Category Archives: Energy Efficiency

How Big Data Can Fight Climate Change in Los Angeles

Heat capture LASER maps

Map from the LASER Atlas showing temperature rise projections in Los Angeles

You may be wondering – as I was before we started a project with the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation over a year ago – “what the heck does Big Data have to do with climate change?”

To start, here’s a piece from Climate Central that exemplifies the new power of big data.

“Big Data allows you to say simple, clear things…to tell people about their climate locally in ways they can understand.”

Through taking information created all around us and applying thoughtful analysis, we can comprehend and unleash it to solve our greatest challenges. For EDF, that means partnering with the country’s top universities and most innovative companies to address the biggest challenge of our time – climate change.

Today we launch the newest version of the Los Angeles Solar & Efficiency Report (LASER), a data-driven mapping tool that can help stakeholders and local leaders understand climate and pollution risks in their own communities. Empowered by this information, they can seek out and maximize available resources to deploy clean energy, reduce climate pollution, and create tens of thousands of much-needed jobs. Read More »

Also posted in California, Clean Energy, Climate, Renewable Energy| Leave a comment

EDF Weighs In on New York’s Bold Effort to Build a New Electric Utility Business Model

New York Skyline

Source: iStock

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.

Humble beginnings

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 »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Dynamic Pricing, New York, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid, Utility Business Models| Leave a comment

Enough Drama, Texas has a Roadmap to Cut Pollution and Grow its Economy

Source: Nicholas Henderson Flickr

Paramount Theater in Austin, TX. Source: Nicholas Henderson Flickr

They say everything is bigger in Texas and often that's true, especially when it comes to big hair and the bravado of politicians. This amounts to a lot of drama and theatrics. I mean, as someone who grew up in Dallas, I can tell you that the soap opera by the same name wasn't too far off the mark.

Being a mighty oil and gas (and wind!) state, this drama often translates into fights with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other environmental regulators over pollution reduction. Texas is the number one emitter of carbon emissions and second biggest water-polluter in the nation. Texas doesn't really have solid ground to stand on.

Yet as of 2012, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott (current GOP and Koch-brothers backed candidate for Governor) has sued the federal government over environmental regulations sixteen times. And of the 25 total lawsuits pending against the federal government, Texas has only prevailed five times. Exemplified yet again in June when the Supreme Court ruled seven to two that yes, in fact, EPA is allowed to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from most large industrial facilities, like power plants and factories, despite Texas’ arguments. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Climate, Demand Response, Renewable Energy| 2 Responses

Nudging Behavior to Lower Energy Bills in North Carolina Office Buildings

Source: Advanced Telemetry

Source: Advanced Telemetry

Office building employees in Charlotte, North Carolina are taking small, voluntary actions to save energy. These steps are making a noticeable difference on utility bills and Duke Energy, the country's largest utility, can prove it.

Duke's Smart Energy Now program is the first commercially-available program of its kind in the country to use behavior change to reduce energy use in office buildings. The program helped participating customers save about six percent in energy over three years, exceeding the five percent goal and representing enough savings to power nearly 2,600 homes for a year.

Through the use of gentle reminders and friendly games, the program encourages uptown office workers to turn off computers and lights and find other easy ways to save energy. An innovative electronic kiosk in the lobby of each participating building shows real-time energy use, and participants can check their progress.

Smart Energy Now is part of Envision Charlotte, an initiative led by companies in the city center to improve energy efficiency and sustainability. The program is helping Envision Charlotte meet its goal of reducing energy use by 20 percent over five years. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, General, North Carolina, Smart Grid| Comments closed

Dear Utilities, Change or Get Dumped

Source: Paul Cross, https://flic.kr/p/7AU7PK

Source: Paul Cross, https://flic.kr/p/7AU7PK

Like many relationships, the one between utilities and their customers can be complicated. Sure, they’ve been together for decades, but no longer are customers satisfied with a distant, disengaged power company selling them more and more megawatts.

As the utility business model evolves into one based on diverse energy services, utilities must find ways to prioritize and improve their customer relationships if they hope to thrive in the new energy economy.

What do customers really want?

It doesn’t take years of market research to discover that utility customers enjoy saving money. But just as important as a low price for power – if not more so – is a genuine feeling of power.  Just ask Dr. Philip Lewis of global energy think-tank VassaETT, who has researched the subject for years. His findings show that customers want to be in control of their energy behavior. They want market transparency and predictable rewards for their choices. The bottom line, says Lewis, is that customers want to feel like equals with their electricity suppliers, not captives. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Demand Response, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid, Utility Business Models| 3 Responses, comments now closed

This Smart Energy Experiment in Texas will Benefit You, Too

Workers install solar panels on a home in Austin's Mueller neighborhood, a project of Pecan Street Inc.

