Author Archives: Michael Panfil

Demand Response: A Valuable Tool that Can Help California Realize its Clean Energy Potential

rp_Cover-photo-image-300x200.jpgA tool only has value if it’s used. For example, you could be the sort of person who’s set a goal of wanting to exercise more. If someone gives you a nifty little Fitbit to help you do that, and you never open the box, how useful, then, is this little device? The same is true about smart energy management solutions: good tools exist, but whether it’s calories or energy use that you want to cut, at some point those helpful devices need to be unpacked. The same is true for demand response, an energy conservation tool that pays people to save energy when the electric grid is stressed.

California's electricity industry stands at a crossroads. The state got an early start on creating laws and policies to cut carbon pollution, and is now reaping the benefits of these policies through reduced emissions and healthy economic growth. That said, California can’t cut carbon emissions and reduce its reliance on fossil fuels without having alternatives to choose from — some focusing on promoting renewable energy, others on smarter energy management tools. Demand response is one of these tools, and a critical one. This highly-flexible, cost-effective resource should play a key role in California’s clean energy future, but several barriers stand in the way of unleashing its full potential.

It’s hard to think of California as anything but forward-thinking, but, right now, the state’s demand response programs are lagging behind those in other states and regions of the country like the Mid-Atlantic. There is good news, however, because demand response is an evolving resource. And, with advances in smart grid technologies, demand response has the potential to improve our energy mix in California. In EDF’s new report, Putting Demand Response to Work for California, we offer recommendations on how to unlock demand response as an important part of the overall strategy for California’s bright energy future.

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Posted in California, Clean Energy, Demand Response| Leave a comment

Another Step Forward for Demand Response, FERC Order 745 Case

supreme-court-544218_640Over the past several months, we’ve been providing updates on the ongoing litigation surrounding Order 745 – a vital, federal rule on demand response. As a low-cost, environmentally beneficial resource, demand response relies on people and technology, not power plants, to manage stress on the electric grid during periods of peak energy demand. Simply put, demand response pays people to conserve energy when it matters most – a win-win for people and the environment.

But this critical energy management tool has also been subject to an amazing amount of scrutiny (which we’ve covered here, here, and yes, here, as well). In short, the thorny issue boils down to this: a recent court decision found that the federal agency responsible for regulating demand response didn’t have the authority to do so.

When the decision came down, many were shocked. The general assumption had been that this agency (known as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission or “FERC”) certainly was within its rights to issue Order 745, a set of rules for how demand response would function in our nation’s energy markets.

And last week, the United States Solicitor General sided with the “general consensus” on Order 745. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Demand Response, Electricity Pricing, Smart Grid, Utility Business Models| Tagged | Leave a comment

New Development in Demand Response Ruling Signals Possible Supreme Court Review

supreme-court-545534_640

UPDATE: Yesterday, January 15th, 2015, the Solicitor General formally asked the Supreme Court to review the demand response case, EPSA v. FERC. This action is a welcome step by the Solicitor General. Now the Supreme Court must decide whether or not to hear this important case.


 

Late last week, the Solicitor General signaled its intention to file cert. before the Supreme Court in the demand response Order 745 case, EPSA v. FERC. Hidden within this legalese is an important update about a significant (and already complex) case.

So what does it all mean?

First, a bit of background

Demand response pays customers to conserve energy when the electric grid is stressed. With demand response, people and technology, not power plants, help meet energy demand. This is good news for customers, who pay less for electricity, the environment, via reductions in harmful air emissions, and the electric grid, by making it more efficient.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), tasked with ensuring our nation’s wholesale electricity rates are ‘just and reasonable,’ created Order 745 to ensure that those providing demand response as a service would be adequately compensated. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Demand Response| Comments closed

So, how do we Make Sustainability… Sustainable?

alternative-21761_640Last week the New York Times reported that, for the first time in history, clean energy resources like solar and wind are becoming cost competitive with conventional coal in some markets. This paradigm shift, where clean energy is beginning to compete head-to-head with traditional energy sources, calls for a change in perspective.

This ‘change in perspective’ is a movement toward what I would describe as “sustainable sustainability” – in which “sustainable” means the ability to stand the test of time, and “sustainability” refers to an environmentally responsible approach to making, moving, and using energy. In other words, we must find a way to ensure clean energy resources remain competitive in the marketplace and become ‘business as usual’ resources in the overall energy mix. The International Energy Agency (IEA) does a great job of explaining the need for this shift:

In the classical approach, variable renewables are added to an existing system without considering all available options for adapting it as a whole. This approach misses the point. Integration is not simply about adding wind and solar on top of ‘business as usual’. We need to transform the system as a whole to do this cost-effectively.”

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Posted in Clean Energy, Climate, Demand Response, Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy, Utility Business Models| Comments closed

In the Wake of Court Ruling, What’s the Future of Demand Response?

supreme courtOn September 17th, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals declined en banc review of Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Order 745, dealing a blow to FERC’s regulation on demand response. This sounds complex, but behind these technical terms, hidden in plain sight, is a monumentally important and unfortunate legal outcome: we’re likely about to see an unnecessary rise in electricity prices and increase in new polluting power plants. This is bad news for the consumer, bad news for efficiency, and bad news for the environment.

First, a bit of background…

FERC Order 745, issued in 2011 by the federal agency that regulates electricity throughout the United States, has successfully allowed demand response to fairly compete in the electricity marketplace with more traditional energy resources like coal and natural gas.

Demand response is an important clean energy resource used by utilities and electric grid operators to balance stress on the electric grid by reducing demand for electricity, rather than relying on dirty “peaker” power plants or new infrastructure. It pays people to conserve energy during periods of peak or high demand in exchange for their offset energy use. This makes our grid more efficient, reduces harmful air emissions from fossil fuel plants, and keeps electricity prices lower. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Climate, Demand Response, Smart Grid| Comments closed

Resiliency+: Smart Grid Technologies and the Benefits of Two-Way Communication

PowerGrid_large_outlinesIt’s September, fall is around the corner, and with it, the second anniversary of devastating Hurricane Sandy. A smarter, more efficient electric grid should be on the minds of all New Jerseyans. Unfortunately, it’s not.

Wired magazine calls America’s power grid the largest machine ever built. Over the past few decades, this grid has been expanded throughout the country to ensure that even remote areas have electricity. Although this is an incredible accomplishment, the grid should also strive to keep pace with the latest technological advances, becoming not just the largest machine ever built, but also a more efficient and resilient one.

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Posted in Clean Energy, Climate, New Jersey, Smart Grid, Utility Business Models| Comments closed
  • About the author

    Attorney
    Michael Panfil is an attorney for the EDF Clean Energy Program, focusing on reducing energy demand throughout the electric power grid. He also engages on efforts to reduce emissions throughout the United States by advocating for the deployment of smarter technology, improved design standards, and sustainable practices.

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