Selected category: Smart Grid

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 »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Electricity Pricing, Energy Efficiency, New York, Renewable Energy, Utility Business Models| Read 2 Responses

New York’s ‘Reforming the Energy Vision’ Just Got a Little Bit Clearer

NYC_SpringNearly a year ago, the New York Public Service Commission (Commission) initiated a groundbreaking effort, called ‘Reforming the Energy Vision’ (REV), to overhaul the longstanding electric utility business model. In the months since starting the REV proceeding, the Commission has sought advice from Department of Public Service staff, industry stakeholders, and environmental non-profits, among others, quietly refining its vision while largely refraining from big pronouncements about the progress of the proceeding.

That changed late last month when the Commission issued its ‘Track 1’ order establishing the ‘vision’ component of the REV proceeding. We are now starting to get a better sense of what sort of future electric marketplace the Commission anticipates and what role utility companies would play in this new marketplace. We can also begin to assess the extent to which this new marketplace will lead to the improved environmental outcomes stated as a goal of this proceeding. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, General, New York, Utility Business Models| Read 1 Response

Here Comes the Sun: How California is Bringing More Renewables to the Grid

Have a sunny dayAsk most people what the Beatles and California have in common and they might very well be at a loss. However, the answer is pretty simple: they are both unabashed trendsetters in the face of resistance – the former in their musical style and the latter in its clean energy policies.

Not content with setting a Renewable Portfolio Standard that ends at 2020, Governor Jerry Brown and state legislators are pushing for the Golden State to get 50 percent of its energy from renewable resources by 2030.

To meet this ambitious target, California must build a system that is largely based on renewable electricity, like wind and solar. This is not an easy task. The primary reason? Sunshine and wind are only available at certain times of the day and can be variable during those times.

Traditionally, managers of the electricity grid have relied upon dirty “peaker” power plants – usually fossil fuel-fired and only needed a couple of days a year – to balance the grid during periods of variability or when electricity demand exceeds supply. But, in a world where 50 percent of our energy comes from renewable sources as a means to achieving a clean energy economy, we can’t rely on these dirty peaker plants to balance the variability of wind and solar.

Luckily, technology is available today that can help fill the gap of these peaker plants – and the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is starting to embrace it. Read More »

Also posted in Air Quality, California, Cap and Trade, Clean Energy, Climate, Demand Response, Electric Vehicles, Electricity Pricing, Energy Efficiency, Energy Storage, Energy-Water Nexus, Renewable Energy| Read 1 Response
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