Author Archives: John Finnigan

Utility 2.0: New York Electricity Market Should Allow Third Parties to Compete

Source: Tendril

Source: Tendril

The New York Public Service Commission (Commission) has embarked on the landmark Reforming Energy Vision (REV) proceeding to design a new business model for electric utilities. Today’s business model allows utilities to earn revenues based on how much money they spend to supply and deliver electricity. Under the new model, utilities will earn revenues based on the value of services they deliver to customers and the environment.

Currently, utilities dominate the electricity service market, limiting customer access to the full range of products and services otherwise available in a truly open market. One focus of the proceeding is to remove the barriers preventing third parties, such as retail electric suppliers, solar energy companies, or smart meter providers, from fully participating in the energy market. Allowing full participation by third parties would lead to increased innovation and fuel the development of new products and services. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Demand Response, Electricity Pricing, Energy Efficiency, Smart Grid, Utility Business Models| 1 Response

After 130 Years, New York Rethinks its Electric Utility Model

Source: Frank Edens Flickr

Source: Frank Edens Flickr

America’s electric grid has not been updated since World War II when telephones, dishwashers, and air conditioning were the cutting-edge technology innovations of the century.

Today, this same grid is struggling to cope with the technological advances of the last decade, a reality that hit home for New Yorkers in the wake of Superstorm Sandy when millions of people lost power for days and even weeks.

But New York is taking steps to change this. A proposal to overhaul the state’s utility business model could dramatically change how people interact with their power company.

It could bring in innovative technology to help homes and businesses better manage their own energy needs, while at the same time reduce carbon emissions – changes that would have national implications. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, New York, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid| 1 Response, comments now closed

EDF Weighs In on New York’s Bold Effort to Build a New Electric Utility Business Model

New York Skyline

Source: iStock

The U.S. electric grid has not been updated since World War II when telephones, dishwashers, and air conditioning were the cutting-edge technology innovations of the century. Today, this same grid is struggling to cope with the technological advances of the last decade, a reality that hit home for New Yorkers in the wake of Superstorm Sandy when millions of people lost power for days and even weeks.

But New York is taking steps to change this, first by initiating a proceeding in April to overhaul the state’s utility business model, and now by opening the proceeding to comments. EDF filed our comments (Track 1 and Track 2) in this case last Friday, July 18th, and commends the New York Public Service Commission for the opportunity to provide our input on this exceedingly important policy that will have national implications.

Humble beginnings

New York played a leading role in establishing today’s utility business model. Thomas Edison developed the first power plant on Pearl Street in Manhattan in 1882, serving 85 lighting customers. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Electricity Pricing, Energy Efficiency, New York, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid, Utility Business Models| Comments closed

Massachusetts Moves to Modernize its Electric Grid – What this Means for Customers, Utilities

massbay

Source: Leatherndevil, via Wikimedia Commons

According to the Electric Power Research Institute, the U.S. will need to invest $124 billion between now and 2030 to upgrade its electric distribution system, and these upgrades will require state utility commissions to thoughtfully plan for and oversee the investments. Last week, Massachusetts became one of the first states to begin this process by taking a bold step to modernize its electric grid, joining states like New York and Hawaii, which recently introduced similar measures.

On June 12, 2014, the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) ordered utilities to file ten-year grid modernization plans. These plans will spell out how utilities plan to incorporate modern technology to improve electric service and connect clean energy resources to the grid. This will provide customers access to cleaner and higher quality electricity service at a lower cost. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Smart Grid, Utility Business Models| Tagged | Comments closed

In NJ Settlement, EDF Fights to Strengthen the State’s Energy Infrastructure

By Jukka Isokoski  via Wikimedia Commons

By Jukka Isokoski via Wikimedia Commons

The recent Energy Strong settlement between New Jersey regulators and Public Service Electric & Gas (PSE&G), the state’s largest utility, should help reinforce vulnerable energy infrastructure ahead of future severe storms. Last month, the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) agreed that customers could fund $1.2 billion in PSE&G improvements to New Jersey’s electric grid to make it more resilient and efficient. As a participant in the case, EDF was encouraged that PSE&G agreed to necessary changes to its grid to protect against more extreme weather events.

PSE&G, which had originally asked for $2.6 billion in storm-related hardening funds, submitted its Energy Strong proposal to regulators in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, which knocked out electricity for a third of homes and businesses in the state for weeks.

