Earlier this week, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), along with 11 other environmental and consumer groups, joined forces in asking the Supreme Court to hear an important case involving an energy resource that saves families and businesses money, improves electric grid reliability, and reduces carbon emissions: demand response. We’ve written a lot about demand response and the federal case that could determine its future (also known as EPSA v. FERC or the FERC Order 745 case), and for good reason – the legal and policy frameworks governing demand response are critical to our clean energy future.
Simply put, demand response relies on people and technology, not just power plants, to meet electricity demand. It balances stress on the electric grid by reducing demand for electricity, rather than increasing supply. This makes our grid more efficient, reduces harmful air emissions from fossil fuel plants, and keeps electricity prices lower.
And these aren’t small savings – demand response cumulatively saves customers billions of dollars that would otherwise go toward more costly polluting resources. In 2013 alone, for example, demand response saved customers in the mid-Atlantic region $11.8 billion. Read More
This week I submitted testimony in support of a petition by the Citizens Utility Board and, my shop, EDF, to urge the Illinois Commerce Commission to require Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) and Ameren, two of Illinois’ biggest utilities, to provide families and individuals with new ways to reduce their energy bills: electricity pricing based on the hour of the day. This “Time-of-Use” (TOU) option provides times of the day when electricity will be much cheaper than the all-day, “flat” electricity pricing currently used today. Such electricity rates would reward energy-efficient customers and those who shift electricity use away from “peak” hours—when demand is high, prices skyrocket, and power plants produce the most pollution.
Our petition to the Illinois Commerce Commission, which is in charge of regulating electric utilities in the state, asks for ComEd and Ameren to offer optional rate plans beginning 2016. With voluntary TOU electricity pricing, families with digital meters can enjoy lower electric bills by running certain appliances, like the dishwasher, when electricity is cheapest, such as early in the morning or late in the evenings. However, the benefits go far beyond households that participate. Cutting energy use at high-demand times, like the afternoon, lowers electricity prices for everyone, reduces stress on the power grid, and offsets the need for expensive, polluting power plants. Read More
In the U.S., the electricity sector accounts for over a third of the country’s yearly greenhouse gas emissions, contributing more to climate change than any other sector, including transportation.
Furthermore, electricity costs have increased dramatically over the years, and are projected to continue their upward trend. Utilities and regulators have made great strides in promoting renewable energy, increasing the efficiency of the power grid, and reducing harmful pollution. However, customers, too, can be part of the solution by better managing their use of electricity – especially during those times when it is most expensive and dirty to produce.
Electricity is more expensive during ‘critical peaks’
The cost of producing electricity – and the carbon emissions associated with it – varies significantly throughout the day, depending on electricity demand at any point in time. For example, when a heat wave occurs and many customers begin cooling their homes after work, demand skyrockets and creates what is known as a ‘critical peak.’ Read More
Over the past several months, we’ve been providing updates on the ongoing litigation surrounding Order 745 – a vital, federal rule on demand response. As a low-cost, environmentally beneficial resource, demand response relies on people and technology, not power plants, to manage stress on the electric grid during periods of peak energy demand. Simply put, demand response pays people to conserve energy when it matters most – a win-win for people and the environment.
But this critical energy management tool has also been subject to an amazing amount of scrutiny (which we’ve covered here, here, and yes, here, as well). In short, the thorny issue boils down to this: a recent court decision found that the federal agency responsible for regulating demand response didn’t have the authority to do so.
When the decision came down, many were shocked. The general assumption had been that this agency (known as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission or “FERC”) certainly was within its rights to issue Order 745, a set of rules for how demand response would function in our nation’s energy markets.
And last week, the United States Solicitor General sided with the “general consensus” on Order 745. Read More
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which manages 90 percent of Texas’ electric grid, has been busy. In the last two months of 2014, the agency released two very lengthy reports examining the future of a lower-polluting power grid in light of upcoming EPA clean air protections, in particular the Clean Power Plan. As the media described it, the reports did not provide the rosiest of outlooks for costs to Texans or electric reliability. But I think they are looking at the reports the wrong way.
The electric grid is changing. Innovative technologies – many of which are created right here in Texas – are lowering electricity bills and increasing energy independence. They are disrupting the way we produce and use electricity and they are changing the way ERCOT looks at grid reliability – albeit not in these two reports.
Cleantech entrepreneurs are at the helm of deciding Texas’ (and, let’s face it, America’s) energy future. And there are quite a few market opportunities outlined in the reports, if you look closely. Here are a few hidden in the report, plus other trends to keep an eye on: Read More
The New Year is a time for reflection, beginning with a look back on the previous 12 months and all that they brought. A quick scan of the U.S. climate and energy news in 2014 will tell you it was a very big year.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed the first-ever limits on carbon pollution from power plants, the U.S. and China struck a historic climate deal, and Tesla broke ground in Nevada on the largest advanced automotive-battery factory in the world – a move that’s expected to slash the cost of lithium ion batteries by a third. At the same time that these important national and international advancements were grabbing headlines, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and our partners were working together to incrementally transform the U.S. electricity system by rewriting outdated regulations, spurring energy services markets, and modernizing our century-old electric grid.
The U.S. is on the verge of a revolution in the way we make, move, and use energy. And, having spent years working on governmental and regulatory matters related to our power system and lessening its impact on the environment, I can honestly say there has never been a more exciting time to be in this field. Here are a few of the moments that were near and dear to our hearts over the past year, developments I see as a sure signal 2015 will be another epic year for clean energy. Read More
Also posted in Clean Energy, Demand Response, Energy Efficiency, Energy Financing, Energy Storage, Illinois, Investor Confidence Project, New Jersey, New York, Renewable Energy, Texas, Utility Business Models