Energy Exchange

California’s disadvantaged communities could benefit from time-of-use electricity prices, but it won’t happen automatically.

By Lauren Navarro, senior policy manager, and Jamie Fine, senior economist

It’s no secret that California is a clean energy leader. The state is on track to meet its renewable energy goals, with many utilities hitting targets ahead of schedule. In order to transition to a system that can handle increased levels of clean energy like solar and wind, we need innovative solutions to take advantage of these resources. One low-cost solution is to change how we pay for electricity – making it cheaper when it is powered by clean resources and more expensive when powered by fossil fuels with time-of-use pricing. Utilities are on their way to bringing this to Californians, piloting the new rates in advance of a full rollout in 2019 and building on the successful rollout of these rates to commercial customers a few years ago.

For many Californians, the shift to time-of-use pricing will be new, but not impact their bills very much and could even save them money, particularly for people who live along the coast. However, for some customers – communities with lower incomes in hotter areas of the state that are more vulnerable to possible summertime bill increases – shifting when they use electricity can be harder, and without help their costs could increase. Rightly, lawmakers and regulators have pushed for extra attention for these vulnerable customers as the state moves toward time-of-use rates. While utilities acknowledge this discrepancy as an issue, none are offering sufficient, robust solutions (you can learn more about this in our recent blog).

A new bill introduced last week by California Assemblymember Joaquin Arambula would add that utilities must consider how time-of-use rates could impact low-income customers in disadvantaged communities before putting them on the new rates. It is vital to protect the most economically and environmentally vulnerable Californians from financial hardships. And the answer is not easy. All Californians stand to benefit from rates that could lower pollution and integrate more renewables – yet, we don’t want to heedlessly roll-out the rates in a way that results in higher electricity bills for customers with low incomes. Read More »

Also posted in California, Clean Energy, Demand Response, Electricity Pricing, Energy Efficiency, General, Time of Use / Comments are closed

Clean energy – not natural gas – drove decarbonization in 2017

Despite attempts by the Trump administration and the coal industry to limit clean energy in favor of fossil fuels – including a tariff on solar energy, a thinly-disguised bailout for coal and nuclear power plants (that was rightly rejected), and a dramatic proposed cut to energy research – we are accelerating the transition to a cleaner electric grid. In fact, last year was the first time the reduction in power sector emissions can be attributed more to energy conservation and renewable energy than switching from coal to natural gas.

The new 2018 Business Council for Sustainable Energy (BCSE) Factbook* highlights the electric power sector as the driving force behind the decarbonization of the U.S. economy. In total, power sector emissions declined 4.2 percent in 2017, mostly due to the 18.4 GW of new renewable energy we added to the grid (a 14 percent increase over the previous year’s total U.S. renewable capacity). In 2017, renewable generation represented about 18 percent of total U.S. generation (around10 percent from non-hydro renewables alone).

This explosive growth further cements renewable energy’s role in reducing emissions from the U.S. power sector. Let’s dig into the factors that led to this growth, and how we can extend this trend of emissions reductions from renewables beyond 2017. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Climate, Demand Response, Electric Vehicles, Electricity Pricing, Grid Modernization, Natural Gas, Solar Energy / Read 3 Responses

Rural communities need internet access, and rural electric co-ops are providing it

When I stop for a quick bite back home in rural North Carolina, I know the restaurant crowd is not always an indication of how great the food is. Often people are there for the free internet connectivity because access is very limited in the community.

The digital divide between those who have internet at home and those who do not occurs in both rural and urban areas. It is markedly apparent in rural communities, where nearly 40 percent of residents lack access to broadband, compared to 4 percent in cities.

As a result of the digital divide, rural communities are suffering, yet are coping in innovative ways with the help of strong leadership from rural electric cooperatives. More than 900 member-owned, non-profit rural electric co-ops today represent more than 42 million people in 47 states.

Rural electric co-ops are more than just poles and wires; they are economic drivers for the communities they serve. They are in the business of not only providing energy, but also social and economic benefits. Read More »

Also posted in Energy Innovation, North Carolina / Read 1 Response

3 things my climate-skeptic dad taught me about clean energy advocacy

Kate Zerrenner and her dad.

As an advocate for the air, water, and economic benefits that clean energy provides, I find some of my most challenging – and maybe most rewarding – work is trying to engage climate-skeptic lawmakers at the Texas Capitol in Austin.

To facilitate that work, I use lessons I’ve learned from my dad, who lives in San Antonio and with whom I don’t often agree when it comes to our approach on the environment. In the spirit of the holidays, I want to thank him for all those conversations in which we didn’t see eye to eye. Little did I know then, he was teaching me the tools of my trade.

Here are three lessons my dad taught me that I use daily in my work as a clean energy advocate. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Texas / Comments are closed

This utility is training workers for the clean energy future – with an eye on inclusion and equity

A clean energy future is attainable only with a proper workforce to support it, a fact recognized by the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) and Illinois’ largest electric utility, ComEd. The ICC recently approved ComEd’s $30 million Workforce Development Implementation Plan – a first-of-its-kind plan that establishes three clean energy jobs training programs for the citizens of Illinois.

The bones of the plan were established by the Future Energy Jobs Act, a bipartisan clean energy development package passed by the state legislature in December 2016. The act directs ComEd to implement its job training programs with special attention given to the recruitment, training, and placement of economically-disadvantaged communities, foster care alumni, and returning citizens. Since the bill went into effect, ComEd has worked with a variety of groups – including Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and environmental justice stakeholders – to meet the legislation’s goals.

By crafting a comprehensive and inclusive workforce development plan, ComEd is setting an example that other utilities can follow as the U.S. transitions to a clean energy economy. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Illinois / Comments are closed

How Illinois is working toward a cleaner, more equitable energy future

By Tyler Fitch, 2017 EDF Climate Corps Fellow

EDF Climate Corps fellows are designing clean energy solutions that reduce pollution and save money across the country. And at my summer fellowship with Environmental Defense Fund’s (EDF) Midwest clean energy team as a part of the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition, I pursued ways to make clean energy benefit more than just one bottom line.

My work resulted from the Future Energy Jobs Act, a monumental piece of bipartisan legislation that aims to transform Illinois' clean energy economy and “benefit all citizens of the State, including low-income [communities].” Those lofty goals were enshrined in law in December 2016, the result of hard work and negotiation from the Clean Jobs Coalition, a group of more than 200 environmental, business, and faith organizations dedicated to promoting clean energy in the state.

The energy landscape is changing in Illinois, and – if the Future Energy Jobs Act achieves what it set out to do – the future will be brighter for everyone. Here’s how. Read More »

Also posted in EDF Climate Corps, Illinois / Comments are closed