Selected category: Smart Grid

Emerging Technologies Can Pave the Way for Time-Variant Electricity Pricing

Nest_front_official; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Nest_front_official.pngThe amount of energy we use at any given time is constantly changing. Lights are switched on and off by time of day – other appliances, such as air conditioners, might operate based on the season. In order to meet our dynamic energy demands, our system has to have the infrastructure and resources in place to respond when needed.

What may not be clear to many of us is that the costs associated with supplying this electricity also change with time, and during certain hours of the day and year these costs can be much higher. This isn’t readily apparent because the electricity rates we pay throughout the year are essentially flat.

Many, including Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), have made the case for electricity pricing that helps signal these fluctuating costs to customers. There are a variety of ways to design pricing that varies with time, while communicating to individuals and businesses the value of cutting back on electricity, or shifting use to other times. These options can take the form of paying a different amount for energy at different times, or perhaps being compensated for reducing use at times when the electric system is most constrained. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Electricity Pricing| Read 1 Response

New York’s REV Proceeding Envisions a New Clean Energy Marketplace – but How Clean is it?

nyc downtownDespite its enormous relevance to the struggle to build a cleaner, greener electric system, New York’s ‘Reforming the Energy Vision’ (REV) proceeding is not fundamentally an environmental one. It is concerned with building a new electric marketplace for a broad range of energy resources, some zero-carbon and some not, which are expected to reduce total costs paid by tomorrow’s customers over the long term compared to what would be expected under a ’business as usual’ scenario.

My last blog post described the new electric industry market structure envisioned by New York regulators in the recent Track 1 order of the REV proceeding. As promised, this week I’m providing a closer look at the environmental implications of the new order.

While reducing carbon emissions is one of the six stated goals of the proceeding, it is not the sole thrust. Interestingly, the order begins a deep dive on what decarbonization means for the electric system and discusses various environmental issues at length, potentially raising their profile in the proceeding. Highlighting the importance of environmental issues is a welcome change, but, to accomplish the goal of emissions reductions, the devil is in the details. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Electricity Pricing, Energy Efficiency, New York, Renewable Energy, Utility Business Models| Read 2 Responses

New York’s ‘Reforming the Energy Vision’ Just Got a Little Bit Clearer

NYC_SpringNearly a year ago, the New York Public Service Commission (Commission) initiated a groundbreaking effort, called ‘Reforming the Energy Vision’ (REV), to overhaul the longstanding electric utility business model. In the months since starting the REV proceeding, the Commission has sought advice from Department of Public Service staff, industry stakeholders, and environmental non-profits, among others, quietly refining its vision while largely refraining from big pronouncements about the progress of the proceeding.

That changed late last month when the Commission issued its ‘Track 1’ order establishing the ‘vision’ component of the REV proceeding. We are now starting to get a better sense of what sort of future electric marketplace the Commission anticipates and what role utility companies would play in this new marketplace. We can also begin to assess the extent to which this new marketplace will lead to the improved environmental outcomes stated as a goal of this proceeding. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, General, New York, Utility Business Models| Read 1 Response

Here Comes the Sun: How California is Bringing More Renewables to the Grid

Have a sunny dayAsk most people what the Beatles and California have in common and they might very well be at a loss. However, the answer is pretty simple: they are both unabashed trendsetters in the face of resistance – the former in their musical style and the latter in its clean energy policies.

Not content with setting a Renewable Portfolio Standard that ends at 2020, Governor Jerry Brown and state legislators are pushing for the Golden State to get 50 percent of its energy from renewable resources by 2030.

To meet this ambitious target, California must build a system that is largely based on renewable electricity, like wind and solar. This is not an easy task. The primary reason? Sunshine and wind are only available at certain times of the day and can be variable during those times.

Traditionally, managers of the electricity grid have relied upon dirty “peaker” power plants – usually fossil fuel-fired and only needed a couple of days a year – to balance the grid during periods of variability or when electricity demand exceeds supply. But, in a world where 50 percent of our energy comes from renewable sources as a means to achieving a clean energy economy, we can’t rely on these dirty peaker plants to balance the variability of wind and solar.

Luckily, technology is available today that can help fill the gap of these peaker plants – and the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is starting to embrace it. Read More »

Also posted in Air Quality, California, Cap and Trade, Clean Energy, Climate, Demand Response, Electric Vehicles, Electricity Pricing, Energy Efficiency, Energy Storage, Energy-Water Nexus, Renewable Energy| Read 1 Response

Military Experts in Texas Call for Plan of Action on Climate Change

By: Marita Mirzatuny and Kate Zerrenner

National Guard responding to flood emergencies.  Source:  flickr/DVIDSHUB

National Guard responding to flood emergencies.

When the U.S. military calls climate change a “threat multiplier” and “a serious threat to national security,” it makes anyone stand up and pay attention. From direct land impacts and food and water shortages, to the displacement of millions of people, climate change is not taken lightly by our armed forces.

Earlier this week, two military experts, Lt. Gen. Ken Eickmann (USAF, Ret.) and British Rear Admiral Neil Morisetti (Royal Navy, Ret.), testified at a Texas House International Trade & Intergovernmental Affairs Committee Hearing and later at an event hosted by the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law and the British Consulate-General University at University of Texas' LBJ School. As a senior research fellow at the University of Texas at Austin's Energy Institute and Former UK Foreign Secretary Special Representative for Climate Change, Eickmann and Morisetti, respectively, bring a level of trust and confidence to this issue, disarming the politics, if just for a moment, and replacing it with pragmatic duty.

Eickmann and Morisetti’s message was loud and clear: We need to diversify our energy options and shift more toward a clean energy economy. The potential for Texas is boundless. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Clean Power Plan, Texas| Comments are closed

If Time-Variant Electricity Pricing Offers So Many Benefits, Why Don’t We Have More of It?

With time-variant pricing, people can choose to run their dishwashers at times of day when electricity is less expensive.

With time-variant pricing, people can choose to run their dishwashers at times of day when electricity is less expensive.

Today, most residential electricity customers are charged the same price regardless of when the electricity is actually being used. Charging customers a uniform price for electric service looks a bit like buying groceries by the cart instead of by the items purchased (e.g., apples versus filet mignon) – simple, to be sure, but so riddled with inefficiencies that no one would actually propose operating a supermarket that way. A cartful of filet mignon may weigh the same as a cartful of apples, but the value of these items and the cost of bringing them to market is drastically different. Similarly, electricity costs differ depending on the time of day power is produced and delivered.

Time-variant electric pricing addresses this issue by charging customers different prices depending on when electricity is used, reflecting the true costs of producing and delivering electricity. This gives customers greater control over their electricity bills by allowing them to reduce their energy use at higher-cost times. A recent blog post by my colleague, economist Beia Spiller, explained how time-variant electricity pricing can benefit customers, utilities, and the environment, and described several different types of time-variant pricing.

Given its compelling economics, one would think time-variant pricing would be widespread. Part of the reason it’s not is sheer inertia, but there’s more to it than that. Read More »

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