Category Archives: Renewable Energy

Women in Power: Managing California's Electric Grid Takes Nerves of Steel – and a Knack for Collaboration

WIPThis is the fourth in a series of posts about leading women in the power, environmental science, advocacy, policy, and business sectors. To see previous installments, please use the ‘Search’ field in the left sidebar to search for ‘Women in Power.’ 

Electricity touches nearly everything we do, but most of us never contemplate what happens behind the scenes to make sure those electrons make it to our homes and businesses.

In California – just beyond the outlets, thermostats, and light switches – are more than 40,000 miles of interconnected power lines, some 1,000 generation facilities with more than 55,000 megawatts of capacity, and some of clean energy’s most brilliant women in the control room.

Karen Edson is one of them and she’s helping reshape California’s electric grid at a critical time.

A new energy reality

A widespread drought and persistently high temperatures are taxing the state’s legacy energy system – from its hydropower to its intricate web of transmission lines. At the same time, record-levels of renewable generation are flowing into the grid. Read More »

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EDF is Calling for More Demand Response in California and Why You Should Too

Source: North America Power Partners

Source: North America Power Partners

This week the California State Assembly will consider Senate Bill 1414 (Wolk). What’s so exciting about SB 1414? This bill will accelerate the use of demand response (DR), a voluntary and cost-friendly program that relies on people and technology, not power plants, to meet California’s rising electricity needs.

DR programs compensate people and businesses who volunteer to use less electricity when supplies on the power grid are tight and/or to shift energy use when cleaner, renewable resources are available. Every time a customer participates in lowering their energy use through demand response, they are rewarded with a credit on their electricity bill.

The implementation of demand response will help catalyze a much needed upgrade to our outdated grid, whose fundamental design hasn’t been updated since Thomas Edison invented it over a century ago. Demand response can empower participants to lower their electricity bills and carbon footprints, improve air quality, allow for more renewable electricity, and enhance electric grid reliability. In a tree of options for modernizing and cleaning up our energy system, demand response is a low-hanging-fruit. Read More »

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Utility 2.0: NY Utility Regulators Should Consider Change to “Formula for Success”

Source: Daniel Schwen, Wikimedia Commons

Source: Daniel Schwen, Wikimedia Commons

Acquire more customers, sell more electricity. This primary formula has fueled the runaway success of utility companies in America, as well as the rest of the world, for well over a hundred years.

But today, in an era when customers are technologically savvy, price conscious, and environmentally aware, more families are pursuing opportunities that will cut electricity bills and carbon emissions. Options once considered fringe, like installing rooftop solar panels and driving electric cars, are now becoming so mainstream that utilities everywhere are seeing their bottom lines crunched and even fear for their survival. The electricity sector needs a new formula that can account for these changes, while still providing reliable, safe, and affordable electricity for all.

As a result of increased energy efficiency and heavier reliance on local, distributed energy resources, it’s clear our country is moving toward a reality in which less electricity will come from centralized, fossil fuel power plants. At the same time, customers want utilities to continue providing basic electricity services while allowing them to benefit from new energy-efficient solutions and clean technologies in order to waste less electricity and generate our own power.

How will this be possible? A key first step is moving away from the existing regulatory paradigm, which rewards utilities for investing in more power stations and equipment, to a model that rewards utilities for the performance we seek today. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Energy Efficiency, Smart Grid, Utility Business Models| Tagged | 9 Responses, comments now closed

Corporate Buyers Demonstrate Demand for Renewables. Now it’s Time for the Market to Catch Up.

EDF Climate Corps fellow

Colin Krenitsky, 2014 EDF Climate Corps fellow for the Denver Housing Authority.

Last month, twelve major corporations announced a combined goal of buying 8.4 million megawatt hours of renewable energy each year, and called for market changes to make these large-scale purchases possible. Their commitment shows that demand for renewables has reached the big time.

We’re proud that eight of the twelve are EDF Climate Corps host organizations: Bloomberg, Facebook, General Motors, Hewlett Packard, Proctor & Gamble, REI, Sprint and Walmart. The coalition, brought together by the World Wildlife Fund and World Resources Institute, is demanding enough renewable energy to power 800,000 homes a year. And while it's great to see these big names in the headlines, they're not alone in calling for clean energy: 60 percent of the largest U.S. businesses have set public goals to increase their use of renewables, cut carbon pollution or both. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Climate, EDF Climate Corps, Energy Financing, General, Utility Business Models| Comments closed

EPA’s State-by-State Carbon Limits Indicate Smart Policy, Not Arbitrary Rulemaking

EDF_FB_renewableEnergy_solar (1)In June, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced – for the first time ever – standards to limit carbon emissions from U.S. power plants, known as the Clean Power Plan (CPP). Currently power plants emit 40 percent of U.S. carbon emissions, but under the proposed Clean Power Plan, the U.S. power sector will cut carbon pollution by 30 percent below 2005 levels.

