It’s September, fall is around the corner, and with it, the second anniversary of devastating Hurricane Sandy. A smarter, more efficient electric grid should be on the minds of all New Jerseyans. Unfortunately, it’s not.
Wired magazine calls America’s power grid the largest machine ever built. Over the past few decades, this grid has been expanded throughout the country to ensure that even remote areas have electricity. Although this is an incredible accomplishment, the grid should also strive to keep pace with the latest technological advances, becoming not just the largest machine ever built, but also a more efficient and resilient one.
By: Abdul Wadood, EDF Climate Corps Fellow and graduate student at Duke University’s Pratt School of Engineering
How does one maintain a facility of 4.2 million square feet, with five acres of roofs, that is two city blocks long and has 375 tenants? And, how does a building built in 1930 (also the largest building in the world at that time) compete with current technological innovations and new energy conservation trends? The answer lies in having accurate data, which can be a challenge considering the sheer size and age of this particular building.
The building I am referring to is the Merchandise Mart. Also called ‘The Mart,’ this building centralizes Chicago’s wholesale goods businesses by consolidating home, office, casual furnishings and a large variety of luxury home kitchen & bath showrooms under one roof. At the same time, the building now forms part of Chicago’s growing tech triangle community near the famous city loop as 1871, Motorola Mobility, Braintree, All Scripts, CCC and Yelp are in the building.
Every EDF Climate Corps fellow can fathom the potential of implementing energy efficiency measures – especially since it is a current industry trend. However, this does not come without challenges. As a student at Duke, I thought putting in long study hours, deskbound in a library only to be chauffeured home by campus safety was difficult.
A new utility business model – “Utility 2.0” or “reform” – is the hot topic in statehouses and regulatory commissions across the country. This is due to many factors: technological innovations in the energy sector, changing consumer expectations, increasing electricity prices, tighter regulations, and the need to decarbonize our energy sector as we grapple with climate change.
Some argue utility earnings should be based on performance rather than volumetric electricity sales. They suggest utilities’ monopoly interests should be aligned with enabling clean energy services – such as on-site renewable energy and home energy management – instead of simply delivering more electricity.
Key to this new approach is the ability to define – and then measure – performance. This will require a set of metrics by which utility investments can be judged and rewarded. Illinois was the early adaptor of performance-based metrics for its historic smart meters roll-out and is finalizing a set of metrics this week that are critical to designing a utility business model for the future. Read More
Imagine you’re trying to lose weight. If you step on the scale once a month, how can you possibly know how each of your daily decisions affects the number? Weighing yourself every day would be a step up, giving you a much clearer picture of the effects of each day’s choices. Now imagine the potential results if you could access real-time data – if you were able to see just how many calories were in each food you picked up, as well how much energy you were exerting at any given moment.
Thanks to a meta-analysis on behalf of the American Council for an Energy Efficiency Economy (ACEEE), we can now see that access to this kind of granular, real-time data on electricity use leads to significant household electricity savings.
Survey highlights importance of timeliness and granularity
The ACEEE survey aggregates multiple studies designed to evaluate the effectiveness of different types of electricity customer feedback from the past 20 years, including 61 trials from around the world: 33 from the U.S., 13 from Europe, 9 from Canada, and 3 others. Such a diverse pool allows us to draw important conclusions about consumer energy use habits while controlling for variations in culture, climate, and energy use patterns. The results are displayed in the graph below. Read More
For months now there has been much secrecy and mystery surrounding the location of electric car revolutionary Tesla's new $5 billion Gigafactory. The factory will supply cheaper batteries for the company’s Model 3 electric car and will be large enough to manufacture more lithium-ion batteries than the entire industry produces now. Due to its sheer scale, the factory is expected to reduce the cost of batteries by almost one-third and create close to 7,000 jobs directly and thousands more indirectly.
Amidst all the rumors abounding, closed door meetings, and tax break wars, I wrote about Tesla’s search for the perfect factory location – of which Texas was in the running. Despite Tesla breaking ground near Reno, Nevada a few weeks ago, there was still speculation about where the Gigafactory might be located, and Texas' chances remained somewhat alive.
But no more. Tesla indeed confirmed that Reno will be the home of the Gigafactory. This is great for Nevada’s economy, but as a Texan, it still feels like a bit of a blow – though I’m not surprised.
