Category Archives: Smart Grid

Smart Meters Need Effective Electricity Pricing to Deliver Their Full Benefits

By: Beia Spiller, Economist, and Kristina Mohlin, Economist

walletSmart meters, which provide detailed electricity use data throughout the day, are a critical piece of a smarter, more resilient 21st century energy system. But they are not a cure-all for modernizing our antiquated power grid.

In Matthew Wald’s recent New York Times article, entitled “Power Savings of Smart Meters Prove Slow to Materialize,” he argues that smart meters have failed to produce measurable savings. And we agree – but not because smart meters themselves have failed. Rather, most customers with smart meters don’t have access to people-powered, or time-variant, electricity pricing, which creates opportunities to save money. This is a missed opportunity for customers, utilities, and the environment.

Time-variant pricing better reflects electricity costs

Throughout most of the country, the price paid for residential electricity is the same regardless of the time of day when it’s consumed. This arrangement is a byproduct of an earlier era, one in which electricity information was difficult to convey and the actions of individual customers was impossible to gauge in real time. In practice, electricity is actually dirtier and more expensive to produce and transmit at certain times of the day, particularly when everybody wants it – for example, at 6pm during a heat wave when customers are cooling their homes. Also, during this high-demand time, energy prices spike and electric utilities flip on expensive and dirty fossil fuel “peaker” power plants to meet energy demand. From an economic point of view, it would be more efficient for electricity used at these peak demand times to have a higher price. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Electricity Pricing| 6 Responses

2014 Year in Review: 3 Breakthroughs that Tip the Scales for Climate Action

walmartsolar_378x235As the year draws to a close, I’m grateful for three climate breakthroughs from 2014 that give me hope that we can still turn the corner toward a stable climate before it's too late.

And I’m thankful to my colleagues at Environmental Defense Fund who crunched the numbers and determined how we can actually see global greenhouse emissions peak, level off, and begin to decline in the next five years.

EDF can’t do it alone – it will take concerted action by allies and stakeholders around the world – and it won’t be easy. But we can do it.

We know we can do this, because it’s happening already:  Read More »

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Energy Management Can Empower Everyone Regardless of Income Level

Source: Verizon

Source: Verizon

The holidays are upon us. As we prepare to gather with our friends and family, eat too much, and lounge around watching football, many people use this time to reflect on what they are grateful for. Being able to pay one’s electricity bill probably doesn’t make most people’s list, but for many Americans, it might.

The average household spends $1,945 annually on electricity, and homes with the lowest 20 percent of income spent nearly six percent of their income on energy bills. For many households, the cost of energy remains unaffordable. To put it in perspective, compared to middle- or upper-class homes, low-income households spend about twice the percentage of their income on energy. Yet, as Greentech Media points out, “many [energy management] solutions are tailored to the biggest homes, those awash in thousands of square feet of central air with a pool pump. Other solutions are tailored for middle-class homes, such as aggressive rebates for more efficient appliances. Many apartment-dwellers, however, do not own their major appliances."

The future of smart home, energy-saving technologies is often more focused on affluent, early-adopters who benefit from innovative ways to save energy because they can afford the newest gadgets. Thankfully, these people are using their buying power to lead the way, as more demand will bring prices down for everyone. While it is important for all of us to conserve and better manage energy use, low-income individuals have the most to gain. Yet the technologies that can enable savings are often out of financial reach. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Energy Efficiency, Texas| Tagged | Comments closed

Clean Energy and Job Creation Go Hand-in-Hand in San Antonio

Source: CPS Energy

Source: CPS Energy

While many are prophesizing the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) as doomsday for the electricity sector, Texas utilities are telling a different story. The CPP will limit – for the first time ever – carbon emissions from existing power plants. One utility in particular, CPS Energy in San Antonio, “has already embraced a low-carbon strategy that anticipates this rule,” making it the most well-positioned utility in the state, if not country.

Homegrown energy, literally

CPS Energy has excelled using its commitment to create local, clean energy jobs. In its Request for Proposal (RFP) for a 400 megawatt (MW) solar energy plant, the utility included a specification for the creation of local solar jobs. And it worked. Most recently, the utility announced the launch of the Mission Solar Energy Plant – a 240,000 square foot manufacturing plant that will employ upwards of 400 San Antonians. To assist with future expansions, CPS also helped create a program at Alamo Colleges to train its future workforce for clean energy jobs and, admirably, almost one out of every five employees is a veteran. Read More »

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ERCOT Report on Clean Power Plan Misses the Big Picture

Source: Dpysh wWe knew this was coming. Everyone knew. The power sector is the single largest source of carbon pollution in the U.S. and one of the largest in the world, yet there are no limits on how much carbon power plants can emit into our air. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) for new and existing power plants is urgently needed, is well within Texas’ reach, and can ensure that Texas (more so than other states) forges a strong and prosperous clean energy economy.

But this week, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which manages roughly 90 percent of Texas’ power grid, issued a report that overestimates the challenges posed by the CPP to the state’s electric grid reliability. Furthermore, it failed to appropriately recognize key tools available to ERCOT and the state to meet the proposed CPP.

Here’s a breakdown of what the report missed: Read More »

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Two Years After Sandy, the Conversation Around Energy Resiliency Still Going Strong

By: Audrey Hornick-Becker

From left to right: Bruce Schlein, Director, Alternative Energy Finance, Citi; Vic Rojas, EDF senior manager, financial policy; Bryan Garcia, President, Connecticut Green Bank; Alfred Griffin, President, NY Green Bank

From left to right: Bruce Schlein, Director, Alternative Energy Finance, Citi; Vic Rojas, EDF senior manager, financial policy; Bryan Garcia, President, Connecticut Green Bank; Alfred Griffin, President, NY Green Bank. Source: Maria Jiang.

Last week, EDF co-hosted a successful first-of-its-kind Resilience Finance Symposium in New Jersey, attended by about 120 participants from a wide spectrum of public and private entities in the state, region, and country.

Held on November 12 with Governor Christie’s Administration and the New Jersey Institute of Technology’s College of Architecture + Design, the all-day Resilience Finance Symposium: Building Resilient and Sustainable Energy Solutions for New Jersey’s Key Infrastructure featured a series of panels on solutions that help keep the lights and heat on during critical times, like microgrids and energy storage, as well as innovative ways of financing resilient energy systems.

A main topic of discussion was the impressive progress New Jersey has made toward making the state’s energy infrastructure more resilient in the two years since Superstorm Sandy caused a massive weeks-long power outage. Panelists pointed to Sandy success stories – those instances when power stayed on even when the grid went down – and discussed the need to make these kinds of successes the norm rather than the exception. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Energy Efficiency, Energy Financing, Investor Confidence Project, New Jersey, Renewable Energy| Comments closed