Category Archives: Energy Efficiency

The Solution to Accurate Energy Data May Be Closer Than We Think

By: Karan Gupta, student at Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment

karan guptaAs Lord Kelvin famously said, "If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it." Here at 77 West Wacker, despite extensive metering relative to comparable buildings, we have found a lack of visibility into energy consumption data is one of the greatest barriers to implementing energy conservation measures (ECMs).

The need for detailed energy consumption data

Ideally, building equipment and tenants should be sub-metered. It might be overkill to meter every individual piece of equipment, but if all supply fans, or all water pumps, or all chillers were grouped on a single meter, understanding building behavior would be greatly simplified. Tenants, on the other hand, are sub-metered. The issue is that building management and operations do not always have access to that data because tenant consent is required to view tenant usage data. Unfortunately, a consent form does not exist in our service area to allow that. The way tenants are currently billed assumes equal energy use on a square footage basis, and therefore, does nothing to promote energy efficiency. Knowing exactly how many kilowatt-hours are used by each tenant each month would allow building management to accurately bill those tenants, thereby incentivizing conservation on their part to reduce operating costs. As building managers around the country are charged with making their buildings more efficient, they will need the tools to do so. Read More »

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Upholding FERC Order 1000 Unlocks Efficiency and Spurs Clean Energy Solutions

Source: BranderGuard Flickr

Source: BranderGuard Flickr

Late last week, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed an important Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Order, giving the agency a big win and aiding in the promise of a cleaner, smarter, and more efficient power grid.

By upholding FERC’s Order 1000, the court confirmed what many think is common sense: Because the power grid crosses state and utility boundaries, a coordinated planning approach to electricity transmission (that is, moving electricity from one place to another) is more efficient and cost effective than multiple entities planning in isolation.

Order 1000 opens the door for two big electrical grid improvements. First, the order helps spur a more efficient planning process, meaning less waste and better coordination in our energy system. Second, the order allows greater opportunity for clean energy resources like demand response, energy efficiency, and renewables. It does this, in large part, by ensuring that state policies like renewable portfolio standards are taken into account. Relying on more clean energy resources will improve air quality and the health of millions of Americans now harmed by dangerous air pollution while advancing our country’s energy independence and economic growth. Read More »

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Utility 2.0: NY Utility Regulators Should Consider Change to “Formula for Success”

Source: Daniel Schwen, Wikimedia Commons

Source: Daniel Schwen, Wikimedia Commons

Acquire more customers, sell more electricity. This primary formula has fueled the runaway success of utility companies in America, as well as the rest of the world, for well over a hundred years.

But today, in an era when customers are technologically savvy, price conscious, and environmentally aware, more families are pursuing opportunities that will cut electricity bills and carbon emissions. Options once considered fringe, like installing rooftop solar panels and driving electric cars, are now becoming so mainstream that utilities everywhere are seeing their bottom lines crunched and even fear for their survival. The electricity sector needs a new formula that can account for these changes, while still providing reliable, safe, and affordable electricity for all.

As a result of increased energy efficiency and heavier reliance on local, distributed energy resources, it’s clear our country is moving toward a reality in which less electricity will come from centralized, fossil fuel power plants. At the same time, customers want utilities to continue providing basic electricity services while allowing them to benefit from new energy-efficient solutions and clean technologies in order to waste less electricity and generate our own power.

How will this be possible? A key first step is moving away from the existing regulatory paradigm, which rewards utilities for investing in more power stations and equipment, to a model that rewards utilities for the performance we seek today. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid, Utility Business Models| Tagged | 9 Responses, comments now closed

EPA’s State-by-State Carbon Limits Indicate Smart Policy, Not Arbitrary Rulemaking

EDF_FB_renewableEnergy_solar (1)In June, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced – for the first time ever – standards to limit carbon emissions from U.S. power plants, known as the Clean Power Plan (CPP). Currently power plants emit 40 percent of U.S. carbon emissions, but under the proposed Clean Power Plan, the U.S. power sector will cut carbon pollution by 30 percent below 2005 levels.