While Texas Governor Rick Perry personally lobbied for the Gigafactory to make its home in Texas, it doesn’t help that he’s at the helm of a state hostile to clean energy, despite leading the nation in wind power. Although I’m hopeful that future clean tech endeavors will come to Texas, the existing status quo needs to change to combat this hostility. Read More
The New York Public Service Commission (Commission) has embarked on the landmark Reforming Energy Vision (REV) proceeding to design a new business model for electric utilities. Today’s business model allows utilities to earn revenues based on how much money they spend to supply and deliver electricity. Under the new model, utilities will earn revenues based on the value of services they deliver to customers and the environment.
Currently, utilities dominate the electricity service market, limiting customer access to the full range of products and services otherwise available in a truly open market. One focus of the proceeding is to remove the barriers preventing third parties, such as retail electric suppliers, solar energy companies, or smart meter providers, from fully participating in the energy market. Allowing full participation by third parties would lead to increased innovation and fuel the development of new products and services. Read More
Governor Brown has the opportunity to make energy-saving upgrades possible for families and small business owners by signing Assembly Bill 1883 (Nancy Skinner- Berkeley). This bill would significantly lower the cost of Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE), a tool which enables property owners to take advantage of energy efficiency and rooftop solar PV for their homes or buildings with no money down, allowing them to pay off the investment over time through their property tax bill.
AB 1883 would streamline the PACE process and drive down the fixed transactional costs associated with commercial projects. Lowering these transaction costs is especially important for small businesses because high transaction costs can reduce the economic viability of the smaller energy upgrades that small business typically need. AB 1883 also incorporates new options for financing rooftop solar PV through PACE, which will enable a greater number of homeowners and small businesses to qualify for cost-saving solar PV contracts. Read More
A few months ago I logged into my online utility account and noticed it was more than twice the amount I usually pay, all of the excess going to water. Given the kind of work I do, I scour my bill every month, comparing electric and water usage month-to-month and over the course of the year. We are water and electricity savers in our household, so what on earth could this spike be?
I immediately called the City of Austin, and they sent someone out to check the meter. Nope, nothing on that end. Then we brought in a plumber, who spent many hours and many of our dollars searching and found a leak in the toilet. By the time we went through all of that and got the toilet fixed, we had to pay our enormous bill plus the plumber’s bill. Why should I have to go through that rigmarole just to find a leak?
Wouldn’t it be easier if a smart water meter could send my utility and me a message the moment the toilet starts leaking?
Unfortunately, water infrastructure in this country is sorely in need of a reboot. The American Society for Civil Engineers gave the U.S. drinking water infrastructure a grade of a “D” in its 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, stating there are 240,000 water main breaks per year. And we’re still using antiquated “technology” in much of the sector. Read More
As we’ve mentioned before, New York is changing how it evaluates and compensates electric utilities. One goal of this change is increased consumer engagement, which makes customers allies in the development of a more reliable, resilient, and ‘smart’ electric grid.
Many customers have begun taking advantage of new energy technologies and their falling prices by turning to community microgrids, installing on-site distributed generation, like rooftop solar, or investing in more efficient appliances, among other actions. Advances in telecommunications and information systems have also created new opportunities for energy services we could not have imagined just a few years ago. For example, innovative tools like demand response allow third parties or utilities to turn off pre-approved appliances – like swimming pool pumps and air conditioners – remotely when the power grid is stressed and needs a quick reduction in energy demand. Read More
Source: BranderGuard Flickr
Late last week, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed an important Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Order, giving the agency a big win and aiding in the promise of a cleaner, smarter, and more efficient power grid.
By upholding FERC’s Order 1000, the court confirmed what many think is common sense: Because the power grid crosses state and utility boundaries, a coordinated planning approach to electricity transmission (that is, moving electricity from one place to another) is more efficient and cost effective than multiple entities planning in isolation.
Order 1000 opens the door for two big electrical grid improvements. First, the order helps spur a more efficient planning process, meaning less waste and better coordination in our energy system. Second, the order allows greater opportunity for clean energy resources like demand response, energy efficiency, and renewables. It does this, in large part, by ensuring that state policies like renewable portfolio standards are taken into account. Relying on more clean energy resources will improve air quality and the health of millions of Americans now harmed by dangerous air pollution while advancing our country’s energy independence and economic growth. Read More