Energy Exchange

Clean energy – not natural gas – drove decarbonization in 2017

Despite attempts by the Trump administration and the coal industry to limit clean energy in favor of fossil fuels – including a tariff on solar energy, a thinly-disguised bailout for coal and nuclear power plants (that was rightly rejected), and a dramatic proposed cut to energy research – we are accelerating the transition to a cleaner electric grid. In fact, last year was the first time the reduction in power sector emissions can be attributed more to energy conservation and renewable energy than switching from coal to natural gas.

The new 2018 Business Council for Sustainable Energy (BCSE) Factbook* highlights the electric power sector as the driving force behind the decarbonization of the U.S. economy. In total, power sector emissions declined 4.2 percent in 2017, mostly due to the 18.4 GW of new renewable energy we added to the grid (a 14 percent increase over the previous year’s total U.S. renewable capacity). In 2017, renewable generation represented about 18 percent of total U.S. generation (around10 percent from non-hydro renewables alone).

This explosive growth further cements renewable energy’s role in reducing emissions from the U.S. power sector. Let’s dig into the factors that led to this growth, and how we can extend this trend of emissions reductions from renewables beyond 2017. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Climate, Demand Response, Electric Vehicles, Energy Equity, Grid Modernization, Natural Gas, Solar Energy / Leave a comment

Utilities planning to move Californians to time-of-use pricing need solutions for low-income customers

By Andy Bilich, clean energy analyst, and Jamie Fine, senior economist

Last month, all three of California’s major investor-owned utilities submitted applications to the California Public Utilities Commission detailing their respective strategies for how to transition residential customers to time-of-use pricing. Time-of-use pricing, if done right, is a low-cost strategy to help meet California’s climate and clean energy goals. This innovative tool can help the state rely more on clean energy and less on fossil fuels, at the same time delaying the need for new infrastructure and reducing costs and harmful emissions. While a significant number of Californians will be able to adapt to this new pricing, the shift this summer and next will likely be more challenging for some ─ namely, low-income customers in hot areas of the state.

Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) supports time-of-use pricing for its benefits to the environment, the electric system, and customer’s pockets. However, the utility plans have some troubling gaps that may prevent the new system working for everyone. For California to pioneer a clean economy for all, the utilities and the commission must proactively overcome barriers facing vulnerable customers who need more help adjusting to time-of-use rates. Read More »

Also posted in California, Time of Use / Read 2 Responses

DOE’s compensation scheme for coal and nuclear is dead – Now what?

In a January 8 Order, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC or Commission) swiftly dismissed the Department of Energy’s (DOE) proposed out-of-market compensation scheme for coal and nuclear units.  DOE’s proposal would have provided guaranteed profits to coal and nuclear plants, despite the fact that these aging units are losing out to more efficient and affordable resources.  Instead, FERC took a more measured approach, asking all regional market operators to submit additional information on resiliency issues within 60 days, and providing interested parties an opportunity to respond to those submittals within 30 days.  Here’s what we can expect next. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Grid Modernization, Utility Business Models / Comments are closed

FERC’s rejection of DOE’s pro-coal and nuclear proposal shows evidence can still trump politics

Last week the Midwest and northeastern United States experienced an historic cold snap that tested our nation’s electric grid. Like last year’s solar eclipse, unprecedented wildfires in California, and extreme flooding after Hurricane Harvey, this year’s “bomb cyclone” has not created a reliability crisis. In fact, it appears based on the evidence thus far that our electricity system – built upon the markets and long-standing operator practices behind our grid – passed this test with flying colors.

That’s why today’s decision by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to reject the Department of Energy’s (DOE) flawed coal and nuclear proposal is such an important win for American families, competitive markets, and the environment.

In mid-October, the DOE took the unprecedented step of asking FERC to provide guaranteed revenues and profits to uneconomic coal and nuclear plants. DOE did so with thinly veiled pretext, arguing without evidence that these plants support grid resiliency. FERC was quickly inundated with a chorus of resistance and disapproval from natural gas companies, environmental groups, consumer advocates, state attorney generals, and congressional members from both parties.  Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Grid Modernization / Read 4 Responses

Data reveals real-time electricity pricing would help nearly all ComEd customers save money

Over the past few years, Illinois has taken great strides to not only modernize its electric grid, but also to provide people and businesses with access to energy data.

In February, the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) approved the release of anonymous, aggregate energy-use data on a large scale, broken out in half-hour increments, 24 hours a day. Sensing an opportunity to unlock innovation, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and the Citizens Utility Board (CUB), Illinois’ utility watchdog, dove into that treasure trove of granular data.

Specifically, we wanted to see how the customers of Illinois’ largest electric utility, ComEd, would have fared under a “real-time pricing” program in which power prices change hourly. Anonymous data from over 300,000 homes revealed several interesting tidbits that we’re sharing in our new whitepaper, The Costs and Benefits of Real-Time Pricing.

Most importantly, the study shows that real-time prices would have saved 97 percent of customers money in 2016 – even if the customers made no changes to how they use electricity. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, General, Illinois / Read 1 Response

How clean energy just overtook coal in this competitive electricity market

Look around the U.S. and you’ll find plenty of examples of smart policy that is driving the adoption of cleaner, more efficient energy resources. In particular, California, New York, and Illinois are all leveraging policy to reduce carbon pollution and transition to a 21st century electric grid.

But in addition to those success stories, markets also are achieving significant clean energy results – and nowhere is that more evident than here in Texas.

In 2001, the Lone Star State transitioned to a competitive electricity market that (for the most part) puts the cheapest energy resources on the grid first. Since then, wind has grown from supplying less than 1 percent of the state’s electricity to over 20 percent for the first half of 2017. And as cheap natural gas remains plentiful and renewable costs keep falling, expensive coal is getting pushed out of Texas’ market. In fact, wind power capacity just overtook coal capacity. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Texas / Comments are closed