Category Archives: Smart Grid

Clean, Distributed Energy Can Benefit Low-Income Families

By: Jorge Madrid, EDF Coordinator, Partnerships and Alliances, and Marilynn Marsh-Robinson, EDF Project Manager

Jorge-Madrid4 (1)#mmrobinsonmug

We’ve spent nearly 15 years collectively working on clean energy solutions for both rural and urban communities, often with under-resourced and underrepresented people at the front of our minds. One question, among many, that is consistently on the minds of elected officials and advocates alike is: How will clean energy policies affect low-income families and communities of color? This is a critical question to answer because low-income families, including a disproportionately large percentage of African Americans and Latinos, spend a greater portion of their income on utility bills. This means spikes in electricity costs can interrupt monthly finances, and even slight increases can take away from other basic needs like housing, education, and food.

Unfortunately, the concern about cost impacts on low-income families and communities of color is also frequently used as an argument against transitioning to a clean energy economy. Sometimes these arguments come from elected officials and advocates with genuine concerns, while other times, they come from industry groups who are trying to protect their own interests by pitting these communities against clean energy. In both cases, incomplete or outright misinformation muddies the water and impedes effective policy dialogue. Read More »

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Time to Salute Our Military as They Save the Kilowatts

U.S. Army Major General Dana J.H. Pittard, Fort Bliss commander, gives a speech during the ribbon cutting for the solar panel project at Fort Bliss, Texas housing communities, Feb. 26, 2013. Source:

U.S. Army Major General Dana J.H. Pittard, Fort Bliss commander, gives a speech during the ribbon cutting for the solar panel project at Fort Bliss, Texas housing communities, Feb. 26, 2013. Source: defenseimagery.mil

In light of yesterday’s commendable day, the Defense Energy Summit (DES) is hosting its second annual forum in Austin, TX, and EDF is a proud sponsor once again. One of the goals for this conference is to build the foundation for a new Defense Energy Center of Excellence (DECE), which would enable Central Texas and military communities to create a test bed of clean energy technologies and policies. The DECE will help the Department of Defense (DoD) with its energy defense policy, organizational structure, education and training, manufacturing, logistics, personnel, and financing.

Texas’ capital is a logical spot to house the DECE, as Texas is home to 22 military installations – including five bases within 90 miles of Austin. Plus, the DECE could tap into the brain power at Texas universities, which are already charging forward with innovative clean energy solutions.

Leading the Charge

Although the DoD is the single largest consumer of fuel in the United States, the military has taken a significant interest in its energy footprint for one primary reason: energy security.

Transporting fuel is one of the riskiest operations when fighting on the front lines. Last year alone, the U.S. military consumed roughly 90 million barrels of oil. By powering military bases and equipment with solar energy, as well as reducing demand through energy efficiency, the military can help protect the brave men and women serving in our armed forces. The DoD can then use those avoided fuel costs for other projects, such as research and development, to meet the needs of its most critical missions. Read More »

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Three More Reasons to Cheer Clean Energy Job Growth in North Carolina

powerplantruleBusiness-friendly clean energy policies in North Carolina continue to support the success of clean energy companies – boosting job growth and economic development.

In the past 30 days alone, three corporate announcements illustrate the power of the state's Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard, which requires utilities to expand their use of renewable energy and energy efficiency, and North Carolina’s renewable energy tax credit, which rewards companies for investing in clean energy.

Strata Solar

Strata Solar announced it has invested $1 billion in North Carolina solar energy, including 65 solar facilities in 40 counties, and employed 2,000 workers during the past five years.

The Chapel Hill-based company has the attention of Governor Pat McCrory, who praised its investment: Read More »

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Cost-Benefit Analysis of Utility-Scale Energy Storage is Promising

By: Ellen Shea, Analyst, EDF Climate Corps

ellen-shea-blog_blogI recently read a white paper by Chet Lyons of the Energy Strategies Group performing a cost-benefits analysis of utility companies purchasing battery storage systems vs. simple cycle gas-fired combustion turbines (CT). These CT systems are typically used to regulate peaking capacity. The article shows how storage systems can be a great solution for utilities companies to keep up to date with the changing trends in energy in the US.

Lyons states that as we shift to using more and more renewable energy sources (such as solar PV), the electricity grid needs to be able to be more flexible to the fluctuations in supply of wind, solar, etc. In other words, we have to be able to better support the peaking capacity of the grid.

The paper makes the case for using energy storage systems as a way to meet the peaking resource needs of the grid from renewables, and also as a way for utilities to recoup some lost revenues. Lyons examined a new flow battery storage system by ViZn Energy and found it to be more effective, faster, and more flexible than traditional CTs. Additionally, following solar PV’s trend of declining costs, he believes that in the next three years these battery storage systems will be cost competitive with CTs.  Read More »

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5 Reasons Virtual Net Metering is Better than Plain Ol’ Net Metering

solar gardenSeveral states have embraced net metering in order to encourage the adoption of solar energy and other distributed generation. Sometimes referred to as “running a meter backwards,” net metering allows people to generate their own electricity, export any excess electricity to the grid, and get paid for providing this excess energy to the utility who may use it to power nearby homes or manage overall electricity demand.

Net metering leads to lower – or in some cases negative – electricity bills without having to invest in expensive batteries to store excess energy, which can be cost-prohibitive. By generating energy on-site where it’s consumed, net metering also reduces the strain on distribution systems and cuts the amount of electricity lost to long-distance transmission and distribution (estimated at seven percent in the U.S.). Net metering, moreover, tends to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by incentivizing people to adopt renewable energy and become more aware of energy-saving opportunities. Read More »

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Germany’s Energiewende is Shifting the Energy Paradigm – Now it’s Time to Optimize

solar-cells-491701_640Revolutionary paradigm shifts often require cohesive development of many moving parts, some of which advance more quickly than others in practice. Germany’s revolutionary Energiewende (or “energy transition”) is no exception. Set to achieve nearly 100 percent renewable energy by 2050, Germany’s Energiewende is one of the most aggressive clean energy declarations in the world. While growth of Germany’s installed renewables capacity has been explosive in recent years, optimization measures designed for Energiewende have manifested at a relatively slow pace.

Germany already has one of the most reliable electric grids in the world, but as implementation of Energiewende continues, optimization will be key to its future success. This will require better sources of backup generation to accommodate the intermittency of wind and solar, a dynamic energy market that ensures fair compensation for this backup, and a more flexible, resilient grid enabled by smart grid technologies to fully optimize demand side resources and a growing renewable energy portfolio. Read More »

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