Category Archives: Renewable Energy

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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Governor Christie Proposes New Energy Resilience Bank to Prevent Future Superstorm Blackouts

mary1New Jersey has proposed using federal Sandy relief funds to set up an Energy Resilience Bank that would fund projects to make the state’s energy infrastructure more resilient in the face of extreme weather events. The Bank is an innovative proposal that will help New Jersey prepare for the future in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, which destroyed thousands of homes and businesses, causing human loss and suffering that continues for many today.

Climate change increases the likelihood that New Jersey will continue to be buffeted by storms such as Sandy, which exposed and underscored the need to upgrade to a more resilient, low-carbon energy infrastructure when a third of the state lost power for nearly a week. The Energy Resilience Bank, which will be capitalized at $210 million, would help expedite this process, allowing the state to keep the lights on and residents safer during the next storm. Read More »

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Secretary Moniz Deems Austin’s Pecan Street ‘Very Impressive’

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

EDF's Marita Mirzatuny with Secretary Moniz at Pecan Street's Pike Powers Labratory

EDF's Marita Mirzatuny with Secretary Moniz at Pecan Street's Pike Powers Labratory

Earlier this month, I had the privilege of presenting a short summary of EDF’s Smart Power Initiative to Dr. Ernest Moniz, the U.S. Secretary of Energy. As a group of over 30 people piled into the Pike Powers Laboratory (including the lab’s namesake), the Secretary made his way in, beelined for some coffee, and sat down to hear all about Austin’s innovative and collaborative energy “ecosystem.”

Present was the Mayor of Austin, Lee Leffingwell, various cleantech entrepreneurs sponsored by the Austin Technology Incubator (ATI), representatives from the State Energy Conservation Office (SECO), and the Governor’s office, among others.

Everyone had the opportunity to speak to the Secretary in a roundtable format about the work their particular company or group is doing to solve energy problems, and as EDF’s representative, I reported on our Smart Power work in Texas. Read More »

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Meeting Retrofit Chicago’s Energy Goals: Three Key Constituencies

This commentary originally appeared on the EDF Climate Corps Blog.

ellen_bell287x377Following the lead of mayors and governors across the country, last month the President announced energy as a priority for the year. By focusing on energy management, organizations are contributing to the transformation of energy use in the country, saving billions in energy costs and cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Retrofit Chicago initiative, aimed at reducing participating buildings energy use in the city by 20 percent within the next five years, is a compelling example of this. For this reason, EDF Climate Corps, an innovative summer fellowship program that places specially trained graduate students in organizations to save energy and related costs, is working to recruit organizations in Chicago this month.

To ramp up energy savings in the area, EDF Climate Corps has already signed on AT&T, McDonald’s Corporation, Shorenstein Properties and Jones Lang LaSalle. Each summer, EDF Climate Corps fellows evaluate organizations for energy savings opportunities with many of them uncovering stakeholder engagement as a key savings opportunity.

After 400 EDF Climate Corps engagements, the program has found that there are three key constituencies to tap into for energy management:

Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Climate, Demand Response, EDF Climate Corps, Energy Efficiency, Energy Financing, Illinois, On-bill repayment | Comments closed

$200 Million in Private Capital Financing Signals Investors’ Support for Clean Energy

By: Victor Rojas, Senior Manager, Financial Policy

(Credit: www.poonamsagar.com)

(Source: www.poonamsagar.com)

While 2014 is only just getting underway, it is already shaping up to be a banner year for clean energy finance. Capital investments are being made, funds developed, and securitization tools crafted — all with remarkable speed. And private capital markets are aggressively rallying around these efforts, which will only increase the momentum of our collective efforts to drive investments into essential energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.

Funding for homeowner energy efficiency loans could lead to securitization

Early this year, clean energy consumer finance company, Kilowatt Financial, closed a $100 million deal with  Citi to finance 10-12 year unsecured loans of up to $30,000 for homeowners making energy efficiency improvements to their HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) systems, water heaters, windows, roofing, insulation, lighting, and appliances.

The transaction is designed to facilitate a securitization of loans (which promotes liquidity in the marketplace), help establish a secondary market, and spur energy efficiency investments. Kilowatt and Citi expect to create term asset-backed securities from the loans that will provide a sustainable source of capital for homeowners looking to make home energy upgrades. Read More »

Also posted in Energy Efficiency, General, Investor Confidence Project, On-bill repayment | Tagged , | Comments closed

Innovative Strategies for Utilities in the Face of Increased On-Site, Distributed Generation

Brad CopithorneLast year, the trade association for the utility industry, the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), published a whitepaper on the disruptive challenges facing the utility industry.  In summary, EEI’s thesis was that the existing utility business model (centralized, fossil-fuel based generation) is under threat from on-site, distributed generation as more customers switch to cleaner, and often cheaper, solar power.  The white paper poses an important question: How can utilities acquire the revenue needed to keep the electric grid humming and provide reliable power to all customers if a growing number of people are producing their own electricity?

In business, one of the most difficult problems that companies face is how to adapt a successful business model to technological or social changes that threaten that business model.  Wang, Unisys, DEC and Amdahl were all big computer companies in the 1970’s that clung to an obsolete business model in the face of distributed computing.  IBM and HP, on the other hand, adapted their business models and generally thrived.

