Every year, SXSW Eco – one of the most high-profile environmental conferences – selects its programming based on votes from the public. This means anyone, regardless of whether you submitted a panel, can cast a vote.
This year, seven experts from Environmental Defense Fund are featured on dynamic panels that cover everything from solar equity and new utility business models to innovative building efficiency programs and the threat of methane pollution. To make sure EDF and energy-related programming is represented at the conference in Austin, TX this October, we are asking our readers to please vote for your favorite EDF panels and presentations. Read More
Also posted in Clean Energy, Climate, Demand Response, EDF Climate Corps, Energy Efficiency, Energy-Water Nexus, General, Illinois, Methane, Natural Gas, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid, Texas, Utility Business Models
A great thing happened today for the environment and people of California. On the very day we released new maps measuring methane leaking from natural gas lines under Los Angeles-area streets, the Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas) announced they would begin publishing their own maps showing the locations of leaks they find on their system.
It is a positive move that brings the company a big step closer to complying with the California law requiring them to publish not only the whereabouts of known leaks, but also the amount of methane escaping (which their newly announced maps do not). The public has a right to know where and how much harmful air pollution is being emitted by SoCalGas and any other company in California.
Apple made news earlier this year when it signed an $848-million “direct access” deal to bypass Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and buy clean energy directly from a third-party solar provider. For Apple, the big win was a contract that locked in affordable energy for the next 25 years.
But the deal also set a historical precedent for corporate renewable energy purchases that may, over time, have huge financial implications for traditional utilities.
Energy deals break new ground
With its solar contracts, the iPhone maker is insulating itself from the price volatility that accompanies fossil fuels, in addition to getting power for less than half the cost. Going forward, it can count electricity as a fixed, predictable cost – an attractive proposition that is sure to spark interest among other large buyers of electricity.
Apple’s investment in First Solar’s PV Flats, a 2,900-acre solar array in Monterey, California, also suggests that corporations are ready to take procurement of energy to a new level.
On the heels of Apple’s deal came news that Google signed a 20-year purchase agreement to buy half of the energy produced at the soon-to-be refurbished Altamont Pass wind energy facility. The wind turbines there will power the company’s sprawling Googleplex headquarters in nearby Mountain View, California – again, effectively bypassing the local utility. Read More
Last week, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) issued a proposed decision on residential rate reform. Residential rate reform – how and what Californians pay for electricity – is a thorny subject, and the Commission’s proposed decision is being met with a range of reactions.
We at Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) want to highlight a bright spot in the 300-page document that we’re thrilled about: the attention paid to time-of-use electricity pricing (a type of time-variant pricing). Buried in this long legal document, we see EDF’s fingerprints in the Commission’s call for California investor-owned utilities to ramp up their use of this innovative yet well-proven pricing tool starting with pilots in 2016 and going to scale in 2019.
How TOU Works
If you’ve been following EDF’s work in this area, then you know we’ve been involved in this process for many years and have probably gathered that we’re big fans of time-of-use pricing (TOU) because it better reflects the true cost of electricity, which fluctuates throughout the day. This type of pricing also empowers customers to better control their own energy bills and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.
TOU pricing works by breaking up the day into two or three large intervals and charges a different price for each. Rates can be divided into off-peak prices (generally during the middle of the night to early morning), semi-peak prices (daytime and evening), and peak prices (occurring during periods of highest demand, usually afternoon to early evening). These rates remain fixed day-to-day over the season.
While California never quite got a winter, we can still acknowledge that spring – with the sun shining and flowers blooming – is here. From where I sit in Sacramento, spring means allergy season, getting out and enjoying the blue skies, a last bit of cool air before a brutal summer, and oh yes, the legislature heating up on important questions of California’s energy future.
This year, all eyes are on the question of how to meet the bold challenges laid out by Governor Brown in his January inauguration speech, which set goals for: 50 percent of electricity to come from renewable energy, a 50 percent improvement in the energy efficiency of existing buildings, and a 50 percent reduction in petroleum use, all by the year 2030.
To answer that challenge, the Senate has introduced Senate Bill 350 (De Leon) and the Assembly has introduced Assembly Bill 645 (Williams, Rendon), both aimed at increasing the existing Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) from 33 percent to 50 percent by 2030. And, both bills are feeling the love from a diverse array of supporters. The April 7th Senate committee hearing on SB 350 enjoyed a line of supporters (including Environmental Defense Fund) which spilled into the halls! AB 645 saw a comparable showing when it was in committee on April 20th. Both bills will be discussed for the second time in committees this week.
This strong support for clean energy should come as no surprise – robust renewable energy policies can support job growth, reduce pollution, and attract clean energy businesses to the state, which is why groups representing working people, the environment, and the transition to a clean energy economy showed up “en masse” to demonstrate support. At the same time, these groups are having conversations amongst each other and with the legislature about exactly what the transition to an electricity grid that runs on 50 percent clean resources will look like. Why? Because the details matter. Read More
Last month, I attended the Vail Global Energy Forum in Colorado. Billed as a “mini-Davos” of energy (studiously ignoring the Aspen crowd a few hours down the highway), that moniker may have felt aspirational when the conference launched three years ago. But, this year it paid off: momentum for frank dialogue and global innovation is building on the slopes of the Vail Valley.
Here’s my take on how the clean air of the mountains cuts through the hot air of energy debates to illuminate practical, actionable ideas.
Three big ideas drove the conference:
- North American energy independence
Mexico, the United States, and Canada could, together, innovate their way to an energy marketplace that weakens dependence on overseas imports, scales up clean energy solutions, and charts a path to low-carbon prosperity. At times, the discussion was framed by the rise of unconventional oil and gas exploration (yes, “fracking”), collaboration around pipelines (yes, “Keystone”), and whether these could disrupt traditional geopolitical frames. Read More
Also posted in Air Quality, Cap and Trade, Clean Energy, Climate, Colorado, Energy Efficiency, Energy Financing, Methane, Natural Gas, New York, Utility Business Models