The New Year is a time for reflection, beginning with a look back on the previous 12 months and all that they brought. A quick scan of the U.S. climate and energy news in 2014 will tell you it was a very big year.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed the first-ever limits on carbon pollution from power plants, the U.S. and China struck a historic climate deal, and Tesla broke ground in Nevada on the largest advanced automotive-battery factory in the world – a move that’s expected to slash the cost of lithium ion batteries by a third. At the same time that these important national and international advancements were grabbing headlines, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and our partners were working together to incrementally transform the U.S. electricity system by rewriting outdated regulations, spurring energy services markets, and modernizing our century-old electric grid.
The U.S. is on the verge of a revolution in the way we make, move, and use energy. And, having spent years working on governmental and regulatory matters related to our power system and lessening its impact on the environment, I can honestly say there has never been a more exciting time to be in this field. Here are a few of the moments that were near and dear to our hearts over the past year, developments I see as a sure signal 2015 will be another epic year for clean energy. Read More
Also posted in Clean Energy, Demand Response, Energy Efficiency, Energy Financing, Energy Storage, Illinois, Investor Confidence Project, New Jersey, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid, Texas, Utility Business Models
In the future, when we look back on 2014, I believe it will be remembered as the tipping point for climate action. In the Northeast, we’ll remember the devastating early-season snowstorm that caused over a dozen deaths. In the Southwest, many will remember the third-straight year of a drought that seems without end. And, nationally, many will remember 2014 as one of the hottest years in recorded history – the hottest since 2010 and the 11th time the record for hottest year has been set since 1998.
In a year punctuated by extreme weather across the country and the globe, 2014 will also be remembered as the year when seeds of coordinated global action to address climate change first took root. The federal Clean Power Plan, the Lima Climate Agreement, the United Nations Climate Summit, and the U.S.-China Climate Accord, among other major milestones, all highlight the growing awareness and importance of taking action to address climate change. Though many view these events as tentative first steps, they are nonetheless steps in the right direction.
Action at the national level has been long overdue and support for the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Clean Power Plan, which would set the first-ever national limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants, is borne from decades of work at the local level. The historical absence of a broader national agenda has spurred cities and states to act on their own, and local authorities are continuing to make significant, innovative strides forward. Read More
Since the New York Public Service Commission (Commission) opened its Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) proceeding in the spring to modernize the state’s electricity system, a lot has happened. Namely, New York utilities are already working to align themselves with the broad objectives outlined in the REV proceeding. Here is an overview of efforts by the state’s big players:
CON EDISON – Brooklyn/Queens Demand Management Program
Growth in electricity demand in parts of Brooklyn and Queens is taxing infrastructure and will require action from Con Edison to ensure reliability. Con Edison could pursue a costly $1 billion substation upgrade to meet this rising demand. Instead, the utility is slashing needed investment by half and plans to invest around $500 million – $305 million in traditional utility investments and $200 million clean energy resources – to address the area’s growing energy needs as part of its Brooklyn/Queens Demand Management program. Measures include:
- Demand Response (a tool that pays customers to conserve energy when the electric grid is stressed): A new demand response system from energy services provider Alstom, which would allow 3.3 million customers to be compensated for the value they provide to the grid.
- Energy Storage: Battery-based energy storage for electricity produced when electricity demand is low (off-peak hours) for use when demand is high (peak periods), easing the burden on the electric grid at those times.
- Microgrids (which generate electricity nearby or on-site where it’s consumed): The development of microgrids to improve resiliency and enable the aforementioned demand response system.
- Electric Grid Resilience and Optimization: Expanded use of smart meters, which provide detailed electricity use data throughout the day, will improve response time to power outages and give customers more control over their energy usage.
By: Gavin Purchas, Acting Director, Idea Bank, and Elizabeth B. Stein, Attorney
When the New York Public Service Commission (Commission) opened its historic “Reforming the Energy Vision” (REV) proceeding earlier this year, it recognized that the way utility companies have been regulated is out of sync with innovations in technology, business realities, and evolving customer needs, including the need to reduce harmful pollution. In order for utility companies to become part of the solution, the Commission has made it clear that everything is up for grabs – even the basic regulatory paradigm governing how utility companies do business in New York.
Luckily, the Commission won’t have to completely reinvent the wheel since a new regulatory paradigm from the United Kingdom could serve as a potential model. This regulatory approach is known as RIIO and is based on the following formulation: Revenues = Incentives + Innovation + Outputs. RIIO was developed by the UK regulatory body, Office of Gas and Electricity Markets, after the country recognized that its previous framework – while extremely effective at achieving cost reductions – stymied innovation. RIIO includes several elements that may be useful in the New York setting, including: Read More
In order to fund the transition to a low-carbon economy at a pace rapid enough to prevent runaway climate change, the International Energy Authority has estimated that an annual $1 trillion will be required globally. What policies or mechanisms can be used to facilitate private capital engagement on so grand a scale?: Green banks, which are government-created financial institutions that use attractive interest rates and other incentives to leverage money from the private sector to fund clean energy projects.
Earlier this week, EDF co-hosted the first day of the two-day, second annual International Green Bank Summit in our New York City headquarters, bringing together green bank stakeholders from around the world. The summit focused on how green banks can better leverage limited amounts of public capital to engage and accelerate the deployment of private capital into essential energy efficiency, renewable energy, and climate change mitigation initiatives.
Green banks are catalysts
With one dollar of public finance leveraging about three dollars of private capital, global green banks have catalyzed nearly $20 billion dollars to date in clean energy projects around the world and expect to raise more than $40 billion over the next five years. So far, only a handful of countries have developed green banks. Read More
New York opened its “Reforming the Energy Vision” (REV) proceeding earlier this year to re-examine the utility business model. As part of this proceeding, state regulators will also look into removing market barriers preventing greater deployment of distributed energy resources (DER), which are smaller-scale clean energy resources, such as energy efficiency, energy storage, and local, on-site generation.
In recent years, DERs have made great strides due to market reforms, advanced technologies, and declining costs. Despite these advances, DERs serve less than 1% of national electricity demand as the existing utility business model and regulatory policies still favor traditional electricity distribution from a centralized grid.
Though the REV proceeding is in its early stages, the Department of Public Service Staff (Staff) has provided guidance recommendations for eliminating these market barriers. Using the Staff’s filings, EDF has drafted a white paper that compiles a Top 20 list of the changes required before we will see greater use of DERs. If adopted, these recommendations would result in a sea change for incorporating DERs into New York’s electric system and would provide a template for other states to follow. Read More