Energy Exchange

Resilience proceeding gives FERC a chance to advance gas-electric coordination

Last September, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) started a conversation on resilience, asking the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to provide new revenues and guaranteed profits to the owners of old, inefficient coal and nuclear power plants to compensate these resources for certain reliability and (undefined) resilience attributes.

FERC swiftly disposed of that proposal in a January 8 order, finding that it was not warranted and would run counter to its pro-market regulatory model. FERC then asked all of the Regional Transmission Operators (RTOs) and Independent System Operators (ISOs) to explain how they are evaluating and addressing resilience within their respective markets.

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Also posted in Gas to Clean, Natural Gas, Regional Grid / Comments are closed

New study answers the question, ‘What is grid resilience?’

By Rama Zakaria, Michael Panfil

Whether or not our electric grid is “resilient,” and what if anything should be done to make the grid more resilient, has been a topic of intense scrutiny in the past year.

The stakes in this debate reached new dimensions last fall with a highly controversial proposal by Sec. Rick Perry and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), which claimed that the resilience of the electric grid is threatened by the premature retirement of uneconomic coal and nuclear plants. DOE’s flawed proposal – to bail out these plants through a profit-guarantee mechanism – was considered and unanimously rejected in January by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the agency charged with overseeing our nation’s electric grid. DOE’s proposal, in short, was an incredibly bad idea.

When FERC dismissed DOE’s proposal it opened a new proceeding, asking a series of questions around the topic of grid resilience.

A Customer-focused Framework for Electric System Resilience, a new report authored by Alison Silverstein and Grid Strategies, aims to answer these questions. The report, commissioned by Environmental Defense Fund and Natural Resources Defense Council, recommends a customer-centric framework for evaluating electric system resilience and concludes that the most effective resilience solutions center upon the wires connecting the grid: distribution, and to a lesser extent transmission. By contrast, generation-related solutions – like keeping dirty coal and uneconomic nuclear plants online past their retirement dates – are the least effective for improving resilience. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Electricity Pricing, FirstEnergy, Market resilience, Utility Business Models / Comments are closed

Boosting power grid resilience with pre-storm community planning and business investments

By Ronny Sandoval, Kate Zerrenner

Eight months after Hurricane Harvey, affected communities are still rebuilding their lives and businesses.

One area that hasn’t required as much attention to rebuild: Texas’ electricity grid. Shortly after the storm, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the state’s main grid operator, said, “The ERCOT grid has remained stable, and competitive electricity markets have continued to operate normally.” That said, nearly 300,000 consumers were without power during the storm’s peak. Therefore, the state’s electricity restoration after Harvey is a story of resilience – and an opportunity to do better the next time around.

Though the impact and $125 billion in damages that Harvey caused were catastrophic, some of the investments and decisions made in Texas well before the storm allowed for faster restoration of power than would have been the case just a few years prior. Plus, renewable energy resources like wind turbines and solar panels can play a role in strengthening grid resilience. Investments in modern technologies – like digital controls, microgrids, and distributed energy – hold the keys to protecting people in towns and cities most susceptible to future powerful storms, and they provide insights for how Texas can prepare for the next power disruption. Read More »

Also posted in Texas / Comments are closed

This cleantech hotspot is giving New York and California a run for their money

California and New York often steal the spotlight on cleantech innovation, but those in the know are keeping their eye on Illinois.

The energy sector has been undergoing rapid change in the Land of Lincoln, thanks to a slew of innovative initiatives. More than ever before, Illinois’ buildings are more efficient, its electric grid is more modern, and its electricity use is smarter. And the state is just getting started.

Powering all of the buildings in the United States costs over $400 billion a year. Many of these buildings were built long before modern energy codes and, therefore, use more power than they should. This gap presents a ripe opportunity: The retrofit industry is now valued at $20 billion, and Illinois is paying attention. The state topped the list of most LEED-certified buildings from 2013–2015, and has remained in the top 5 since. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Illinois / Read 1 Response

Illinois blazes new trail in anticipation of private microgrids using utility wires

On May 9, Andrew Barbeau, senior clean energy consultant for Environmental Defense Fund, will speak at the Microgrid 2018 conference. This year’s theme is Markets and Models for the Greater Good, and Andrew will discuss the effort to create a new microgrid tariff for third-party-managed microgrids as described in this post. You can register for the conference here.

Imagine you and your neighbors have solar panels on your roofs. You want to create a mini-power grid so that your neighborhood can operate solely on your panels’ electricity, even sending excess power from one home to another. And if there’s a storm that affects the main power grid, your homes can disconnect and stay powered.

This is the vision that microgrid proponents have promised for the past decade: small sections of the broader grid that incorporate rooftop solar and batteries, and can isolate from the grid as a whole when needed. Yet, this promise faces a major hurdle: The utility owns the wires that connect your homes and has an exclusive monopoly on that electrical infrastructure. This has driven most microgrid projects in the U.S. to either be completely “behind the meter” of a single customer, or owned and managed by the utility itself.

A new agreement with Illinois’ largest utility, ComEd, is poised to jump that hurdle. Working with Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and the Citizens Utility Board (CUB), ComEd will begin a process this year to allow customers or third parties to develop and manage their own microgrid projects – working with the utility’s existing infrastructure rather than having to avoid it.

We have received lots of questions on how this will work. Here are your questions answered. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Illinois / Tagged | 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, Energy Equity, Natural Gas, Solar Energy / Read 3 Responses