To avoid the worst effects of climate change, we must do more to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. Yet, we still do not have a price on carbon, one of the most prevalent greenhouse gases in the world and the biggest contributor to climate change. Despite knowing that a carbon price creates broad incentives to cut emissions, the current average price of carbon globally (which is below zero, once half a trillion dollars of fossil-fuel subsidies are factored in) is much too low relative to the hidden environmental, health, and societal costs of burning a ton of coal or a barrel of oil.
Policies that comprehensively reform the energy sector—a sector designed around fossil fuels—are necessary even as the price of renewable energy declines. The cost of solar photovoltaics, for example, has declined 80 percent since 2008. Prices will continue to fall, but not fast enough to make a dent in the climate problem.
Policymakers are more likely to price carbon appropriately if renewables are competitive with (or cheaper than) fossil fuels. But reducing the cost of renewable energy requires substantial investment, and thus a carbon price. The best hope of resolution is through controlled policy experiments designed to drive down the cost of renewable power sources even further and faster than in the past five years. Read More
‘Disruptive’ is a favorite word among entrepreneurs and innovators, but start-up companies like Airbnb and Uber truly have disrupted long-standing industries over the past few years. Beyond their youth and success, what further links these two companies as well as many others (such as Teespring, Postmates, Patreon, and Verbling), is the way they empower people.
Exemplified by Airbnb and Uber, among others, is a new kind of business model that is revolutionizing many sectors, including how we get our electricity. Just like hotel and taxi industries, these disruptive, decentralized trends are taking hold in energy – affording people more choice, enabling existing resources and technology, and empowering people to veer from the traditional provider of services. Moreover, they even allow some people to make money in ways that didn’t exist until recently. Read More
Ask most people what the Beatles and California have in common and they might very well be at a loss. However, the answer is pretty simple: they are both unabashed trendsetters in the face of resistance – the former in their musical style and the latter in its clean energy policies.
Not content with setting a Renewable Portfolio Standard that ends at 2020, Governor Jerry Brown and state legislators are pushing for the Golden State to get 50 percent of its energy from renewable resources by 2030.
To meet this ambitious target, California must build a system that is largely based on renewable electricity, like wind and solar. This is not an easy task. The primary reason? Sunshine and wind are only available at certain times of the day and can be variable during those times.
Traditionally, managers of the electricity grid have relied upon dirty “peaker” power plants – usually fossil fuel-fired and only needed a couple of days a year – to balance the grid during periods of variability or when electricity demand exceeds supply. But, in a world where 50 percent of our energy comes from renewable sources as a means to achieving a clean energy economy, we can’t rely on these dirty peaker plants to balance the variability of wind and solar.
Luckily, technology is available today that can help fill the gap of these peaker plants – and the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is starting to embrace it. Read More
Also posted in Air Quality, California, Cap and Trade, Clean Energy, Climate, Demand Response, Electric Vehicles, Electricity Pricing, Energy Efficiency, Energy-Water Nexus, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid
The New Year is a time for reflection, beginning with a look back on the previous 12 months and all that they brought. A quick scan of the U.S. climate and energy news in 2014 will tell you it was a very big year.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed the first-ever limits on carbon pollution from power plants, the U.S. and China struck a historic climate deal, and Tesla broke ground in Nevada on the largest advanced automotive-battery factory in the world – a move that’s expected to slash the cost of lithium ion batteries by a third. At the same time that these important national and international advancements were grabbing headlines, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and our partners were working together to incrementally transform the U.S. electricity system by rewriting outdated regulations, spurring energy services markets, and modernizing our century-old electric grid.
The U.S. is on the verge of a revolution in the way we make, move, and use energy. And, having spent years working on governmental and regulatory matters related to our power system and lessening its impact on the environment, I can honestly say there has never been a more exciting time to be in this field. Here are a few of the moments that were near and dear to our hearts over the past year, developments I see as a sure signal 2015 will be another epic year for clean energy. Read More
Also posted in Clean Energy, Demand Response, Energy Efficiency, Energy Financing, Illinois, Investor Confidence Project, New Jersey, New York, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid, Texas, Utility Business Models
Since the New York Public Service Commission (Commission) opened its Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) proceeding in the spring to modernize the state’s electricity system, a lot has happened. Namely, New York utilities are already working to align themselves with the broad objectives outlined in the REV proceeding. Here is an overview of efforts by the state’s big players:
CON EDISON – Brooklyn/Queens Demand Management Program
Growth in electricity demand in parts of Brooklyn and Queens is taxing infrastructure and will require action from Con Edison to ensure reliability. Con Edison could pursue a costly $1 billion substation upgrade to meet this rising demand. Instead, the utility is slashing needed investment by half and plans to invest around $500 million – $305 million in traditional utility investments and $200 million clean energy resources – to address the area’s growing energy needs as part of its Brooklyn/Queens Demand Management program. Measures include:
- Demand Response (a tool that pays customers to conserve energy when the electric grid is stressed): A new demand response system from energy services provider Alstom, which would allow 3.3 million customers to be compensated for the value they provide to the grid.
- Energy Storage: Battery-based energy storage for electricity produced when electricity demand is low (off-peak hours) for use when demand is high (peak periods), easing the burden on the electric grid at those times.
- Microgrids (which generate electricity nearby or on-site where it’s consumed): The development of microgrids to improve resiliency and enable the aforementioned demand response system.
- Electric Grid Resilience and Optimization: Expanded use of smart meters, which provide detailed electricity use data throughout the day, will improve response time to power outages and give customers more control over their energy usage.
EDF’s Innovators Series profiles companies and people across California with bold solutions to reduce carbon pollution and help the state meet the goals of AB 32. Each addition to the series will profile a different solution, focused on the development of new technologies and ideas.
When someone says the word “storage,” the first thing that usually comes to mind are boxes stuffed into the back of the closet, or that deserted facility with orange doors near the freeway off-ramp.
These days, energy innovators across California are giving storage a whole new meaning – and helping to revolutionize the system that brings electricity to homeowners and businesses alike. One of the entities leading this revolution is Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E), a utility in the midst of piloting new battery energy storage technology to determine how effectively it can provide a variety of grid services, including the integration of intermittent renewable generation from solar and wind.
Increasing amounts of distributed energy generation in both urban and rural areas – coupled with increasing customer demand associated with things like population growth and consumer electronics – makes energy storage an important tool to keep generation and energy use in balance. This balancing function is an important asset for integrating renewables into the grid, as storage can soak up solar and wind energy when they are abundant and discharge that energy when it is otherwise unavailable. Through this charge / discharge cycle, energy storage could lower the need for traditional fossil fuel sources and reduce resultant air pollution. Read More