On November 18th, the Smart Cities Council released the Smart Cities Council Readiness Guide at the Smart City Expo World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. I am privileged to be a member of the Smart Cities Council Advisory Board, and in such a capacity, served as a review for the Guide.
The Smart Cities Council Readiness Guide is the first of its kind—a comprehensive, vendor-neutral handbook for city leaders and planners to help them assess their current state of technology and give them a roadmap for developing a smart city.
It was produced in collaboration with some of the world’s top smart city experts and includes technology recommendations for a city’s most important responsibilities: buildings, energy, telecommunications, transportation, water and wastewater, health and human services, public safety and payments.
My reviews were solely of the energy and water chapters, but the Guide as a whole offers a collection of guidelines, best practices and more than 50 case studies as well as 27 proven principles that will enable cities to achieve a smart city status. City planners will be able to identify the best path forward for their particular city, creating a customized plan that will work, even if development of the plan is gradual. Read More
This commentary originally appeared on our EDF Voices blog.
Today president Obama took an important step toward supporting a clean energy future by directing the Federal Government to consume 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020. This is more than double the current level, making this a significant moment in President Obama’s second term.
Renewable energy has become cost-competitive over the years and the quality of innovative clean technologies has dramatically improved. These are clean, efficient, homegrown resources that we can count on now, and President Obama’s public support of renewables in this announcement will serve to further drive their competiveness in the market.
This memorandum also directs agencies to update their building-performance and energy-management practices, “by encouraging the use of the consensus-based, industry-standard Green Button data access system (Green Button) and the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Energy Star Portfolio Manager.” Recommendations under this section ask agencies to install smart energy and water meters, participate in demand response where possible and make the data collected from smart meters publically available in order to better manage energy performance and allow for benchmarking. Read More
Guest Blog Post By: R. Blake Young, President and CEO of Comverge
The complex task of managing peak energy demand is not something that should be addressed in a piecemeal fashion, and this is particularly true in the demand response industry. For reference, demand response (DR) balances supply and demand, providing peaking capacity to utilities without investments in new plants. DR incentivizes change in customer energy usage patterns to reward lower electricity use at times when system reliability is jeopardized or the price of electricity is higher.
While Comverge supports both residential and commercial and industrial (C&I) demand response programs, it’s important to remember that the residential sector is an incredibly valuable and essential part of any energy management program. The infographic below illustrates why residential demand response is so important to our nation’s energy mix. Read More
Over the past two years, Texas’s changing energy landscape has been a focus of EDF’s work. In our Texas’ Energy Crunch report from March 2013, we highlighted that Texas has a peak capacity constraint – meaning that the power grid becomes strained when, for example, everyone is using their air conditioning units on hot summer afternoons. This challenge, coupled with increased climate change and drought, signal the need to prepare by adopting a smarter grid and cleaner resources.
The Public Utilities Commission of Texas (PUCT) and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) have been engaged in this conversation and various proposals have been laid on the table to determine what Texas’ energy future will look like. EDF maintains the position that, whatever reforms are made, customer-facing, demand-side resources – defined here as demand response (DR), renewable energy, energy efficiency and energy storage – must play a key role to ensuring reliability, affordability, customer choice and environmental improvements.
Energy-Only Status Quo or Capacity Market or…?
Texas’ current energy-only market structure pays power plants only for the energy they produce. This is beneficial in that generators are not overcompensated, but the downside is that energy companies aren’t incentivized to build in Texas and energy management providers (DR companies) are not viewed as equal players. Energy prices are low due to an upsurge in cheap, abundant natural gas and wind – and without a guarantee for a high return on investment, companies will not take the risk of constructing costly new power plants. Read More
Also posted in Demand Response, Energy Efficiency, General, Smart Grid, Texas, Texas Energy Crunch, Water
Tagged Capabilities Market, Capacity Market, Energy-Water Nexus, ERCOT, PUCT, Texas Energy Market, Texas Public Utilities Commission, Third Way
This commentary originally appeared on Verizon’s News Center.
Technology giant Verizon is making significant strides toward increasing the use of on-site green energy throughout its national portfolio with plans to finish more than $100 million in clean and renewable energy projects across facilities in seven states by the end of this year. The investment is estimated to reduce carbon emissions by over 15,000 metric tons each year, which is comparable to over 2,000 homes’ annual electricity use. Verizon’s video showcasing its plans includes an introduction by Environmental Defense Fund (EDF)’s very own Victoria Mills, managing director of Corporate Partnerships.
The move builds on the company’s earlier foray into clean technology, resulting in Verizon’s successful 2005 investment in a 1.4 megawatt fuel cell in Garden City, New York. Fuel cells use an electrochemical process in which oxygen and fuel (natural gas or biogas) react to produce amounts of electricity. The process produces less carbon emissions than more conventional sources of electricity, and enables the possibility of affordable on-site, user-owned power generation that is as constant and reliable as a utility and provides an attractive economic payback for customers.
When selecting locations for solar and fuel-cell energy projects, Verizon was careful to consider sites with favorable zoning requirements, utility partners and regulatory regimes. Despite being financially viable, identifying suitable projects was no simple task. Financing these projects without incentives at the federal and state levels proved impossible, and the incentives often came with conflicting timetables and were difficult to leverage. Read More
Last month I travelled to Amsterdam for European Utility Week (EUW), Europe’s largest “smart energy” conference that was attended by more than 7,000 people, hundreds of exhibitors, utilities, regulators and policy experts. The theme of this year’s conference was “Pulling in One Direction,” with a focus on greater collaboration between the European power transmission and distribution sectors. I was invited to speak about EDF’s Smart Power Initiative, which aims to change the trajectory of the U.S. electricity system to help avoid dangerous climate change through smart power policies and clean energy investments.
