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
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
Also posted in Clean Energy
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
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.
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
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
Source: Advanced Telemetry
Office building employees in Charlotte, North Carolina are taking small, voluntary actions to save energy. These steps are making a noticeable difference on utility bills and Duke Energy, the country's largest utility, can prove it.
Duke's Smart Energy Now program is the first commercially-available program of its kind in the country to use behavior change to reduce energy use in office buildings. The program helped participating customers save about six percent in energy over three years, exceeding the five percent goal and representing enough savings to power nearly 2,600 homes for a year.
Through the use of gentle reminders and friendly games, the program encourages uptown office workers to turn off computers and lights and find other easy ways to save energy. An innovative electronic kiosk in the lobby of each participating building shows real-time energy use, and participants can check their progress.
Smart Energy Now is part of Envision Charlotte, an initiative led by companies in the city center to improve energy efficiency and sustainability. The program is helping Envision Charlotte meet its goal of reducing energy use by 20 percent over five years. Read More
Source: Paul Cross, https://flic.kr/p/7AU7PK
Like many relationships, the one between utilities and their customers can be complicated. Sure, they’ve been together for decades, but no longer are customers satisfied with a distant, disengaged power company selling them more and more megawatts.
As the utility business model evolves into one based on diverse energy services, utilities must find ways to prioritize and improve their customer relationships if they hope to thrive in the new energy economy.
What do customers really want?
It doesn’t take years of market research to discover that utility customers enjoy saving money. But just as important as a low price for power – if not more so – is a genuine feeling of power. Just ask Dr. Philip Lewis of global energy think-tank VassaETT, who has researched the subject for years. His findings show that customers want to be in control of their energy behavior. They want market transparency and predictable rewards for their choices. The bottom line, says Lewis, is that customers want to feel like equals with their electricity suppliers, not captives. Read More
Workers install solar panels on a home in Austin's Mueller neighborhood, a project of Pecan Street Inc.
As I stroll through the Mueller neighborhood in Austin, TX, I see parks, fountains, two-door garage homes – absolutely nothing out of the ordinary – just your average suburban neighborhood. But I know better.
Under the surface of this community lives the most “connected” network of energy customers in the country. Mueller is the launching site for Pecan Street Inc.’s living smart-grid research project and, according to a recent issue of Time Magazine, America’s Smartest City.
The Time article features homeowners who generate and make money on their solar panels, while enjoying access to minute-by-minute energy use data. It shows their sense of stewardship and empowerment.
The story does a good job summarizing the mission of Pecan Street, of which Environmental Defense Fund is a founding member and environmental partner. But the author misses one important point when he writes: “The rest of America may never realize Mueller’s vision for the future.”
The truth is, we have cause for a lot more optimism than that. We believe that the Mueller model is scalable and EDF is working hard to make sure the rest of the country can also enjoy the benefits of a smarter, cleaner home. Read More
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.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) describes demand response as “changes in electric usage by end-use customers from their normal consumption patterns in response to changes in the price of electricity over time, or to incentive payments designed to induce lower electricity use at times of high wholesale market prices or when system reliability is jeopardized.”
There is quite a bit to unpack in that definition, but put simply, demand response is little more than a way of financially motivating customers to reduce their energy use when electricity is particularly scarce and expensive or when the wires are overburdened (check out EDF’s other blog posts and resources that go into more detail). The end result is a more efficient electric grid which is less overbuilt and less dependent on inefficient fossil-fuel plants that are often uneconomic to operate and highly polluting, but may be called upon when all else fails. Read More
By: Max Wycisk, Communications Intern
The second annual New York Energy Week, held last week, brought together more than 4,000 industry leaders and innovators – double the number last year – to discuss the dynamic changes the state’s energy sector has seen in the last twelve months, including the state’s historic move to re-examine its utility business model. In a series of panel discussions held throughout New York City, state, national, and international energy leaders reviewed key topics such as energy storage, building efficiency, and the rapidly evolving utility industry itself. While the topic of discussion varied, a number of consistent themes emerged, giving attendees a clear vision of the steps industry is taking toward adopting a modern, decentralized, clean energy future.
Communication drives innovation
One of the main themes of the conference, which was organized by research firm Enerknol, was the shift in how the energy industry will interact with consumers as well as the way in which it interacts with itself. Speakers frequently described the current energy industry as ‘fragmented’ or ‘acting within silos’ and questions arose at nearly every panel about how to stimulate conversation between different energy sectors that will lead to collaboration, investment, and innovation. Read More