Since this announcement, the usual suspects have attacked the CPP, calling its proposed state-by-state reduction standards arbitrary. Their claims couldn’t be further from reality. When EPA asked states for feedback on how to best craft this standard, states asked for two things: individual standards and flexibility. And that’s what they got. Anyone familiar with the proposed standards will know they are based on a consistent and objective methodology that takes into account each state’s unique energy portfolio and emissions, as well as built with maximum flexibility in mind.

At first glance, the climate-change-denying crowd dismissed the standards as arbitrary, because the limits vary from state to state. For example, Washington needs to reduce its emissions rate by 72 percent by 2030, while Kentucky only needs to cut its emissions rate by 18 percent over the same period. Texas lies somewhere in the middle with a 39 percent reduction required. So what gives? Read More »

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Can I Do This Again Next Year Please? My Fellowship at Fort Bragg

fortbragg

By: Farris Galyon, Climate Corps Fellow

I do not want to brag, but the U.S. Army engagement at Fort Bragg is the best in EDF Climate Corps. I apologize for the bombastic tone of this statement; however, when I consider the opportunities afforded to me during my time here, it is hard for me to imagine a comparable experience anywhere else. I base my assertion on three particular characteristics of this engagement: 1) the unlimited learning opportunity, 2) the opportunity to add value in multiple areas and 3) the opportunity to meet high profile and multi-talented individuals.

Unlimited Learning Opportunity

Upon my arrival to the energy office at Fort Bragg, I met a team of nine individuals comprised of several engineers with 25-40 years of experience, a former employee of a private utilities company and a dual master’s degree holder currently pursuing her M.S. in global energy management. Suffice it to say, I was the least experienced person in the room. It did not take long for me to realize that my ability to identify efficiency/conservation opportunities they had not already considered was limited. My first response to this reality was to be disconcerted; how would I fulfill my obligation to EDF and the Army without possessing any experiential or academic advantage over this exceptional team? Fortunately for me, this fact would prove beneficial to me rather than detrimental. While the overview offered during EDF Climate Corps training was informative, my full immersion into this work environment proved to be downright educational. Thanks to the energy team’s expertise, I was presented with superb demonstrations on evaluating energy project viability. It was this team’s willingness and ability to teach that presented me with my chance to add value. Read More »

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To Opt-In or Opt-Out: What Works For Time-Variant Pricing

Source: Johannes Rössel, wikimedia commons

Source: Johannes Rössel, wikimedia commons

It would be logical to assume that we make decisions based on our needs, desires, and values regardless of how the choice is presented. For instance, we wouldn’t expect the choice to become an organ donor to depend on whether you must check a box to accept or decline donation. But we would be wrong: our decisions depend a great deal on how the choice is presented.

Choice architecture gets to the heart of the debate on whether it’s preferable to offer people the opportunity to opt-in or to opt-out, and this question has become crucial to the discussion about time-variant electricity pricing throughout the country.

Opt-out vs opt-in time-variant pricing

Currently, most electricity customers pay for electricity at a single flat rate (i.e., one price per kWh consumed). Such pricing is simple but doesn’t reflect actual system costs, which are higher during times of the day when overall energy demand peaks. Time-variant pricing instead allows utilities to charge more for electricity during periods of peak demand, and less during periods of lower demand. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Demand Response, Electricity Pricing, Smart Grid| 3 Responses, comments now closed

Military Saves Energy, Money on the Home Front

militaryfam

Source: The U.S. Army Flickr

Home energy bills are not something most people think about when it comes to military energy conservation. Most service members are unlikely to think about them either, especially those who live in military housing, which are communities on or near bases that are managed by private firms. For soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines living in these communities, their Base Allowance for Housing (BAH) covers rent and utilities and is automatically taken out of their paychecks. While convenient and easy to manage, this system can have the negative, unintended consequence of removing responsibility for individual energy use – an issue of particular concern this time of year when temperatures are at their highest and air conditioners are working overtime.

For service members who do not live in privatized military housing, their BAH is not taken out of their paychecks, and they are responsible for paying rent and utilities. My husband and I lived off base at all of our duty stations and were responsible for paying our own bills. Although our BAH was specifically designated for these expenses, we conserved energy whenever possible to keep more money in our pockets.  Read More »

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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| Comments closed

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, Electricity Pricing, New York, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid, Utility Business Models| Comments closed

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, comments now closed