Energy Exchange

How location-based prices and utility rewards could help California’s electric grid

By Larissa Koehler, Jamie Fine

Distributed energy resources, from rooftop solar panels to smart well-weatherized homes and timed electric vehicle charging, are vital pieces of the clean energy puzzle. Coordinating how and where to encourage them in a way that benefits the electric grid, the environment, and Californians can be complicated. In its’ Integrated Distributed Energy Resource proceeding, the California Public Utilities Commission (Commission) recently asked stakeholders [PDF] to “consider how existing programs, incentives, and tariffs can be coordinated to maximize the locational benefits and minimize the costs of distributed energy resources.”

This key step forward in the proceeding is potentially a big deal. Why? Rocky Mountain Institute’s report puts it this way [PDF]:

“More granular pricing, capable of reflecting marginal costs and benefits more accurately than today’s rates do, will provide better incentives to direct distributed resource investments, regardless of whether investments in and management of [distributed energy resources] are undertaken by customers, by utilities, or by third-party service providers.”

By reflecting both costs and benefits in retail prices that electricity customers pay, California can modernize the grid while spurring the efficient and fair build out of distributed clean energy resources. This can help the state substitute traditional and inflexible polluting resources [PDF] with a variety of more nimble distributed energy resources where the grid can handle them. What’s more, distributed energy resources can lead to cleaner air in areas traditionally burdened by higher levels of harmful air pollution. They can achieve all this while bolstering the electric grid and protecting the health of the environment and of Californians. Read More »

Also posted in California, Clean Energy / Comments are closed

The most important thing California can do with its clean energy could be to share it

Not often is running the electric grid as simple as applying lessons from childhood. Right now it is ─ California is learning to share with its neighbors. A bill currently in front of the Legislature from California Assemblymember Chris Holden, AB 813, aims to build a better trading platform to share California’s extra solar power with nearby states like Oregon, Washington, and Nevada, which would then share their extra wind, solar, and hydropower resources with California.

It is like the lunch table you sat around as a kid – one where you can trade that banana pudding that overflows at your house for one of your neighbor’s chocolate chip cookies. It’s a delicious deal, where everybody wins.

That deal just got better. Holden’s office yesterday released new language which represents an important, positive step in the process of creating a regional electric grid for the West. This includes key requirements and protections to ensure a regional grid lowers harmful greenhouse gas emissions and supports California’s climate and energy goals – helping the state and its neighbors to move towards a low-carbon future. Read More »

Also posted in California, Clean Energy, Regional Grid / Read 2 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 Equity, North Carolina / Read 1 Response

A roadmap for a clean, modern grid – The 6 areas that should guide our efforts

Everyone has a role to play in fighting climate change. Farmers can use new methods to rotate their crops that keep more carbon safely in the ground. Consumers can act with their wallets – buying goods and services that produce less carbon than competitors. Our elected officials, of course, have a lot of influence in setting the narrative and enabling support for climate progress.

But around the country, in municipal buildings, state offices, and corporate headquarters, separate groups of people are busy designing and implementing changes that could have the biggest impact of all: a better, smarter, more modern grid.

Improving our electricity system could be the single largest climate fighting opportunity we have. But it’s not as simple as just putting solar panels on rooftops. Our grid was built over a century ago by different companies, cities, and co-ops. Pieces of it are owned and run by a dizzying web of stakeholders. Even if we could snap our fingers and spur all of these pieces to action, each player would manifest different versions of a “modern grid.”

Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) thus released a guide titled, “Grid Modernization: The foundation for climate change progress” [PDF], which outlines the six key categories that make up a sustainable grid modernization strategy. All of them are connected, either physically or digitally, or by legislation, regulation, or management. Most importantly, they’re connected by efficiency: If each of them is executed well, the whole grid modernization process will yield the best, most reliable, most affordable, and cleanest electricity system. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Climate, Data Access, Electric Vehicles, Energy Storage, Grid Modernization, Solar Energy, Voltage Optimization, Wind Energy / Comments are closed

Coal workers deserve opportunity and support, not false promises about reviving their industry

Coal mining is tough and dangerous work. In the movie Coal Miner’s Daughter, country star Loretta Lynn’s husband Doolittle sums it up this way, “There ain't nothin' in Kentucky for me except a chest full of coal dust and being an old man before I'm forty.”

Nearly 40 years later, coal mining is still dangerous, and we know a lot more about its disastrous health effects. On top of these risks, workers have seen decades of job cuts as coal companies automate the mining process and coal-fired electricity is being squeezed by cleaner and cheaper energy sources like natural gas, wind and solar.

Rather than seek genuine solutions that would help current and former coal workers, President Trump campaigned on reviving coal jobs and seems hell-bent on propping up the uneconomic coal industry, no matter the cost. We – and President Trump – owe coal workers more than empty political promises. We owe them an opportunity to succeed in this shifting economy. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Grid Modernization / Comments are closed

Cuba’s electric future: Lessons learned and pathways forward

A new report from Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) highlights lessons learned and recommendations for the future of Cuba’s electric sector. These include the benefits of Cuba’s decentralized grid, the potential benefits of fueling the grid with more clean energy, and new financing opportunities. The full report is entitled The Cuban Electric Grid, and an abridged version appears in The Electricity Journal. The report builds upon more than a decade of EDF engagement in Cuba.

Here are five key takeaways from the report. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Energy Financing, Grid Modernization / Comments are closed