Selected category: Smart Grid

What Tesla's Powerwall Home Energy Storage Battery Means for Texas

Source: flickr/genphys

Source: flickr/genphys

There is enough solar energy potential in Texas to power the world twice over. Yet currently we rank 10th in the nation (behind New Jersey) with 330 megawatts (MW), which is enough to power about 57,000 homes. Texas is a state of almost nine million households. That's a lot of rooftops, and when you add the number of commercial and industrial rooftops, parking lots, and garages, we are talking about a significant amount of surface area.

Meanwhile, the cost of solar panels has dropped 80 percent since 2008 and prices for rooftop photovoltaic (PV) systems have declined markedly in recent years, dropping 29 percent from 2010 to 2013. Moreover, jobs in the solar industry are booming –SolarCity is hiring significantly more people than leading tech companies like Twitter.

So, what will it take to energize rooftop solar growth in Texas? Well, a recent announcement from one of Texas' “frenemies” may be part of the solution. Read More »

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The Story of Demand Response

GridDefection-COMPRESSEDDemand response. It’s a cost-effective energy resource that pays customers to use less energy. Few people even know exists, but it invisibly impacts the life of so many Americans. It’s a clean energy resource that embodies precisely what electricity can and should be: cleaner, cheaper, and more efficient than traditional fuel sources.

We’ve written about demand response at length, discussing a potential case before the U.S. Supreme Court involving the resource and what the road ahead could look like. Today, however, we’re telling the story of how the resource got here. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Demand Response, Utility Business Models| Comments are closed

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 »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Demand Response, Electricity Pricing| Tagged | Comments are closed

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 »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Electricity Pricing, Renewable Energy, Utility Business Models| Comments are closed

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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