Category Archives: Energy Efficiency

Nest’s Promising Results for Reducing Peak Electricity Demand

Google's Nest

Back in January when Google announced it would spend $3.2 billion to purchase Nest, EDF knew this was a company to watch. The results of three new reports, released today, confirm that controllable thermostats like the Nest Learning Thermostat are both customer-friendly and useful for energy system planners. Moreover, the reports signal that smart devices, such as those Nest manufactures, have potential for generating marked savings for utility customers.

The reports analyze 2012-2013 energy use data gathered from four major utilities across the U.S. that offer Nest energy services programs: Austin Energy, Reliant Energy, Green Mountain Energy, and Southern California Edison.

The first report evaluates the results of Rush Hour Rewards, a demand response service that changes the temperature of the homes of Nest users during energy “rush hours”, or times when demand on the grid is highest. The second examines Seasonal Savings, a program that runs for three weeks and slowly modifies the temperature according to the customer’s behavior (which this smart thermostat is able to ‘learn’ via its built-in motion sensor and understanding of its owner’s temperature preferences). Both operate during times of heavy usage, namely winter and summer. The third report analyzes home energy data of Nest customers more broadly, comparing energy use before and after the installation of a Nest Thermostat. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Demand Response, Smart Grid, Utility Business Models | Tagged | 1 Response, comments now closed

U.S. Climate Assessment Report Warns of Energy Challenges – All of which We’re Ready to Meet

Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0

Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0

There’s been plenty of attention paid to the recent release of the Third National Climate Assessment report – and appropriately so. The lead paragraph of New York Times reporter Justin Gillis’ story put it rather bluntly:

“The effects of human-induced climate change are being felt in every corner of the United States, scientists reported Tuesday, with water growing scarcer in dry regions, torrential rains increasing in wet regions, heat waves becoming more common and more severe, wildfires growing worse, and forests dying under assault from heat-loving insects.”

Even for those of us that have been urging U.S. action on climate, the assessment was pretty stark and the message was clear: the time to act came a long time ago. We need to get busy catching up.

But the optimist in me was excited about a chapter in the report that hasn’t yet gotten much attention. Chapter 4 focuses on Energy Supply and Use, and though the energy challenges caused by climate change are formidable, the U.S. is very well positioned to meet them if our leaders will get behind some practical solutions. There are five key takeaways in the Energy chapter: Read More »

Also posted in Air Quality, Clean Energy, Climate, Demand Response, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid | Tagged | Comments closed

Desalination can Help Solve our Water Woes, but not without Clean Energy

Source: Prodes Project

Source: Prodes Project

As drought continues to grip Texas and many other Western states, one of the solutions often discussed (and pursued) to overcome water scarcity is desalination. Simply put, desalination, or desal as it is most commonly called, is a process that removes salt and other minerals from salty (brackish) or seawater to produce freshwater for drinking and agriculture. This technology seems like a no-brainer option for addressing the state’s water woes, but the problem is that desalination uses a lot of electricity and the majority of Texas’ electricity comes from coal and gas power plants, which require copious amounts of water to generate that electricity. It doesn’t make much sense to use water to make water, especially when there’s an alternative in Texas’ abundant renewable energy resources.

Texas is the national leader in wind energy and has the greatest solar energy potential in the U.S., yet neither of these resources are being widely deployed for desal plants despite recent studies pointing to vast opportunities. Not only do these energy resources produce negligible carbon emissions, but they also consume little to no water, unlike fossil-fueled power plants. Furthermore, if we look at where brackish water sources are located compared to where the wind and solar energy potential is in this state, the overlap is pretty clear. This synergy should not be ignored. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Energy-Water Nexus, Renewable Energy, Texas | 2 Responses, comments now closed

President Obama Goes to Walmart

By: Elizabeth Sturcken, Managing Director, Corporate Partnerships Program

I never really expected to be sitting in a Walmart in Mountain View, CA listening to President Obama speak about environmental commitments, but I am excited for the momentum he is generating, particularly in the private sector, to support the EPA announcement on carbon limits on June 2nd.

Obama-Walmart-1024x522So why Walmart?

The President is making a point. Walmart gets about 25 percent of its global electricity from renewables. In the United States over all, only about 2 percent of power comes from solar sources. In 2005, Walmart set a goal to be supplied 100 percent by renewable energy. To date Walmart has 335 renewable energy projects underway or in development across their global portfolio. Having the president hold Walmart up as a role model is a great way to drive other industry leaders to follow suit. Read More »

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Utilities: Your Monopoly Days are Numbered. (Yes, We've Heard this Before, but this Time…)

Source: S. Sepp, Wikimedia Commons

Source: S. Sepp, Wikimedia Commons

Competition from new players will drive innovation in the changing electric utility market

The blogosphere is abuzz with plans to create a new electric utility business model, one that reduces energy costs and pollution. The power company of the future, many experts say, will feature new electricity rate structures that reward efficiency, finance and integrate local, on-site power generation (like rooftop solar), and put more smart meters in the system to help us better understand and control our energy use.

