By: Andrew Barbeau, President of The Accelerate Group, LLC, and senior clean energy consultant to EDF
Early January 2014, during the heart of the Polar Vortex, grid operator PJM had its finger on the switch ready to start rolling blackouts across 13 states and Washington, D.C. As temperatures plunged to 20- and 30-below zero, coal piles froze and conveyors broke down at coal plants, gas plants without firm delivery contracts sat idle without fuel, and PJM officials were sending out pleas for help for large electricity consumers to cut their use. Twenty-two percent of power generators failed to show up as expected that day, and PJM officials vowed not to let that happen again.
Likely not able to prevent future extreme weather events, PJM is looking at a major restructuring of its own market design to change how and when it pays for power to ensure the lights (and heat) stay on. But some believe those market changes come with some significant risks – particularly to the role of demand response, or emergency events during which buildings, homes, and industrial facilities are rewarded for reducing their electricity use.
Over the past several months, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and The Accelerate Group have been working closely with PJM, Illinois consumer advocacy group Citizens Utility Board, and a number of building owners in Chicago to develop the Combined Capacity Asset Performance Project (C-CAP), an innovative pilot program to demonstrate how demand response can continue to play a strong and vital role in PJM’s electricity market. Read More
By: Matt Golden, Senior Energy Finance Consultant
A few days ago, economists from the University of Chicago and the University of California, Berkeley released a study that called into question the cost-effectiveness of energy efficiency. The study was based on the team’s analysis of energy savings shortfalls in the Michigan low income Weatherization Assistance Program. Since then, a host of articles have used the study’s results to call into question the value of utility-sponsored energy efficiency programs.
While this study did raise some thought-provoking points, it also contained biased assumptions and reached conclusions that far exceed its scope, lumping together market-based efficiency with low-income weatherization programs. Read More
At the start of the 2015 Illinois legislative session, a diverse coalition came together to introduce and support the Illinois Clean Jobs bill – legislation which would strengthen Illinois’ energy efficiency policies, as well as update and extend the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). The bill would also create a market-based strategy to meet new federal carbon regulations to limit carbon emissions from existing power plants, otherwise known as the Clean Power Plan (CPP).
So now that the regular legislative session has ended, where does the Clean Jobs bill stand?
A victory for the little guy
Initially, the Clean Jobs bill was far from the energy legislation spotlight. Two deep-pocketed companies also introduced bills. Exelon proposed a bailout for three of its uneconomic nuclear reactors. And Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) wanted to restructure its rates to ensure a profit because efficiency and clean energy had reduced the demand for power.
Most political observers felt Exelon and ComEd – which employ teams of lobbyists and enjoy substantial political clout – would quickly obtain what they asked for. Yet neither went anywhere, and it was actually the Clean Jobs legislation that obtained more co-sponsors than the Exelon and ComEd bills – combined. Read More
Every year, SXSW Eco – one of the most high-profile environmental conferences – selects its programming based on votes from the public. This means anyone, regardless of whether you submitted a panel, can cast a vote.
This year, seven experts from Environmental Defense Fund are featured on dynamic panels that cover everything from solar equity and new utility business models to innovative building efficiency programs and the threat of methane pollution. To make sure EDF and energy-related programming is represented at the conference in Austin, TX this October, we are asking our readers to please vote for your favorite EDF panels and presentations. Read More
Also posted in California, Clean Energy, Climate, Demand Response, EDF Climate Corps, Energy Efficiency, Energy-Water Nexus, General, Methane, Natural Gas, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid, Texas, Utility Business Models
Source: via Wikimedia Commons
Microgrids are getting a lot of attention. Yet how they’re developed could dramatically alter today’s electricity system.
At the most obvious level, microgrids could disrupt today’s utilities and their regulated-monopoly business model, because they challenge the centralized paradigm. In a nutshell, microgrids are localized power grids that have the ability to disconnect from the main, centralized grid to operate independently when the main power grid experiences disturbances. This significantly boosts grid resilience. For almost a century, large centralized power plants have generated electricity and delivered that energy over high-voltage transmission lines to customers. But with microgrids, all that could change.
Less obviously, microgrids challenge the basic assumption that the power grid must be controlled by a monopoly electric utility. Multiple microgrids on the south side of Chicago, for example, could be owned by different entities (not just a utility or even a platform provider, which would provide an exchange between customers and distributed energy generators) with contract arrangements among them controlling the sharing of power. Put another way, microgrids open the distribution system to some level of competition and, thereby, engage entrepreneurs and advance innovation. Read More
Also posted in Smart Grid Tagged microgrid
Imagine homeowners and businesses saving millions of dollars – and cutting pollution – without needing to do anything. Magic? No, but it does require electric utilities to take advantage of new technologies that better provide customers with just the right amount of voltage to their electrical outlets.
Many appliances, including incandescent lighting, work just as effectively, yet consume less energy, when the flow of electricity to them is reduced. Put another way, higher voltages generally make individuals and businesses needlessly use more energy, driving up electricity bills and air pollution. Therefore, if voltage was “right-sized,” residents would get enough power to run their appliances efficiently, but not so much that they use more electricity than needed.
What we’ve described above is “voltage optimization,” and a new study by Commonwealth Edison Company (ComEd) looking at this technology’s potential within Chicago and northern Illinois found it could reduce the need for almost 2,000 gigawatt-hours of electricity (enough to power 180,000 homes) each year at an amazingly low cost of less than two cents per kilowatt-hour – more than is achieved now from the utility’s other efficiency programs. This translates to $240 million per year in savings for ComEd’s customers, of which 90 percent could potentially benefit. The study also suggested full deployment of voltage optimization would only take about five years. Read More