Category Archives: Smart Grid

Power Plant Rule a Tipping Point for Clean Energy Economy

powerplantruleFor those of us (and all of you) who’ve been urging the government to implement meaningful climate policy, the release yesterday of a plan to cut carbon emissions from power plants has been a long time coming. But it finally came.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed carbon pollution rule for existing fossil-fueled power plants – also known as the Clean Power Plan – are a huge win for our climate.

We also think it could go down in history as the tipping point in our nation’s transition to a clean energy economy. Here’s why:

Old, dirty power plants will be retired

The nation’s fleet of coal-fired power plants is the single largest source of carbon pollution in the U.S. and one of the largest in the world. Placing carbon regulations on this source of electricity for the first time in history will transform our energy system. Read More »

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Why You Only Get 25% of the Electricity You Pay For

power_lines_378x235What would you say if I told you that about three-quarters of what you spend on electricity every month is wasted? Considering that Americans spend about $350 billion on electricity annually, I hope you’ll find this as shocking as I do.

From generation to delivery to consumption, inefficiencies at every step of electricity's journey add up to a lot of waste. Fortunately, these same conditions present us with opportunities to substantially reduce inefficiencies and their associated economic, social, and environmental impacts.

Generation: Energy is wasted at the source

Today, the majority of the electricity produced in the United States originates from fossil fuels, including coal and natural gas. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, these plants are only about 33 percent efficient, and “two-thirds of the energy in the fuel is lost — vented as heat — at most power plants in the United States.” Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Energy Efficiency | 2 Responses, comments now closed

Resiliency+: Distributed Generation and Microgrids Can Keep Lights On During the Next Storm

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: Postdlf

Source: Postdlf

Unlike large, centralized power plants, distributed generation and microgrids create electricity on or near the premises where it can be primarily used. Solar panels on rooftops, for example, are a form of distributed generation: they create electricity that can be used in the same location where the renewable energy is generated. Microgrids are similar – systems that serve a specific energy consumer, such as university campuses, with on-site energy generation that can operate both independently from (i.e. ‘islanded’) and connected to the larger energy grid.

A National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) study found that distributed generation and microgrids, “are integral to energy resiliency.” With the right enabling technology, distributed generation and microgrids have the potential to ‘island’, meaning that they can function separately from the main electricity grid. In other words, in the aftermath of a storm or during a blackout, distributed generation and microgrids are able to keep power running. The importance of this technology cannot be understated. Without it, electricity that has the potential to work during a system-wide blackout – like solar power or energy storage – will be rendered powerless. Distributed generation and microgrids provide the pathway for these clean energy resources to function during and after a natural disaster. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Climate, Demand Response, Energy Efficiency, Energy Storage, Renewable Energy | Tagged | 3 Responses, comments now closed

Commercial Demand Response – An Untapped Resource for the Congested Grid

By: John Gruss, Vice President and General Manager of Enerliance

lobosAccording to the recently released National Climate Assessment, 2012 was the hottest year on record for the continental United States, and experts predict that temperatures are only going to rise. Couple this with an energy grid that is already under severe strain, and there can be no denying we’ve got a serious problem on our hands.

Every year an overstressed electric grid faces increasing challenges to cool and operate homes and buildings. As we approach summer, with heat waves that are growing longer in duration, this crisis could result in energy shortages and blackouts that are not merely a matter of disrupted comfort and lost productivity but are a serious threat to national security and human health. Read More »

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Transition to Clean Energy will make the U.S. Military More Efficient, Effective, and Safe

http://www.theburdenfilm.com/

http://www.theburdenfilm.com/

When most of us think about military operations, we think of tanks rolling across a desert, large aircraft carriers on the ocean, or long lines of Humvees in convoys. These vehicles, and their missions, take a lot of energy and are part of the large category of “operational energy use.” In fact, 75% of all military energy use is operational.

This operational energy use has created a massive dependence on fossil fuels, resulting in some unintended consequences, which:

  • Cause ships, planes and vehicles, like tanks, to cease operations during refueling. This takes time and keeps the vehicle from completing its mission. Fuel convoys are also prime targets for ambushes and improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
  • Bind the military to a volatile commodity with changing prices and an unstable future.
  • Exacerbate climate change, an issue that U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel recently called a “threat multiplier.” According to Secretary Hagel, climate change will influence resource competition and “aggravate stressors abroad such as poverty, environmental degradation, political instability, and social tensions.” These stressors will increase the frequency, scope, and duration of future conflicts and, by extension, U.S. military interventions around the globe.  Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Climate, Energy Efficiency, Energy Storage, Renewable Energy | 2 Responses, comments now closed

Central Texas Poised To Become Regional Clean Energy Leader

Source: http://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/hill-country

Source: http://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/hill-country

With the recent release of the National Climate Assessment, the threat of climate change has never been clearer. Addressing this will require a fundamental transition away from fossil-fuel sources of energy in favor of renewable energy technologies like wind and solar power. Electric utilities vary in their progress towards delivering a future powered by clean energy. Notably, Central Texas, with its combination of energy know-how, creative thinking, and technology entrepreneurship, is home to many utilities leading the way in clean energy resources and smart grid technology.

