Author Archives: Rory Christian

New York Among the First States to Re-Evaluate its Utility Regulatory Framework

By Doc Searls via Wikimedia Commons

By Doc Searls via Wikimedia Commons

For most people, thinking about electricity is confined to two possible events: the arrival of the monthly bill and when the power goes out. The fact that most people don’t think about their electricity outside these two events — and let’s hope the latter is infrequent — is a testament to the robust regulation that has shaped the structure of the electric grid.

But cracks are forming that threaten the very foundation of the existing regulatory compact between utilities and customers. Extreme weather events caused by climate change and evolving consumer trends are testing the viability of the electricity system. The regulations that were crucial for maintaining stability in the 20th century are now forming barriers that make it difficult for utilities to adapt for a future that is fast approaching. Read More »

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

White House Meeting on Climate Change Resilience Shows National Commitment

Source: The White House

Source: The White House

Today, the White House is hosting an event highlighting its commitment to boosting resilience among communities most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. EDF commends the White House for taking steps to make climate change preparedness and resilience a national priority, especially since this has mostly been a regional issue dealt with in areas affected by severe weather events, such as New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.

At the event, federal agencies, businesses, researchers, and academia, among others will discuss plans to use data-driven technologies and leverage freely available government data to develop products and services that will help the country better prepare for the effects of climate change. The event will showcase insights gathered from scientific data as well as cutting-edge technologies built by American innovators that are essential to better understanding and managing the risks posed by climate change. Read More »

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

‘Utilities 2.0’: The Future May Be Sooner Than We Think

Source: NASA Earth Observatory

Source: NASA Earth Observatory

Last month, I had the pleasure of moderating a panel called “Utilities 2.0: The Role of Distributed Generation and Demand Response in Evolving Utility Business Models.” The topic may sound esoteric, but to the more than sixty people in attendance, and at least fifty more watching online, the event, which was sponsored by clean energy networking group Agrion, offered insight into how these options will in a not-too-distant future revolutionize the way all of us consume electricity.

The energy industry is abuzz with talk of how distributed generation, which enables consumers to draw power from on-site sources, such as rooftop solar, and demand response, which rewards customers who use less electricity during times of peak demand, are transforming the electric utility industry. A once-in-a-generation paradigm shift is already in motion, and exactly how it will play out is anyone’s guess. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Demand Response, Dynamic Pricing, Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid, Utility Business Models | 2 Responses, comments now closed

Governor Cuomo Announces $40 Million in Post-Sandy Microgrid Competition

Rory Christian PhotoSince Superstorm Sandy stranded thousands without power across the state of New York in 2012, it has become clear that infrastructure upgrades are a necessity for the state. The current, outdated energy system is not up to the challenges of the present day and a changing climate. A year after Sandy, New York has a plan. Last week during his State of the State Address, Governor Cuomo announced the allocation of $40 million to the new Community Grids NYPrize Competition, a program which promises to help New York achieve a more sustainable, resilient energy future.

The competition, aimed at jump-starting at least ten “independent, community-based electric distributions systems” across the state by the end of 2014, is a highlight of a larger $17 billion plan to prepare for future storms like Sandy. Upon full implementation, the NYPrize Competition Community Grids are expected to support approximately 40,000 New York residents.

A “community microgrid” is a new type of energy system that leverages decentralized, local, clean power sources such as solar and wind that are able to operate independently of the centralized electric system. Microgrids are small-scale distribution systems that link multiple distributed energy resources (DERs) into a network that can generate, store and control its own power. Microgrids can operate in tandem with the main power grid during normal conditions, but can disconnect and function as an independent “island” of stable power if the main grid fails. The use of microgrids greatly reduces the number of outages and allows more people to keep their lights on during (and in the wake of) extreme weather events.  Read More »

Posted in Demand Response, New York, Smart Grid | Tagged , , | 1 Response, comments now closed

NY Governor Cuomo launches Green Bank in Aggressive Move to Tackle Climate Change

Rory Christian PhotoOne of the worst hit states by last year’s Superstorm Sandy, New York is moving aggressively to avert future climate-related weather events.  Governor Cuomo announced the launch of a Green Bank last week, giving the state a timely and much-needed Christmas gift.

The move shows the state’s strong commitment to the acceleration of a clean, low-carbon energy economy.  New York joins the ranks of several other states, including Connecticut and Hawaii, in addressing a key issue holding clean energy in America back, namely financing.  The Green Bank, which has $210 million in initial funding originating from existing ratepayer and Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative funds, targets market barriers to private financing of renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. 

Working with private sector financial institutions, the Green Bank will offer financial products such as credit enhancement, loan loss reserves and loan bundling to support securitization (which promotes liquidity in the marketplace) and help build secondary markets.  These products have long-proven successful in stimulating market developments and creating investment-quality, asset-backed securities that can be bought and traded. Read More »

Posted in Energy Efficiency, New York, Renewable Energy | Tagged , , , | 1 Response, comments now closed

New York Scales Up Solar Energy

Rory Christian PhotoNew York Governor Cuomo announced last week that the NY-Sun Initiative, a public-private partnership launched last year to spur growth in solar energy, will provide an additional $30 million to stimulate more large solar and biogas projects in the New York City area. The move follows a successful 1.56-MW rooftop solar project in the Bronx.

The expansion of the NY-Sun initiative, which has committed $800 million to solar energy through 2015, provides further example of New York’s leadership role in solar energy in the northeast. New York has some impressive smart power projects under its belt, including the 32-MW solar farm at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in Long Island, the state’s largest solar installation.

Also in the same area, the Long Island Power Authority’s CLEAN Solar Initiative initiated the state’s first feed-in tariff program, which has plans to purchase up to 50 MW of customer-generated solar energy.  Read More »

Posted in New York, Renewable Energy | Tagged , , | 3 Responses, comments now closed

Verizon Invests Big in Clean Energy

This commentary originally appeared on Verizon’s News Center.

Rory Christian PhotoTechnology giant Verizon is making significant strides toward increasing the use of on-site green energy throughout its national portfolio with plans to finish more than $100 million in clean and renewable energy projects across facilities in seven states by the end of this year. The investment is estimated to reduce carbon emissions by over 15,000 metric tons each year, which is comparable to over 2,000 homes’ annual electricity use. Verizon’s video showcasing its plans includes an introduction by Environmental Defense Fund (EDF)’s very own Victoria Mills, managing director of Corporate Partnerships.

The move builds on the company’s earlier foray into clean technology, resulting in Verizon’s successful 2005 investment in a 1.4 megawatt fuel cell in Garden City, New York. Fuel cells use an electrochemical process in which oxygen and fuel (natural gas or biogas) react to produce amounts of electricity. The process produces less carbon emissions than more conventional sources of electricity, and enables the possibility of affordable on-site, user-owned power generation that is as constant and reliable as a utility and provides an attractive economic payback for customers.

When selecting locations for solar and fuel-cell energy projects, Verizon was careful to consider sites with favorable zoning requirements, utility partners and regulatory regimes. Despite being financially viable, identifying suitable projects was no simple task. Financing these projects without incentives at the federal and state levels proved impossible, and the incentives often came with conflicting timetables and were difficult to leverage. Read More »

Posted in EDF Climate Corps, General, Renewable Energy | Tagged , , , , | 2 Responses, comments now closed