Over the past year, we have seen several utilities tackling this challenge head-on by investing in distributed, renewable energy projects.  In September, I wrote about how NextEra and NRG were voluntarily developing solar investments and how Direct Energy and Viridian were investing in solar installations developed by SolarCity. Read More »

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New York Public Service Commission Signals Big Changes to Prioritize Clean Energy

Elizabeth Stein Photo2In the last week of December, the New York Public Service Commission issued an Order that signals big changes coming soon to New York’s electric utility landscape.  The Commission made it clear that it wants clean energy resources, including on-site, distributed power generation (such as solar PV), energy efficiency and energy load management strategies, to play a central role in how the energy system brings value to customers.  In contrast to the peripheral role clean energy resources have played in the past, the Commission is now ready to make them a priority, signaling a willingness to transform the regulatory landscape.

The Order was one of a trilogy arising from three intertwined proceedings, all of which were considered by the Commission on December 19, 2013.  One of those three – perhaps the most concrete and immediate – was a proceeding concerning the initial capitalization of New York’s Green Bank, a new entity that aims to advance clean energy funding in New York State.  That proceeding addresses a proposal to leverage ratepayer funds and private investment to systematically address market barriers to private financing of distributed generation, energy efficiency and demand management projects, with an ultimate goal of building a clean energy marketplace that can stand on its own.  The other related proceedings concerned two New York State programs that draw on the same funding sources that are now being made available for the initial capitalization of the Green Bank: New York’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) and the Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard (EEPS).

This Order concerns various proposals to improve and streamline the EEPS programs.  Some of these changes are effective immediately, such as the elimination of duplicative reporting requirements.  Other, more substantive program modifications – such as the changes to the structure of EEPS and other clean energy programs, as well as the responsibilities of various entities (including the Commission’s Staff, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and the utilities themselves) – are to be addressed through a new “E2 working group,” which is to be formed by February 1, 2014.  This new working group is tasked with “sharing and developing concepts for an optimized E2 portfolio that supports a scale-up of energy efficiency and overall system efficiency,” for a program launch by the end of 2015. Read More »

Also posted in Energy Efficiency, New York, Smart Grid | Tagged | 1 Response, comments now closed

Google Partners with Nest in Race to be Your Smart Home Provider

Marita MirzatunyOn Monday, Google announced it is spending $3.2 billion to buy Nest Labs, the trailblazing company funded through its Google Ventures program and responsible for transforming “unloved” home products into beautiful, smart appliances. That’s a lot of money for a business with only two products: a thermostat and a smoke detector. Nest is not exactly reinventing the wheel, right? Well, actually they are.

Welcome to the Smart Home

Google’s move is a starting shot in the race to become the go-to smart home provider, putting in place stepping stones to realizing a future in which our homes will become one ecosystem – integrated and functioning as a whole. Customers are looking for smart appliances that can notify you when they are wasting energy or not performing properly. Plus, these innovative technologies provide customers with more opportunities to engage with and benefit from other cost- and energy-saving solutions, like demand response, rooftop solar power and electric vehicles. This puts customers in the driver seat, giving them insight and control over their daily lives in ways never before imagined (even if just to use automated, “set-it-and-forget-it” functionality).

The Nest thermostat learns household behaviors and habits and sets temperatures at the optimal comfort and energy-saving level accordingly. Nest also enables residents to control their electricity remotely and provides the interface needed to participate in demand response, an energy management program that rewards participants for conserving energy during peak, or "rush hour," times on the electric grid. Read More »

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We Can't Expect a Reliable Energy Future Without Talking Water

Kate Zerrenner

This commentary originally appeared on our EDF Voices blog.

It’s no secret that electricity generation requires substantial amounts of water, and different energy sources require varying amounts of water. Nor is it a surprise that Texas and other areas in the West and Southwest are in the midst of a persistent drought. Given these realities, it is surprising that water scarcity is largely absent from the debate over which energy sources are going to be the most reliable in our energy future.

Recent media coverage has been quick to pin the challenge of reliability as one that only applies to renewables. The logic goes something like this: if the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow, we won’t have electricity, making these energy sources unreliable. But if we don’t have reliable access to abundant water resources to produce, move and manage energy that comes from water-intensive energy resources like fossil fuels, this argument against the intermittency of renewables becomes moot.

Moving forward into an uncertain energy future, the water intensity of a particular electricity source should be taken into consideration as a matter of course.  Read More »

Also posted in Climate, Energy-Water Nexus, Smart Grid, Texas | Tagged | Comments closed

Demand Response Helps Texas Avoid Rolling Blackouts in the Face of Polar Vortex

MaritaHeadshot

This commentary originally appeared on our Texas Clean Air Matters blog

As we begin a new year, the outlook for 2014 looks bright.  But as the Polar Vortex has descended upon the U.S. over the last few days, we have been reminded of the past, specifically the winter of 2011 when Texas’ electricity grid stuttered under the extreme cold.

Monday, as a record-breaking cold snap whisked over the U.S., the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the state’s grid operator, warned of possible blackouts, just as they did in 2011.  We were lucky this time, but in February of 2011 we were not, and blackouts occurred throughout the state.

ERCOT’s warning meant that the grid's power reserves “dropped below a comfortable threshold,” and the "system was just one step away from rolling blackouts” as the need for energy outpaced supply.  As these blackout threats loomed, two power plants succumbed to the cold and went down.  The loss in capacity amounted to about 3700 megawatts (MW), with 1800 MW lost due to the cold.  According to Dan Woodfin, ERCOT’s Director of System Operations, “if we had lost another unit it would have put us into an Energy Emergency Alert Three” – the stage that prompts rolling blackouts.  This is unnecessary and unacceptable. Read More »

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