Category Archives: Smart Grid

EDF Weighs In on New York’s Bold Effort to Build a New Electric Utility Business Model

New York Skyline

Source: iStock

The U.S. electric grid has not been updated since World War II when telephones, dishwashers, and air conditioning were the cutting-edge technology innovations of the century. Today, this same grid is struggling to cope with the technological advances of the last decade, a reality that hit home for New Yorkers in the wake of Superstorm Sandy when millions of people lost power for days and even weeks.

But New York is taking steps to change this, first by initiating a proceeding in April to overhaul the state’s utility business model, and now by opening the proceeding to comments. EDF filed our comments (Track 1 and Track 2) in this case last Friday, July 18th, and commends the New York Public Service Commission for the opportunity to provide our input on this exceedingly important policy that will have national implications.

Humble beginnings

New York played a leading role in establishing today’s utility business model. Thomas Edison developed the first power plant on Pearl Street in Manhattan in 1882, serving 85 lighting customers. Read More »

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Nudging Behavior to Lower Energy Bills in North Carolina Office Buildings

Source: Advanced Telemetry

Source: Advanced Telemetry

Office building employees in Charlotte, North Carolina are taking small, voluntary actions to save energy. These steps are making a noticeable difference on utility bills and Duke Energy, the country's largest utility, can prove it.

Duke's Smart Energy Now program is the first commercially-available program of its kind in the country to use behavior change to reduce energy use in office buildings. The program helped participating customers save about six percent in energy over three years, exceeding the five percent goal and representing enough savings to power nearly 2,600 homes for a year.

Through the use of gentle reminders and friendly games, the program encourages uptown office workers to turn off computers and lights and find other easy ways to save energy. An innovative electronic kiosk in the lobby of each participating building shows real-time energy use, and participants can check their progress.

Smart Energy Now is part of Envision Charlotte, an initiative led by companies in the city center to improve energy efficiency and sustainability. The program is helping Envision Charlotte meet its goal of reducing energy use by 20 percent over five years. Read More »

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Dear Utilities, Change or Get Dumped

Source: Paul Cross, https://flic.kr/p/7AU7PK

Source: Paul Cross, https://flic.kr/p/7AU7PK

Like many relationships, the one between utilities and their customers can be complicated. Sure, they’ve been together for decades, but no longer are customers satisfied with a distant, disengaged power company selling them more and more megawatts.

As the utility business model evolves into one based on diverse energy services, utilities must find ways to prioritize and improve their customer relationships if they hope to thrive in the new energy economy.

What do customers really want?

It doesn’t take years of market research to discover that utility customers enjoy saving money. But just as important as a low price for power – if not more so – is a genuine feeling of power.  Just ask Dr. Philip Lewis of global energy think-tank VassaETT, who has researched the subject for years. His findings show that customers want to be in control of their energy behavior. They want market transparency and predictable rewards for their choices. The bottom line, says Lewis, is that customers want to feel like equals with their electricity suppliers, not captives. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Demand Response, Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy, Utility Business Models| 3 Responses, comments now closed

This Smart Energy Experiment in Texas will Benefit You, Too

Workers install solar panels on a home in Austin's Mueller neighborhood, a project of Pecan Street Inc.

Workers install solar panels on a home in Austin's Mueller neighborhood, a project of Pecan Street Inc.

As I stroll through the Mueller neighborhood in Austin, TX, I see parks, fountains, two-door garage homes – absolutely nothing out of the ordinary – just your average suburban neighborhood. But I know better.

Under the surface of this community lives the most “connected” network of energy customers in the country. Mueller is the launching site for Pecan Street Inc.’s living smart-grid research project and, according to a recent issue of Time Magazine, America’s Smartest City.

The Time article features homeowners who generate and make money on their solar panels, while enjoying access to minute-by-minute energy use data. It shows their sense of stewardship and empowerment.

The story does a good job summarizing the mission of Pecan Street, of which Environmental Defense Fund is a founding member and environmental partner. But the author misses one important point when he writes: “The rest of America may never realize Mueller’s vision for the future.”

The truth is, we have cause for a lot more optimism than that. We believe that the Mueller model is scalable and EDF is working hard to make sure the rest of the country can also enjoy the benefits of a smarter, cleaner home. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Electric Vehicles, Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy, Texas| Comments closed

Resiliency+: Demand Response Can Help Prevent Blackouts in the Northeast

Resiliency+ is a new blog series, which highlights the ways in which different clean energy resources and technologies can play an important part in increasing energy resiliency in New Jersey and around the country. Check back every two weeks, or sign up to receive Energy Exchange blog posts via email.

Source: http://aroundaworld.net/

Source: http://aroundaworld.net/

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) describes demand response as “changes in electric usage by end-use customers from their normal consumption patterns in response to changes in the price of electricity over time, or to incentive payments designed to induce lower electricity use at times of high wholesale market prices or when system reliability is jeopardized.”

