On the heels of a recent Forbes blog post where I call out Texas' Comptroller for playing favorites in her biased scrutiny of Texas' wind industry, comes another Forbes piece by James Taylor from the Heartland Institute. Confusing correlation with causation, Taylor claims wind energy causes higher energy prices. However, an increase in electricity prices cannot automatically be accounted for by pointing the finger at wind energy. That’s simply playing fast and loose with the facts.
This is the same tired slant we have heard from Heartland Institute time and time again. Not surprising – when pundits want to cherry pick data to make their argument strong, it doesn’t always work.
First there are many, many factors that determine energy rates, not just one type of resource. In an analysis of utility rates, economists Ernst Berndt, Roy Epstein, and Michael Doane identified 13 reasons why an electric utility’s rates may be higher or lower than the average. They include things like the average use per customer, age of the electricity distribution system, generation resource mix, local taxes, and rate of increases prior to any implemented renewable portfolio standard (RPS). So faulting renewables for high energy prices is a bogus claim. Furthermore, there is no data showing a nationwide pattern of renewable energy standards leading to rate increases for consumers. The report states: “American consumers in the top wind energy-producing states have seen their electricity prices actually decrease by 0.37 percent over the last 5 years, while all other states have seen their electricity prices increase by 7.79 percent over that time period." Further, 15 studies from various grid operators, state governments, and academic experts have examined the impact of wind energy on wholesale electricity prices and confirmed that wind energy reduces electricity prices. Read More
New York’s “Reforming the Energy Vision” (REV) proceeding aims to reform the state’s long-standing electricity system to lay the groundwork for a cleaner and more efficient grid that allows for more customer choice and competition from third-party energy services companies. Forming the centerpiece of this 21st-century vision is a platform that would smoothly integrate innovative energy services and solutions into the existing grid, allowing them to compete on equal footing with electricity from centralized power plants.
Currently, the electric industry comprises three functions: generation, transmission, and distribution. Generation refers to making electricity, traditionally from large, centralized power plants. Transmission refers to sending that electricity along high-voltage wires to substations closer to electricity customers. Distribution refers to delivering the power from the substations to homes and businesses. In its recent straw proposal, the Department of Public Service Staff (Staff) recommends splitting the distribution function into two parts, one performing the traditional delivery service and the other serving as the Distribution System Platform Provider (DSP), to grant equal priority to energy solutions that are not centralized, such as on-site, distributed generation and energy efficiency. Read More
Source: Frank M. Rafik
Economics is the focus of many debates surrounding Germany’s aggressive “energy transition” (or Energiewende), which plans to move the country to nearly 100 percent renewable energy by 2050. Critics say Energiewende’s costs are unjustifiable, arguing they hurt the country’s international competitiveness and systemic inefficiencies exacerbate these costs.
At first glance, it’s hard to argue with them. The scale of investment in Energiewende can seem intimidating: So far, Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimates the total cost of Germany’s clean energy expansion at €106 billion. Furthermore, the Wall Street Journal quotes government sources when predicting total costs through 2040 to be about €1 trillion.
By contrast, however, Germany’s annual investment in fossil fuels has been €90 billion; and, investments in Energiewende go into electric grid upgrades that would need to happen in Germany anyway, whereas fossil fuel investments leave the country.
When viewed in context, there are many reasons to believe investments in Energiewende will reap economy-wide rewards, giving Germany a competitive global advantage over other countries that lagged behind investing in the future.
Every year, it seems, is predicted to be the “year for solar,” and for certain states this may ring true.
But in Texas, despite having a close relationship with the sun and its heat (2011 gave us 100 days over 100 degrees and no rain), we have yet to realize our potential for solar energy development, the highest potential of any state in the nation. Texas currently only has about 213 megawatts (MW) of solar energy installed (compared to over 237 MW in little ol’ Massachusetts). Recent developments, however, make me encouraged that the next few years will be the catalyst for finally fulfilling that potential.
A few weeks ago, the Austin City Council voted on an ambitious solar step forward, directing a “utility-scale solar target of 600 megawatts by 2017, a rooftop solar target of 200 megawatts by 2020, explicit language enabling third-party solar ownership, a floor price for the value-of-solar tariff…and a mandatory strategy to procure 200 megawatts of fast-response storage.” The resolution will require the municipal utility, Austin Energy, to obtain 60 percent of its electricity generation from renewables over the next decade, and to be completely carbon-free by 2030. Read More
Map of polluting power plants in Los Angeles County. Many are located in or near the region’s most vulnerable communities that are already over-burdened by air pollution.
My mom is a pro at shopping for good deals. She taught me the importance of timing my purchases during the off-peak season to get the most value for my dollar.
Time-of-Use (TOU) electricity pricing reminds me of the lessons my mom taught me, and it can help empower families to take control of their energy use, while saving money AND improving air quality.
