Selected category: Energy Efficiency

We're wasting solar energy because the grid can't handle it all. Here's a solution.

caligrid_378x235California has a nice problem: It’s producing so much clean solar energy that the state’s electric grid is at capacity, and sometimes beyond.

As Vox’s David Roberts reports in his excellent piece about California’s grid headache, it makes good sense to expand the system by interconnecting state-run energy markets.

But he also notes, at the end of his story, some other and complementary strategies California can use to increase its grid bandwidth – while accommodating rapidly growing, but variable, renewable energy sources.

Connected grids, alone, are not a long-term fix. Read More »

Also posted in California, Clean Energy, Electricity Pricing, Energy Storage, Grid Modernization, Renewable Energy, Solar Energy, Time of Use| Read 3 Responses

Want to Approve the FirstEnergy and AEP Bailouts? Let’s Bring Back the Edsel!

auto-621420_960_720Ford launched the Edsel in the late 1950’s as a new, top-of-the-line luxury car. But the project was doomed from the start because the car’s design was outdated and shunned by customers. Ford closed production after only three years, losing nearly $3 billion as measured in today’s dollars. Today “Edsel” is synonymous for a project that is a total failure.

Fast forward to modern day Ohio, where utility giants FirstEnergy and AEP are trying to bail out several old, uneconomic power plants, some of which also were built in the late 1950s. They are asking the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) to guarantee the purchase of power from these outdated plants. The FirstEnergy and AEP bailouts are a bad idea, like the Edsel, yet if the PUCO approves the bailouts, why not subsidize and bring back the Edsel too?

The main rationale for keeping the power plants open is to have a diverse supply of energy resources in Ohio – regardless of whether they are cost-effective or profitable. The utilities’ definition of diversity seems to be having a mix of both modern and ancient generators. So why not bring back the Edsel in order to improve diversity? It would give car buyers more choices, even if it’s a slow, unattractive choice. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Ohio| Comments are closed

Boost Investor Confidence and Watch America's Energy Market Transform

modernoffice_387x235A recent decision by New Jersey utility regulators to standardize energy efficiency procedures for commercial buildings could have a major impact – not just on the Garden State – but on energy markets nationwide.

The reason: It gives investors more confidence in performance and returns which is exactly what can fuel a big push to make buildings across the United States more efficient. It might eventually transform our energy efficiency market into an economic power house. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Energy Financing, Investor Confidence Project| Read 2 Responses

Transforming an Energy Burden into an Energy Opportunity

Energy opportunityEconomic inequality has become one of the dominant political narratives of the day. It occupies discussions on both sides of the aisle, and is shaping elections from city halls to the White House. There’s a good reason for this: the continuing trends of flattening incomes, concentrated wealth, and deepening poverty are historic.

One place this reality is really hitting home for millions of Americans is on their monthly energy bill. For nearly one in three American families, paying a monthly energy bill is a challenge.

The energy burden, as the Department of Energy defines it, is the ratio of energy costs (which includes heating, cooling, appliances, and lighting from electricity, gas, and fuel sources) to household income. Nearly 40 percent of low-income households use electricity to heat their homes (the majority in the South and West), and are suffering a more severe energy burden because of factors like wage stagnation and the quality of housing at lower economic levels.  In 2014, researchers looking at the “energy affordability gap” for low income households (the difference between actual energy bills and what is considered affordable) tabulated it at almost $45 billion nationally. That is an increase of 16 percent from 2011, with nearly 60 percent of the growth accounted for by states in the mid-South, South, and east of the Mississippi. For any of those families, even a 10 percent growth in electricity costs can be destabilizing. Monthly electric bills become another factor forcing households to choose between groceries, childcare, and medical bills.

To make inroads in closing the energy affordability gap and reducing energy burdens for the most vulnerable, Environmental Defense Fund believes we need a combination of greater and scalable clean energy investment in low- and moderate-income communities, and a focus on empowering the many faces that are energy-burdened. The multi-billion dollar affordability gap certainly poses a variety of financial risks, but it’s also rife with opportunity. Read More »

Also posted in California, Clean Energy, Energy Financing, North Carolina, On-bill repayment, Renewable Energy, Solar Energy| Comments are closed

5 Ways Pennsylvania Can Build a Smarter, More Efficient Grid

pa electric gridAcross the country, signs of a cleaner, more efficient, and more affordable U.S. energy system are emerging. But we can’t reach the clean energy future without updating the way utilities make money. Today, utilities earn revenue based on how much electricity they deliver. Companies earn less when they sell less electricity, so they have little incentive to provide energy efficiency programs for their customers.

To address this issue, the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission is considering changing how utilities are paid for the electricity they sell. The goal – determining whether new rate plans could eliminate the barriers to energy efficiency programs – is an admirable step toward the clean energy future. Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) has a number of ideas on how to design a more efficient grid, which we filed in comments today:

  1. Performance-based regulation – Utilities have few incentives to help people adopt solar panels or energy efficiency, so the Commission should implement performance-based regulation plans. Rather than encouraging the sale of more electricity, a performance-based framework would reward utilities for meeting goals that benefit customers and the environment, like encouraging the use of rooftop solar or increasing the use of energy efficiency programs.

Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Pennsylvania, Voltage Optimization| Read 3 Responses

Time is Money: Strong BLM Methane Waste Rules Should Be Finalized Without Delay

1219_Pocket Watch.TIFWhat do Farmington, NM, Oklahoma City, Lakewood, CO and Dickinson, ND have in common? These cities are in the heart of oil and gas country, and – most importantly – were locations in which the BLM heard overwhelming support for strong efforts to reduce wasteful venting, flaring and leaks from the oil and gas industry at a series of public meetings in recent weeks.

Methane is a potent climate pollutant and the main constituent of natural gas, so when oil and gas companies on public land allow methane to be leaked, burned or vented to the atmosphere, it not only impacts air quality and our climate, it also represents an economic loss to taxpayers.

Individually at each hearing, and collectively across all four, voices supporting strong BLM methane waste and pollution rules far outweighed the opposition. In the final tally, supportive statements outnumbered negative ones by more than three-to-one. This fits with recent polling that found that a bipartisan majority (fully 80 percent) of Westerners support commonsense rules to cut oil and gas waste on BLM managed lands. Read More »

Also posted in Air Quality, Climate, Colorado, Methane, Natural Gas| Read 1 Response
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