts, New York Plants Seeds for Energy Reform in 2014 That Will Bloom in 2015

2015_new_yearIn the future, when we look back on 2014, I believe it will be remembered as the tipping point for climate action. In the Northeast, we’ll remember the devastating early-season snowstorm that caused over a dozen deaths. In the Southwest, many will remember the third-straight year of a drought that seems without end. And, nationally, many will remember 2014 as one of the hottest years in recorded history – the hottest since 2010 and the 11th time the record for hottest year has been set since 1998.

In a year punctuated by extreme weather across the country and the globe, 2014 will also be remembered as the year when seeds of coordinated global action to address climate change first took root. The federal Clean Power Plan, the Lima Climate Agreement, the United Nations Climate Summit, and the U.S.-China Climate Accord, among other major milestones, all highlight the growing awareness and importance of taking action to address climate change. Though many view these events as tentative first steps, they are nonetheless steps in the right direction.

Action at the national level has been long overdue and support for the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Clean Power Plan, which would set the first-ever national limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants, is borne from decades of work at the local level. The historical absence of a broader national agenda has spurred cities and states to act on their own, and local authorities are continuing to make significant, innovative strides forward. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Energy Efficiency, Grid Modernization, New York, Utility Business Models / Read 3 Responses

We need strong national methane rules. Here’s how we get there.

By Karin Rives, EDF’s editorial manager and editor of the EDF Voices blog

New York’s statewide ban on fracking is a vindication for communities around the country that have been hit hard by unconventional natural gas production, writes Fred Krupp, Environmental Defense Fund’s president, in a Dec. 22 op-ed piece in The Washington Post.

It demonstrates what can happen when oil and gas producers erode public trust by brushing aside legitimate questions – and reinforces the urgent need for strong, sensible regulation.

The growing controversy surrounding our natural gas industry has created a decisive moment for President Obama.

As the administration prepares a policy to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas sector, the president has an opportunity to cut both energy waste and climate pollution – in addition to protecting the ecosystem and public health.

In a second op-ed piece published Dec. 17 in The Hill, Fred lays out five principles that should guide the national methane standards the Obama administration is expected to announce soon: Read More »

Posted in Climate, Methane, Natural Gas / Read 1 Response

Utility 2.0: What are Utilities Doing to Meet New York’s Vision for a 21st Century Energy System?

nyc skylineSince the New York Public Service Commission (Commission) opened its Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) proceeding in the spring to modernize the state’s electricity system, a lot has happened. Namely, New York utilities are already working to align themselves with the broad objectives outlined in the REV proceeding. Here is an overview of efforts by the state’s big players:

CON EDISON – Brooklyn/Queens Demand Management Program

Growth in electricity demand in parts of Brooklyn and Queens is taxing infrastructure and will require action from Con Edison to ensure reliability. Con Edison could pursue a costly $1 billion substation upgrade to meet this rising demand. Instead, the utility is slashing needed investment by half and plans to invest around $500 million – $305 million in traditional utility investments and $200 million clean energy resources – to address the area’s growing energy needs as part of its Brooklyn/Queens Demand Management program. Measures include:

  • Demand Response (a tool that pays customers to conserve energy when the electric grid is stressed): A new demand response system from energy services provider Alstom, which would allow 3.3 million customers to be compensated for the value they provide to the grid.
  • Energy Storage: Battery-based energy storage for electricity produced when electricity demand is low (off-peak hours) for use when demand is high (peak periods), easing the burden on the electric grid at those times.
  • Microgrids (which generate electricity nearby or on-site where it’s consumed): The development of microgrids to improve resiliency and enable the aforementioned demand response system.
  • Electric Grid Resilience and Optimization: Expanded use of smart meters, which provide detailed electricity use data throughout the day, will improve response time to power outages and give customers more control over their energy usage.

Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Demand Response, Energy Efficiency, Energy Storage, New York, Renewable Energy, Utility Business Models / Tagged , | Read 2 Responses

Texas Grid Regulator Cites Very Little Burden in Complying with EPA’s Clean Power Plan

Source: Armin Kübelbeck, Wikimedia Commons

Well, it didn’t take long before the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) released, at the request of Texas’ very political Public Utilities Commission, another report about the impacts of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) rules designed to protect public health.

This time ERCOT, which manages 90 percent of Texas’ electric grid, looked at the impact of seven EPA clean air safeguards on the electric grid, including the Cross State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR), the Mercury Air Toxics Standard (MATS), the Regional Haze program (all of which go back before the Obama administration), the proposed Clean Power Plan, which would set the first-ever national limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants, and others. What was surprising to learn, though, is that after power companies in the state start complying with EPA’s other clean air protections, the proposed Clean Power Plan poses a minimal incremental impact to the power grid. We would only have to cut 200 megawatts of coal-fired generation, which equates to less than one coal-fired power plant. Read More »

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