Energy Exchange

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

Why better energy data equals better lives – now more than ever

Better Data, Better Lives.

That was the theme of the second World Statistics Day celebrated two years ago on October 20th, 2015. The holiday was designed for celebration every five years, but in light of recent attacks on climate science, it is critical to showcase the value of clean energy data now, more than ever.

So, why is clean energy data important? Why do we need it? As a data analyst, I expect to answer or debate questions about the significance, trends, and use of data. But I don’t usually expect questioning why data should exist in the first place.

Upon reflection, however, I’d say the simplest response is this: We need clean energy data to progress economically, socially, and technologically.

From a family trying to save money on their electricity bill to the global community collaborating on a cleaner, more renewable future, energy data can unlock an unending list of benefits by facilitating the design of effective policies, empowering people and businesses with information, and spurring energy innovation. Here are a just a few of those benefits. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Data Access, Grid Modernization / Read 2 Responses

Rick Perry’s coal bailout is an attack on competitive energy markets, with customers footing the bill

Secretary of Energy Rick Perry – whose agenda as governor of Texas was squarely focused on states’ rights and free markets – is now pushing for a federal plan that could disrupt organized electric markets.

Perry’s proposal to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) aims to prop up uneconomic coal at the expense of Americans’ health and wallets.

Perry’s proposal would effectively pay owners of coal and nuclear power plants their operating costs, plus a guaranteed profit, regardless of whether those plants are selling electricity at a competitive price. These aging plants are currently being driven out of the competitive market by flattened energy demand and a growing list of cheaper, cleaner, more efficient alternatives – from natural gas and renewables to demand response and grid-scale battery systems. Simply put, Perry’s proposal shields uneconomic coal power, replacing competitive markets with profit guarantees.

That’s not a thumb on the scale supporting obsolete and expensive energy; it’s an elephant.

Because carbon pollution from coal plants causes asthma attacks, heart attacks, and a staggering number of premature deaths every year, propping up this dirty energy source will not only raise electricity bills, it will hurt American families. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Electricity Pricing, Grid Modernization / Read 1 Response