Selected category: Demand Response

How One of Chicago’s Most Iconic Landmarks is Saving Money through Energy Storage

real batteryWhen you think about something that is 85 years old, you might think of history and tradition but not necessarily innovation. However, when the 85-year-old in question is a Chicago landmark committed to finding new ways to tackle energy management, cutting-edge solutions are par for the course.

The Merchandise Mart is a massive commercial space, spanning two city blocks along the Chicago River and offering some 4.2 million square feet of floor space. As expected, its energy consumption is also enormous, but the building has long been a leader in efficiency. And recently, the Mart took an even bigger step forward by unveiling an innovative battery storage unit that will help balance the electric grid – and earn money while doing it.

How the Mart came to be a clean energy leader

Built in 1930 for Marshall Field & Co., the Kennedy family owned the art deco structure for more than half a century, before selling it in 1998 to Vornado Realty Trust. Efficiency efforts began in the 1980s with the installation of an ice-storage cooling system that freezes tons of water overnight when cooling needs are minimal, allowing the building to shift power consumption to off-peak periods, save money, and reduce pollution. Read More »

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Who Will Lead the Clean Energy Future?

40Under40_logo-336x315At the heart of every major transformation are the people carving the new path forward. The same goes for the transition currently occurring in our electricity system, which is moving away from traditional monopoly utilities relying on coal, to a world with distributed energy generation (like rooftop solar),new technology, and disruptive market entrants.

But just who are these trailblazers and how do we identify them? Earlier this year, energy-centric outlet Midwest Energy News set out to do just that for seven states. It launched a call for nominations to recognize “emerging leaders throughout the region and their work to accelerate America’s transition to a clean energy economy” for its 40 Under 40 awards.

Recently, Midwest Energy News announced the winners, who come from a variety of sectors including industry, government, regulatory, business, academic, and advocacy. Environmental Defense Fund is proud to say the group includes Andrew Barbeau, our senior clean energy consultant leading efforts like our demand response collaboration in Illinois. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy| Comments are closed

Can Smart Buildings Boost Demand Response in an Era of Capacity Performance?

illinois-396648_1280By: Andrew Barbeau, President of The Accelerate Group, LLC, and senior clean energy consultant to EDF

Early January 2014, during the heart of the Polar Vortex, grid operator PJM had its finger on the switch ready to start rolling blackouts across 13 states and Washington, D.C. As temperatures plunged to 20- and 30-below zero, coal piles froze and conveyors broke down at coal plants, gas plants without firm delivery contracts sat idle without fuel, and PJM officials were sending out pleas for help for large electricity consumers to cut their use. Twenty-two percent of power generators failed to show up as expected that day, and PJM officials vowed not to let that happen again.

Likely not able to prevent future extreme weather events, PJM is looking at a major restructuring of its own market design to change how and when it pays for power to ensure the lights (and heat) stay on. But some believe those market changes come with some significant risks – particularly to the role of demand response, or emergency events during which buildings, homes, and industrial facilities are rewarded for reducing their electricity use.

Over the past several months, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and The Accelerate Group have been working closely with PJM, Illinois consumer advocacy group Citizens Utility Board, and a number of building owners in Chicago to develop the Combined Capacity Asset Performance Project (C-CAP), an innovative pilot program to demonstrate how demand response can continue to play a strong and vital role in PJM’s electricity market. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Power Plan, General, Illinois| Tagged , , , | Comments are closed

A Stealth Tool to Modernize the Electric Grid

Electricity regulators, clean energy innovators, and rappers have all lamented poor communication. And some have pushed for cleaner, cheaper, more reliable solutions for meeting our energy needs. This is particularly so with the much anticipated emergence of a new kind of non-event based, price-responsive demand response (DR), or flexible DR.

Whereas traditional DR signals customers to voluntarily and temporarily reduce their energy use at times when the electric grid is stressed, this type of DR does that and more. The big difference? It signals customers, their appliances, and their electric vehicles to increase their energy use when electricity is clean, plentiful, and cheap.

For example, electric vehicles can be programmed to charge at mid-day when the sun is bright and solar energy is at its peak, and use that stored energy when the sun sets. Better yet, many of our cars, homes, and appliances can be programmed to monitor grid conditions in real time, via the Internet, and respond accordingly by charging or defecting. Also known as a “set-it-and-forget-it” feature, this function enables the seamless integration of flexible DR while also supporting the full potential of energy efficiency measures and distributed energy resources (DERs), like rooftop solar and energy storage.

The seamless and stealth nature of this type of DR, which can be largely automated by tools and service providers, is something neither the customer nor the utility have to think about. It’s like a secret agent, operating behind walls and wires to find the greatest energy (and cost) saving-potential. Regulators need to unleash this “secret agent DR” by rewarding it fairly and efficiently in the energy marketplace, giving it a “license to thrill” in households and businesses across California. Read More »

Also posted in California, Clean Energy, Electricity Pricing, Energy Efficiency, Energy Storage, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid, Time of Use| Read 1 Response

California Makes Clean Energy History with Passage of SB 350

By: Lauren Navarro and Tim O’Connorsolar

Every day thousands of Americans suffer from dirty air – costing the young and old their health, livelihood, and in many cases, their lives. As California is home to the top five most polluted cities in the country, we need action.

Thankfully, after many long hours of debate and negotiations at the state capitol, the California Legislature passed SB 350 (De León) last Friday. The California State Assembly passed the bill, with a 52-26 vote with bipartisan support before passing it on to the senate where it was approved in a concurrence vote. This bill increases California’s renewable energy mix to 50 percent and doubles the energy efficiency of existing buildings. Both of these provisions will serve to combat dirty air and fight climate change, while ushering in a new era for the state’s electricity system – one defined by a cleaner, more resilient, and dynamic electric grid. Read More »

Also posted in California, Clean Energy, Climate, Energy Efficiency, General, Renewable Energy| Tagged , , | Read 2 Responses

Everything You Need to Know about FirstEnergy’s Bailout Request

studying pixabayAfter a long summer and several delays, the Public Utility Commission of Ohio (PUCO) is scheduled to begin hearing FirstEnergy’s plea for subsidies today. Over the past few months, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and other stakeholders have hit the streets, airways, and internet to explain the company’s proposal. Thankfully for you, we’ve summarized the high-points of all this analysis in an easy-to-read outline. Here are the basics:

What is First Energy requesting?

  • FirstEnergy is asking PUCO to approve non-competitive purchase agreements that would enable the utility’s distributors to buy power at above-market prices from FirstEnergy’s subsidiary power plants. August 31 marks the beginning of testimony and cross examination of FirstEnergy executives, as well as diverse stakeholders, including EDF. This process may take up to seven weeks.
  • FirstEnergy is seeking subsidies for the 52-year-old Sammis coal-fired plant; two 60-year-old coal-fired power plants (Kyger Creek in Cheshire, Ohio, and Clifty Creek in Madison, Indiana); the Davis-Bessie nuclear plant, which is two years from the expiration of its 40-year license; and for the utility’s share of the Ohio Valley Electric Corporation. The subsidies essentially shift the financial risk of these older and more expensive generators from FirstEnergy’s shareholders to its customers, who would fund the proposal through fees and higher rates.

Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, FirstEnergy| Read 2 Responses
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