There is quite a bit to unpack in that definition, but put simply, demand response is little more than a way of financially motivating customers to reduce their energy use when electricity is particularly scarce and expensive or when the wires are overburdened (check out EDF’s other blog posts and resources that go into more detail). The end result is a more efficient electric grid which is less overbuilt and less dependent on inefficient fossil-fuel plants that are often uneconomic to operate and highly polluting, but may be called upon when all else fails. Read More »

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New York Energy Week Gives Clear Vision of Modern, Clean Energy Future

nyew1

By: Max Wycisk, Communications Intern

The second annual New York Energy Week, held last week, brought together more than 4,000 industry leaders and innovators – double the number last year – to discuss the dynamic changes the state’s energy sector has seen in the last twelve months, including the state’s historic move to re-examine its utility business model. In a series of panel discussions held throughout New York City, state, national, and international energy leaders reviewed key topics such as energy storage, building efficiency, and the rapidly evolving utility industry itself. While the topic of discussion varied, a number of consistent themes emerged, giving attendees a clear vision of the steps industry is taking toward adopting a modern, decentralized, clean energy future.

Communication drives innovation

One of the main themes of the conference, which was organized by research firm Enerknol, was the shift in how the energy industry will interact with consumers as well as the way in which it interacts with itself. Speakers frequently described the current energy industry as ‘fragmented’ or ‘acting within silos’ and questions arose at nearly every panel about how to stimulate conversation between different energy sectors that will lead to collaboration, investment, and innovation. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Demand Response, Energy Efficiency, Energy Financing, Energy Storage, New York, Renewable Energy, Utility Business Models| 2 Responses, comments now closed

Massachusetts Moves to Modernize its Electric Grid – What this Means for Customers, Utilities

massbay

Source: Leatherndevil, via Wikimedia Commons

According to the Electric Power Research Institute, the U.S. will need to invest $124 billion between now and 2030 to upgrade its electric distribution system, and these upgrades will require state utility commissions to thoughtfully plan for and oversee the investments. Last week, Massachusetts became one of the first states to begin this process by taking a bold step to modernize its electric grid, joining states like New York and Hawaii, which recently introduced similar measures.

On June 12, 2014, the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) ordered utilities to file ten-year grid modernization plans. These plans will spell out how utilities plan to incorporate modern technology to improve electric service and connect clean energy resources to the grid. This will provide customers access to cleaner and higher quality electricity service at a lower cost. Read More »

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Illinois’ Largest Utilities Embrace the Smart Grid

Source: Daniel Schwen

Source: Daniel Schwen

By: David Kolata, executive director of the Citizens Utility Board

Over the next five to seven years, smart grid infrastructure, including advanced metering infrastructure (AMI), will be deployed for customers of the two largest utilities in Illinois: Commonwealth Edison and Ameren Illinois. Over five million new meters will be installed and over $2 billion of smart grid investments will be made. The challenge confronting consumer and environmental advocates in Illinois is how to make sure that infrastructure is rolled out in a way that maximizes other policy objectives—namely, saving customers money on their energy bills and promoting opportunities for innovative technologies like microgrids and energy storage.

Years of discussion in Illinois culminated in the Energy Infrastructure Modernization Act, a new law that supports smart grid deployment and funds programs to support electricity system innovation through: Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Electricity Pricing, Illinois| 3 Responses, comments now closed

The Cheapest Way to Cut Climate Pollution? Energy Efficiency

This blog post was co-authored by Kate Zerrenner, an EDF project manager and expert on energy efficiency and climate change.

On June 2, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency made a historic announcement that will change how we make, move and use electricity for generations to come.

For the first time in history, the government proposed limits on the amount of carbon pollution American fossil-fueled power plants are allowed to spew into the atmosphere.

There are two clear winners to comply with the plan while maintaining commitment to electric reliability and affordability: energy efficiency and demand response.

We’re already seeing pushback from some of our nation’s big polluter states, such as West Virginia and Texas. But the truth is that while the proposed limits on carbon are strong, they’re also flexible.

In fact, the EPA has laid out a whole menu of options in its Clean Power Plan – from power plant upgrades, to switching from coal to natural gas, and adopting more renewable energy resources. States can choose from these and other strategies as they develop their own plans to meet the new standards.

That said, there are two clear winners on the EPA’s menu that offer low-cost options for states that seek to comply with the plan while maintaining their commitment to electric reliability and affordability: energy efficiency and demand response. Read More »

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

Is Residential Solar on the Rise in Texas?

iStock_Solar_InstallerLast week, I wrote about the continued success of Texas’ wind energy industry, but the growth in solar is also impressive. Nationally, solar energy accounted for 74 percent of all new electric generation in the first quarter of 2014. Plus, residential solar installations surpassed commercial projects for the first time in history earlier this year. This is significant, proving that more homeowners are making the switch and investing in a cleaner energy supply.

According to the Center for American Progress, “more than 60 percent of solar installations are occurring in zip codes with median incomes ranging from $40,000 to $90,000." This is an important revelation as the price of solar comes down quickly, projected to be cost-competitive with fossil fuels by 2020, more homes can and will add solar panels. In fact, experts expect more than half of all American homebuilders to offer rooftop solar as an option in new single-family homes by 2016. That’s a significant uptick from just 12 percent in 2013.

These findings make clear that people are taking their energy use into their own hands, highlighting the power of people in the new energy landscape, where customer-centric demand-side resources – rooftop solar, energy efficiency, demand response (which compensates electricity customers for conserving energy), electric vehicles, and energy storage- will play a key role. I discussed this trend in a radio interview with Voice of Russia a few weeks ago in a segment entitled Whole Home Automation: Promising for Consumers and Climate. Read More »

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