Author Archives: Paul Stinson

Dear Utilities, Change or Get Dumped

Source: Paul Cross, https://flic.kr/p/7AU7PK

Source: Paul Cross, https://flic.kr/p/7AU7PK

Like many relationships, the one between utilities and their customers can be complicated. Sure, they’ve been together for decades, but no longer are customers satisfied with a distant, disengaged power company selling them more and more megawatts.

As the utility business model evolves into one based on diverse energy services, utilities must find ways to prioritize and improve their customer relationships if they hope to thrive in the new energy economy.

What do customers really want?

It doesn’t take years of market research to discover that utility customers enjoy saving money. But just as important as a low price for power – if not more so – is a genuine feeling of power.  Just ask Dr. Philip Lewis of global energy think-tank VassaETT, who has researched the subject for years. His findings show that customers want to be in control of their energy behavior. They want market transparency and predictable rewards for their choices. The bottom line, says Lewis, is that customers want to feel like equals with their electricity suppliers, not captives. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Demand Response, Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid, Utility Business Models | 3 Responses

What it Takes to Compete in the Global Energy Race

cleanenergyraceAs the international sporting world shifts its sights from somewhat snowy Sochi (host of the 2014 Winter Olympics) to balmy Brazil (host of this summer’s soccer World Cup), a recent European Commission report shows that the European Union (E.U.) has its eyes fixed on taking the lead in another global contest of sorts: The race for a more competitive, secure, and sustainable energy economy. At stake are neither medals nor trophies, but long-term economic strength. As Europe – and, indeed, the rest of the world – play energy hardball, what does it mean for the global energy competitiveness of Team USA? Let’s look at the stats.

Current energy costs and competitiveness

Reliable, affordable energy powers industrial innovation and growth, making energy costs and policies one of the most important drivers of economic competitiveness.

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

80% Electricity from Renewables? It’s Possible, but Policy Prevents It

Paul Stinson

This commentary originally appeared on our EDF Voices blog.

If renewable energy is a good thing, then a lot of renewable energy is a very good thing, right? Not exactly, according to recent articles in the L.A. Times and Forbes about challenges posed by the growth of renewables.  But, as we’ve pointed out, the issue here is not too much renewable energy, but rather a vulnerable U.S. electric grid built for the last century.

It’s essential to remember the bigger picture in order to arrive at the truth of the matter: If we are to avoid catastrophic climate change, renewable energy is a vital part of the solution.  And while an unprecedented abundance of renewable power may raise complex questions about how to integrate these resources, it also underscores the need – and vast opportunity – for critical energy infrastructure improvements.  Our response as a nation should not be to shrink from the challenges of renewables, but rather to keep working toward a smarter, more resilient energy system to meet the needs of the 21st century and beyond.  Read More »

Posted in Demand Response, Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid | Tagged , | Comments closed

More Companies Turning to Distributed Generation – What Does it Mean for Utilities?

Last month, the Wall Street Journal reported on an initiative at an increasing number of companies nationwide: on-site, or distributed, power generation. There are many reasons for this growing trend in corporate sustainability, along with many ramifications for the prevailing utility model in the United States – all of which highlight the importance of employing market-based solutions to create a cleaner, smarter, more resilient electric system.

Why Do Companies Unplug?

For companies such as Walmart, increasing the use of distributed, renewable generation is a vital part of larger sustainability goals, including increased use of clean energy and a call for safer ingredients used in the products the company sells. To be sure, however, even the most altruistic companies would be hard pressed to shift off the power grid without sound economic reasons.

A confluence of market factors, including tax incentives that spur attractive returns on investment, advances in solar and wind technologies and policies that encourage greater use of and investments in clean energy (like net metering and time-of-use pricing), has created an economic environment that makes distributed generation not just a viable option, but often a very attractive one. Further, off-grid power can be an effective way for companies to hedge against outages due to storms or unforeseeable catastrophes, a key idea included in the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Strategy.

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Posted in On-bill repayment, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid, Utility Business Models | Tagged , | 1 Response, comments now closed