The BPU denied EDF and other environmental organizations full intervener status, preventing us from mounting a full case that would have included expert witnesses on proven climate science and the increased likelihood of future superstorms, the pressing need to take aggressive action to make our existing electric and gas distribution grids more resilient, and the need to transition to a smarter, more decentralized energy system.  Although our status in the case was limited by the BPU’s decision, we managed to argue for and win some positives for the environment: Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Energy Efficiency, Methane, Natural Gas, Smart Grid| 1 Response, comments now closed

Energy Efficiency Saves Billions – That’s Why Ohio Utilities and Big Business Want to Kill It

Source: Chris Chan Flickr

Source: Chris Chan Flickr

Energy efficiency is a proven value. In Ohio alone, energy efficiency programs have saved people a total of $1 billion since 2009. What’s more is that these savings far outweigh the costs to implement Ohio’s energy efficiency programs, which amount to less than half of the total savings. Yet Ohio utilities, particularly FirstEnergy, and large industrial companies want to kill it. Why? Because they lose when customers use energy efficiency programs.

One would think that the billions in customer energy savings would easily trump the utilities’ and large industrial companies’ efforts to kill energy efficiency. But we live in challenging times. The utilities and large industrial companies are spending big money on this issue, and they might win the day unless we can convince our elected leaders to save energy efficiency. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy, Utility Business Models| 1 Response, comments now closed

Indiana Governor’s Inaction Results in First Rollback of Energy Efficiency Standards in the Nation

Indiana State Capitol, Source: David Schwen

Indiana State Capitol, Source: David Schwen

At the end of March, the Indiana legislature passed a bill repealing the state’s energy efficiency standard, becoming the first state in the nation to roll back its energy savings goals. Governor Mike Pence could have signed the bill into law or he could have vetoed it. He did neither; instead, the bill became law because he took no action within the prescribed time period. His statement as to why he allowed the bill to become law left us scratching our heads.

Here’s what he said:

“I could not sign this bill because it does away with a worthwhile energy efficiency program developed by the prior administration. I could not veto this bill because doing so would increase the cost of utilities for Hoosier ratepayers and make Indiana less competitive by denying relief to large electricity consumers, including our state’s manufacturing base.” Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Energy Efficiency, Utility Business Models| Tagged , | Comments closed

Roberto Rocks the House (and the Senate Too): Why Protecting Ohio’s Clean Energy Standards is Imperative

Source: American Insurance Association

Source: American Insurance Association Flickr

Cheryl Roberto, Associate Vice President and leader of EDF’s Clean Energy Program, recently testified before the Ohio Senate Public Utilities Committee against S.B. 310, which would freeze Ohio’s energy efficiency and renewable energy standards at current levels. Sen. William Seitz, the Committee Chair, described her testimony as “passionate,” “very persuasive” and “thought provoking.”

Roberto described how the electric grid has changed. The old model, in effect for the past hundred years, relies on one-way power flows from large, centralized utility power plants, with limited customer service options and limited information available to customers on their energy usage. The new model involves two-way power flows between the utility and customers who own small, on-site solar, wind, and combined heat and power units. Customers receive detailed, real-time energy usage and price information. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Energy Efficiency, Ohio, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid, Utility Business Models| Tagged | 5 Responses, comments now closed

Changing Times for Electric Utilities

Source: Edison International

Source: Edison International

Two seemingly unrelated announcements drew much attention in the electric utility industry recently. First, the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) (the trade group for the U.S. electric utility industry) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) jointly recommended changing how utilities should be regulated. Second, Duke Energy announced it will sell 13 Midwest merchant power plants. These announcements are actually related because they both result from the same dramatic changes affecting the electric utility industry. As Bob Dylan aptly noted, “the times they are a-changin’.” Regulators and other stakeholders must be prepared to address these changes.

Under the traditional business model, electricity usage grew steadily. Utilities built ever-larger plants to serve this growing load. The bigger plants were more efficient than existing plants, so the unit cost for electricity steadily declined. Utilities benefited by steadily increasing their revenues. Customers benefited from declining unit costs. For utility customers, it was like paying a lower price per gallon of gasoline every time you filled your tank.

But this traditional model is crumbling, due to several factors: Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Demand Response, Electricity Pricing, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid, Utility Business Models| Tagged , , , , | Comments closed

Smart Planning for a Successful Smart Grid Roll-Out

John Finnigan PhotoBen Franklin famously said, “If you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail.”  This saying certainly holds true for smart grid deployment plans, which can cost utilities several hundred million dollars.  Given these high stakes, good planning is essential.

Many utilities have installed smart grids.  Currently, 25% of U.S. electricity customers have smart meters, a key component of the smart grid.  Some early deployments were rocky, but utilities have learned their lessons.  Utilities have incorporated these lessons learned in the planning process for more recent smart grid deployments.  A well-thought-out smart grid deployment plan should address the following topics: Read More »

Posted in Smart Grid, Utility Business Models| Tagged , , | 3 Responses, comments now closed