Selected category: Energy Storage

How One of Chicago’s Most Iconic Landmarks is Saving Money through Energy Storage

real batteryWhen you think about something that is 85 years old, you might think of history and tradition but not necessarily innovation. However, when the 85-year-old in question is a Chicago landmark committed to finding new ways to tackle energy management, cutting-edge solutions are par for the course.

The Merchandise Mart is a massive commercial space, spanning two city blocks along the Chicago River and offering some 4.2 million square feet of floor space. As expected, its energy consumption is also enormous, but the building has long been a leader in efficiency. And recently, the Mart took an even bigger step forward by unveiling an innovative battery storage unit that will help balance the electric grid – and earn money while doing it.

How the Mart came to be a clean energy leader

Built in 1930 for Marshall Field & Co., the Kennedy family owned the art deco structure for more than half a century, before selling it in 1998 to Vornado Realty Trust. Efficiency efforts began in the 1980s with the installation of an ice-storage cooling system that freezes tons of water overnight when cooling needs are minimal, allowing the building to shift power consumption to off-peak periods, save money, and reduce pollution. Read More »

Also posted in Demand Response, Energy Efficiency| Leave a comment

5 Energy Trends Driving Climate Progress in 2015

BenWhat a difference a year can make. Even before the last weeks tick away, 2015 stands out as a remarkable and dynamic year for climate and energy in the United States.

Read on for five bold trends that are beginning to reshape our economy – and our national discourse on climate change.

1. Investments in renewables soar

I admit it: For years, I thought renewable energy was more hype than reality. I’m happy to report that recent data proves me wrong.

In just five years, solar panel prices have fallen 80 percent, and solar capacity installed worldwide grew more than six-fold. The overall cost of solar per kilowatt-hour, meanwhile, plummeted 50 percent.

For the first time in history, energy from the sun is as cheap as traditional energy in states such as Arizona, California and Texas.

The proof is in the pudding. Apple, for example, recently signed an $848-million power agreement with a solar provider – bypassing the electric grid. A deal of this magnitude shows where solar is today, and where it is headed. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Clean Power Plan, Energy Financing, General| Comments are closed

The Future of Energy Storage is BYOB

batteryBy: Michelle Zheng, Clean Energy Intern

Before the U.S. electric grid became centralized under utilities and independent system operators, it consisted of unorganized and unconnected generators. As distributed energy resources (DERs) – such as rooftop solar, energy storage, and other generation sources beyond large power plants – find their way into (and onto) more homes and businesses, it’s clear the grid’s future has a lot in common with its roots. This time, however, an array of new technologies will help us take advantage of a more decentralized approach.

But are utilities ready to handle this change? Although some are eager to try, the answer under most current utility business models is a resounding “no.” This is because current business models promise utilities profit for putting more steel into the ground and selling as much energy as possible – the exact things DERs help avoid.

Despite all this, can we find ways for utilities and DERs to be friends? We think so. Meet the “Bring Your Own Battery” (BYOB) model. Developed by San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) and collaborators at Rocky Mountain Institute’s eLab Accelerator, it capitalizes on the emerging movement of customers bringing their own batteries to the grid. What’s more, it creates a role for the utility to facilitate rather than fight the expansion of DERs.

Read More »

Also posted in General| Comments are closed

A Stealth Tool to Modernize the Electric Grid

Electricity regulators, clean energy innovators, and rappers have all lamented poor communication. And some have pushed for cleaner, cheaper, more reliable solutions for meeting our energy needs. This is particularly so with the much anticipated emergence of a new kind of non-event based, price-responsive demand response (DR), or flexible DR.

Whereas traditional DR signals customers to voluntarily and temporarily reduce their energy use at times when the electric grid is stressed, this type of DR does that and more. The big difference? It signals customers, their appliances, and their electric vehicles to increase their energy use when electricity is clean, plentiful, and cheap.

For example, electric vehicles can be programmed to charge at mid-day when the sun is bright and solar energy is at its peak, and use that stored energy when the sun sets. Better yet, many of our cars, homes, and appliances can be programmed to monitor grid conditions in real time, via the Internet, and respond accordingly by charging or defecting. Also known as a “set-it-and-forget-it” feature, this function enables the seamless integration of flexible DR while also supporting the full potential of energy efficiency measures and distributed energy resources (DERs), like rooftop solar and energy storage.

The seamless and stealth nature of this type of DR, which can be largely automated by tools and service providers, is something neither the customer nor the utility have to think about. It’s like a secret agent, operating behind walls and wires to find the greatest energy (and cost) saving-potential. Regulators need to unleash this “secret agent DR” by rewarding it fairly and efficiently in the energy marketplace, giving it a “license to thrill” in households and businesses across California. Read More »

Also posted in California, Clean Energy, Demand Response, Electricity Pricing, Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid, Time of Use| Read 1 Response

How Energizing Renewables can Spur Carbon Pricing

Photoy Jürgen from Sandesneben, GermanyTo 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 »

Also posted in Cap and Trade, Clean Energy, Climate, Electricity Pricing, General, Renewable Energy| Tagged , | Comments are closed

What do Uber and Airbnb Have in Common with Clean Energy?

Airbnb_Uber‘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 »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Electricity Pricing, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid, Utility Business Models| Comments are closed
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