Category Archives: Renewable Energy

‘Utilities 2.0’: The Future May Be Sooner Than We Think

Source: NASA Earth Observatory

Source: NASA Earth Observatory

Last month, I had the pleasure of moderating a panel called “Utilities 2.0: The Role of Distributed Generation and Demand Response in Evolving Utility Business Models.” The topic may sound esoteric, but to the more than sixty people in attendance, and at least fifty more watching online, the event, which was sponsored by clean energy networking group Agrion, offered insight into how these options will in a not-too-distant future revolutionize the way all of us consume electricity.

The energy industry is abuzz with talk of how distributed generation, which enables consumers to draw power from on-site sources, such as rooftop solar, and demand response, which rewards customers who use less electricity during times of peak demand, are transforming the electric utility industry. A once-in-a-generation paradigm shift is already in motion, and exactly how it will play out is anyone’s guess. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Demand Response, Dynamic Pricing, Energy Efficiency, Smart Grid, Utility Business Models | 2 Responses, comments now closed

Minnesota Advances First Statewide Plan to Fairly Value Rooftop Solar

rp_iStock_Solar_Installer-300x270.jpg

Most people do not typically associate Minnesota with abundant sunshine, but after a landmark decision by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) yesterday the sun is definitely shining on this snow-swept state. The PUC established the first statewide program to fairly value investments in rooftop solar electricity generation. I listened to a portion of the public meeting and oral arguments, which lasted several hours and demonstrated much thoughtful work. Through a refreshingly civil display of democracy and Midwestern hard work, state officials, utilities, and the solar and environmental community were able to hash out a method for valuing solar resources that are key to a clean energy future.

Yesterday’s decision dealt with the ongoing debate over how much solar power is worth to a utility, its ratepayers, society, and the environment. The PUC did not establish a set price for a statewide solar tariff, but rather the method to be followed when utilities calculate how much to pay for electricity generated by rooftop solar systems. Minnesota utilities will now have the option to file tariffs using this method instead of net metering, the more common but controversial and less scalable cousin of the “value-of-solar” (VOS) tariff.

Read More »

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Illinois Shows Clean Energy Leadership by Fast-Tracking the Smart Grid

SmartMeterIn a victory for Illinois residents and the environment, Commonwealth Edison Company (ComEdtoday formally proposed to the Illinois Commerce Commission an accelerated timetable for completing its deployment of four million smart meters. ComEd began installing smart meters last fall as part of the Energy Infrastructure and Modernization Act of 2011. With this proposal, the Illinois utility will complete its meter installation almost five years earlier than planned.

Modern, smart electricity meters are a key component of the smart grid. These devices help eliminate huge waste in the energy system, reduce overall and peak energy demand, and spur the adoption of clean, low-carbon energy resources, including wind and solar power. By enabling two-way, real-time communication, smart meters give every day energy users, small businesses, manufacturers, and farmers (and the electricity providers that serve them) the information they need to control their own energy use and reduce their electricity costs. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Dynamic Pricing, Energy Efficiency, Illinois, Smart Grid, Utility Business Models | Tagged , , | Comments closed

Is Clean Energy Technology Booming? Five Reasons It Is.

To see the full infographic, go to greentechmedia.com.

By: Benjamin Schneider

You may have heard about the recent 60 Minutes segment that inexplicably reported the cleantech sector was in steep decline. There are quite a few reports out there breaking down the many fallacies of that segment, with most correctly concluding the sector is not dead, it is in fact booming and evidence of that surging momentum is everywhere you look. Consider these five examples that show just how good things are for cleantech these days:

1.  The solar industry is booming.

The facts are unequivocal: the solar industry is alive and well. According to a new report and infographic released this week by Greentech Media Research and the Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA), 2013 was a banner year. Read More »

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Funding the Future with a California Green Bank

rp_Brad_Copithorne-199x300.jpgTwo weeks ago, State Senator Kevin de León introduced a bill to establish the first “Green Bank” in California, a bold proposal that would unleash low-cost financing opportunities for clean energy projects throughout the Golden State.

I recently had the opportunity to testify at a hearing on the bill to discuss the best practices for green banks across the country and how the program would work in California.

First, a bit more on Green Banks:

At its core, the program is a clean energy finance bank set up by the state, designed to enable increased investment in clean energy projects and companies by working closely with the private sector to remove financial or structural barriers.   The goal is simple: increase the amount of clean energy at a low-cost and encourage private investment by reducing the overall risk of clean energy projects. Read More »

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Changing Times for Electric Utilities

Source: Edison International

Source: Edison International

Two seemingly unrelated announcements drew much attention in the electric utility industry recently. First, the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) (the trade group for the U.S. electric utility industry) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) jointly recommended changing how utilities should be regulated. Second, Duke Energy announced it will sell 13 Midwest merchant power plants. These announcements are actually related because they both result from the same dramatic changes affecting the electric utility industry. As Bob Dylan aptly noted, “the times they are a-changin’.” Regulators and other stakeholders must be prepared to address these changes.

