The U.S. electric grid has not been updated since World War II when telephones, dishwashers, and air conditioning were the cutting-edge technology innovations of the century. Today, this same grid is struggling to cope with the technological advances of the last decade, a reality that hit home for New Yorkers in the wake of Superstorm Sandy when millions of people lost power for days and even weeks.
But New York is taking steps to change this, first by initiating a proceeding in April to overhaul the state’s utility business model, and now by opening the proceeding to comments. EDF filed our comments (Track 1 and Track 2) in this case last Friday, July 18th, and commends the New York Public Service Commission for the opportunity to provide our input on this exceedingly important policy that will have national implications.
New York played a leading role in establishing today’s utility business model. Thomas Edison developed the first power plant on Pearl Street in Manhattan in 1882, serving 85 lighting customers. Read More
Source: Daniel Schwen
By: David Kolata, executive director of the Citizens Utility Board
Over the next five to seven years, smart grid infrastructure, including advanced metering infrastructure (AMI), will be deployed for customers of the two largest utilities in Illinois: Commonwealth Edison and Ameren Illinois. Over five million new meters will be installed and over $2 billion of smart grid investments will be made. The challenge confronting consumer and environmental advocates in Illinois is how to make sure that infrastructure is rolled out in a way that maximizes other policy objectives—namely, saving customers money on their energy bills and promoting opportunities for innovative technologies like microgrids and energy storage.
Years of discussion in Illinois culminated in the Energy Infrastructure Modernization Act, a new law that supports smart grid deployment and funds programs to support electricity system innovation through: Read More
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Collections.
As innovative energy products and services come to market, so do new mechanisms to fund them. And existing funding options become more popular. This has resulted in a boom of finance jargon, especially regarding energy efficiency and renewable generation. Though many of the finance terms used in clean energy finance are similar to those used in traditional finance, it’s easy to get lost. We hope this glossary will help those in clean energy navigate the new and growing world of clean energy finance.
Asset Class: A grouping of similar types of investments that behave similarly in the marketplace and are subject to the same laws and regulations. Broad examples of asset classes include:
- Equities (also known as stocks) – assets that represent ownership of part of a company.
- Bonds – assets that guarantee a fixed payment stream.
Bonds are often further categorized based on structure or source of the payments. Examples of these subclasses include municipal, corporate and mortgage bonds. Read More
Source: NASA Earth Observatory
Last month, I had the pleasure of moderating a panel called “Utilities 2.0: The Role of Distributed Generation and Demand Response in Evolving Utility Business Models.” The topic may sound esoteric, but to the more than sixty people in attendance, and at least fifty more watching online, the event, which was sponsored by clean energy networking group Agrion, offered insight into how these options will in a not-too-distant future revolutionize the way all of us consume electricity.
The energy industry is abuzz with talk of how distributed generation, which enables consumers to draw power from on-site sources, such as rooftop solar, and demand response, which rewards customers who use less electricity during times of peak demand, are transforming the electric utility industry. A once-in-a-generation paradigm shift is already in motion, and exactly how it will play out is anyone’s guess. Read More
Last week, the California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) finalized an important decision for Southern California’s energy supply following the closure of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS). The plan emphasizes increased reliance on clean energy in this part of the state – an important step towards a fully realized low-carbon future.
The decision authorized San Diego Gas and Electric and Southern California Edison to procure at least 550 megawatts (MW) of ‘preferred resources,’ which include renewable energy, demand response (a tool that’s used by utilities to reward people who use less electricity during times of “critical,” peak electricity demand), energy efficiency, at least 50 MW of energy storage, and up to 1,000 MW of these resources altogether.
That’s a major step forward, as utilities across the country traditionally rely on large fossil fuel plants to meet regional demand. Read More
In a victory for Illinois residents and the environment, Commonwealth Edison Company (ComEd) today formally proposed to the Illinois Commerce Commission an accelerated timetable for completing its deployment of four million smart meters. ComEd began installing smart meters last fall as part of the Energy Infrastructure and Modernization Act of 2011. With this proposal, the Illinois utility will complete its meter installation almost five years earlier than planned.
Modern, smart electricity meters are a key component of the smart grid. These devices help eliminate huge waste in the energy system, reduce overall and peak energy demand, and spur the adoption of clean, low-carbon energy resources, including wind and solar power. By enabling two-way, real-time communication, smart meters give every day energy users, small businesses, manufacturers, and farmers (and the electricity providers that serve them) the information they need to control their own energy use and reduce their electricity costs. Read More
Source: Edison International
Two seemingly unrelated announcements drew much attention in the electric utility industry recently. First, the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) (the trade group for the U.S. electric utility industry) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) jointly recommended changing how utilities should be regulated. Second, Duke Energy announced it will sell 13 Midwest merchant power plants. These announcements are actually related because they both result from the same dramatic changes affecting the electric utility industry. As Bob Dylan aptly noted, “the times they are a-changin’.” Regulators and other stakeholders must be prepared to address these changes.
Under the traditional business model, electricity usage grew steadily. Utilities built ever-larger plants to serve this growing load. The bigger plants were more efficient than existing plants, so the unit cost for electricity steadily declined. Utilities benefited by steadily increasing their revenues. Customers benefited from declining unit costs. For utility customers, it was like paying a lower price per gallon of gasoline every time you filled your tank.
But this traditional model is crumbling, due to several factors: Read More
By: Elizabeth B. Stein, Attorney and Adam Peltz, Attorney
Source: Iwan Baan
In Tuesday’s blog post, we discussed the recently concluded Con Edison rate case, its context, and its significance in advancing clean energy and grid resilience in New York. Today, we take a closer look at the final Order posted last Friday by the New York State Public Service Commission (the Commission) to uncover some of the more encouraging outcomes buried in this 300+ page document:
- Con Edison agreed to various measures that allow for more distributed generation, i.e. on-site power generation, such as combined heat and power, rather than relying solely on power generation and distribution from the traditional, centralized grid. For example, Con Edison agreed to pay for some fault current mitigation, which enables distributed generation to be connected to portions of Con Edison’s grid where it would otherwise be prohibited, and agreed to develop an implementation plan for a microgrid pilot. Additionally, Con Edison agreed to treat customer-sited projects, including distributed generation, as integral parts of its system by considering them in its 24-month planning horizon. Because some distributed generation can operate in an ‘islanded’ mode, or separate from the main grid, and can thus continue operating in a power outage, distributed generation can play a critical role in improving resilience. Read More
By: Elizabeth B. Stein, Attorney and Adam Peltz, Attorney
Source: Iwan Baan
The New York State Public Service Commission (Commission) took a historic step late last week, unanimously approving an Order that requires Con Edison to implement state-of-the-art measures to plan for and protect its electric, gas, and steam systems from the effects of climate change. This announcement regarding the future of New York State’s largest utility comes as a welcome coda to local storm recovery and resiliency efforts that have been in the works for some time now.
On October 29, 2012, Superstorm Sandy clobbered the coastline of New York City. Homes were swept away or badly damaged as corrosive salt water flooded basements, while millions lost power. In one of the enduring images of the storm, an exploding transformer at East 14th Street caused the “city that never sleeps” to go dark below 40th Street and stay that way for the better part of a week. Read More