New installed renewable energy capacity surpassed coal for the first time last year, the International Energy Agency reported recently.
It means that we added more wind and solar to our global energy system than oil, gas, coal or nuclear power combined – a trend that is expected to continue over the next five years.
But to truly transition to a global clean energy economy, we must accelerate this growth rate and modernize our electricity grid to maximize the potential of these new renewables. That way we can use as much clean energy as possible on any given day.
Many of these optimizing solutions already exist today.
They include technology such as powerful batteries that can store energy when renewables don’t produce electricity, for example, when the sun is shaded by a cloud.
There are also energy management tools such as demand response that pay customers for saving energy at critical times when the grid needs it. And innovative electricity pricing programs that encourage customers to shift some of their power use to times of day when clean energy sources are plentiful and electricity is cheaper.
All can, with the help of good policy, make the most of variable energy sources – as would a modernized and more dynamic electric grid. Read More
If you are anything like the typical Californian, you likely took the opportunity to get outside this summer and explore the great outdoors. Chances are you also took plenty of insect repellent to avoid becoming the latest offering at the mosquito buffet. Here in the Golden State, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is also fighting off BUGs – lest you think the CPUC is branching out into new regulatory territory, they are targeting the kind that harm our environment and public health: back-up generators (BUGs) that run on fossil fuels.
State regulators recently issued a proposed decision to end the use of fossil-fueled BUGs as a form of demand response – a clean energy tool intended to reward people who reduce their electricity use during periods of peak demand, or shift it to times of day when clean, renewable energy is abundant. Unfortunately, dirty, fossil-fueled generators are sometimes used to reduce demand from the electric grid during demand response events, but this does not help California meet its aggressive climate or clean energy goals.
Demand response programs should encourage people, buildings, and companies to use energy in a way that reduces the state’s need to make electricity from polluting sources. That’s why the CPUC’s recent proposal is a huge, positive step forward. However, there are also some changes that could make these advancements even more impactful.
Also posted in California
By Gabriela B. Zayas del Rio, Tom Graff Diversity Fellow, Clean Energy
The system for supplying electricity in the U.S. was premised on the assumption that utilities would make evermore electricity to sell to customers. But, the global need to reduce carbon emissions from traditional power generation, along with the emergence of distributed energy resources – small, grid-connected devices, like rooftop solar and energy storage – have disrupted demand for electricity produced from traditional power plants.
In May, the New York State Public Service Commission introduced a new way to pay the state’s utilities, one where utilities are compensated not just based on how much electricity they produce, but also for producing environmental benefits aligned with the public good. This approach aligns with Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) – New York’s official plan to make its electric grid cleaner, more efficient, and affordable – and comes at a time of unparalleled population growth in New York. Read More
After a long and hard-fought legislative session, the dust is settling in California’s capitol. Many forward-looking clean energy bills sit on Gov. Brown’s desk, while others did not make it that far. It’s a time when legislative staff and advocates step back, breathe a sigh of relief, and take stock of what has been accomplished, what was lost along the way, and – most importantly – what remains to be done.
AB 1937 (Gomez) – a bill to avoid new natural gas plants in heavily burdened communities – and other key energy bills await the governor’s signature. Efforts to expand the entity that manages our electric grid, the California Independent System Operator (CAISO), also continue. For the state to realize its vision of an economy powered by clean energy resources, it is crucial Gov. Brown sign these key energy bills and work closely with the legislature to expand CAISO.
On June 20 and 21, temperatures across the Southwest hit record triple digits. It was a scorching way to start the summer. For Southern Californians, early arrival of extreme heat tested the region’s already compromised electricity system: Residents braced for rolling blackouts as the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility (one of the primary sources of power generation in the region) was offline after a disastrous methane leak last winter. Aliso will remain offline until Southern California Gas Company can assure regulators, legislators, and the community that it can be operated safely and efficiently.
The heatwave was further complicated by devastating wildfires to the north and southwest, but the region was ultimately able to emerge from the threat relatively unscathed. Although thousands of residents dealt with short-term outages, rolling blackouts – reminders of California’s dramatic energy crisis of the early 2000s – never came and the region was able to breathe a collective sigh of relief.
During the heatwave, focus was rightly on keeping the system running. But now it’s time to look at how we were able to meet historic electricity demand without the system crashing, and how this will inform power providers in the months ahead.
UPDATE: Since the March 2016 publication of this original blog post, the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) last week issued an order officially approving a settlement agreement Environmental Defense Fund, along with several other stakeholders, helped negotiate for Duke Energy’s grid modernization plan. The IURC’s order approved the settlement (details of which are outlined in the post below) without change. Now Duke Energy can proceed with the $1.4 billion plan, which will bring many clean energy benefits to Duke’s 800,000 customers.
Help is on the way to reduce harmful pollution in Indiana, which has the seventh highest level of greenhouse gas emissions in the country.
Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) joined a settlement filed this week for Duke Energy’s grid modernization plan. The settlement calls for Duke – the largest utility in the country, which serves over 800,000 Indiana households – to invest $1.4 billion over the next seven years to improve its electric grid. Doing so will deliver major benefits for Duke’s customers. Read More