By: Nancy E. Pfund, Managing Partner of DBL Investors, and Anand Chhabra, former Summer Associate at DBL Investors and current JD/MBA Candidate at Stanford University
Does more renewable energy mean more expensive electricity? In the nation’s debate on energy, few questions are more important to American families and businesses.
Many critics of renewables allege skyrocketing electricity prices and economic crisis, owing to growing reliance on renewables. This commentary has emphasized “exploding electricity prices,” an “attack on any state’s economy,” and “gouging job creators and American families with higher electricity bills.”
In our report, Renewables Are Driving Up Electricity Prices – Wait What?, we address this concern directly by assessing average retail electricity prices in the U.S., with a particular focus on whether states rely a lot or a little on renewables. What we discovered is that many of the fears espoused by critics of renewable energy are overblown. Read More
This post has been updated since its original publication on June 11th, 2015.
Here at Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), we love win-win solutions. This is why we’re big fans of time-of-use (TOU) electricity pricing (a type of time variant electricity pricing). As I’ve written before, TOU pricing better reflects the true cost of electricity, which fluctuates throughout the day. What’s more, it brings with it significant benefits for the environment, electric reliability, and people’s wallets. By empowering customers to better control their energy bills and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, everyone wins with TOU pricing.
Thankfully, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) included TOU pricing as one of the key elements in their plan to reform residential electricity rates. But how and what Californians pay for electricity – the best way to structure rates – is currently up for debate at the CPUC.
The CPUC issued its proposed decision on restructuring California’s residential rates and moving customers to TOU rates in the new structure, which EDF strongly supports as an evolutionary leap forward. Subsequently, Commissioner Mike Florio issued an alternate proposed decision that nudges the current tiered rate system forward with a time-variation “adder.” Unfortunately, Florio’s alternate proposal amounts to more of a tune-up than the substantial overhaul required to prepare for a future grid that runs on carbon-free renewables, like wind and solar, and also powers our cars, trucks, trains, and boats.
‘Disruptive’ is a favorite word among entrepreneurs and innovators, but start-up companies like Airbnb and Uber truly have disrupted long-standing industries over the past few years. Beyond their youth and success, what further links these two companies as well as many others (such as Teespring, Postmates, Patreon, and Verbling), is the way they empower people.
Exemplified by Airbnb and Uber, among others, is a new kind of business model that is revolutionizing many sectors, including how we get our electricity. Just like hotel and taxi industries, these disruptive, decentralized trends are taking hold in energy – affording people more choice, enabling existing resources and technology, and empowering people to veer from the traditional provider of services. Moreover, they even allow some people to make money in ways that didn’t exist until recently. Read More
In an ideal world, our electricity system would run on 100 percent clean, renewable energy. Moving toward that goal means transitioning away from a system of centralized, fossil fuel power plants, to an intelligent, efficient, networked energy grid that smoothly integrates vastly increased amounts of renewables and energy-efficient solutions.
To do that, we have to balance the intermittency of renewables with our steady need for electricity. That’s where natural gas comes in: When the sun stops shining or the wind stops blowing and renewables are offline, gas-fired plants can ramp up more quickly and efficiently than coal plants.
Many policymakers, regulators and industry members believe we have to build thousands of miles of new pipelines costing $150 billion or more to feed this need. But that could be an unnecessary and expensive mistake, not just now but over a very long term. Read More
Solar energy is booming – and you needn’t look further for proof of its success than Brian H. Potts’ recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal. When a utility lawyer like Potts is arguing for what type of solar energy our country should be investing in –utility-owned, large-scale solar versus customer-owned, rooftop – you know this renewable energy resource has gone mainstream. And that’s a good thing.
We should support a wide variety of clean energy resources precisely because these technologies eliminate the costs of pollution now being socialized by fossil fuel generators. And this is becoming all the more critical as the costs of a changing climate grow. Read More
With time-variant pricing, people can choose to run their dishwashers at times of day when electricity is less expensive.
New York cemented its reputation as a national leader in energy policy last year when it announced plans to revamp the way utilities are regulated in order to establish a 21st-century energy system. But the state is still trailing in one crucial area: More than 99% of its homes have antiquated meters that tell utilities nothing more than how much electricity customers use each month. To achieve its ambitious goal of an energy revolution, the state should embrace a technology—advanced meters—that empowers New Yorkers to cut their energy use during times of the day when it matters most.
A key component of the smart grid, advanced meters provide detailed electricity-use data throughout the day. This information reduces inefficiencies in the energy system and leads to quicker detection of power outages. Such improvements reduce the costs of operating the power grid, resulting in lower electricity prices.
Advanced meters, also known as two-way-communicating Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI), or "smart meters" (which can both send and receive information such as electricity prices and energy usage), enable pricing that incentivizes customers to use electricity when it is cheaper and cut back when it is expensive. This time-variant pricing reduces congestion on the power grid, ultimately lowering costs for everybody. But, without advanced meters measuring electricity use in short time intervals, it's impossible for utilities to bill on a time-variant basis. Read More
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