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
Clean energy advocates tend to maintain a bi-coastal focus. No doubt my California and New York colleagues often see their states as the bellwethers when it comes to new policy initiatives. But, real innovation is taking place in Illinois, a state that national clean energy advocates tend only to fly over.
For the next couple of months, Illinois’ legislative session will be in full swing, giving lawmakers the chance to craft policies that redefine an electric utility, establish markets that reward clean energy, and set the foundation for the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Clean Power Plan, which will put in place the nation’s first-ever limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants.
The best opportunity to achieve these goals is through legislation called the Illinois Clean Jobs Bill. This legislation is backed by a broad coalition of groups that, in the past, have found themselves at odds, but are now pulling in the same direction. Read More
Also posted in Clean Energy
Energy efficiency may be the Rodney Dangerfield of electricity policy. Compared to bulky power plants, it gets little respect.
Part of the problem is efficiency is hard to visualize. A new refrigerator, even if it uses 50 percent less power, still looks like a refrigerator. And, insulation is buried within walls, whereas it’s hard to miss a nuclear reactor or even a wind turbine.
Another issue is power companies see efficiency as competition and want to limit its development. FirstEnergy, for instance, lobbied to freeze Ohio’s energy efficiency standards, abandoned its own conservation programs, and led efforts to do away with demand response, an innovative energy management program that rewards people and businesses for conservation.
So, the Illinois Power Agency’s (IPA’s) recent decision to put efficiency and generation on the same level provides some much needed respect. Read More
By: Andrew Barbeau, EDF’s clean energy consultant
You don’t have a south-facing roof. You have too many trees in your yard. You may not be committed to staying in your house for the next ten to fifteen years. Or maybe you rent, or don’t have the upfront money to install.
These may be some of the reasons why you can’t go solar. You are not alone.
In fact, only 22 to 27 percent of residential rooftops are suitable for installing a solar PV system, due to structural, shading, or ownership issues, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. These effects are even more prominent in densely-populated, urban areas, like Chicago, where viable project siting is limited and renters account for more than half (55 percent) of housing.
But in a new utility world of flowing electricity data and layered intelligence, we shouldn’t limit participation in the rapidly growing solar market to those inconvenienced by circumstance. We need to shift our thinking of distributed solar from the individual to the community. Read More