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
Source: Caroline Culler
Take thousands of people, put them on a college campus – and watch the energy and water usage spike. That's what happens in the fall at universities across the country when students flood back to classrooms and dorms.
The nation's oldest public university system is keeping a keen eye on utility meters. The University of North Carolina (UNC) is on its way to reducing energy and water use by 30 percent by 2015.
Also noteworthy is UNC's goal for 2050, when the university's 17 campuses aim to be carbon neutral.
Slowing down UNC's progress are North Carolina statutory restrictions that make it difficult for campuses to finance and use their own renewable energy. Read More
Source: Kevin Case Flickr
Over the weekend, New York City Mayor de Blasio unveiled an ambitious plan to address energy use in the city’s buildings, called NYC Built to Last. Through this plan, NYC is committing to reduce its emissions by 80 percent below 2005 levels by 2050. This makes NYC the largest city in the world to commit to a goal like this. Representing three quarters of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions, New York City buildings must play a central role in any effective climate action plan, and Mayor de Blasio knows this.
A key component of this plan is the ‘retrofit accelerator,’ a program modeled on the successful NYC Clean Heat program. Retrofit accelerator aims to upgrade 20,000 private buildings, making up 15 percent of citywide built square footage. Of these buildings, 40 percent of them will be low-income housing.
EDF partnered with the City to create NYC Clean Heat, which forged a diverse coalition of financial, real estate, and non-profit communities to launch a $100 million financing program to help phase out dirty heating oils. Last week, the City announced the program met its goal of reducing soot pollution from heating oil in NYC by 50 percent. The program helped 4,000 buildings – half of them affordable housing – convert to cleaner, more efficient heating fuels. Read More
Source: designmilk flickr
New York is re-examining the way energy is regulated, priced, and distributed in the state in order to emerge with a 21st century business model. This change will deliver on a broad range of objectives, including increased customer value and environmental benefits, among others. However, achieving greater system efficiency could lead to the most impactful outcomes for customers, the environment, and society as a whole. Not only does increasing system efficiency have the potential to significantly reduce costs, energy use, and carbon emissions, it also makes the customer an integral part of the solution to meeting our future energy needs.
Electric utilities are tasked with meeting consumer demand for electricity at all times and, until now, have done so primarily by installing additional infrastructure on the electric grid whenever needed. While this has resulted in a fairly-reliable way to meet our energy needs, it has and continues to be extremely expensive and inefficient given the evolution in how energy is used today. Read More
By: Abdul Wadood, EDF Climate Corps Fellow and graduate student at Duke University’s Pratt School of Engineering
How does one maintain a facility of 4.2 million square feet, with five acres of roofs, that is two city blocks long and has 375 tenants? And, how does a building built in 1930 (also the largest building in the world at that time) compete with current technological innovations and new energy conservation trends? The answer lies in having accurate data, which can be a challenge considering the sheer size and age of this particular building.
The building I am referring to is the Merchandise Mart. Also called ‘The Mart,’ this building centralizes Chicago’s wholesale goods businesses by consolidating home, office, casual furnishings and a large variety of luxury home kitchen & bath showrooms under one roof. At the same time, the building now forms part of Chicago’s growing tech triangle community near the famous city loop as 1871, Motorola Mobility, Braintree, All Scripts, CCC and Yelp are in the building.
Every EDF Climate Corps fellow can fathom the potential of implementing energy efficiency measures – especially since it is a current industry trend. However, this does not come without challenges. As a student at Duke, I thought putting in long study hours, deskbound in a library only to be chauffeured home by campus safety was difficult.
A new utility business model – “Utility 2.0” or “reform” – is the hot topic in statehouses and regulatory commissions across the country. This is due to many factors: technological innovations in the energy sector, changing consumer expectations, increasing electricity prices, tighter regulations, and the need to decarbonize our energy sector as we grapple with climate change.
Some argue utility earnings should be based on performance rather than volumetric electricity sales. They suggest utilities’ monopoly interests should be aligned with enabling clean energy services – such as on-site renewable energy and home energy management – instead of simply delivering more electricity.
Key to this new approach is the ability to define – and then measure – performance. This will require a set of metrics by which utility investments can be judged and rewarded. Illinois was the early adaptor of performance-based metrics for its historic smart meters roll-out and is finalizing a set of metrics this week that are critical to designing a utility business model for the future. Read More
Source: Brendan Wood
Millions of Americans are watching their bills more closely as middle-class incomes continue to stagnate in the nation's uneven economic recovery.
So it's frustrating to hear opponents of climate action once again use the threat of higher electricity rates as a scare tactic to try to stop the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan. We know it has many people concerned.
The good news is we have more evidence than ever before to prove our opponents wrong.
We pay the same rates for power now as in 1994
Electric rates in the United States have remained steady over the last 20 years, even as consumption of renewable energy increased 40 percent, statistics from the U.S. Energy Information Administration show. Over the same time, we reduced coal plant emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides by more than 75 percent.
Imagine you’re trying to lose weight. If you step on the scale once a month, how can you possibly know how each of your daily decisions affects the number? Weighing yourself every day would be a step up, giving you a much clearer picture of the effects of each day’s choices. Now imagine the potential results if you could access real-time data – if you were able to see just how many calories were in each food you picked up, as well how much energy you were exerting at any given moment.
Thanks to a meta-analysis on behalf of the American Council for an Energy Efficiency Economy (ACEEE), we can now see that access to this kind of granular, real-time data on electricity use leads to significant household electricity savings.
Survey highlights importance of timeliness and granularity
The ACEEE survey aggregates multiple studies designed to evaluate the effectiveness of different types of electricity customer feedback from the past 20 years, including 61 trials from around the world: 33 from the U.S., 13 from Europe, 9 from Canada, and 3 others. Such a diverse pool allows us to draw important conclusions about consumer energy use habits while controlling for variations in culture, climate, and energy use patterns. The results are displayed in the graph below. Read More
The New York Public Service Commission (Commission) has embarked on the landmark Reforming Energy Vision (REV) proceeding to design a new business model for electric utilities. Today’s business model allows utilities to earn revenues based on how much money they spend to supply and deliver electricity. Under the new model, utilities will earn revenues based on the value of services they deliver to customers and the environment.
Currently, utilities dominate the electricity service market, limiting customer access to the full range of products and services otherwise available in a truly open market. One focus of the proceeding is to remove the barriers preventing third parties, such as retail electric suppliers, solar energy companies, or smart meter providers, from fully participating in the energy market. Allowing full participation by third parties would lead to increased innovation and fuel the development of new products and services. Read More
Governor Brown has the opportunity to make energy-saving upgrades possible for families and small business owners by signing Assembly Bill 1883 (Nancy Skinner- Berkeley). This bill would significantly lower the cost of Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE), a tool which enables property owners to take advantage of energy efficiency and rooftop solar PV for their homes or buildings with no money down, allowing them to pay off the investment over time through their property tax bill.
AB 1883 would streamline the PACE process and drive down the fixed transactional costs associated with commercial projects. Lowering these transaction costs is especially important for small businesses because high transaction costs can reduce the economic viability of the smaller energy upgrades that small business typically need. AB 1883 also incorporates new options for financing rooftop solar PV through PACE, which will enable a greater number of homeowners and small businesses to qualify for cost-saving solar PV contracts. Read More