Austin & San Antonio are leading the pack

Although Texas has a deregulated, competitive electricity market where most energy companies compete for customers, the San Antonio-Austin-Hill Country corridor is mainly comprised of public electric utilities, like municipals and cooperatives that are community-owned. For years, Austin and San Antonio’s municipal utilities have benefited from an engaged customer base that cares about the transition to a clean energy economy. Read More »

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Nest’s Promising Results for Reducing Peak Electricity Demand

Google's Nest

Back in January when Google announced it would spend $3.2 billion to purchase Nest, EDF knew this was a company to watch. The results of three new reports, released today, confirm that controllable thermostats like the Nest Learning Thermostat are both customer-friendly and useful for energy system planners. Moreover, the reports signal that smart devices, such as those Nest manufactures, have potential for generating marked savings for utility customers.

The reports analyze 2012-2013 energy use data gathered from four major utilities across the U.S. that offer Nest energy services programs: Austin Energy, Reliant Energy, Green Mountain Energy, and Southern California Edison.

The first report evaluates the results of Rush Hour Rewards, a demand response service that changes the temperature of the homes of Nest users during energy “rush hours”, or times when demand on the grid is highest. The second examines Seasonal Savings, a program that runs for three weeks and slowly modifies the temperature according to the customer’s behavior (which this smart thermostat is able to ‘learn’ via its built-in motion sensor and understanding of its owner’s temperature preferences). Both operate during times of heavy usage, namely winter and summer. The third report analyzes home energy data of Nest customers more broadly, comparing energy use before and after the installation of a Nest Thermostat. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Demand Response, Energy Efficiency, Utility Business Models | Tagged | 1 Response, comments now closed

Germany is Revolutionizing how we Use Energy…and the U.S. could Learn a Thing or Two

"Green Power, not nuclear energy." Germany will fully transition off nuclear by 2022.

"Green Power, not nuclear energy." Germany will fully transition off nuclear by 2022.

As the academic breeding ground of Einstein, Freud, and many other internationally-known scholars, it should come as no surprise that Germany is at the forefront of modernizing an industry as complex as energy. Over the last two decades, Germany has been revamping its electricity sector with the ambitious goal of powering its economy almost entirely on renewable energy by 2050. And last Sunday, the country broke a new record by acquiring nearly 75 percent of its total energy demand from renewable sources (mostly wind and solar). Even the European Union’s recent announcement that it will begin divesting in renewable energy by 2017 hasn’t shaken Germany’s ambition to forge ahead  in its quest to phase out fossil fuels.

Energiewende (the German term for ‘energy transition’) is by far the most aggressive clean energy effort among the G20 and could be as beneficial for other countries as it is for Germany. The German Institute for International and Security Affairs argues, “If the [German] energy transition succeeds, it will serve as an international model… The allure of the German energy transition represents an important foreign policy resource, of which full use should be made.”

At the moment, Energiewende is the closest thing the world has to a renewables-integration pilot on a national scale. If successful, this blueprint will expedite the broad scale integration of technologies that will be necessary to wean the world off fossil fuels and combat climate change. Read More »

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U.S. Climate Assessment Report Warns of Energy Challenges – All of which We’re Ready to Meet

Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0

Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0

There’s been plenty of attention paid to the recent release of the Third National Climate Assessment report – and appropriately so. The lead paragraph of New York Times reporter Justin Gillis’ story put it rather bluntly:

“The effects of human-induced climate change are being felt in every corner of the United States, scientists reported Tuesday, with water growing scarcer in dry regions, torrential rains increasing in wet regions, heat waves becoming more common and more severe, wildfires growing worse, and forests dying under assault from heat-loving insects.”

Even for those of us that have been urging U.S. action on climate, the assessment was pretty stark and the message was clear: the time to act came a long time ago. We need to get busy catching up.

But the optimist in me was excited about a chapter in the report that hasn’t yet gotten much attention. Chapter 4 focuses on Energy Supply and Use, and though the energy challenges caused by climate change are formidable, the U.S. is very well positioned to meet them if our leaders will get behind some practical solutions. There are five key takeaways in the Energy chapter: Read More »

Also posted in Air Quality, Clean Energy, Climate, Demand Response, Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy | Tagged | Comments closed

Utilities: Your Monopoly Days are Numbered. (Yes, We've Heard this Before, but this Time…)

Source: S. Sepp, Wikimedia Commons

Source: S. Sepp, Wikimedia Commons

Competition from new players will drive innovation in the changing electric utility market

The blogosphere is abuzz with plans to create a new electric utility business model, one that reduces energy costs and pollution. The power company of the future, many experts say, will feature new electricity rate structures that reward efficiency, finance and integrate local, on-site power generation (like rooftop solar), and put more smart meters in the system to help us better understand and control our energy use.

Such changes could indeed help reduce consumer costs and pollution, yet they ignore larger opportunities to advance innovation and efficiency. Missing in most Utility 2.0 discussions is any real debate about the emerging electricity-services market, filled with hundreds of innovative entrepreneurs who want to profitably provide consumer services that revolutionize how we use and interact with electricity. Instead, most experts simply assume the monopoly structure of the past several decades will continue. The introduction of new players into the electricity market, however, challenges that assumption. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Demand Response, Electric Vehicles, Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy, Utility Business Models | Tagged | Comments closed