Why would EUW be interested in EDF’s approach? Because EDF seeks to knit together key state and regional regulatory agendas to “move the needle” toward a clean and modernized power grid, and to fix the “disconnect” between power transmission and distribution. Increasing the connection between the wholesale sector (typically has more sophisticated markets including real time pricing) and the distribution sector (has less sophisticated pricing) can unlock the value of smart grid.
This is one reason why our team seeks to enable smart metering and dynamic pricing for customers on the distribution side. Dynamic pricing incentivizes the shifting electricity use to periods of lower demand and lower prices (often when clean, low-carbon energy is most available). Enhancing the flow of information and energy between the wholesale and distribution sector will also empower smart grid solutions such as: reducing wasted energy through energy efficiency and demand response (which rewards customers who use less electricity during times of peak, or high, energy demand) and increasing the use of clean, distributed generation (like wind and solar). These innovative solutions will ultimately make the system cleaner, less wasteful and eliminate the need to invest in additional polluting fossil fuel power plants. Read More
As we approach the end of 2013, Texas’ power grid is soon to embark on a new clean energy path. While most people don’t get too excited about electrical transmission and distribution lines, the much awaited Competitive Renewable Energy Zone (CREZ) transmission project– set to come online in a few weeks and roll out through 2014 – could be the exception.
Approved by the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) in 2008, CREZ is a 3,600 mile transmission line that will connect remote West Texas wind energy to the eastern cities that need its power – 18,500 megawatts of power to be exact. This is enough power to energize 3.7 million to 7.4 million homes and increase available wind power supply by a whopping 50 percent.
Much like some other wind-rich regions in the country, wind in the West and Panhandle regions of Texas was partially unused, or curtailed, because local communities could not use all of the available supply and the state’s current, outmoded electric grid could not efficiently deliver the abundant energy to high-demand eastern cities. This "congestion" bottleneck forced wind farms to lower prices and at times pay the utilities to take their electricity. Read More
What do you do when a major new customer arrives in town asking for renewable energy? You supply it. Facebook’s decision to locate a new data center in Iowa and supply that data center with 100% wind energy is a great example of a company using its clout for good. To show its seriousness of intent, Facebook simultaneously pursued development rights to two wind parcels, one in Iowa and Nebraska, alongside its traditional site evaluation for a new data center. Iowa won the new data center, in no small part due to its leadership in the wind sector.
According to Vincent Van Son, Facebook’s Data Center Energy Manager, “When we settled on Altoona as the location for our fourth data center, one of the deciding factors was the opportunity to help develop a new wind project in the state. The project brings additional investment and jobs to the region, and in effect it makes it possible, on an annualized basis, for 100% of our energy needs to be met entirely with one of Iowa’s most abundant renewable resources.” Facebook worked with a local developer, RPM Access, and then at a key point, transferred ownership to a major utility, Mid-American. This project enabled Facebook to announce last week that the new data center will be supplied by 100% renewable energy.
As we profiled last year with Collaborative Economics, Iowa views the wind sector as a powerful economic development driver. As a result, it has emerged as an epicenter of wind in all facets – installations, innovation and manufacturing strength. Iowa’s multi-pronged clean energy strategy continues to deliver economic wins in 2013. Read More
Ohio’s clean energy standards have helped jumpstart an industry that is spurring economic development, creating jobs, boosting energy independence and cutting the state’s carbon footprint. Recently, these standards have come under attack and EDF’s own Cheryl Roberto, Associate Vice President of Smart Power, stepped up to defend them by testifying before the Ohio Senate Public Utilities Commission on Senate Bill 58 (S.B. 58). As a former Ohio Public Utility Commissioner herself, Roberto made it clear that S.B. 58 would destroy Ohio’s clean energy standards and unjustly enrich the state’s electric utilities.
Ohio adopted clean energy standards in 2008, and is one of 29 states with a renewable energy standard and one of 25 states with an energy efficiency standard. Based on these standards, Ohio will acquire 12.5% of its power by renewable energy and will reduce its energy use by 22% by 2025. The energy efficiency standard has allowed Ohio to reduce its energy use by over 3%, and the renewable energy standard has already added 466 mw of wind energy in the state, enough to power 466,000 homes. Ohio is now ranked fourth in the nation for wind energy jobs, with over 5,000 direct and indirect jobs supported by the industry.
Credit: Julia Collins
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a group of conservative state legislators, is leading a nationwide effort to repeal state clean energy standards, including S.B. 58 in Ohio. ALEC has previously supported controversial “stand your ground” laws as well as laws classifying environmental civil disobedience as terrorism. To date, ALEC has failed to repeal clean energy standards in any state. Read More
Last month, the Wall Street Journal reported on an initiative at an increasing number of companies nationwide: on-site, or distributed, power generation. There are many reasons for this growing trend in corporate sustainability, along with many ramifications for the prevailing utility model in the United States – all of which highlight the importance of employing market-based solutions to create a cleaner, smarter, more resilient electric system.
Why Do Companies Unplug?
For companies such as Walmart, increasing the use of distributed, renewable generation is a vital part of larger sustainability goals, including increased use of clean energy and a call for safer ingredients used in the products the company sells. To be sure, however, even the most altruistic companies would be hard pressed to shift off the power grid without sound economic reasons.
A confluence of market factors, including tax incentives that spur attractive returns on investment, advances in solar and wind technologies and policies that encourage greater use of and investments in clean energy (like net metering and time-of-use pricing), has created an economic environment that makes distributed generation not just a viable option, but often a very attractive one. Further, off-grid power can be an effective way for companies to hedge against outages due to storms or unforeseeable catastrophes, a key idea included in the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Strategy.