Last year solar power saw unprecedented growth and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down. So where is much of this growth happening? In one word: cities.
In a new report from Environment America Research & Policy Center and Frontier Group, Shining Cities 2016 identifies the urban centers fostering growth in solar energy, and the policies and programs that can maximize solar potential. The cities that topped the list were, not surprisingly, primarily from the sunshine-abundant Pacific region, followed by an equal amount of cities from the Mountain, South Central and South Atlantic regions. These centers of connectivity and growth are major electricity consumers, and therefore important movers in the transition to a clean energy economy.
But there are still vast amounts of untapped solar potential in the U.S. – specifically 1,118 GW, which equates to 39 percent of total national electricity sales (enough to power over 782 million homes a year) – according to a study on “rooftop solar power generating capacity potential” by National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). The same study stated that Los Angeles, the city currently with the most solar capacity, could host up to 42 times its current solar capacity, providing up to 60 percent of the city’s electricity. This staggering amount of renewable energy is possible in other cities across the U.S. as well – even in unlikely states, such as Texas. Read More
The price we all pay for electricity generally does not reflect the “true costs” of producing it. As described in a recent blog post, generating electricity creates harmful pollution, damaging the environment and public health. This comes with a cost, but it is not necessarily paid for by those generating the pollution or purchasing the electricity. These types of costs are known as “external costs.”
For example, a coal-fired power plant releases pollution into the atmosphere, which adversely affects the health of residents in nearby communities. This pollution is an example of an external cost because it causes health problems that neither the plant owners nor the electric users pay for (unless they live near the plant and pay the cost through their health bills).
From coal mining and energy production, to distributing and using that energy, to disposing of waste products, electricity has many external costs. By examining them, we can better understand the true cost of electricity and how it varies depending on the technology or fuel used to generate it. Read More
On vacation and awake in my too-soft bed at 5 AM while my family snored, I was regretting my misaligned sleep schedule. But then I realized time was on my side, so I tiptoed out in solitude for sunrise at the south rim of the Grand Canyon. Thanks to my very clever smart phone that is also a camera, my amateur photos (sort of) reveal the majesty of this national landmark. When we realize the schedule of Nature’s wonders is both beautiful and indefatigable, and humble ourselves with simple acts of realignment, harmony can be found amidst the springs and cliffs of our lives.
Just as timing helped me take advantage of something I would have otherwise missed and my smart phone aided in capturing the moment, similar lessons can be learned in how we use energy. My phone, when linked to a smart thermostat, can help align my electricity use with cheap, clean energy resources like solar and wind. Soon residential customers of California’s “big three” utilities, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), Southern California Edison (SoCal Ed), and San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), will be able to take full advantage of this option. Read More
Also posted in California
California has a nice problem: It’s producing so much clean solar energy that the state’s electric grid is at capacity, and sometimes beyond.
As Vox’s David Roberts reports in his excellent piece about California’s grid headache, it makes good sense to expand the system by interconnecting state-run energy markets.
But he also notes, at the end of his story, some other and complementary strategies California can use to increase its grid bandwidth – while accommodating rapidly growing, but variable, renewable energy sources.
Connected grids, alone, are not a long-term fix. Read More
By: Beia Spiller and Kristina Mohlin
Electricity markets around the world are transforming from a model where electricity flows one way (from electricity-generating power plants to the customer) to one where customers actively participate as providers of electric services. But to speed this transformation and maximize its environmental and cost benefits, we need to understand how customer actions affect the three distinct parts of our electric system: generation, transmission, and distribution. Read More
AEP Ohio has been busy. On the one hand, it has been trying to keep its outdated, uneconomic coal plants afloat at a hefty cost to Ohioans. And as of last week, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) approved AEP’s requested subsidies to continue spewing pollution from dirty generators. This bailout is bad news for business, customers, and the environment – and the PUCO should have rejected it. Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) will continue to object to the income-guarantees at the state and federal level.
On the other hand, and in a separate regulatory case, AEP has been working with multiple parties – including EDF – to build a cleaner, smarter grid. Its recent grid modernization agreement is a step toward more efficient, reliable electricity that will help people reduce their energy usage, lower their electric bills, and breathe cleaner air.
These two concurrent cases show AEP needs to decide whether it will change for the future, or stay stuck in the past. And while EDF has been clear in our opposition to the subsidies, today we want to acknowledge AEP’s innovative, forward-looking grid modernization efforts. Read More