Selected category: Illinois

One Million and Beyond: Rebates to Accelerate Smart Thermostat Adoption in Illinois

smart statOne million is a big number, but that’s the goal for getting smart thermostats into Northern Illinois homes. In partnership with environmental and consumer groups, Chicago-based electric and gas companies this week agreed to offer rebates that will cut an intelligent monitor’s cost in half, helping empower people to reduce both their energy bills and pollution.

This smart-thermostat initiative is the nation’s largest and makes devices eligible for up to $120 in rebates (on average, a smart thermostat will run you about $250). The partnership between the utilities and advocacy groups expects the financing will lead to the installation of one million smart thermostats across Northern Illinois over the next five years.

A diverse group announced the program this week: Commonwealth Edison (ComEd), Nicor Gas, Peoples Gas, North Shore Gas, Environmental Law & Policy Center, Illinois consumer advocacy group Citizens Utility Board, Illinois Commerce Commission, and smart thermostat manufacturers, ecobee and Nest. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Energy Efficiency, General, Smart Grid| Comments are closed

Can Smart Buildings Boost Demand Response in an Era of Capacity Performance?

illinois-396648_1280By: 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 »

Also posted in Clean Power Plan, Demand Response, General| Tagged , , , | Comments are closed

Don’t Write Off Energy Efficiency. It’s Just About to have its Day.

By: Matt Golden, Senior Energy Finance Consultant

pgegreenenergy-smartmeterA 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 »

Also posted in California, Clean Energy, Energy Efficiency, Energy Financing, Investor Confidence Project, Smart Grid| Read 14 Responses

Clean Jobs Legislation Maintains Momentum in Illinois 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 »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Clean Power Plan, Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy| Comments are closed

Want to See EDF at SXSW Eco 2015? Cast Your Vote!

Vote-croppedEvery 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| Comments are closed

Coast to Coast and Across the Electric System, Microgrids Provide Benefits to All

Source: via Wikimedia Commons

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 | Read 3 Responses
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