Workers install solar panels on a home in Austin's Mueller neighborhood, a project of Pecan Street Inc.

As I stroll through the Mueller neighborhood in Austin, TX, I see parks, fountains, two-door garage homes – absolutely nothing out of the ordinary – just your average suburban neighborhood. But I know better.

Under the surface of this community lives the most “connected” network of energy customers in the country. Mueller is the launching site for Pecan Street Inc.’s living smart-grid research project and, according to a recent issue of Time Magazine, America’s Smartest City.

The Time article features homeowners who generate and make money on their solar panels, while enjoying access to minute-by-minute energy use data. It shows their sense of stewardship and empowerment.

The story does a good job summarizing the mission of Pecan Street, of which Environmental Defense Fund is a founding member and environmental partner. But the author misses one important point when he writes: “The rest of America may never realize Mueller’s vision for the future.”

The truth is, we have cause for a lot more optimism than that. We believe that the Mueller model is scalable and EDF is working hard to make sure the rest of the country can also enjoy the benefits of a smarter, cleaner home. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Electric Vehicles, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid, Texas| Comments closed

Resiliency+: Demand Response Can Help Prevent Blackouts in the Northeast

Resiliency+ is a new blog series, which highlights the ways in which different clean energy resources and technologies can play an important part in increasing energy resiliency in New Jersey and around the country. Check back every two weeks, or sign up to receive Energy Exchange blog posts via email.

Source: http://aroundaworld.net/

Source: http://aroundaworld.net/

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) describes demand response as “changes in electric usage by end-use customers from their normal consumption patterns in response to changes in the price of electricity over time, or to incentive payments designed to induce lower electricity use at times of high wholesale market prices or when system reliability is jeopardized.”

There is quite a bit to unpack in that definition, but put simply, demand response is little more than a way of financially motivating customers to reduce their energy use when electricity is particularly scarce and expensive or when the wires are overburdened (check out EDF’s other blog posts and resources that go into more detail). The end result is a more efficient electric grid which is less overbuilt and less dependent on inefficient fossil-fuel plants that are often uneconomic to operate and highly polluting, but may be called upon when all else fails. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Demand Response, Energy Storage, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid| Tagged | Comments closed

New York Energy Week Gives Clear Vision of Modern, Clean Energy Future

nyew1

By: Max Wycisk, Communications Intern

The second annual New York Energy Week, held last week, brought together more than 4,000 industry leaders and innovators – double the number last year – to discuss the dynamic changes the state’s energy sector has seen in the last twelve months, including the state’s historic move to re-examine its utility business model. In a series of panel discussions held throughout New York City, state, national, and international energy leaders reviewed key topics such as energy storage, building efficiency, and the rapidly evolving utility industry itself. While the topic of discussion varied, a number of consistent themes emerged, giving attendees a clear vision of the steps industry is taking toward adopting a modern, decentralized, clean energy future.

Communication drives innovation

One of the main themes of the conference, which was organized by research firm Enerknol, was the shift in how the energy industry will interact with consumers as well as the way in which it interacts with itself. Speakers frequently described the current energy industry as ‘fragmented’ or ‘acting within silos’ and questions arose at nearly every panel about how to stimulate conversation between different energy sectors that will lead to collaboration, investment, and innovation. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Demand Response, Energy Financing, Energy Storage, New York, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid, Utility Business Models| 2 Responses, comments now closed

The Cheapest Way to Cut Climate Pollution? Energy Efficiency

This blog post was co-authored by Kate Zerrenner, an EDF project manager and expert on energy efficiency and climate change.

On June 2, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency made a historic announcement that will change how we make, move and use electricity for generations to come.

For the first time in history, the government proposed limits on the amount of carbon pollution American fossil-fueled power plants are allowed to spew into the atmosphere.

There are two clear winners to comply with the plan while maintaining commitment to electric reliability and affordability: energy efficiency and demand response.

We’re already seeing pushback from some of our nation’s big polluter states, such as West Virginia and Texas. But the truth is that while the proposed limits on carbon are strong, they’re also flexible.

In fact, the EPA has laid out a whole menu of options in its Clean Power Plan – from power plant upgrades, to switching from coal to natural gas, and adopting more renewable energy resources. States can choose from these and other strategies as they develop their own plans to meet the new standards.

That said, there are two clear winners on the EPA’s menu that offer low-cost options for states that seek to comply with the plan while maintaining their commitment to electric reliability and affordability: energy efficiency and demand response. Read More »

Also posted in California, Clean Energy, Demand Response, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid| Tagged | 1 Response, comments now closed

Clean Energy Finance 101

Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Collections.

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:

  1. Equities (also known as stocks) – assets that represent ownership of part of a company.
  2. 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 »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Dynamic Pricing, Energy Financing, On-bill repayment, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid| 2 Responses, comments now closed