Selected category: Energy Efficiency

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

Rural Electric Cooperatives Improve Energy Efficiency with On-Bill Financing

carolina-houseMost Americans think their electricity comes from large power companies. In North Carolina, my home state, that might mean Duke Energy or Dominion Resources. But did you know that 42 million people in 47 states get their electricity from electric cooperatives? These member-owned electric utilities were first formed back in the 1930s to provide electricity to people living in rural areas and small towns.

Today, there are more than 900 not-for-profit electric cooperatives. Their mission remains the same today as it did back then: deliver safe, reliable, and affordable electricity to rural families and businesses.

In rural areas, housing and commercial buildings tend to be older and less energy efficient, increasing energy bills. Often energy efficiency improvements, such as insulation, are overlooked when residents are faced with hard decisions about where to spend money.

Plus, qualifying for a loan to finance efficiency improvements is more difficult in economically distressed rural areas. Addressing this reality poses a significant challenge for electric cooperatives, which serve 93 percent of the nation’s persistent-poverty counties, according to the National Rural Electric Cooperative AssociationRead More »

Also posted in Climate, Energy Financing, North Carolina| Read 2 Responses

New York Moves to Properly Value Clean, Distributed Energy

New York Lights-2New York is on the path to transforming its electric industry. Since the Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) proceedings kicked off with the goal of creating a more robust and efficient electric grid, the State is now a step closer in the quest to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent from 1990 levels. And, thanks to the New York Public Service Commission (PSC), the road is looking a lot smoother.

Last month, the PSC rolled out the Benefit Cost Analysis Order, a methodology for how electric utilities should weigh the costs and benefits of proposed investments that affect the grid. With this new order, utilities will be required to calculate the net benefits associated with portfolios of distributed energy investments, such as rooftop solar and energy storage, and compare them with traditional utility investments, like substations, power lines, and poles.

This decision is crucial for New York’s clean energy future because utilities must now value the environmental benefits of distributed energy sources, and quantify how these different alternatives can work together to create a cost-effective, resilient grid. For example, in the face of severe congestion on the grid, utilities could expand the electric system to meet growing demand. Alternatively, they could incentivize a number of different distributed resources to help bring demand down by, for instance, encouraging customers to install solar panels, participate in demand response programs, or invest in energy efficiency to avoid a grid expansion. Read More »

Also posted in Electricity Pricing, New York| Read 8 Responses
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