Andrew Bilich, Clean Energy Analyst, contributed to this post.
Here in California, we know a thriving economy and forward-thinking clean energy policy go hand in hand. An important way for us to do this is to keep using cost-competitive renewable sources of energy to power our economy.
Transitioning California to a clean energy economy is good for our wallets, our lungs, and our workforce. Today, electricity from renewable sources like solar and wind are far cheaper than fossil fuel-based generation, and in California we’re powering our homes with nearly 30 percent clean resources. In fact, as the sun shined brightly last week more than half of California’s electricity was powered by renewable sources.
Yet, recent spikes in natural gas bills remind us why alongside renewables, we need to thoroughly green the grid and bring down costs for everybody. One way to accomplish these dual goals is to use our clean energy optimally by deploying efficient tools like TOU, or time-of-use pricing. Read More
California’s three major utilities – Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), Southern California Edison (SCE), and San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) – have proposed plans to move Californians to electricity prices that vary with the time of day. Time-of-use pricing, or TOU, is critical to aligning our energy use with times when clean, cheap electricity powered by sunshine and wind is already available. TOU works because electricity is cheap when it can be powered by renewable resources and more expensive during times of peak (high) energy demand. As with any shopping, knowing prices empowers people to choose wisely to save money.
New research from Lawrence Berkeley National Lab estimates TOU rates could collectively save customers up to $700 million annually by 2025 by getting the most out of our solar and wind resources. They find that absent TOU rates, we will waste up to 12 percent of existing renewable generation capacity, and solutions like TOU can reduce this waste by six-fold. We at Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) estimate that if this clean electricity were instead provided by natural gas power plants, it would generate 8 million additional tons of greenhouse gas pollution each year. Burning gas when we could instead rely on clean energy would dramatically impede the 11 million tons per year of greenhouse gases we need to eliminate from our economy to reach California’s 2050 environmental goals.
The three big utilities are half-way through “opt-in” pilot programs that test these new rates. They’ve just submitted plans to the California Public Utilities Commission to test automatically switching some people to TOU in 2018, leading up to a complete roll out in 2019. TOU rates will work for most customers right away, reducing their bills and providing new opportunities to save money. Further, people can always opt out of the program. Read More
California is at the forefront of the clean energy revolution. Innovative policies have helped make the state number one in solar installations and clean tech, and meet the 33 percent renewable energy goal early. This has provided the courage to set a course for half of the Golden state’s electricity to be renewably-sourced by 2030. Three new clues indicate that demand response (DR) will be the key that unlocks our clean energy future.
Traditional demand response signals customers to voluntarily and temporarily reduce their energy use at times when the electric grid is stressed. But there are also other types of demand response that signal customers, their appliances, and their electric vehicles to increase their energy use when electricity is clean, abundant, and cheap. I refer to it as “secret agent DR” because of its stealth quality. Its automated nature allows customers to benefit from demand response without having to think about it on a daily basis. Instead third party companies provide this service through enabling technologies. Read More
On vacation and awake in my too-soft bed at 5 AM while my family snored, I was regretting my misaligned sleep schedule. But then I realized time was on my side, so I tiptoed out in solitude for sunrise at the south rim of the Grand Canyon. Thanks to my very clever smart phone that is also a camera, my amateur photos (sort of) reveal the majesty of this national landmark. When we realize the schedule of Nature’s wonders is both beautiful and indefatigable, and humble ourselves with simple acts of realignment, harmony can be found amidst the springs and cliffs of our lives.
Just as timing helped me take advantage of something I would have otherwise missed and my smart phone aided in capturing the moment, similar lessons can be learned in how we use energy. My phone, when linked to a smart thermostat, can help align my electricity use with cheap, clean energy resources like solar and wind. Soon residential customers of California’s “big three” utilities, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), Southern California Edison (SoCal Ed), and San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), will be able to take full advantage of this option. Read More
California has a nice problem: It’s producing so much clean solar energy that the state’s electric grid is at capacity, and sometimes beyond.
As Vox’s David Roberts reports in his excellent piece about California’s grid headache, it makes good sense to expand the system by interconnecting state-run energy markets.
But he also notes, at the end of his story, some other and complementary strategies California can use to increase its grid bandwidth – while accommodating rapidly growing, but variable, renewable energy sources.
Connected grids, alone, are not a long-term fix. Read More
California’s “big three” utilities, at the behest of state regulators, are in the process of examining and improving how they price electricity, including something called time-of-use (TOU) electricity pricing. This option – which rewards people who shift some of their electricity use to times of day when clean energy is abundant and electricity is cheaper – can help California families create safer communities while saving money on their utility bills. Mom’s Clean Air Force California mom Linda Hutchins-Knowles agrees, and recently wrote this opinion piece in the San Jose Mercury News encouraging others to adopt TOU.
Linda, like many moms, wears multiple hats. As a mother, she wants to help leave her children a safer, more sustainable word. As an advocate, she supports increasing our use of clean energy over dirty fossil fuels to help clean our air and environment as a whole. Finally, as a consumer, she wants to do these things without breaking the bank. Read More