Author Archives: Dick Munson

Ohio explores perspectives, opportunities for modernizing the electric grid

Asim Haque, chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.

This post was updated on June 20, 2017.

Just think about the number of interactions we have with electricity each day – from our alarm clocks to our toasters to our smart phones and the lights in our homes and offices.

Electricity is undeniably important to our lives and our economy. And unprecedented energy innovation has created the opportunity to build a smarter, cleaner, and more modern electric grid. But modernizing the grid won’t happen on its own.

That’s why The Nature Conservancy and Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) convened about a hundred participants for a grid modernization conference last week in Columbus, Ohio. People came together to discuss challenges with our aging and frayed grid as well as opportunities presented by modern sensors and smart meters. Although participants brought different perspectives, everyone agreed now is a critical, opportune time to upgrade our aging electric grid.  Read More »

Posted in Grid Modernization, Ohio| Leave a comment

The more electricity regulators delay, the more customers pay

Remember the old “money booths,” in which game show participants got to grab as many dollars as they could before the timer went off? Well, FirstEnergy’s the lucky contestant; everyday Ohioans are supplying the cash, and the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) is refusing to call time.

The PUCO is still deciding whether to give final approval to the bailout for the Ohio-based utility giant’s old, inefficient coal plants. Refresher: In October, the PUCO gave a tentative $625-million subsidy to reduce FirstEnergy’s debt associated with its bad business decisions.

PUCO procedures require regulators to solicit responses and reconsider its initial decision. Ohio commissioners, however, have allowed FirstEnergy to start collecting without the final approval. The effective start date of the tariff was January 1, 2017 – nearly five months ago. Read More »

Posted in FirstEnergy, Ohio| Comments are closed

Don’t buy Perry’s reliability ruse. His fake study is pro-coal propaganda.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s so-called grid reliability study will be nothing more than thinly-veiled propaganda for the coal industry and a tool to justify expensive government handouts to outdated power plants.

How do we know? The tactic is ripped straight from FirstEnergy’s well-worn subsidy playbook.

The Ohio-based utility has relentlessly sought a massive, customer-funded bailout to prop up its unprofitable power plants. It repeatedly tried using reliability as an excuse for subsidies, while the regional grid operator repeatedly declared there would be plenty of generation to keep the lights on without FirstEnergy’s old power plants.

The reliability justification hasn’t worked for FirstEnergy, and it won’t work for the pro-coal Trump administration. The reality is, a 21st-century energy system won’t be based on old, lumbering coal plants. Instead, modern energy technology means we can build a cleaner, more flexible, and reliable electric grid. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, FirstEnergy, Ohio, Utility Business Models| Read 1 Response

How blockchain could upend power markets

Talk about a disruptive technology. The “world's leading software platform for digital assets,” blockchain may be little known, but it could revolutionize electricity markets.

What is blockchain?

Blockchain, in short, is a secure, decentralized, and highly efficient way to manage and keep track of infinite transactions. Rather than being stored on a central server, peer-to-peer transactions are replicated across a number of computers, creating a data store that records exchanges in almost real time. To ensure the transactions are secure, authenticity and identity are maintained through cryptography and digital signatures.

Bitcoin – perhaps the most-recognized blockchain application – already is challenging conventional money exchangers. According to Cambridge University researchers, almost 6 million people use this cryptocurrency in order to make electronic peer-to-peer transactions without an intermediary such as a bank. And because blockchain technology is decentralized and accessible from multiple locations, Bitcoin funds can’t be frozen, withheld, seized, or taken.

New electricity opportunities

When it comes to electricity, blockchain could offer a reliable, rapid, and low-cost means to record and validate financial and operational transactions. These transactions could include selling and buying electricity – again without an intermediary, in this case the incumbent utility monopoly. In light of the rapid rise of distributed (decentralized) energy resources like batteries and solar panels, some analysts even believe the market for blockchain applications is significantly larger in the energy sector than for financial services. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy| Read 1 Response

Proving the negative: The challenge of calculating energy efficiency

Andrew Barbeau, senior clean energy consultant for EDF, contributed to this post.

“Efficiency is good.” That’s the mantra, a known truth, shared by both business executives and environmentalists, who eliminate waste to increase profits and reduce pollution.

When it comes to electricity, efficiency also has proven effective. Whereas power consumption a few decades ago was rising annually at more than 7 percent, the introduction of inexpensive and efficient lightbulbs, refrigerators, and smart heating and cooling has recently led to slight declines in energy consumption, even as the economy boomed and population increased.

Efficiency may be good and effective, but it is inherently hard to calculate. How do you prove the negative? Virtually every state has wrestled with the same questions of how and why electricity use didn’t happen. States with energy efficiency standards – requirements for local utilities to incentivize customers to reduce their energy use year after year – want to know if the investments are cost-effective. With new approaches to calculating energy efficiency, Illinois is tackling that question head on. Read More »

Posted in Energy Efficiency, Illinois| Read 6 Responses

How Electricity Data Can Clean Up the Economy

The U.S. electric grid is old and frayed, yet innovative technologies – modern sensors, smart meters, and advanced telecommunications – offer hope to update it to become more modern, efficient, and clean. What all these smart-grid tools have in common is data. How we utilize the enormous quantities of information about how we move and use electricity will have major impacts on markets, customers, the environment, and our future electricity system.

The Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) recognized this when, in mid-February, they approved an energy data-sharing program for Illinois’ largest electric utility, Commonwealth Edison (ComEd). The program, developed and advanced by Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and Citizens Utility Board (CUB), allows companies and researchers access to anonymous energy-use data from ComEd’s nearly 4 million smart meters.

This will encourage the development of energy-saving products and services designed to help Illinoisans save money. The data also will allow rooftop solar companies, energy efficiency providers, non-profits, researchers, cities, and other clean energy innovators to see which neighborhoods and blocks have the greatest potential for money-saving clean energy projects ─ ensuring no community is left behind. Moreover, this information will spur new offerings from smart home and appliance manufacturers, energy management specialists, HVAC and lighting companies, as well as market researchers. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Data Access, Illinois| Read 1 Response
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