By: Katie Hsia-Kiung
It may be hard to believe that just 15 years ago the term “clean tech” was largely unheard of. Today, the term has gained widespread usage, and is often applied to a diverse array of businesses, practices, and tools. Clean tech not only includes renewable energy technologies like wind and solar, but also electric motors, green chemistry, sustainable water management, and waste disposal technologies, to name just a few.
One research institution that has followed this sector through its short, but burgeoning history, is Clean Edge, a firm devoted exclusively to the study of the clean tech sector. Last week, the firm released their annual U.S. Clean Tech Leadership Index, which ranks each state based on several indicators across three categories: technology, policy, and capital. For the sixth year in a row, California came out on top as the leading state for clean technology. In fact, over the past year, California has widened its lead over the rest of the pack, with a score that is 15 percentage points higher than Massachusetts, the state in second place. According to the report, “with 55,000 people employed in its booming solar industry alone, a carbon market in place with its AB 32 trading scheme, and a 50 percent renewables goal by 2030 set by Governor Jerry Brown, California sets the pace for what a clean-energy economy looks like.” Read More
We love electric vehicles (EVs) in California and we want that love to spread. Why? It isn’t because of the cool factor – though, believe me, EVs like the Tesla are undoubtedly cool. Instead, it’s because these cars can offer significant benefits to the environment, electric grid, and economy.
California policymakers feel the love: in March 2012, Governor Brown signed an Executive Order that put an ambitious – and important – goal in place to provide the infrastructure for up to 1 million zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs), which includes fuel cell powered vehicles along with plug-in hybrid and battery EVs, by 2020 and put 1.5 million ZEVs on the road by 2025.
Here are some of the potential benefits of electric vehicles:
- Reduce harmful pollution. Because EVs don’t produce any emissions from the tailpipe when they are drawing on energy from their battery – unlike traditional gasoline-powered vehicles – they can greatly reduce the amount of harmful pollution from which California suffers. Targeting tailpipe emissions, the largest contributor to dangerous emissions, will help the state meet its greenhouse gas reduction targets and reduce harmful pollutants that are causing elevated levels of smog.
- Integrate more renewable energy. By charging at times when renewable energy is abundant (i.e., during the day to take advantage of solar and late at night to soak up wind power), EVs can enable the grid to handle more clean energy resources while still maintaining reliability.
- Avoid increasing use of fossil fuel resources. Because solar power becomes unavailable when the sun goes down, the grid sees a steep increase in the use of fossil fuel-powered energy before sunrise and after sunset. If EVs charge during the day and then draw upon that stored energy when renewable energy is unavailable it will reduce the need for fossil-fueled generators to provide energy during these times of the day.
- Avoid costs to utilities and residents. Capitalizing on the ability of EVs to integrate more renewables onto the grid can offset the need for additional, expensive transmission and distribution infrastructure as energy needs increase over time. In addition, EVs present an attractive financial proposition – by reducing or eliminating the amount that drivers spend at the gas pump, those who purchase an EV can recover the upfront cost of the car in a matter of years.
Ask most people what the Beatles and California have in common and they might very well be at a loss. However, the answer is pretty simple: they are both unabashed trendsetters in the face of resistance – the former in their musical style and the latter in its clean energy policies.
Not content with setting a Renewable Portfolio Standard that ends at 2020, Governor Jerry Brown and state legislators are pushing for the Golden State to get 50 percent of its energy from renewable resources by 2030.
To meet this ambitious target, California must build a system that is largely based on renewable electricity, like wind and solar. This is not an easy task. The primary reason? Sunshine and wind are only available at certain times of the day and can be variable during those times.
Traditionally, managers of the electricity grid have relied upon dirty “peaker” power plants – usually fossil fuel-fired and only needed a couple of days a year – to balance the grid during periods of variability or when electricity demand exceeds supply. But, in a world where 50 percent of our energy comes from renewable sources as a means to achieving a clean energy economy, we can’t rely on these dirty peaker plants to balance the variability of wind and solar.
Luckily, technology is available today that can help fill the gap of these peaker plants – and the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is starting to embrace it. Read More
Also posted in Air Quality, California, Cap and Trade, Clean Energy, Climate, Demand Response, Electricity Pricing, Energy Efficiency, Energy Storage, Energy-Water Nexus, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid
For more than 100 years, the U.S. power system relied on fossil-fueled power plants to meet our growing energy demand. Now, clean energy resources like renewables are quickly changing our energy mix. But what happens when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing? What about when power demand momentarily outpaces supply? That’s where batteries and energy storage come in, offering a fundamental, even disruptive change to the U.S. electricity system as we know it.
Batteries are energy game-changers
Today’s electricity system not only overproduces to be prepared for unforeseen problems, it also deploys dirty “peaker” plants that fire up during those few times per year when electricity demand is high (like during a heat wave) and the electric grid is stressed. With batteries, there’s no need for either overproduction or inefficient backup reserves, ultimately saving both utilities and customers money.
Batteries can provide bursts of electricity incredibly fast, often in milliseconds, and with far quicker reaction times than traditional power plants. As a result, energy storage helps the electric grid absorb and regulate power fluctuations, providing electricity fast, when and where it’s needed. Since the supply and demand of power must be carefully balanced, this ability helps prevent the grid from experiencing brownouts or blackouts. Read More
Superstorm Sandy crippled much of New Jersey’s critical infrastructure when it swept through the state two years ago. Stuck without power at home, many of the state’s residents also couldn’t get to work because the operations center for New Jersey Transit (NJ Transit) flooded, damaging backup power systems, emergency generation, and the computer system that controls train operations.
New Jersey is doing its best to make sure that won’t happen again. After a highly competitive grant process, NJ Transit last week received $1.3 billion in federal funds to improve the resilience of the state’s transportation system in the event of devastating future storms. The funds include $410 million to develop the NJ TransitGrid into a first-of-its-kind microgrid capable of keeping the power running when the electric grid goes down.
Microgrids are different from traditional electric grids in that they generate electricity on-site or nearby where it’s consumed. They can connect to the larger grid or island themselves and operate independently. Read More
If there is one thing that works in the world of advocacy, it is a ratings table that shows how one state, metropolitan area, or utility compares to its peers. The latest report, U.S. Clean Tech Leadership Index, from Clean Edge does just that.
The fifth annual U.S. Clean Tech Leadership Index finds that California, Massachusetts, Oregon, Colorado, and New York lead the way among states in solar and electric vehicle adoption, with smart climate policies and clean energy financing driving the clean tech leadership index growth.
Clean energy is becoming a popular choice for mainstream America with 11 states now generating more than ten percent of their electricity from non-hydro renewable sources, according to the Clean Edge report. As seen in the graph below, Iowa leads the way in utility-scale wind, solar, and geothermal electricity generation. Read More