Like the name implies, TOU pricing allows customers to choose when to power-up large appliances (think laundry, dishwasher, A/C) in order to avoid using high-demand, “peak” energy – which is more polluting and expensive. It is a voluntary program with a proven track record.
Peak energy demand typically occurs late in the afternoon when everyone is coming home from school and work, running the A/C, charging phones, cooking, doing laundry, or streaming Netflix on a T.V. During this high-demand time, energy prices spike and electric utilities flip on expensive and dirty fossil fuel “peaking” power plants to meet energy demand (because nobody wants to lose power and heaven-forbid the Internet!). Read More
A new utility business model – “Utility 2.0” or “reform” – is the hot topic in statehouses and regulatory commissions across the country. This is due to many factors: technological innovations in the energy sector, changing consumer expectations, increasing electricity prices, tighter regulations, and the need to decarbonize our energy sector as we grapple with climate change.
Some argue utility earnings should be based on performance rather than volumetric electricity sales. They suggest utilities’ monopoly interests should be aligned with enabling clean energy services – such as on-site renewable energy and home energy management – instead of simply delivering more electricity.
Key to this new approach is the ability to define – and then measure – performance. This will require a set of metrics by which utility investments can be judged and rewarded. Illinois was the early adaptor of performance-based metrics for its historic smart meters roll-out and is finalizing a set of metrics this week that are critical to designing a utility business model for the future. Read More
Imagine you’re trying to lose weight. If you step on the scale once a month, how can you possibly know how each of your daily decisions affects the number? Weighing yourself every day would be a step up, giving you a much clearer picture of the effects of each day’s choices. Now imagine the potential results if you could access real-time data – if you were able to see just how many calories were in each food you picked up, as well how much energy you were exerting at any given moment.
Thanks to a meta-analysis on behalf of the American Council for an Energy Efficiency Economy (ACEEE), we can now see that access to this kind of granular, real-time data on electricity use leads to significant household electricity savings.
Survey highlights importance of timeliness and granularity
The ACEEE survey aggregates multiple studies designed to evaluate the effectiveness of different types of electricity customer feedback from the past 20 years, including 61 trials from around the world: 33 from the U.S., 13 from Europe, 9 from Canada, and 3 others. Such a diverse pool allows us to draw important conclusions about consumer energy use habits while controlling for variations in culture, climate, and energy use patterns. The results are displayed in the graph below. Read More
The New York Public Service Commission (Commission) has embarked on the landmark Reforming Energy Vision (REV) proceeding to design a new business model for electric utilities. Today’s business model allows utilities to earn revenues based on how much money they spend to supply and deliver electricity. Under the new model, utilities will earn revenues based on the value of services they deliver to customers and the environment.
Currently, utilities dominate the electricity service market, limiting customer access to the full range of products and services otherwise available in a truly open market. One focus of the proceeding is to remove the barriers preventing third parties, such as retail electric suppliers, solar energy companies, or smart meter providers, from fully participating in the energy market. Allowing full participation by third parties would lead to increased innovation and fuel the development of new products and services. Read More
By: Karan Gupta, EDF Climate Corps Fellow at Jones Lang Lasalle
EDF Climate Corps fellow, Karan Gupta, in front of the Building Automation System at 77 West Wacker, Chicago, IL.
Demand response – an energy saving tool that encourages customers to shift their electricity use to times of day when there is less demand on the power grid or when more renewable energy is abundant – has been at the core of my work this summer as an Environmental Defense Fund Climate Corps fellow. My host company, Jones Lang Lasalle, is the property manager for 77 West Wacker Drive, a 50-story office building in downtown Chicago. Here, I am focusing on maximizing the benefits of demand response, which have already been implemented through multiple technologies.
Currently, 77 West Wacker is enrolled in the PJM demand response capacity market through a demand response service provider. As discussed in my previous post, there are standby payments for demand response commitments, meaning that the building is paid for simply making itself available to reduce energy demand when called upon to do so. Read More
Source: Johannes Rössel, wikimedia commons
It would be logical to assume that we make decisions based on our needs, desires, and values regardless of how the choice is presented. For instance, we wouldn’t expect the choice to become an organ donor to depend on whether you must check a box to accept or decline donation. But we would be wrong: our decisions depend a great deal on how the choice is presented.
Choice architecture gets to the heart of the debate on whether it’s preferable to offer people the opportunity to opt-in or to opt-out, and this question has become crucial to the discussion about time-variant electricity pricing throughout the country.
Opt-out vs opt-in time-variant pricing
Currently, most electricity customers pay for electricity at a single flat rate (i.e., one price per kWh consumed). Such pricing is simple but doesn’t reflect actual system costs, which are higher during times of the day when overall energy demand peaks. Time-variant pricing instead allows utilities to charge more for electricity during periods of peak demand, and less during periods of lower demand. Read More