Category Archives: Smart Grid

Utility 2.0: NY’s New Business Model Should Properly Value the Costs and Benefits of Distributed Energy Resources

Source: AtisSun

Source: AtisSun

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 »

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Upholding FERC Order 1000 Unlocks Efficiency and Spurs Clean Energy Solutions

Source: BranderGuard Flickr

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 »

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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, Renewable Energy, Utility Business Models| Tagged | 9 Responses, comments now closed

Household Electricity Data May be a Click Away for Illinois Residents

Source: Alex Rumford

Source: Alex Rumford

Energy data collected via smart meters could lead to services that improve people’s lives and cut harmful carbon pollution. This is true if customers have easy access to the energy data they need to control their own energy use and reduce their electricity bills – which isn’t always the case.

When the Illinois General Assembly passed the Energy Infrastructure Modernization Act in 2011, local utilities ComEd and Ameren touted their many benefits, including greater control over peak energy load, electric grid resiliency, and cost savings resulting from the energy conservation efforts of their electricity customers. Now that smart meter deployments are well underway, utilities need to enable the many benefits of smart meters by empowering customers with easy access to their own energy data.

To facilitate this endeavor, EDF and Citizens Utility Board (CUB) joined forces to develop the Open Data Access Framework, a first-of-its-kind proposal, which the groups presented to the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) on Friday, August 15th. Read More »

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

Demand Response at the Core of Energy Savings for Large Office Building in Chicago

By: Karan Gupta, EDF Climate Corps Fellow at Jones Lang Lasalle

Climate Corps Fellow KaranGupta

EDF Climate Corps fellow, Karan Gupta, in front of the Building Automation System at 77 West Wacker, Chicago, IL.

Demand response – an energy saving tool that encourages customers to shift their electricity use to times of day when there is less demand on the power grid or when more renewable energy is abundant – has been at the core of my work this summer as an Environmental Defense Fund Climate Corps fellow. My host company, Jones Lang Lasalle, is the property manager for 77 West Wacker Drive, a 50-story office building in downtown Chicago. Here, I am focusing on maximizing the benefits of demand response, which have already been implemented through multiple technologies.

Currently, 77 West Wacker is enrolled in the PJM demand response capacity market through a demand response service provider. As discussed in my previous post, there are standby payments for demand response commitments, meaning that the building is paid for simply making itself available to reduce energy demand when called upon to do so. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Demand Response, EDF Climate Corps, Electricity Pricing, Illinois| 1 Response, comments now closed

To Opt-In or Opt-Out: What Works For Time-Variant Pricing

Source: Johannes Rössel, wikimedia commons

Source: Johannes Rössel, wikimedia commons

It would be logical to assume that we make decisions based on our needs, desires, and values regardless of how the choice is presented. For instance, we wouldn’t expect the choice to become an organ donor to depend on whether you must check a box to accept or decline donation. But we would be wrong: our decisions depend a great deal on how the choice is presented.

Choice architecture gets to the heart of the debate on whether it’s preferable to offer people the opportunity to opt-in or to opt-out, and this question has become crucial to the discussion about time-variant electricity pricing throughout the country.

Opt-out vs opt-in time-variant pricing

Currently, most electricity customers pay for electricity at a single flat rate (i.e., one price per kWh consumed). Such pricing is simple but doesn’t reflect actual system costs, which are higher during times of the day when overall energy demand peaks. Time-variant pricing instead allows utilities to charge more for electricity during periods of peak demand, and less during periods of lower demand. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Demand Response, Electricity Pricing, Energy Efficiency| 3 Responses, comments now closed

The Chance for Demand Response to Thrive in California All Hinges on One Vote

By: Michael Panfil, attorney for EDF’s US Climate and Energy Program, and Jamie Fine, senior economist for EDF’s Clean Energy Program

Vote CheckDemand response encourages customers to shift their energy use to times of day when there is less demand on the power grid or when more renewable energy is abundant.  It is an invaluable component of the smart grid that improves air quality, enhances electric grid reliability, and helps utilities, homes, and businesses financially benefit from conserving electricity.

Yesterday, a diverse group of organizations submitted an important and far-reaching settlement agreement on the future of demand response in California to the California Public Utilities Commission (Commission) for its approval. The settling parties – including EDF, California investor-owned utilities, California Independent System Operator (CAISO), consumer groups, and others – recommend, for the first time, a path to properly value, realize, and account for demand response. If approved, these changes have the potential to increase the role of demand response in meeting California’s energy demands, reducing hazardous air pollution, and more efficiently operating the state’s electrical grid. Read More »

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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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Finding Common Ground on Pricing Clean Energy Resources in California

Source: limelightpower flickr

Source: limelightpower flickr

This post was co-written by Chris Yunker, Rates and Analysis Manager at San Diego Gas & Electric.

Industrial and environmental stakeholders are usually portrayed as adversaries. But one exciting example from California proves there can be another side to that story. San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) worked with Environmental Defense Fund, Sunverge, Google, and the California Public Utility Commission at Rocky Mountain Institute’s eLab Accelerator to investigate electricity tariffs that enable new technologies and practices and to reveal their costs and benefits to the grid. As distributed energy resources (DERs) continue to grow rapidly, there is increasing need to enable the marketplace to value utility-supplied grid services and customer-sited resources.

SDG&E serves 3.4 million people in and around San Diego, and is also home to roughly 10,000 electric vehicles and 40,000 rooftop solar systems. SDG&E is responsible for keeping the lights on despite growing demand (the region has one of the largest EV adoption rates in the nation) and variable electricity generation (PV panels stop producing at sunset). Read More »

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