Category Archives: Smart Grid

Is Residential Solar on the Rise in Texas?

iStock_Solar_InstallerLast week, I wrote about the continued success of Texas’ wind energy industry, but the growth in solar is also impressive. Nationally, solar energy accounted for 74 percent of all new electric generation in the first quarter of 2014. Plus, residential solar installations surpassed commercial projects for the first time in history earlier this year. This is significant, proving that more homeowners are making the switch and investing in a cleaner energy supply.

According to the Center for American Progress, “more than 60 percent of solar installations are occurring in zip codes with median incomes ranging from $40,000 to $90,000." This is an important revelation as the price of solar comes down quickly, projected to be cost-competitive with fossil fuels by 2020, more homes can and will add solar panels. In fact, experts expect more than half of all American homebuilders to offer rooftop solar as an option in new single-family homes by 2016. That’s a significant uptick from just 12 percent in 2013.

These findings make clear that people are taking their energy use into their own hands, highlighting the power of people in the new energy landscape, where customer-centric demand-side resources – rooftop solar, energy efficiency, demand response (which compensates electricity customers for conserving energy), electric vehicles, and energy storage- will play a key role. I discussed this trend in a radio interview with Voice of Russia a few weeks ago in a segment entitled Whole Home Automation: Promising for Consumers and Climate. Read More »

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Clean Energy Finance 101

Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Collections.

Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Collections.

As innovative energy products and services come to market, so do new mechanisms to fund them. And existing funding options become more popular. This has resulted in a boom of finance jargon, especially regarding energy efficiency and renewable generation. Though many of the finance terms used in clean energy finance are similar to those used in traditional finance, it’s easy to get lost. We hope this glossary will help those in clean energy navigate the new and growing world of clean energy finance.

Asset Class: A grouping of similar types of investments that behave similarly in the marketplace and are subject to the same laws and regulations. Broad examples of asset classes include:

  1. Equities (also known as stocks) – assets that represent ownership of part of a company.
  2. Bonds – assets that guarantee a fixed payment stream.

Bonds are often further categorized based on structure or source of the payments. Examples of these subclasses include municipal, corporate and mortgage bonds. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Electricity Pricing, Energy Efficiency, Energy Financing, On-bill repayment, Renewable Energy| 2 Responses, comments now closed

In NJ Settlement, EDF Fights to Strengthen the State’s Energy Infrastructure

By Jukka Isokoski  via Wikimedia Commons

By Jukka Isokoski via Wikimedia Commons

The recent Energy Strong settlement between New Jersey regulators and Public Service Electric & Gas (PSE&G), the state’s largest utility, should help reinforce vulnerable energy infrastructure ahead of future severe storms. Last month, the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) agreed that customers could fund $1.2 billion in PSE&G improvements to New Jersey’s electric grid to make it more resilient and efficient. As a participant in the case, EDF was encouraged that PSE&G agreed to necessary changes to its grid to protect against more extreme weather events.

PSE&G, which had originally asked for $2.6 billion in storm-related hardening funds, submitted its Energy Strong proposal to regulators in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, which knocked out electricity for a third of homes and businesses in the state for weeks.

The BPU denied EDF and other environmental organizations full intervener status, preventing us from mounting a full case that would have included expert witnesses on proven climate science and the increased likelihood of future superstorms, the pressing need to take aggressive action to make our existing electric and gas distribution grids more resilient, and the need to transition to a smarter, more decentralized energy system.  Although our status in the case was limited by the BPU’s decision, we managed to argue for and win some positives for the environment: Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Energy Efficiency, Methane, Natural Gas| 1 Response, comments now closed

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