Category Archives: Energy Efficiency

Amid Global Efforts, New York Plants Seeds for Energy Reform in 2014 That Will Bloom in 2015

2015_new_yearIn the future, when we look back on 2014, I believe it will be remembered as the tipping point for climate action. In the Northeast, we’ll remember the devastating early-season snowstorm that caused over a dozen deaths. In the Southwest, many will remember the third-straight year of a drought that seems without end. And, nationally, many will remember 2014 as one of the hottest years in recorded history – the hottest since 2010 and the 11th time the record for hottest year has been set since 1998.

In a year punctuated by extreme weather across the country and the globe, 2014 will also be remembered as the year when seeds of coordinated global action to address climate change first took root. The federal Clean Power Plan, the Lima Climate Agreement, the United Nations Climate Summit, and the U.S.-China Climate Accord, among other major milestones, all highlight the growing awareness and importance of taking action to address climate change. Though many view these events as tentative first steps, they are nonetheless steps in the right direction.

Action at the national level has been long overdue and support for the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Clean Power Plan, which would set the first-ever national limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants, is borne from decades of work at the local level. The historical absence of a broader national agenda has spurred cities and states to act on their own, and local authorities are continuing to make significant, innovative strides forward. Read More »

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Utility 2.0: What are Utilities Doing to Meet New York’s Vision for a 21st Century Energy System?

nyc skylineSince the New York Public Service Commission (Commission) opened its Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) proceeding in the spring to modernize the state’s electricity system, a lot has happened. Namely, New York utilities are already working to align themselves with the broad objectives outlined in the REV proceeding. Here is an overview of efforts by the state’s big players:

CON EDISON – Brooklyn/Queens Demand Management Program

Growth in electricity demand in parts of Brooklyn and Queens is taxing infrastructure and will require action from Con Edison to ensure reliability. Con Edison could pursue a costly $1 billion substation upgrade to meet this rising demand. Instead, the utility is slashing needed investment by half and plans to invest around $500 million – $305 million in traditional utility investments and $200 million clean energy resources – to address the area’s growing energy needs as part of its Brooklyn/Queens Demand Management program. Measures include:

  • Demand Response (a tool that pays customers to conserve energy when the electric grid is stressed): A new demand response system from energy services provider Alstom, which would allow 3.3 million customers to be compensated for the value they provide to the grid.
  • Energy Storage: Battery-based energy storage for electricity produced when electricity demand is low (off-peak hours) for use when demand is high (peak periods), easing the burden on the electric grid at those times.
  • Microgrids (which generate electricity nearby or on-site where it’s consumed): The development of microgrids to improve resiliency and enable the aforementioned demand response system.
  • Electric Grid Resilience and Optimization: Expanded use of smart meters, which provide detailed electricity use data throughout the day, will improve response time to power outages and give customers more control over their energy usage.

Read More »

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Lighting the Way to Energy Savings and Job Growth in North Carolina

By: Greg Andeck, EDF senior clean energy manager, and Ivan Urlaub, executive director of the NC Sustainable Energy Association

incandescent-72139_1280Rapid declines in the price of light emitting diodes (LED) technology suggest that the next generation of energy efficient lighting – LED bulbs – is on the verge of widespread adoption. LED bulbs will eventually make traditional, energy-hogging incandescent bulbs a thing of the past.

Price goes down, energy savings go up

In North Carolina, for example, one of the world’s largest LED bulb manufacturers, Cree, recently announced a new bulb that is up to 82 percent more efficient than an incandescent bulb. The bulb sells for about $8 at Home Depot, a price that means the bulb will pay for itself in energy savings in about a year.

That's a smart energy choice in the home – and a bargain. In 2013, the same wattage LED bulb was about $13, illustrating the dramatic cost reductions that are occurring throughout the industry.

Companies adopt efficient lighting

Some of the largest companies in the world are beginning to make LEDs the default lighting choice in their buildings. Food Lion and Walmart, for example, have introduced LED lights into their in-store refrigerators in North Carolina. LEDs emit very little heat, reducing electric bills in the refrigerated section. Read More »

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Untapped Incentives for Energy Efficiency Projects

By: Abraham Weiner, 2013 EDF Climate Corps Alumnus

money presentAs an EDF Climate Corps fellow back in 2013, one task that was of particular interest to me was figuring out how to help my host organization fund, in whole or in part, its efficiency upgrades. In my research, the most unique funding source I found was the energy efficiency forward capacity market.

This program allows those who invested in energy efficiency over the last several years to go back and obtain additional incentive dollars on top of traditional utility rebates. This is essentially free money for organizations who have invested in efficiency measures. In fact, when I was a fellow, I identified over $50,000 in incentives that my EDF Climate Corps host organization was eligible for from projects completed before I even arrived.

In order to explain how this program works, I need to explain who PJM is and what they do. PJM Interconnection is a regional transmission organization. They coordinate the activity of suppliers, generators, and utilities to maintain an adequate flow of electricity on the grid. Their territory touches 13 states and the District of Columbia, and they are the largest electricity market in the world. They are also unique because they allow energy efficiency to participate in their forward capacity markets. Fortunately, my EDF Climate Corps host organization was in their territory. Read More »

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Illinois Legislators Pledge Support for EPA’s Proposed Carbon Regulations

illinois legislatorsWhile the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sorts through the more than 1.6 million comments received on its proposed Clean Power Plan (CPP), one group is stepping out to pledge its support of the landmark proposal. 53 Illinois legislators recently signed a letter urging the EPA to finalize the plan, which will set limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants for the first time ever.

Power plants currently account for nearly 40 percent of the nation’s carbon pollution and Illinois’s proposed target would result in a 33 percent reduction in the state’s carbon output by 2030. Fortunately, due to impressive state efforts to invest in clean energy over the past few years, Illinois is well-positioned to meet the challenge.

CPP is an economic opportunity

The Illinois legislators argue the CPP will help the state “achieve even greater cuts in our emissions, health benefits for all our citizens, and will spur further growth in our state’s economy.” The CPP will further the state’s transition to a clean energy economy by attracting investment in innovation, creating more jobs, and keeping electricity prices affordable. Read More »

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Can Birds and Wind Energy Co-exist?

By: Stacy Small-Lorenz, Conservation Scientist, and Jim Marston, Vice President, US Climate and Energy

farm-62260_1280Climate change will have major impacts on birds and their habitats, according to a recent report from the National Audubon Society. Scientists project climate change will drastically alter and shrink habitats in the U.S. for many bird species. These findings add to mounting evidence that natural systems are at serious risk for climate change impacts, which we must act swiftly to mitigate.

One solution is to adopt more clean, renewable energy. Utilities have been investing in large-scale wind energy farms at an impressive rate, resulting in 127 million tons of avoided carbon dioxide a year in the U.S. – the equivalent of taking 20 million cars off the road.

But a tricky challenge persists in the effort to make our energy system more sustainable overall: large, utility-scale wind energy developments have been known to kill bats and birds and risk fragmenting sensitive habitats. And while wind turbines kill far fewer songbirds than building collisions or cats, raptors and bats are still at risk for turbine collisions. Read More »

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