Such changes could indeed help reduce consumer costs and pollution, yet they ignore larger opportunities to advance innovation and efficiency. Missing in most Utility 2.0 discussions is any real debate about the emerging electricity-services market, filled with hundreds of innovative entrepreneurs who want to profitably provide consumer services that revolutionize how we use and interact with electricity. Instead, most experts simply assume the monopoly structure of the past several decades will continue. The introduction of new players into the electricity market, however, challenges that assumption. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Demand Response, Electric Vehicles, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid, Utility Business Models | Tagged | Comments closed

Energy Efficiency Saves Billions – That’s Why Ohio Utilities and Big Business Want to Kill It

Source: Chris Chan Flickr

Source: Chris Chan Flickr

Energy efficiency is a proven value. In Ohio alone, energy efficiency programs have saved people a total of $1 billion since 2009. What’s more is that these savings far outweigh the costs to implement Ohio’s energy efficiency programs, which amount to less than half of the total savings. Yet Ohio utilities, particularly FirstEnergy, and large industrial companies want to kill it. Why? Because they lose when customers use energy efficiency programs.

One would think that the billions in customer energy savings would easily trump the utilities’ and large industrial companies’ efforts to kill energy efficiency. But we live in challenging times. The utilities and large industrial companies are spending big money on this issue, and they might win the day unless we can convince our elected leaders to save energy efficiency. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Renewable Energy, Utility Business Models | 1 Response, comments now closed

Resiliency+: Renewable Energy Can Boost Grid Resilience in Vulnerable New Jersey

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.

BAPV_solar-facadeRenewable energy, such as solar and wind power, provides clean and sustainable power to our electricity grid. But it also offers other benefits beyond environmentally-friendly electricity. Renewable energy can increase energy resiliency by keeping the lights on, including at critical facilities in the wake of a natural disaster. That’s why it has the potential to play a particularly pivotal role in New Jersey, which is vulnerable to vicious storms such as Superstorm Sandy.

Renewable energy, unlike other forms of energy, is less vulnerable to sustained disruption. Other, more traditional forms of energy, such as fossil fuels, require an input (coal, oil and gas, etc.) that needs to be shipped, often via pipeline, to create electricity, leaving them vulnerable to a natural disaster that might interrupt transport. On the other hand, renewable energy has the ability to generate stable, on-site power from sources such as solar and wind when it operates from a microgrid. A microgrid can generate power both connected to and independently from the main, centralized grid. They can vary in size, providing power to several city blocks or to an individual home, but microgrids have the unique potential to “island” from the main electricity system. This is important during and/or in the wake of a natural disaster like Superstorm Sandy because this autonomous electricity system is able to power local buildings regardless of whether or not the main electric grid is down. Read More »

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

EDF Adds Multifamily Homes to its Energy Efficiency Protocols

MULTIFAMILYBy: Matt Golden, Senior Energy Finance Consultant

The Investor Confidence Project (ICP) is pleased to announce the release of a new series of Multifamily Energy Performance Protocols (EPP) that build on ICP’s successful commercial protocols to bring the benefits of standardization to a broader array of project types. This suite of three protocols include Large Multifamily for whole building projects over $1M, Standard Multifamily for smaller whole building projects typically less than $1M, and Targeted Multifamily for single measures.

The multifamily protocols were developed with the collaboration of industry experts including participating members of the ICP Multifamily Development Team and the ICP Ally Network. The bulk of the protocols are comprised of the same market tested methodologies that can be found in all of ICP’s Energy Performance Protocols. However, the multifamily versions have been designed to address considerations that apply to the multifamily sector including the issues of split incentives and tenant privacy.    Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Energy Financing, Investor Confidence Project | Comments closed

What it Takes to Compete in the Global Energy Race

cleanenergyraceAs the international sporting world shifts its sights from somewhat snowy Sochi (host of the 2014 Winter Olympics) to balmy Brazil (host of this summer’s soccer World Cup), a recent European Commission report shows that the European Union (E.U.) has its eyes fixed on taking the lead in another global contest of sorts: The race for a more competitive, secure, and sustainable energy economy. At stake are neither medals nor trophies, but long-term economic strength. As Europe – and, indeed, the rest of the world – play energy hardball, what does it mean for the global energy competitiveness of Team USA? Let’s look at the stats.

Current energy costs and competitiveness

Reliable, affordable energy powers industrial innovation and growth, making energy costs and policies one of the most important drivers of economic competitiveness.

Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid, Utility Business Models | Comments closed

New York Among the First States to Re-Evaluate its Utility Regulatory Framework

By Doc Searls via Wikimedia Commons

By Doc Searls via Wikimedia Commons

For most people, thinking about electricity is confined to two possible events: the arrival of the monthly bill and when the power goes out. The fact that most people don’t think about their electricity outside these two events — and let’s hope the latter is infrequent — is a testament to the robust regulation that has shaped the structure of the electric grid.

But cracks are forming that threaten the very foundation of the existing regulatory compact between utilities and customers. Extreme weather events caused by climate change and evolving consumer trends are testing the viability of the electricity system. The regulations that were crucial for maintaining stability in the 20th century are now forming barriers that make it difficult for utilities to adapt for a future that is fast approaching. Read More »

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