Since this announcement, the usual suspects have attacked the CPP, calling its proposed state-by-state reduction standards arbitrary. Their claims couldn’t be further from reality. When EPA asked states for feedback on how to best craft this standard, states asked for two things: individual standards and flexibility. And that’s what they got. Anyone familiar with the proposed standards will know they are based on a consistent and objective methodology that takes into account each state’s unique energy portfolio and emissions, as well as built with maximum flexibility in mind.

At first glance, the climate-change-denying crowd dismissed the standards as arbitrary, because the limits vary from state to state. For example, Washington needs to reduce its emissions rate by 72 percent by 2030, while Kentucky only needs to cut its emissions rate by 18 percent over the same period. Texas lies somewhere in the middle with a 39 percent reduction required. So what gives? Read More »

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5 Undeniable Truths about the Clean Power Plan

JDo you get a sense of déjà vu when you hear the fossil fuel industry arguments against the Environmental Protection Agency’s new climate change plan? You’re not imagining things – we’ve heard these many, many times before.

The EPA recently held public hearings around the country to solicit comments on its new proposal to put reasonable, nationwide limits on climate pollution from power plants.

The plan is moderate, flexible, and paves the way for considerable economic gains, but the substance hardly mattered for some die-hard opponents. The fossil fuel industry allies trotted out the same talking points about the supposed costs of action and American indifference to clean air policies that they always do.

Tellingly, industry lobbyists and their friends in Congress couldn’t even be bothered to wait and see what the rule said before blasting it with wildly inaccurate claims about the cost of implementation. Read More »

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Blown Away by Wind Power in Denmark, a Model for Clean Energy

The view when you fly into Copenhagen, Denmark.

The view when you fly into Copenhagen, Denmark.

By: Sam Parry, director of online membership and activism

I look out the window of the crowded Scandinavian Airlines plane – bleary-eyed after a sleepless, 8-hour flight – as it makes its final approach to the Copenhagen airport one recent morning.

The first thing I see are the wind turbines that hug the coast, spinning steadily like white jewels against the blue water. For a moment I wonder if I’m hallucinating.

What are wind turbines doing so close to civilization and adjacent to Denmark’s main airport?

Back in the United States, I have to travel far beyond my Washington suburb to spot any signs of wind energy. In Denmark, it’s ever-present.

You can’t drive more than a few kilometers on the country’s flat roads without seeing a turbine. They are fully integrated into society and part of the landscape everywhere.

And that’s not by accident. Read More »

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Moving On, but Continuing the Work

Source: Chuck Abbe

Source: Chuck Abbe

Four years ago, I joined Environmental Defense Fund to work on climate policy as I believe that the issue is one of the most critical challenges of our era. I felt that my background working on Wall Street could be put to good use in crafting finance policies that help fight climate change. I chose EDF because they are the environmental organization that best understands how to use market mechanisms to deliver environmental solutions.

Tomorrow will be my last day at EDF, but I am not leaving because of any disappointment with the organization or any decline in my commitment on climate issues. At this point in time, new market mechanisms to finance clean energy are in place. The biggest contribution I can make is to switch to the private sector and demonstrate how well these mechanisms can deliver job-creating private investment.

Over the past several years, On-Bill Repayment (“OBR”) and Property Assessed Clean Energy (“PACE”) programs have been developed that are expected to allow for significantly increased investment in energy efficiency and solar generation projects.  State of the art PACE programs are up and running in California for commercial and residential properties, and in Connecticut and Ohio for commercial properties. Texas and New Jersey are expected to also launch programs in coming months. Later this year, Hawaii is expected to start the country’s first open-source OBR program that EDF helped design. Read More »

Also posted in California, Clean Energy, Climate, Energy Financing, Investor Confidence Project, On-bill repayment, Utility Business Models| Tagged , | 1 Response, comments now closed

Can New York Beat California in the Clean Energy Race?

Source: Martineric/Flickr

Source: Martineric/Flickr

This post was adapted from an op-ed piece published in Morning Consult.

New York doesn’t have California’s sunshine or Texas’ wind. But it has a vision and willpower that is quickly turning the Empire State into a leader for clean energy solutions.

In the year and a half since the devastating impact of Hurricane Sandy, New York Gov. Cuomo has appointed strong leadership and devoted large-scale investment to develop a resilient energy infrastructure that can withstand the extreme weather events brought on by climate change.

And the state is now digging into a major evaluation of how energy is produced, distributed, and priced – while ramping up funding for renewable energy. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Energy Financing, New York| 1 Response, comments now closed

What We Can Do to Ensure Solar Panels Work During the Next Sandy

tivertonsolar

Source: Lewis Clarke

New Jersey is a national leader in solar power. With close to 1,300 MW of solar energy currently installed, the state ranks third in the country in solar capacity.

A commitment to photovoltaic (PV) technology has helped New Jersey reduce carbon emissions, create jobs, and lower electricity bills. Yet despite its impressive track record in New Jersey, distributed solar PV proved vulnerable when it was most needed – during an historic electricity outage in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. With another hurricane season upon us, it’s a good time to look at ways solar can be utilized when the grid fails.

An unfortunate reality

When Superstorm Sandy hit, residential and commercial PV owners were frustrated upon realizing that their solar panels were rendered useless without a functioning central grid, even when the sun was shining brightly. Read More »

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