Category Archives: Renewable Energy

Utility 2.0: What are Utilities Doing to Meet New York’s Vision for a 21st Century Energy System?

nyc skylineSince 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.

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Texas Grid Regulator Cites Very Little Burden in Complying with EPA’s Clean Power Plan

Source: Armin Kübelbeck, Wikimedia Commons

Well, it didn’t take long before the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) released, at the request of Texas’ very political Public Utilities Commission, another report about the impacts of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) rules designed to protect public health.

This time ERCOT, which manages 90 percent of Texas’ electric grid, looked at the impact of seven EPA clean air safeguards on the electric grid, including the Cross State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR), the Mercury Air Toxics Standard (MATS), the Regional Haze program (all of which go back before the Obama administration), the proposed Clean Power Plan, which would set the first-ever national limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants, and others. What was surprising to learn, though, is that after power companies in the state start complying with EPA’s other clean air protections, the proposed Clean Power Plan poses a minimal incremental impact to the power grid. We would only have to cut 200 megawatts of coal-fired generation, which equates to less than one coal-fired power plant. Read More »

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National Program Aims to Expand Minority Participation in Energy Sector

EDF Climate Corps fellow Olivia Moreno uncovers ways to increase energy efficiency at University of Texas at El Paso.

EDF Climate Corps fellow Olivia Moreno uncovers ways to increase energy efficiency at University of Texas at El Paso.

It's no secret that minorities are underrepresented in the energy field.

In the United States, Hispanics, African Americans, and American Indians make up 24 percent of the overall workforce, yet only account for nine percent of the country’s science and engineering workforce.

An initiative called Minorities in Energy (MIE) aims to change those numbers. It is creating a sustainable model that identifies diverse stakeholders to address challenges and opportunities for underrepresented communities in the growing energy economy, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education, and climate change.

Launched a year ago by the U.S. Department of Energy, MIE has built an impressive list of ambassadors and partnerships. Energy Secretary Ernest J. Moniz puts it this way:

"We can only be successful in achieving our energy goals if we are inclusive of America's diverse communities." Read More »

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Illinois Legislators Pledge Support for EPA’s Proposed Carbon Regulations

illinois legislatorsWhile the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sorts through the more than 1.6 million comments received on its proposed Clean Power Plan (CPP), one group is stepping out to pledge its support of the landmark proposal. 53 Illinois legislators recently signed a letter urging the EPA to finalize the plan, which will set limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants for the first time ever.

Power plants currently account for nearly 40 percent of the nation’s carbon pollution and Illinois’s proposed target would result in a 33 percent reduction in the state’s carbon output by 2030. Fortunately, due to impressive state efforts to invest in clean energy over the past few years, Illinois is well-positioned to meet the challenge.

CPP is an economic opportunity

The Illinois legislators argue the CPP will help the state “achieve even greater cuts in our emissions, health benefits for all our citizens, and will spur further growth in our state’s economy.” The CPP will further the state’s transition to a clean energy economy by attracting investment in innovation, creating more jobs, and keeping electricity prices affordable. Read More »

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Can Birds and Wind Energy Co-exist?

By: Stacy Small-Lorenz, Conservation Scientist, and Jim Marston, Vice President, US Climate and Energy

farm-62260_1280Climate change will have major impacts on birds and their habitats, according to a recent report from the National Audubon Society. Scientists project climate change will drastically alter and shrink habitats in the U.S. for many bird species. These findings add to mounting evidence that natural systems are at serious risk for climate change impacts, which we must act swiftly to mitigate.

One solution is to adopt more clean, renewable energy. Utilities have been investing in large-scale wind energy farms at an impressive rate, resulting in 127 million tons of avoided carbon dioxide a year in the U.S. – the equivalent of taking 20 million cars off the road.

But a tricky challenge persists in the effort to make our energy system more sustainable overall: large, utility-scale wind energy developments have been known to kill bats and birds and risk fragmenting sensitive habitats. And while wind turbines kill far fewer songbirds than building collisions or cats, raptors and bats are still at risk for turbine collisions. Read More »

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So, how do we Make Sustainability… Sustainable?

alternative-21761_640Last week the New York Times reported that, for the first time in history, clean energy resources like solar and wind are becoming cost competitive with conventional coal in some markets. This paradigm shift, where clean energy is beginning to compete head-to-head with traditional energy sources, calls for a change in perspective.

This ‘change in perspective’ is a movement toward what I would describe as “sustainable sustainability” – in which “sustainable” means the ability to stand the test of time, and “sustainability” refers to an environmentally responsible approach to making, moving, and using energy. In other words, we must find a way to ensure clean energy resources remain competitive in the marketplace and become ‘business as usual’ resources in the overall energy mix. The International Energy Agency (IEA) does a great job of explaining the need for this shift:

In the classical approach, variable renewables are added to an existing system without considering all available options for adapting it as a whole. This approach misses the point. Integration is not simply about adding wind and solar on top of ‘business as usual’. We need to transform the system as a whole to do this cost-effectively.”

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