Category Archives: Smart Grid

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

EDF Energy Innovation Series Feature: Intelligent Energy Storage That Makes “Cents”

EDF-EIS-emailHeader-2EDF's Energy Innovation Series highlights innovations across a broad range of energy categories, including smart grid and renewable energy technologies, energy efficiency financing and progressive utilities, to name a few. This Series helps illustrate that cost-effective, clean energy solutions are available now and imperative to lowering our dependence on fossil fuels.

Find more information on this featured innovation here

America’s electricity grid was one of the greatest engineering feats of the 20th century. But it is showing its age.

The Wall Street Journal reported recently that if just nine of the 55,000 electric-transmission substations were knocked out, the entire country could plunge into a months-long blackout. Power outages caused by severe weather events already cost the U.S. between $25 to $70 billion a year. And Americans are using more energy than ever – 2.3 quadrillion thermal units more in 2013 than in 2012, which is greater than the total energy consumed by Maine, Montana, South Dakota, New Hampshire, Hawaii, Delaware, and Rhode Island combined.

Fortunately, we know how to protect ourselves from this vulnerability: move away from a highly-centralized energy generation and transmission system to one that looks more like the Internet, with decentralized energy production and smart technologies that allow us to use power most efficiently.

That’s exactly what Green Charge Networks (GCN) is doing. Over the past few years, this Silicon Valley smart grid company has been building an intelligent energy storage system called GreenStation™ that reduces stress on the electric grid, reduces greenhouse gas pollution, and, the company says, offers customers a five-year return on investment. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Energy Innovation Series, Energy Storage | Tagged | 1 Response, comments now closed

Resiliency+: Renewable Energy Can Boost Grid Resilience in Vulnerable New Jersey

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.

BAPV_solar-facadeRenewable energy, such as solar and wind power, provides clean and sustainable power to our electricity grid. But it also offers other benefits beyond environmentally-friendly electricity. Renewable energy can increase energy resiliency by keeping the lights on, including at critical facilities in the wake of a natural disaster. That’s why it has the potential to play a particularly pivotal role in New Jersey, which is vulnerable to vicious storms such as Superstorm Sandy.

Renewable energy, unlike other forms of energy, is less vulnerable to sustained disruption. Other, more traditional forms of energy, such as fossil fuels, require an input (coal, oil and gas, etc.) that needs to be shipped, often via pipeline, to create electricity, leaving them vulnerable to a natural disaster that might interrupt transport. On the other hand, renewable energy has the ability to generate stable, on-site power from sources such as solar and wind when it operates from a microgrid. A microgrid can generate power both connected to and independently from the main, centralized grid. They can vary in size, providing power to several city blocks or to an individual home, but microgrids have the unique potential to “island” from the main electricity system. This is important during and/or in the wake of a natural disaster like Superstorm Sandy because this autonomous electricity system is able to power local buildings regardless of whether or not the main electric grid is down. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Climate, Demand Response, Energy Efficiency, Energy Storage, New Jersey, Renewable Energy | Tagged | Comments closed

What it Takes to Compete in the Global Energy Race

cleanenergyraceAs the international sporting world shifts its sights from somewhat snowy Sochi (host of the 2014 Winter Olympics) to balmy Brazil (host of this summer’s soccer World Cup), a recent European Commission report shows that the European Union (E.U.) has its eyes fixed on taking the lead in another global contest of sorts: The race for a more competitive, secure, and sustainable energy economy. At stake are neither medals nor trophies, but long-term economic strength. As Europe – and, indeed, the rest of the world – play energy hardball, what does it mean for the global energy competitiveness of Team USA? Let’s look at the stats.

Current energy costs and competitiveness

Reliable, affordable energy powers industrial innovation and growth, making energy costs and policies one of the most important drivers of economic competitiveness.

Read More »

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

New York Among the First States to Re-Evaluate its Utility Regulatory Framework

By Doc Searls via Wikimedia Commons

By Doc Searls via Wikimedia Commons

For most people, thinking about electricity is confined to two possible events: the arrival of the monthly bill and when the power goes out. The fact that most people don’t think about their electricity outside these two events — and let’s hope the latter is infrequent — is a testament to the robust regulation that has shaped the structure of the electric grid.

