Most 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 Association. Read More
New 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
New York’s environmental and utility regulators are moving closer to a unified approach to building a cleaner, more robust, and affordable energy system.
The Public Service Commission (PSC), New York’s utility regulator, has been working to rethink how New York makes, moves, and uses electricity through its innovative Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) initiative. Specifically, it has been steering utilities toward a more decentralized electric grid, one that relies more heavily on distributed energy resources. These resources may be clean (such as energy efficiency or solar rooftops) but they may also be dirty (such as older diesel generators). While REV aims to encourage carbon emissions reductions, there is a risk that the initiative could cause environmental harm by driving adoption of dirty distributed energy resources. Getting environmental rules in place before REV becomes a driver of these types of emissions is a matter of real urgency. Read More
Companies today employ a wide array of energy reduction strategies, including energy efficiency, renewable energy, and the utilization of data management systems. But how can companies simultaneously improve these distinct facets of energy management and ultimately scale them? Increasingly, companies that show excellence in comprehensive, strategic energy management are able to employ both top-down and bottom-up management approaches, and infuse data into all levels of their work. This approach to driving progress has proven successful in many corporate energy management programs and is responsible for an increasing number of gains in the space over the last few years.
When it comes to energy efficiency, companies often take a bottom-up approach to establishing their programs. Despite being a clear win-win for a company’s bottom line and the environment, energy efficiency is fraught with challenges that make implementation at scale challenging. It is highly technical in nature, has dispersed ownership among many stakeholders, often relies on large capital outlays, and is generally considered outside the core business of most companies. Because of these barriers and others, energy managers often have to demonstrate the value of energy efficiency projects through small initiatives before receiving the support necessary to scale up their work. While this approach may be frustrating to energy managers who innately understand the potential of their projects to generate large-scale reductions, time and time again it has proven to be an effective catalyst for increased energy efficiency adoption down the road. Read More
By: Ellen Eilers, Moms Clean Air Force Ohio
In a post-Paris world, where nearly 200 countries have pledged to act on climate disruption, climate denial is fast losing its viability.
And toward the end of last year, White House Senior Adviser Brian Deese discussed the impact of global climate action on renewable energy, saying the historic Paris agreement "sends a strong signal to the global capital markets that something has fundamentally changed. [It] sends investors a signal that clean and renewable energy is the future.”
That signal seems to have faltered here in Ohio. Our state renewable energy and energy efficiency standards are still held in an “indefinite freeze.” Recent talk from Governor John Kasich, however, provides hope that we could soon see Ohio back on the path to a cleaner energy future. Read More
Growing up in eastern North Carolina was a great experience. Wayne County was my home, and I spent many weekends fishing for bass and hunting quail with my father on the family farm in nearby Bladen County. The time outdoors was great for character building, and visiting with relatives, friends, and elders in the community was equally important for understanding my heritage and the challenges my parents overcame.
You see, Bladen County is classified as a “persistent poverty county” by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, meaning the poverty rate has exceeded 20 percent of the population for the last 30 years. More than 25 percent of Bladen residents live in poverty. My family, friends, and elders were no exceptions. Despite the struggles, the personal connection to the land, water, and wildlife nourished and empowered the farming community.
When I joined Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) eight years ago, I seized the opportunity to find inclusive solutions to environmental problems. I started hunting for two different kinds of game: first, diversifying the traditional definition of environmental leadership and second, increasing access to clean, affordable energy for everyone. The two go hand-in-hand. Let me explain. Read More