Author Archives: Simi George

New Study Highlights Need for California Market Refinements to Better Harness Clean Energy

A new study, jointly conducted by the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) – the entity responsible for overseeing much of California’s electric grid – First Solar, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), demonstrates the untapped potential of utility-scale solar. The study shows that utility-scale solar can provide key services needed to ensure electric grid stability and reliability – better known as ancillary services – at levels comparable to conventional, fossil fuel driven resources.

California needs to reduce reliance on natural gas for ancillary services

In CAISO’s market, ancillary services are overwhelmingly provided by natural gas-fired resources, and their share of the pie has been increasing in recent years.

This growing reliance on natural gas for ancillary services merits attention for many reasons.   Read More »

Posted in Aliso Canyon, California, Clean Energy, Methane, Natural Gas| Comments are closed

EDF Methane Mapping Partnerships Accelerate Technological Advances in Gas Utility Sector

googlecar2The New York Public Service Commission recently approved plans by National Grid, the largest distributor of natural gas in the Northeast, to use advanced leak detection and quantification technologies developed by EDF and Google Earth Outreach in order to maximize the environmental and ratepayer benefits of a three-year, $3 billion capital investment program. This program includes plans to replace 585 miles of old, leak-prone pipes on the company’s systems in Long Island and parts of New York City.

The Commission’s December 16 order marks a major step forward in EDF’s efforts to accelerate the diffusion of environmentally beneficial technologies – in this case cutting edge methane emission measurement tools – by natural gas utilities. Read More »

Posted in Energy Innovation, Methane, Natural Gas| Tagged | Comments are closed

Aliso Canyon Challenges Underscore Need to Realign California Energy Markets

rp_Aliso-Canyon.pngYesterday, the Southern California Gas Company filed for permission to resume operations through approved wells at its Aliso Canyon gas storage facility, saying it has completed key safety tests. The facility has been offline over the last year, after it sprung one of the largest gas leaks ever recorded.

Efforts to bring the facility online – and the challenges for the region’s electricity system if Aliso stays offline – underscore the need to address these issues from a broader, longer term perspective.

In addition to supplying gas to homes and businesses, the giant storage field served 17 major gas fired electric generating plants in the region. When a link as important as Aliso Canyon fails, the reliability implications for the electric grid are serious. Read More »

Posted in Aliso Canyon, California, Gas to Clean, Natural Gas| Comments are closed

Getting a Better Handle on Lost and Unaccounted for Gas

480px-Gas_meterNatural gas is a major source of electricity in the United States. Roughly one-third of the 33 trillion cubic feet of gas produced each year is used to power our homes and businesses. And it’s the gas delivery and transmission industry that ensures these services are delivered nationwide.

Most of us don’t think about this industry often, or the gas for that matter, unless it’s unavailable when we need it, or it costs more than usual. But it’s important to pay attention. That’s because not all of the gas flowing through our pipelines actually reaches its intended destination – a problem that is further complicated by a poorly defined and complex method for tracking this paid-for but unused gas.

An indicator of gas system efficiency, accounting for lost gas (known by insiders as “lost and unaccounted for gas”, “unaccounted for gas”, LAUF or its many other acronyms) is how distribution companies manage the overall flow and supply of gas through their systems. Essentially, it is a ratemaking tool for calculating the difference between the volume of gas purchased by operators and the volume of gas delivered to customers that includes leakage, venting, theft, meter errors, temperature and pressure changes and other factors. Read More »

Posted in Natural Gas| Read 1 Response

Pipeline Safety Bill Puts New Focus on Aging Gas Infrastructure

9496055390_6ce041c81b_oLast month, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed the SAFE PIPES Act, reauthorizing the Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). Tucked inside the bipartisan bill are important new measures intended to advance the ways in which regulators facilitate the repair and replacement of old, increasingly leaky pipeline systems.

The bill also creates a multi-agency task force looking into the health, safety, environmental and economic impacts of the four-month disaster at the 70-year-old Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility – and what should be done to prevent another one like it.

Aging pipeline systems are a huge challenge. Besides safety concerns, the cost of lost gas is a needless burden on ratepayers. And regulators are also growing increasingly concerned about the climate impact of leaking methane, the main ingredient in natural gas. Read More »

Posted in Methane, Natural Gas| Tagged , | Read 1 Response

Tech Innovation in the Energy Utility Space: Good News & Room for More

281848673_f2dbe9926d_oA survey released this month by a top management consulting firm found that 80 percent of the companies polled – including Apple, Google and Tesla – rank innovation among their top three strategic priorities. Unfortunately, the nation’s utility sector seems to be behind the curve when it comes to embracing this idea.

Utility companies invested just 0.1 percent of revenue in research and development in 2013, according to the National Regulatory Research Institute. That’s less than 1/30th the national average of 3.3 percent for all industries. In fact, R&D spending by energy utilities has declined in absolute terms since the mid-90s. But that’s only one piece of the problem. There’s also the related problem of low adoption of new technologies by the sector, which some have attributed to a culture of caution.

That’s why it was so noteworthy when Public Service Electric & Gas Company (PSE&G), New Jersey’s largest and oldest publicly-owned utility, announced it will use data gathered by EDF using cutting-edge leak quantification technology to prioritize a massive $905 million pipeline replacement program. After assessing public safety considerations, PSE&G will use data on methane emissions from its pipes to identify those most in need of replacement. Read More »

Posted in General, Methane, Natural Gas| Comments are closed
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