Selected category: Smart Grid

What do the New Apple Watch and Home Energy Monitors have in Common?

apple watch lwyang flickrThe new Apple Watch, which went on sale last Friday, is attracting huge attention. Among many other features, the watch will monitor your health by tracking fitness and activity, like the Fitbit. In its first day on the market, nearly one million were sold.

The popularity of this wearable device speaks to a larger trend happening in technology that one might call “life tracking”: the ability to track, analyze, and hone your personal activities through the use of connected devices. From fitness to finance, technology like the Apple Watch is enabling more choice and efficiency than ever before. And, just as fitness wearables monitor our personal activity, other devices can monitor our home energy activity – leading to an array of cost-saving and environmental benefits.

Home energy monitors

The Nest thermostat is one of the most well-known home energy monitors. It learns how you like to set your home temperature, and then automatically programs itself to follow your patterns.

For example, if you work an office job and are away from home nine to ten hours a day, the Nest thermostat may cycle the air conditioner down to increase the home temperature a couple of degrees during the day while you’re gone, and then automatically reduce the temperature an hour or so before you return to re-establish your preferred home temperature. Read More »

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Learn for Yourself about the Power of a Connected Home + Event Invitation

It wasn't long after my husband connected our first smart home device, a Nest Learning Thermostat, that I noticed a change.

Each time he walked by this new gadget, he would stop and do a little dance. He was interacting with this new friend, and it was a purely emotional response. He even insisted we repaint our wall to better showcase the Nest Thermostat, though he never suggested that for our artwork. Not only was our home connected, but now our hearts were in it.

This was no ordinary smart device. The Nest Thermostat gave us a sense of power, control, and freedom. And it said “hi” to us with its shining light as we approached. The best thing was the money we were saving by lowering our electricity bill, because we could now make sense of how we were using our air conditioning. This also helped reduce our carbon footprint. Read More »

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Who Could Benefit Most from Fair Electricity Pricing? Low-Income Customers

new york city 2These are exciting times. New York’s ‘Reforming the Energy Vision’ (REV) has paved the way for change of unprecedented proportions. New York regulators are preparing the state for a future in which rooftop solar installations are ubiquitous and the rumbling staccato of gasoline-fueled automobiles is replaced by the relative silence of electric vehicles.

While more rooftop solar energy and electric vehicles are certainly part of our energy future, some of the biggest changes are likely to come from less visible – and less obvious – sources, particularly for customers in densely populated metropolitan areas and low-income customers, who make up a significant portion of New York state’s customer base.

Urban dwellers, for whom mass transit is a central part of daily life and owning your own rooftop is less common, may view electric cars, rooftop solar, wind, battery storage, and on-site energy generation as appealing, but also abstractions more suitable for upstate homeowners than those living in crowded apartment buildings.

For these customers, the opportunity to contribute to a clean energy future will be guided largely by the domain of Adam Smith’s invisible hand: economic forces that enable greater control over how much energy is used and at what price. Read More »

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In Austin, Clean Energy Innovators Are Helping to Alleviate Energy Poverty

gridmates_share_energyAt Environmental Defense Fund, we advocate for policymakers, utilities, and other decision makers to design programs and support policies that enable everyone to benefit from a clean energy future, especially low-income families who are disproportionately affected by pollution from power plants. Recently, in Texas, a new innovation caught our eye that brings this concept to life.

This post is an interview with Gridmates CEO George Koutitas, who is harnessing the Internet, crowdsourcing, and generosity to bring light and warmth into homes that otherwise wouldn’t have power. 

What is energy poverty? In the U.S. and Texas, how many live without electricity or struggle to pay for their electricity bill each month?

In the U.S., approximately 48 million people are at or below the poverty line and may be suffering from energy poverty, meaning they cannot afford to pay for electricity and other utilities. In Texas, more than 4.6 million people are living in energy poverty. These are low-income families and, in some occasions, they owe a $5,000 accumulated debt to utilities. This debt often leads to energy service disconnections, leaving families without heat and power. Thankfully, in 2014, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) provided energy assistance to roughly 6.9 million households nationwide, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. Read More »

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Emerging Technologies Can Pave the Way for Time-Variant Electricity Pricing

Nest_front_official; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Nest_front_official.pngThe amount of energy we use at any given time is constantly changing. Lights are switched on and off by time of day – other appliances, such as air conditioners, might operate based on the season. In order to meet our dynamic energy demands, our system has to have the infrastructure and resources in place to respond when needed.

What may not be clear to many of us is that the costs associated with supplying this electricity also change with time, and during certain hours of the day and year these costs can be much higher. This isn’t readily apparent because the electricity rates we pay throughout the year are essentially flat.

Many, including Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), have made the case for electricity pricing that helps signal these fluctuating costs to customers. There are a variety of ways to design pricing that varies with time, while communicating to individuals and businesses the value of cutting back on electricity, or shifting use to other times. These options can take the form of paying a different amount for energy at different times, or perhaps being compensated for reducing use at times when the electric system is most constrained. Read More »

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New York’s REV Proceeding Envisions a New Clean Energy Marketplace – but How Clean is it?

nyc downtownDespite its enormous relevance to the struggle to build a cleaner, greener electric system, New York’s ‘Reforming the Energy Vision’ (REV) proceeding is not fundamentally an environmental one. It is concerned with building a new electric marketplace for a broad range of energy resources, some zero-carbon and some not, which are expected to reduce total costs paid by tomorrow’s customers over the long term compared to what would be expected under a ’business as usual’ scenario.

My last blog post described the new electric industry market structure envisioned by New York regulators in the recent Track 1 order of the REV proceeding. As promised, this week I’m providing a closer look at the environmental implications of the new order.

While reducing carbon emissions is one of the six stated goals of the proceeding, it is not the sole thrust. Interestingly, the order begins a deep dive on what decarbonization means for the electric system and discusses various environmental issues at length, potentially raising their profile in the proceeding. Highlighting the importance of environmental issues is a welcome change, but, to accomplish the goal of emissions reductions, the devil is in the details. Read More »

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