Energy Exchange

Tesla: Inventor of the Modern

The following is an excerpt from Tesla, Inventor of the Modern, a new book by Dick Munson published in May 2018.

Nikola Tesla gave us the electric motor, long-distance electricity transmission, radio, robots, and remote control — the very foundations of our modern economy. Perhaps less well known is that he also was a clean-energy pioneer, and he remains an inspiration to today’s solar and battery entrepreneurs, including Elon Musk, who views him as a hero and contributed $1 million to help restore Tesla’s laboratory on Long Island.

Tesla marked his clean-energy leadership with a 1900 article in The Century — then the nation’s largest-circulation periodical. Published 118 years ago, “The Problem of Increasing Human Energy, with Special References to the Harnessing of the Sun’s Energy” was one of the earliest, detailed looks at capturing power from the sun and wind.

At his core, Tesla appreciated efficiency and hated energy waste, complaining that we “do not utilize more than 2 percent of coal’s energy” to make electricity. “The man who should stop this senseless waste would be a great benefactor of humanity,” he declared. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Energy Innovation / Leave a comment

FirstEnergy's dangerous push for an $8B bailout: What you need to know

A mega utility from Ohio is appealing to the Trump administration for an unprecedented $8-billion, ratepayer-funded bailout, even pointing to a 1950s Korean War Act for relief. It’s FirstEnergy’s last-ditch appeal after losing previous efforts to prop up a fleet of failing coal and nuclear plants.

The company’s Washington-based lobbyists have the ears of Energy Secretary Rick Perry, an avid coal champion, who could make a decision any day.

What neither FirstEnergy nor Perry are telling us is that a government handout of this magnitude could have implications for energy markets nationwide – while saddling Americans with a flurry of bailouts that go far beyond $8 billion. For no valid reason at all. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Market resilience / Read 2 Responses

This cleantech hotspot is giving New York and California a run for their money

California and New York often steal the spotlight on cleantech innovation, but those in the know are keeping their eye on Illinois.

The energy sector has been undergoing rapid change in the Land of Lincoln, thanks to a slew of innovative initiatives. More than ever before, Illinois’ buildings are more efficient, its electric grid is more modern, and its electricity use is smarter. And the state is just getting started.

Powering all of the buildings in the United States costs over $400 billion a year. Many of these buildings were built long before modern energy codes and, therefore, use more power than they should. This gap presents a ripe opportunity: The retrofit industry is now valued at $20 billion, and Illinois is paying attention. The state topped the list of most LEED-certified buildings from 2013–2015, and has remained in the top 5 since. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Grid Modernization, Illinois / Read 1 Response

Trump may greenlight an $8 billion attack on competitive energy markets

President Trump may soon grossly distort competitive markets for electricity. Last week, he announced his consideration of a request for “202(c),” by which he means an $8 billion proposal to bail out all merchant coal and nuclear plants in a region that spans across 13 Midwestern and Mid-Atlantic states.

The request comes from FirstEnergy, the Ohio-based utility giant that has sought billions of bailout dollars over the last decade to cover its bad business decisions. Although repeatedly rebuked by federal and state regulators, the company recently asked the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to bail out coal and nuclear units in the PJM-grid operator region by invoking section 202(c) of the Federal Power Act. Using this power would require the Department to find that additional compensation to these plants is necessary due to an “emergency” on the grid. The audacious proposal would bail out not only FirstEnergy’s facilities, but more than 80 coal and nuclear units throughout PJM, the largest grid-operator region in the U.S.

The plea aims to increase electricity bills by a staggering $8 billion annually. It also would insulate old, dirty power plants from competition – protecting them from markets where more affordable resources like solar, wind and natural gas are helping to drive down electricity bills for Americans. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, FirstEnergy / Comments are closed

This Midwestern state is the surprising standout on cutting carbon pollution.

One state surprisingly stands out for reducing carbon emissions from electricity.

Ohio saw an impressive 37.7 percent drop in its power sector’s carbon emissions from 2005 to 2015. Despite not having a stellar track record on clean energy, the Buckeye State, in fact, has become the nation’s carbon-reducing powerhouse: In absolute terms, Ohio slashed its carbon pollution by 50 million metric tons (MMT) during that decade – far more than any other state.

No doubt the steep drop in natural gas prices during this time period played a starring role in this change, forcing numerous dirty Ohio coal plants to close. Yet, despite recurrent challenges from subsidy-seeking utilities, Ohio’s deregulated electricity market and clean energy standards are also to thank. Imagine the carbon reductions that could be achieved if Ohio fully embraced clean energy technologies, and stopped trying to gut the state’s clean energy standards and bail out aging coal plants. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, FirstEnergy, Ohio / Read 1 Response

Data reveals real-time electricity pricing would help nearly all ComEd customers save money

Over the past few years, Illinois has taken great strides to not only modernize its electric grid, but also to provide people and businesses with access to energy data.

In February, the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) approved the release of anonymous, aggregate energy-use data on a large scale, broken out in half-hour increments, 24 hours a day. Sensing an opportunity to unlock innovation, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and the Citizens Utility Board (CUB), Illinois’ utility watchdog, dove into that treasure trove of granular data.

Specifically, we wanted to see how the customers of Illinois’ largest electric utility, ComEd, would have fared under a “real-time pricing” program in which power prices change hourly. Anonymous data from over 300,000 homes revealed several interesting tidbits that we’re sharing in our new whitepaper, The Costs and Benefits of Real-Time Pricing.

Most importantly, the study shows that real-time prices would have saved 97 percent of customers money in 2016 – even if the customers made no changes to how they use electricity. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Electricity Pricing, General, Illinois / Read 1 Response