Under the traditional business model, electricity usage grew steadily. Utilities built ever-larger plants to serve this growing load. The bigger plants were more efficient than existing plants, so the unit cost for electricity steadily declined. Utilities benefited by steadily increasing their revenues. Customers benefited from declining unit costs. For utility customers, it was like paying a lower price per gallon of gasoline every time you filled your tank.

But this traditional model is crumbling, due to several factors: Read More »

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Hawaii Taps On-Bill Repayment Program for Clean Energy Financing and Job Creation

Source: The Green Leaf

Source: The Green Leaf

EDF has been advocating for states to establish On-Bill Repayment (OBR) programs that allow property owners and tenants to finance clean energy retrofits directly through their utility bills with no upfront cost. California and Connecticut are working to establish OBR programs, but Hawaii is expected to beat them to the punch. Hawaii’s program is critical as electric rates are about double the average of mainland states and most electricity has historically been generated with dirty, expensive oil.

Given the potential of OBR to lower electricity bills, reduce that state’s carbon footprint, and expand job growth in the clean energy sector, EDF has been working closely with Hawaii and multiple private sector investors for the past year to develop their OBR program. Once formally launched later this spring, Hawaii’s program will be one of only two in the nation, preceded by New York who enacted their program in 2011.

Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Energy Efficiency, Energy Financing, On-bill repayment, Utility Business Models | Tagged , | 1 Response, comments now closed

Austin Unveils Texas-Sized Rooftop Solar Array to Power Downtown Church

This commentary originally appeared on our Texas Clean Air Matters blog.

Source: Mary Parmer, www.facebook.com/episcopalaustin

Source: Mary Parmer, www.facebook.com/episcopalaustin

On Monday in the heart of downtown Austin, St. David’s Episcopal Church unveiled its new 146-kilowatt solar array. Covering the rooftop of an adjacent parking garage and earning the title of largest rooftop solar installation downtown.

The project’s unprecedented scale was made possible through a partnership with Meridian Solar and a new Austin Energy (AE) pilot program, testing how they can best integrate large rooftop solar with the utility’s grid. Church members had the idea to put solar panels on the parking garage ten years ago, but weren’t able to move forward until last year when low interest rates, improved technology, and government rebates all came together. Through their combined efforts, St. David’s, AE, and Meridian have taken a vital, first step towards a city powered by clean, local, rooftop power, also known as distributed generation (DG). Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy | Tagged | 1 Response, comments now closed

Final Order from NYPSC on Con Edison Rate Case Reveals Especially Encouraging Language on Climate Change Directives

By: Elizabeth B. Stein, Attorney and Adam Peltz, Attorney

Source: Iwan Baan

Source: Iwan Baan

In Tuesday’s blog post, we discussed the recently concluded Con Edison rate case, its context, and its significance in advancing clean energy and grid resilience in New York. Today, we take a closer look at the final Order posted last Friday by the New York State Public Service Commission (the Commission) to uncover some of the more encouraging outcomes buried in this 300+ page document:

  • Con Edison agreed to various measures that allow for more distributed generation, i.e. on-site power generation, such as combined heat and power, rather than relying solely on power generation and distribution from the traditional, centralized grid. For example, Con Edison agreed to pay for some fault current mitigation, which enables distributed generation to be connected to portions of Con Edison’s grid where it would otherwise be prohibited, and agreed to develop an implementation plan for a microgrid pilot. Additionally, Con Edison agreed to treat customer-sited projects, including distributed generation, as integral parts of its system by considering them in its 24-month planning horizon. Because some distributed generation can operate in an ‘islanded’ mode, or separate from the main grid, and can thus continue operating in a power outage, distributed generation can play a critical role in improving resilience. Read More »

Also posted in Air Quality, Clean Energy, Dynamic Pricing, Electric Vehicles, Methane, Natural Gas, New York, Smart Grid, Utility Business Models | Comments closed

Preliminary Results Find Demand Response-Green Building Partnership is Off to a Great Start

LEED3

The preliminary results of the Demand Response Partnership Program (DRPP), a unique partnership launched by EDF and the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) in 2011, are now available in the 2013 DRPP Overview. Photo source: Harvard University.

Buildings account for 40% of our nation’s electricity use. In 2012, power plants spewed about 2 gigatons of global warming pollution into our air, which was about one-third of total U.S. emissions. That’s why EDF and the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) teamed up to launch the Demand Response Partnership Program (DRPP) aimed at increasing the participation from commercial buildings in host utility demand response (DR) and smart grid programs. Now, 2 years into the program, the preliminary results of this collaboration are available in our 2013 DRPP Overview.

DR is used to reduce energy use by rewarding utility customers who use less electricity during times of “critical,” peak electricity demand. Through DRPP, we leveraged relationships with the building community asking LEED projects to operate in low power mode when the grid is stressed. LEED ‘Pilot Credit 8: Demand Response’ has been developed as an incentive and implementation guideline.

This study evaluated three areas to measure the program’s success in 2013: Recruitment and outreach to potential participants, research and analysis of data from participants, and education about the DRP Program. A few key highlights are outlined in the Overview: Read More »

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