Monthly Archives: March 2016

Boost Investor Confidence and Watch America’s Energy Market Transform

modernoffice_387x235A recent decision by New Jersey utility regulators to standardize energy efficiency procedures for commercial buildings could have a major impact – not just on the Garden State – but on energy markets nationwide.

The reason: It gives investors more confidence in performance and returns which is exactly what can fuel a big push to make buildings across the United States more efficient. It might eventually transform our energy efficiency market into an economic power house. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Energy Efficiency, Energy Financing, Investor Confidence Project / Read 2 Responses

An Historic Moment: Advanced Meters Make their Way to New York City

NYC at nightDo you remember where were you were and what you were doing the day the first iPhone was released? What about the moment when Senator Obama became a real contender for the White House? It is rare to experience a pivotal moment in history, and appreciate its significance in real time.

Last week, the New York Public Service Commission (PSC) approved a plan by New York’s largest utility, Consolidated Edison (ConEd), to distribute advanced meters (also known as “smart meters”) to more than 3.2 million electric and 1.2 million gas customers in New York City. Advanced meters, a key component of the smart grid, can unlock the many benefits of clean energy while empowering customers to take charge of their energy use. For me, this move by the PSC was a pivotal moment in New York City’s history. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Electricity Pricing, Grid Modernization, New York, Time of Use / Read 1 Response

Transforming an Energy Burden into an Energy Opportunity

Energy opportunityEconomic inequality has become one of the dominant political narratives of the day. It occupies discussions on both sides of the aisle, and is shaping elections from city halls to the White House. There’s a good reason for this: the continuing trends of flattening incomes, concentrated wealth, and deepening poverty are historic.

One place this reality is really hitting home for millions of Americans is on their monthly energy bill. For nearly one in three American families, paying a monthly energy bill is a challenge.

The energy burden, as the Department of Energy defines it, is the ratio of energy costs (which includes heating, cooling, appliances, and lighting from electricity, gas, and fuel sources) to household income. Nearly 40 percent of low-income households use electricity to heat their homes (the majority in the South and West), and are suffering a more severe energy burden because of factors like wage stagnation and the quality of housing at lower economic levels.  In 2014, researchers looking at the “energy affordability gap” for low income households (the difference between actual energy bills and what is considered affordable) tabulated it at almost $45 billion nationally. That is an increase of 16 percent from 2011, with nearly 60 percent of the growth accounted for by states in the mid-South, South, and east of the Mississippi. For any of those families, even a 10 percent growth in electricity costs can be destabilizing. Monthly electric bills become another factor forcing households to choose between groceries, childcare, and medical bills.

To make inroads in closing the energy affordability gap and reducing energy burdens for the most vulnerable, Environmental Defense Fund believes we need a combination of greater and scalable clean energy investment in low- and moderate-income communities, and a focus on empowering the many faces that are energy-burdened. The multi-billion dollar affordability gap certainly poses a variety of financial risks, but it’s also rife with opportunity. Read More »

Posted in California, Clean Energy, Energy Efficiency, Energy Equity, Energy Financing, North Carolina, On-bill repayment, Renewable Energy, Solar Energy / Comments are closed

How Energy-Water Data Can Help Cities Conserve Both, on World Water Day and Beyond

flickr broken water pipeToday is World Water Day, an international observance of water’s importance. This year’s theme is “Water and Jobs,” bringing awareness to the fact that nearly half of all workers on Earth (about 1.5 billion people) work in water-related jobs, and virtually all jobs depend on water in some way.

In conjunction with 2016 World Water Day, the nation’s capital is hosting the White House Water Summit. The President has called on organizations from around the country to voluntarily take new, specific, and measurable steps to address key water issues, such as drought or flooding, water availability, water-use efficiency, and water security. EDF heeded that call and made the following commitment:

Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) is announcing a partnership with Pecan Street, Inc. to gather data and conduct analysis to help 50 households in Houston and Austin understand the connection between their water and energy use. Results of this analysis will help Houston and Austin reduce the water and energy footprint of the more than 3 million utility customers in the two cities. In addition, EDF will work with the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Texas at San Antonio, and the University of California, Davis to help water providers of three to five major Texas cities better manage the energy use embedded in their water systems, with an additional one or two states to be announced later this year.

The work laid out here addresses the issue of embedded energy in water systems, or, in other words, the electricity it takes to secure, deliver, treat, distribute, and heat water. (This is part of what’s known as the “energy-water nexus”.) Read More »

Posted in Energy-Water Nexus / Tagged | Read 3 Responses

Do Lower Gas Prices Alter Conclusion of the ICF Study on Methane Reduction Costs?

hqdefaultLast week, the industry-sponsored Energy In Depth (EID) launched a critique of an analysis by ICF International showing that oil and gas companies can achieve major reductions in their methane emissions at relatively modest cost relative to the price of the natural gas they’re selling. In particular, EID emphasizes that natural gas prices have fallen substantially since the study was done, undercutting the result.

It’s true that natural gas prices have dropped, but the basic conclusion of the study still stands. While commodity prices fluctuate, the fundamental rationale for action hasn’t changed. In fact, over the same timeframe, EPA and other estimates of industry emissions have increased dramatically.

The bottom line is that reducing oil and gas methane emissions remains one of the biggest, most cost-effective opportunities we have for addressing climate change. Read More »

Posted in General, Methane, Natural Gas / Comments are closed

5 Ways Pennsylvania Can Build a Smarter, More Efficient Grid

pa electric gridAcross the country, signs of a cleaner, more efficient, and more affordable U.S. energy system are emerging. But we can’t reach the clean energy future without updating the way utilities make money. Today, utilities earn revenue based on how much electricity they deliver. Companies earn less when they sell less electricity, so they have little incentive to provide energy efficiency programs for their customers.

To address this issue, the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission is considering changing how utilities are paid for the electricity they sell. The goal – determining whether new rate plans could eliminate the barriers to energy efficiency programs – is an admirable step toward the clean energy future. Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) has a number of ideas on how to design a more efficient grid, which we filed in comments today:

  1. Performance-based regulation – Utilities have few incentives to help people adopt solar panels or energy efficiency, so the Commission should implement performance-based regulation plans. Rather than encouraging the sale of more electricity, a performance-based framework would reward utilities for meeting goals that benefit customers and the environment, like encouraging the use of rooftop solar or increasing the use of energy efficiency programs.

Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Energy Efficiency, Pennsylvania, Voltage Optimization / Read 3 Responses