Category Archives: Smart Grid

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 »

Also posted in Energy Storage, Renewable Energy| Comments closed

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 »

Also posted in Electricity Pricing, Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy| Comments closed

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 »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Demand Response, Electricity Pricing, Energy Efficiency, Energy Financing, Energy Storage, Natural Gas, Renewable Energy, Utility Business Models| Tagged | Comments closed

Disruptive is a Buzzword…but it’s true for Batteries

batteryFor more than 100 years, the U.S. power system relied on fossil-fueled power plants to meet our growing energy demand. Now, clean energy resources like renewables are quickly changing our energy mix. But what happens when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing? What about when power demand momentarily outpaces supply? That’s where batteries and energy storage come in, offering a fundamental, even disruptive change to the U.S. electricity system as we know it.

Batteries are energy game-changers

Today’s electricity system not only overproduces to be prepared for unforeseen problems, it also deploys dirty “peaker” plants that fire up during those few times per year when electricity demand is high (like during a heat wave) and the electric grid is stressed. With batteries, there’s no need for either overproduction or inefficient backup reserves, ultimately saving both utilities and customers money.

Batteries can provide bursts of electricity incredibly fast, often in milliseconds, and with far quicker reaction times than traditional power plants. As a result, energy storage helps the electric grid absorb and regulate power fluctuations, providing electricity fast, when and where it’s needed. Since the supply and demand of power must be carefully balanced, this ability helps prevent the grid from experiencing brownouts or blackouts. Read More »

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

Utility 2.0: “REVolutionizing” the Use of Distributed Energy Resources

new-york-city-105862_640New York opened its “Reforming the Energy Vision” (REV) proceeding earlier this year to re-examine the utility business model. As part of this proceeding, state regulators will also look into removing market barriers preventing greater deployment of distributed energy resources (DER), which are smaller-scale clean energy resources, such as energy efficiency, energy storage, and local, on-site generation.

In recent years, DERs have made great strides due to market reforms, advanced technologies, and declining costs. Despite these advances, DERs serve less than 1% of national electricity demand as the existing utility business model and regulatory policies still favor traditional electricity distribution from a centralized grid.

Though the REV proceeding is in its early stages, the Department of Public Service Staff (Staff) has provided guidance recommendations for eliminating these market barriers. Using the Staff’s filings, EDF has drafted a white paper that compiles a Top 20 list of the changes required before we will see greater use of DERs. If adopted, these recommendations would result in a sea change for incorporating DERs into New York’s electric system and would provide a template for other states to follow. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Energy Efficiency, New York, Utility Business Models| Comments closed

In the Wake of Court Ruling, What’s the Future of Demand Response?

supreme courtOn September 17th, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals declined en banc review of Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Order 745, dealing a blow to FERC’s regulation on demand response. This sounds complex, but behind these technical terms, hidden in plain sight, is a monumentally important and unfortunate legal outcome: we’re likely about to see an unnecessary rise in electricity prices and increase in new polluting power plants. This is bad news for the consumer, bad news for efficiency, and bad news for the environment.

First, a bit of background…

FERC Order 745, issued in 2011 by the federal agency that regulates electricity throughout the United States, has successfully allowed demand response to fairly compete in the electricity marketplace with more traditional energy resources like coal and natural gas.

Demand response is an important clean energy resource used by utilities and electric grid operators to balance stress on the electric grid by reducing demand for electricity, rather than relying on dirty “peaker” power plants or new infrastructure. It pays people to conserve energy during periods of peak or high demand in exchange for their offset energy use. This makes our grid more efficient, reduces harmful air emissions from fossil fuel plants, and keeps electricity prices lower. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Climate, Demand Response| Comments closed