But cracks are forming that threaten the very foundation of the existing regulatory compact between utilities and customers. Extreme weather events caused by climate change and evolving consumer trends are testing the viability of the electricity system. The regulations that were crucial for maintaining stability in the 20th century are now forming barriers that make it difficult for utilities to adapt for a future that is fast approaching. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Demand Response, Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy, Utility Business Models | 3 Responses, comments now closed

Utilities Beware, Solar Power and Energy Storage Could be Coming for your Customers

GridDefection

Source: John Rae

The use of rechargeable batteries – in everything from iPhones, TV remotes, and even cars – has become pervasive over the past few years, especially as they have become more affordable. So why can’t we use them to help power our homes and businesses, too? The idea isn’t that complicated. But the cost of large-scale energy storage is still prohibitively high.

However, in select markets, like Hawaii’s commercial building market, privately connected battery storage is already cheap enough, compared to utility rates, to warrant installation. Furthermore, other energy storage markets, like California and New York, could reach the point of commercial viability in the next ten years – and not just for commercial buildings, but the residential market, too. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Climate, Electric Vehicles, Energy Storage, Renewable Energy, Utility Business Models | 1 Response, comments now closed

Demand Response: People, not New Power Plants, are Driving the Clean Energy Future

Clean energy resources, like wind, solar, and energy efficiency, have certain key advantages over traditional, fossil fuel-based resources: they don’t require expensive, polluting fuels or large capital investment, consume little to no water, generate negligible carbon emissions, and are easily scalable. To take full advantage of low-carbon, renewable energy sources, we need a power grid with enough flexibility to harness clean energy when it is available and abundant. That’s where demand response, a people-driven solution, comes in.

On a hot summer day, for example, electricity use rapidly increases as people turn on air conditioners to avoid the heat of the late afternoon. A decade ago, the grid operator’s only option is to turn on another fossil fuel power plant to meet the increased need for electricity. But, at any given time, there are thousands of light switches left on, idle water heaters, cycling swimming pool pumps, and forgotten thermostats that people could temporarily turn off or down, if only they were offered the right incentive. If asked, people can adjust their power usage in exchange for a financial reward. We call this “demand response,” and it is increasingly helping to balance the flow of electricity with our energy needs at a given moment.

Demand response diverts money that would generally go to a fossil fuel power plant to homeowners and businesses instead. In this scenario, a utility or demand response provider sends a message for participants to reduce electricity use at key times in exchange for a credit or rebate on their utility bill, in addition to the cost savings they will earn through conservation. Of course, participants always have the option to opt-out with the tap of a button on their smart phone or thermostat. Read More »

Also posted in Demand Response, Renewable Energy | 1 Response, comments now closed

An In-Depth Look at the Future of American Energy and How We Get There

solarpanels_istock_000009912571_rf_thumb_2

istockphoto.com

Imagine a world where homes not only run on clean electricity but also generate, store, and sell it. A world where power companies get paid for conserving energy, not just producing it. Where, when supplies are tight, the power grid gives customers the option of being paid to reduce and even shift their energy use to a different time of day, allowing us to use more renewable energy.

The U.S. is poised to spend around $2 trillion over the next two decades replacing our outdated electric infrastructure. We must make sure those investments are not spent on replacing old, dirty power plants with more of the same. If we’re truly going to unleash the clean energy future, we must invest in renewable energy and a smarter grid that can smooth out the demand for power and reduce harmful air pollution. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Energy Efficiency, Energy Financing, On-bill repayment, Renewable Energy, Utility Business Models | 2 Responses, comments now closed

Four Ways the U.S. Military Can Adopt Clean Energy for National Security

USArmy

Ribbon cutting ceremony for the Fort Carson solar array. U.S. Army photo by Michael J. Pach.

At the U.S. Defense Department, the multiple national security threats created by sea level rise and severe weather command daily attention; climate change has been on its radar for years.  The recently published Quadrennial Defense Report (QDR), an assessment of U.S. defense readiness, addresses the growing threat that climate change poses to military capabilities and global operations. Adding to that, the newly released Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report states that extreme weather events will begin occurring more frequently across the globe. As first responders in the wake of extreme weather events, the U.S. military will be called upon to provide emergency support and services for a large portion of them.

The timing of these reports highlights a growing defense challenge but also provides an opportunity for the Defense Department to lead from the front in climate change mitigation and adaptation. Read More »

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